Think cigars are safer than cigarettes? Think again, new research warns.

Nicotine levels in so-called “small” or “filtered” cigars were found to be equal to or greater than that found in cigarettes, according to the study by researchers at Penn State’s College of Medicine.

“There seems to be a perception in the public that cigars are not as harmful as cigarettes,” study author Reema Goel said in a university news release. “But our study shows that nicotine is pretty high in this class of cigars, and future regulation that affects cigarettes should also affect these cigars.”

Goel is a research associate with the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at Penn State.

Small cigars are nearly identical to cigarettes in appearance, although they are wrapped in leafy tobacco rather than paper.

The study involved eight common brands of small cigars. It used machine-puffing simulators to compare their nicotine delivery levels with that of two types of cigarettes.

Using two different methods for measuring nicotine, the research team found that, with both, the average amount of nicotine delivery was notably higher among small cigars than with cigarettes.

“These products are basically cigarettes,” co-author John Richie, a professor of public health sciences and pharmacology at Penn State, noted in the news release. “They’re as harmful to you as cigarettes, if not more so.

“It’s very important for the consumer to understand that these are not products that are less harmful, and for regulations to include these small cigars in with cigarettes,” Richie said.

In the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating tobacco products.

The findings were published online recently in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on the health risks of cigars.