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Effects of Smoking Pipes and Cigars

Pipe and cigar smokers often wave off worries that smoking is bad for their health. They claim their habit is harmless and perpetuate the common misperception that pipes and cigars are somehow safer than cigarettes. In reality, these tobacco products carry the same health risks -- and sometimes even greater risks -- than cigarettes.

Cigars and pipes differ in design from cigarettes, which are made from tobacco wrapped in thin paper. Cigars are wrapped in tobacco leaves, and unlike cigarettes, they don't typically have filters. In pipes, the tobacco sits in a bowl at the end, and a stem connects the bowl to the mouthpiece. Pipes can be equipped with filters, however.

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Another type of pipe, the water pipe, consists of a body filled with water, a bowl in which the tobacco is placed, and an attached tube and mouthpiece through which the pipe is smoked. Water pipes, or hookahs, originated in ancient Persia and India about 400 years ago and are still popular today. Hookahs are filled with fragrant tobaccos in a variety of flavors, such as cherry, apple, or mint.

Cigar and Pipe Smoking Just as Risky as Cigarettes

Cigar and pipe smokers often argue that their health isn't at risk because they only smoke one or two a day and they don't inhale. There is also the claim that pipes and cigars aren't addictive. Yet research shows that cigar and pipe smoking is every bit as dangerous as cigarette smoking, and possibly even more dangerous.

A single large cigar can contain more than a 1/2 ounce of tobacco -- as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes. One cigar also contains 100 to 200 milligrams of nicotine, while a cigarette averages only about 8 milligrams. That extra nicotine may be why smoking just a few cigars a week is enough to trigger nicotine cravings.

Health Effects of Smoking Pipes and Cigars

Here are just a few of the harmful health effects of smoking pipes and cigars:

Cancer. Even if you don't inhale, you can get a number of different cancers from smoking pipes and cigars. People who smoke cigars regularly are four to 10 times more likely than nonsmokers to die from cancers of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus. Oral cancer can develop anywhere the smoke touches, including the lips, mouth, throat, and tongue. People who inhale also increase their risk for cancers of the lung, pancreas, and bladder.

Lung disease. Cigar and pipe smoking double the risk for the airway damage that leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Smoking can also worsen existing asthma.

Heart disease. Smoking cigars or pipes increases the likelihood of having heart disease or a stroke. Cigars boost the risk of early death from coronary heart disease by 30%.

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