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12 January 2009

Cigars and pipe tobacco

Some cigarette smokers switch to pipes or cigars in the belief that this is a less dangerous form of smoking. But pipe and cigar smokers are also at increased risk.

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Some cigarette smokers switch to pipes or cigars in the belief that this is a less dangerous form of smoking. But pipe and cigar smokers are also at increased risk for all the conditions associated with cigarettes.

Most of the harmful substances found in cigarettes are also found in cigar and pipe tobacco; cigars contain even more carcinogens than cigarettes. However, the risks of pipe and cigar smoking depend largely on whether the smoker inhales or not. Pipe and cigar smokers who have never smoked cigarettes (and this is increasingly unusual) tend not to inhale, or not as much, and so are exposed to relatively low amounts of tar and other harmful components of tobacco smoke compared with cigarette smokers. But pipe and cigar smokers who are ex?cigarette smokers tend to inhale, despite the fact that the smoke is more irritating. In this case, they will be at significantly greater risk of tobacco-related diseases than pipe or cigar smokers who have never smoked cigarettes.

As with cigarettes, the more deeply and frequently you inhale pipe and cigar smoke, the greater your risk for heart disease, chronic lung disease and cancer.

Even if pipe and cigar smokers don’t inhale, however, nicotine (and certain other substances) is still absorbed, though more slowly, through the lining of the mouth. Cigar smoke, particularly, is more alkaline than cigarette smoke and dissolves more easily in saliva, delivering a high dose of nicotine even without inhalation. Both inhaled and absorbed nicotine are highly addictive.

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