The Health Risks of Cigars and Pipes

Tobacco smoke is a major risk factor for lung cancer and heart disease. Even in non-smokers, regular cigar smoking is associated with an increased risk of cancer of the lung, esophagus, larynx, and oral cavity. Cigarette smoking is linked to gum disease and tooth loss. Studies suggest that smoking cigars and pipes is independently associated with an increased risk of head and neck cancer.

Women are particularly at risk, although the estimates are based on relatively few female smokers. Most studies that evaluated the consumption of cigars and pipes and the risk of head and neck cancer had sample sizes of approximately 100 to a few thousand cases and controls. The probability rates of smoking cigars among those who had never smoked cigarettes were adjusted for sex, age, race, education level, frequency of alcohol consumption, and duration of pipe consumption. The high probability rates associated with exclusive consumption of cigars or pipes compared to those of a reference group of never smokers suggest that both products contribute independently to the risk of head and neck cancer. For example, a person who has never smoked cigarettes may have smoked cigars or pipes. If the consumption of cigars over a lifetime divided by the total consumption of tobacco for smoking over a lifetime is equal to 1, then the tobacco user was a dominant cigar smoker.

Among people who smoke cigarettes and cigars or pipes, the increased frequency with which they smoke cigarettes may make cigarette smoke the predominant source of exposure to carcinogens. It is important to be aware of the health risks associated with smoking cigars and pipes. People should be encouraged to quit smoking altogether in order to reduce their risk of developing cancer or other serious health conditions.