Dangers of smoking pipes, cigars

February 16, 2010 9:51:43 AM PST
Everyone knows smoking cigarettes is bad for your health. But many people mistakenly believe that smoking a pipe or a cigar is a healthier alternative. Now, new research is showing there is lung damage suffered by long-term pipe and cigar smokers.

The study that was just released in the journal published by the American Academy of Physicians shows that smoking pipes and cigars over the long term contributes to a illness that quite common and, unfortunately, deadly. It's called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better know as COPD.

Pipes and cigars have an associated image of sophistication and masculinity. And that may be unfortunate, because they are also associated with mouth and lip cancer and cancers of the throat, tongue and voice box.

And according to the study, long-term smokers of pipes or cigars are likely at risk for COPD.

"COPD is currently the fourth leading cause of death," said Dr. Graham Barr, of Columbia University Medical Center. "It's soon going to overtake stroke as the third leading cause of death."

The researchers surveyed 3,528 participants from six communities throughout the country, including the Bronx. The urine samples taken from the pipe and cigar smokers showed evidence of the chemical cotinine, which is an end product of tobacco smoke.

"So that would suggest that people smoking cigars and pipes in general are inhaling, and the tobacco smoke is being absorbed into the body," Dr. Barr said.

And that smoke is apparently endangering the lungs.

Study participants also underwent measurement for how the airflow goes in and out of their lungs.

Those who did smoke pipes or cigar were more likely to have airflow obstruction than people in the study who had never smoked.

Participants in this study who smoked cigars and pipes on an ongoing, on a long-term basis, had approximately a double risk for air flow obstruction or an early form of COPD, Dr. Barr said.

COPD is a disease that slowly worsens over time. Cigarette smoking is still the major cause of COPD. People with COPD are more likely to have lung infections and some of these can be dangerous.

Lowering risk of disease could be as easy as quitting smoking - all smoking.