Cigars can be as deadly as cigarettes, FDA study says
The risk of dying from smoking-related disease is just as high for some cigar smokers as it is for people who smoke cigarettes, according to a recent report by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Cigars include large cigars, cigarillos and little cigars.
Researchers at the FDA's Centre for Tobacco Products analysed 22 studies and concluded that cigar smokers are at risk of dying from a range of common smoking-related diseases, including heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm and several types of cancer: mouth, oesophageal, pancreatic, throat and lung cancers. Other research has also found that cigar smoking causes stomach and bladder cancer.
The risks were highest for heavier smokers (more cigars per day). Some cigar smokers only take shallow breaths, while others inhale the smoke more deeply into the lungs. The researchers found that the health risks were highest with greater levels of inhalation.
However, even smokers who do not inhale had a highly elevated risk of mouth, oesophageal and lung cancers, indicating that cigar smokers are inhaling at least some smoke, even if they do not intend to.
The researchers found that some risks associated with cigar smoking can be as high or higher than those associated with cigarette smoking, especially at the highest doses and levels of inhalation for cigar smoking.
Overall, exclusive cigar smokers (not smoking cigarettes as well) had a 4x risk of lung, mouth, larynx and oesophageal cancer compared to non smokers.
Cigars smoke may even be more toxic than cigarette smoke. Cigar tobacco has higher levels of the cancer-causing 'nitrosamines' than cigarettes, owing to the way cigars are cured and fermented. Cigars also have more cancer-causing tar than cigarettes, for each gram of tobacco smoked. Cigar smoke also has higher concentrations of some other toxic chemicals such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide.
Cigars are also addictive. A single cigar can potentially provide as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
In Australia, 8% of smokers smoke cigars or pipes, although 3 out of 4 cigar smokers also smoke cigarettes. (2)
2) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey. 2011
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