Quick Study

Lung damage from smoking cigars and pipes

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Lungs may show damage from pipes and cigars, not just from cigarettes.

THE QUESTION Cigarette smoking is a main cause of the disease of the airways and lungs known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Does smoking pipes or cigars have a similar effect?

THIS STUDY involved 3,528 middle-age and older adults, most in their mid-60s, including 9 percent who had smoked pipes, 11 percent who had smoked cigars and 52 percent who had smoked cigarettes. All participants were given spirometry tests, which gauge breathing ability and lung function and are used to diagnose COPD, and urine tests to measure cotinine levels, which indicate the body's absorption of tobacco smoke. Cotinine levels were higher in cigarette smokers than in pipe and cigar smokers. Nonetheless, spirometry showed that people who smoked pipes or cigars but had never smoked cigarettes were more than twice as likely as nonsmokers to have obstructed airflow; the risk grew to more than threefold higher for pipe and cigar smokers who also smoked cigarettes.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Cigar and pipe smokers. Cigarette smoking has decline in the United States in recent decades, but cigar and pipe smoking has increased, according to government reports.

CAVEATS Data on smoking history came from the participants' answers on questionnaires. The authors wrote that lower cotinine levels among cigar and pipe smokers than cigarette smokers reflected a difference in nicotine absorption but did not necessarily indicate less exposure to harmful effects of tobacco smoke.

FIND THIS STUDY Feb. 16 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

LEARN MORE ABOUT COPD at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health and http://www.familydoctor.org.

-- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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