Is smoking cigars harmful?

Pipes and cigars as harmful as cigarettes

New York / Vienna - Neither pipes nor cigars are healthier alternatives to cigarettes. Doctors at New York's Presbyterian Hospital have shown that neither of the two forms of tobacco consumption can protect against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as some mistakenly believe. The results of their investigation were published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The same amount of harmful ingredients

The researchers examined 3,500 people with the lung function test and asked them about their current and previous smoking habits. Those who did not smoke cigarettes but smoked a pipe or cigars were twice as likely to have respiratory problems as non-smokers. "Smoke from pipes and cigars is also associated with a deterioration in lung function, which corresponds to COPD," emphasizes study author Graham Barr.

The value of the nicotine breakdown product cotinine, which can be detected in blood plasma, urine, hair or saliva, was higher than that of non-smokers, but lower than that of cigarette smoke. The researchers attribute this to the other form of nicotine intake, while exposure to harmful ingredients is likely to be the same. "Both cigars and pipes cause long-term lung damage, and doctors should recognize both forms as risk factors for COPD," said Barr.

No alternatives to cigarettes

Irmgard Homeier, General Secretary of the Doctors Against Smoking Injury Initiative, sees previous assumptions confirmed. "It was known that cigars and pipes can also affect the cardiovascular system and cause cancer, which is why neither of the two are better alternatives to cigarettes. However, the data are still poor, which is why it is important to prove the connection with COPD" so the Viennese doctor.

Cigars show no difference to cigarettes in terms of the breakdown of burned products. "Tobacco also breaks down into various toxic substances, including carbon monoxide. The only difference is that cigar smoke is inhaled less deeply," says Homeier. Diseases of the oral cavity, floor of the mouth or larynx cannot prevent this, and neither can the ultrafine dust particles from entering the lungs. "In addition, the cigar produces far greater amounts of toxins than the cigarette, since the amount of tobacco is much larger." The same applies to the pipe. (pte)