Many cigar smokers claim not to inhale, leading some to argue cigars are a healthy alternative to cigarettes. But a new study suggests such assumptions are unfounded and dangerous, as toxins -- carcinogens and otherwise -- are absorbed by cigar and cigarette smokers in comparable amounts.
The study -- which was published last week in the latest issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention -- looked at five chemical signatures of tobacco exposure in 25,500 patients. Analysis showed cigar smokers, regardless of whether they also smoked cigarettes or not, had elevated levels of cotinine, NNAL, cadmium and lead when compared to nonsmokers.
"Cigar smoking exposes users to similar types of harmful and cancer-causing agents as cigarette smoking," the study's lead author, Dr. Jiping Chen, said in a press release.
Dr. Chen is an epidemiologist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Science, Center for Tobacco Products.
"Once differences are accounted for in frequency of use, the levels of NNAL, a strong carcinogen, are comparable in cigar and cigarette smokers," Chen added.
According to the CDC, cigar use doubled between 2000 and 2011.
"In spite of the fact that cigar smokers don't inhale, more attention needs to be paid to the damages of secondhand smoke, and to acknowledge that no smoking is safe," Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital, told Healthday News.
"It is well known that secondhand smoking causes asthma, as well as a possible increase in the risk for lung cancer," Dr. Horovitz said. "The cloud around a cigar smoker's respiratory system is tantamount to this phenomenon."