Health Risks of Cigars Similar to Cigarettes

The risks associated with smoking cigars are very similar to the risks of smoking cigarettes, according to a new study published in open access journal BMC Public Health. The findings suggest that cigar smoking is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking.

“The results reinforce the fact that cigar smoking carries many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking. Cigar smoking is linked to fatal oral, esophageal, pancreatic, laryngeal, and lung cancers, as well as heart disease and aortic aneurysm,” said lead researcher Cindy Chang, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

While there was a 33 percent reduction in U.S. cigarette smoking between 2000 and 2011, cigar smoking doubled from 6.2 billion cigars to more than 13.7 billion during the same time period.

There is particular concern about cigar use in youth and young adults. Among young adults aged 18-24, 16 percent reported smoking cigars at least one day in the past 30 days during 2009-2010. Another recent study suggests during 2012, 12.6 percent of high school students smoked cigars, cigarillos or little cigars, at least one day in the past 30 days.

For the analysis, a research team from FDA carried out a systematic review of studies on cigar smoking and all-cause and smoking-related mortality to gain a better understanding of the long-term public health implications of cigar use.

The researchers wanted to know the health risks to current cigar smokers compared to those who had never smoked cigarettes or used any tobacco, so they excluded any study that involved current cigarette smokers.

Separate findings were reported for current cigar smokers with no prior history of cigarette smoking vs. those who had previously smoked cigarettes. As such, 22 studies were analyzed that were primarily conducted in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland.

The findings showed that people who exclusively smoked cigars and had never smoked other tobacco products had an increased risk of all-cause mortality.

The risk of death from oral, esophageal and lung cancers was found to increase with inhalation of cigar smoke. Even among cigar users who reported not inhaling the smoke, there was an increased risk of death by oral, laryngeal, and esophageal cancer.

People who smoked cigars and had previously smoked cigarettes had a much greater risk of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compared to cigar smokers who had not previously smoked cigarettes. This could be due in part to the inhalation patterns of these different types of cigar smokers.

Source: Biomed Central