Smoking tobacco in any form can be deadly, based on a recent study that links cigar, pipe and cigarette smoking to significantly increased risk for cancer and death.
Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, this study looked at the health effects of smoking tobacco. In addition to cigarettes, it looked into the long-term effects of cigars and pipes, which are often overlooked in research.
The study included nearly 357,500 U.S. adults initially surveyed on their health and tobacco use in 1985. Participants smoked only one form of tobacco or none at all, so that researchers could separate the effects of cigarette, cigar and pipe use.
Researchers followed participants through 2011, tracking tobacco use as well as well as various forms of cancer and death.
Among the 357,420 participants, 43% reported smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes at some point in their life. The remaining 203,071 participants never used any of these forms of tobacco and were defined as “never tobacco users.”
After nearly three decades of follow-up, researchers linked all three forms of tobacco use to increased risk of cancer and death.
Analysis showed that current cigarette smokers had two-fold greater risk of death than never smokers, while current cigar smokers had 20% greater risk of death than non-smokers. Current smokers also had significantly greater risk of cancer-related death than never smokers. For example, current cigarette smokers were 4 times more likely to die of tobacco-related cancers than non-smokers. Current cigar and pipe smoking also increased risk of dying from tobacco-related cancer by about 60%.
When looking at daily versus non-daily smokers, researchers also found that smoking occasionally poses serious health risks. Non-daily cigarette smokers were up to six times as likely to die of lung and oral cancer and nearly eight times as likely to develop COPD as never smokers. Occasional cigarette smokers were also 40% more likely to die of stroke and 24% more likely to die of heart disease than never smokers.
Authors note that the majority of cigar and pipe smokers were male, while cigarette smokers were more evenly distributed. Cigarette smokers were also less likely to have a college degree than cigar and pipe smokers.
The take-home message, according to authors, is that all forms of tobacco smoking can be deadly. While the effects of cigarette smoking are well-known, we can’t overlook the negative effects of cigars and pipes. Data from 2014–2015 show that 5% of U.S. adults have smoked cigars and 1% have smoked tobacco pipes. Findings link both to significantly increased risk for bladder, esophagus, larynx, lung, oral and pancreatic cancer. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and findings help show that all forms of tobacco can be harmful to health.