Ah, the cigar, the soothing oral fixation of many a manly man. As one of the most famous cigar smokers of all time, Sigmund Freud certainly valued his stogies. However, it's unclear whether he gave much thought to the fact that cigars are one of the most pungent causes of halitosis.
To be clear, the pioneer of psychoanalysis never actually said the famous disavowal of phallic symbolism that's usually attributed to him: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
What he did do, however, is smoke cigars. Lots and lots of them.
According to Cigar Aficionado, Freud smoke down about 20 cigars per day for most of his natural life, starting at age 24. In fact, when offering his 17-year-old nephew one and being declined, he had this to say: "My boy, smoking is one of the greatest and cheapest enjoyments in life, and if you decide in advance not to smoke, I can only feel sorry for you."
Clearly, the causes of halitosis weren't always foremost in the mind of the Father of Psychoanalysis.
This blindness to the downsides of cigar-smoking would ultimately catch up with Freud, who in his day had nothing like the nicotine patches, chewing gums and specialty breath fresheners we have today.
In 1923, he was diagnosed with oral cancer. Still, he refused to give up his habit. In 1939, 16 years and 34 surgeries later, Freud, in intense pain, convinced a friend to quietly euthanize him with morphine.
There are many reasons to avoid cigar-smoking, bad breath being perhaps the mildest. Today, dentists unilaterally agree that cigars cause halitosis, dental decay, gum disease and worse. By avoiding tobacco use and using specialty breath fresheners, it's easy enough to keep one's mouth clean and healthy.
Why is a cigar so bad for breath? It's because, when burned, it releases thousands of volatile chemicals, many of which the nose is extraordinarily sensitive to. In a study conducted at the William Wrigley, Jr. Company, scientists found that a burnt cigar's smelliest compounds are:
- 2,3,5-trimethylpyridine (which smells "musty")
- 2,5-dimethylpyrazine (which smells "meaty")
- 2-ethyl-3,5-dimethylpyridine (which has a "nutty stench")
We can only hope those adjectives aren't Freudian slips...