Celebrating with a cigar? You might regret it, says study

Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:46pm EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If you thought it was only cigarettes that were dangerous to smoke, think again, with a U.S. study showing 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 could lead to emphysema and other diseases.

Cigarette smoking is a well-known risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 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.

This research found that among more than 3,500 U.S. adults, those who had ever smoked cigars or pipes were more likely than non-smokers to show obstructed airflow - a hallmark of COPD -- during tests of lung function.

Researchers Michael Steinberg and Cristine Delnevo said the findings were particularly important as cigars and pipes are still often seen as emblems of "sophistication, affluence, education and celebration" and people had the mistaken belief that not inhaling the smoke meant it was 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.

The study found that among 56 participants who said they had 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 had never smoked.

Study participants who had only smoked cigars or pipes -- that is, cigarette-free -- generally had poorer scores on their lung-function tests and were twice as likely to show airflow obstruction as people who had never smoked.

The effects were compounded among people who had smoked cigarettes. Their risk of airflow obstruction was increased more than three-fold. Among 428 study participants who had smoked both cigarettes and cigars or pipes, 21 percent had obstructed airways.   Continued...

<p>A discarded cigar is pictured in front of the bar inside a restaurant in Hanau near Frankfurt, March 22, 2007. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach</p>