Cigar smokers have elevated levels of potentially cancer-causing ingredients in their blood and urine, a study from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found. In other words cigars may be as bad for your health as cigarettes, particularly among hefty smokers who deeply inhale the toxic substances contained in cigars. The findings are reported Nov. 7 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
While cigar lovers are supposed to puff rather than inhale, studies show they breathe smoke particles into their lungs even when they think they aren’t inhaling. The amount of NNAL, a carcinogen which comes only from tobacco, was as high in daily cigar smokers as those who regularly smoke cigarettes, according to the report in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
Three substances, lead, cadmium and arsenic, can be found in environmental sources, as well as tobacco. The other two substances contained in cigars, cotinine and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL), are only found in tobacco. Results of the analysis revealed that, compared with non-smokers, cigar smokers had much higher concentrations of cotinine and cadmium in their blood and NNAL in their urine. This result remained even after the team accounted for current cigarette smoking status.
“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,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “It is well known that secondhand smoking causes asthma, as well as a possible increase in the risk for lung cancer. The cloud around a cigar smoker’s respiratory system is tantamount to this phenomenon,” Horovitz said.
The FDA is planning to expand its tobacco regulation to include cigars and e-cigarettes, a move that will likely ban sales to minors and require addiction warnings. The study, involving investigation of 25,522 people, confirms earlier findings that cigar smoking can cause cancer, heart disease and early death. Americans smoked more than 13 billion cigars in 2010, double the 6.2 billion consumed in 2000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young adults and teenagers appear particularly taken, with 16 percent of those ages 18 to 24 saying they smoked a cigar within the past month.