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Pipe and cigar smoking unhealthy for lungs and socially unacceptable

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Scientists recently explored the effects of pipe and cigar smoking on the lungs. They conclude that smoking a pipe or cigar should be considered as unhealthy to the lungs as cigarette smoking, and just as socially unacceptable.

The researchers say pipes and cigars are also a risk factor for lung damage that leads to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Smoking a pipe or a cigar may not be a less risky alternative to cigarettes like some people may think.

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Cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine that can be measured in urine samples, can signal risk of lung disease from smoking. Researchers studied 3,528 individuals who never smoke cigarettes but did smoke pipes or cigars, discovering findings consistent with decreased lung function, that can lead to obstructive lung disease - a finding the scientists say should be considered by clinicians who should counsel patients to stop smoking.

The study raises concerns for public health because of the increased incidence of tobacco use in the United States say the researchers who also advocate counseling for patients by their physicians to quit smoking pipes and cigars.

R. Graham Barr, MD, Dr.PH, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia Presbyterian and lead author of the study says, These findings, together with increased cotinine levels in current pipe and cigar smokers, suggest that long-term pipe and cigar smoking may damage the lungs and contribute to the development of COPD. Physicians should consider pipe and cigar smoking a risk factor for COPD and counsel their patients to quit."

Michael B. Steinberg, MD, MPH, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School comments that the tobacco industry perpetrates the social acceptability of pipe and cigar smoking, linking the practice to "sophistication, affluence, education, and celebration". Smoking pipes and cigars can lead to lung damage and COPD and should be treated as unacceptable as cigarette smoking.

Annals of Internal Medicine