Known by a variety of names, “hyping,” “champing” and “freaking” a cigarillo — a smaller, leaner type of cigar — is believed by many to significantly reduce the amount of cancer-causing properties associated with tobacco products. “Hyping” a cigarillo means modifying the product by removing an inner layer of tobacco. Some people who modify their cigarillos believe this liner to be the “cancer paper,” and that removing it makes it safer to smoke.
“To this day, we don’t know where this idea came from that this is a ‘cancer paper'” said Melissa Blank, assistant professor in the West Virginia University Department of Psychology. “Nobody has been able to find anything in the literature about the origins of this practice.”
While researchers continue to look for the root of the practice, Blank, along with Drs. Aashir Nasim, Caroline Cobb and Thomas Eissenberg at Virginia Commonwealth University, examined other claims of the practice, including exposure to carbon monoxide and nicotine.
Removing the internal layer of tobacco was not found to alter the level of nicotine exposure, nor did it alter the perception of satisfaction with the product. It did, however, provide a significant reduction in the amount of carbon monoxide taken in by the smoker.
These findings match one other study previously conducted on the practice.
“Something about this practice may generate less carbon monoxide than other elements,” Blank said. “That is, if you remove that component, you may get decreased exposure to carbon monoxide acutely.”
A possible explanation for the reduction in carbon monoxide exposure is the aeration of the tobacco. By removing the inner layer, more air may be drawn in while the cigarillo is burning, much in the same way “light” cigarettes are marketed. Another explanation Blank explained, could be that the cigarillo just didn’t contain the same amount of tobacco as an unmodified product.
Blank previously examined similar claims with the tobacco product. But as new technologies such as e-cigarettes and vaping emerge, so too will new ideas and claims about how to stem their side effects.
“This popular practice among cigarillo smokers just keeps getting perpetuated by young people,” Blank said. “(Hyping) doesn’t mean you’re reducing your carbon monoxide to a level that’s going to help you long term with your health. That’s like saying ‘I used to eat 10 Oreos but now I eat eight.'”