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Close but no cigar


Published: February 23, 2010

Source: The Standard

If you thought it was only cigarettes that were dangerous to smoke, think again: a US study shows cigars and pipes also raise the risk of lung disease, defying their image of sophistication and celebration.

Researchers from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in New Brunswick found that even if the smoke is not inhaled, people who smoke cigars or pipes have a greater risk of airway damage that may lead to emphysema and other diseases.

Cigarette smoking is a well-known risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a group of lung diseases that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but few studies have looked at whether other types of smoking add to copd.

Researchers found that among more than 3,500 adults, those who have only smoked cigars or pipes were more likely than non-smokers to show obstructed airflow – a hallmark of copd – during tests of lung function.

Michael Steinberg and Cristine Delnevo said the findings are important as cigars and pipes are often seen as emblems of “sophistication, affluence, education and celebration” and people have the mistaken belief that not inhaling the smoke means it is not harmful.

“These images, largely fostered by the tobacco industry, perpetuate the idea that these products play a suitable role in our society,” they said in a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Among the 56 participants who said they have smoked at least 20 cigars or pipe-bowls in their lives, 18 percent showed airway obstruction.

That compared with less than 8 percent of men and women who have never smoked.

Study participants who have only smoked cigars or pipes generally had poorer scores on their lung-function tests and are twice as likely to show airflow obstruction as people who have never smoked.

The risk among people who smoked cigarettes was tripled.

Among 428 participants who have smoked both cigarettes and cigars or pipes, 21 percent had obstructed airways.

When the researchers weighed other factors, like age and history of cigarette smoking, cigar and pipe smoking were linked to a doubling in the odds of airflow obstruction.

The findings “suggest that pipe and cigar smoking produce a measurable increase in the risk for copd.”

They add to evidence of the health risks of cigars and pipes, which many people tend to view as “safe” ways to smoke.

Cigar and pipe smoking have also been linked to increased risks of mouth and throat cancers, heart disease and lung cancer.

One study estimated that those risks are on par with those associated with light cigarette smoking, which is defined in the study as up to 19 sticks a day.

Steinberg and Delnevo said people wrongly believe that pipes and cigars are safer alternatives as the smoke is not inhaled into the lungs. But they said this study shows “further evidence that smokers of these products are exposed to sufficient levels of toxins to affect” their lung health.

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