A new study titled “Biomarkers of Exposure among U.S. Cigar Smokers: An Analysis of 1999-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Data“, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that smoking cigars may be just as harmful to health as smoking cigarettes. Both cigars and cigarettes are cancer-causing agents.
The study was led by Dr. Jiping Chen, an epidemiologist from the Office of Science at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products, revealing that people who smoke cigars have higher levels of toxic substances in their bodies when compared to non-smokers. Furthermore, cigar smokers have just the same concentration levels of a specific carcinogenic comparing to cigarettes smokers.
It is widely believed that cigars are less toxic and, thereby, less harmful to health than cigarettes. It is probably related to the fact that cigars smokers are not as likely to inhale smoke. However, cigars contain as many toxic substances as cigarettes.
The National Cancer Institute explains that cigar smokers are at a lower risk of developing diseases such as lung cancer and heart diseases (smoking-related diseases) than cigarettes smokers. Nevertheless, the rates regarding these diseases are still much higher among cigar smokers than non-smokers which proves that cigars are also harmful.
Between 2000 and 2011, the number of cigar smokers across the United States doubled which drove Dr. Chen and his team to determine, objectively, how and by which means cigars can be harmful to human health.
Through data gathered between 1999-2012 from the National Health Nutrition and Examination Survey (NHANES), 25,522 individuals were analyzed for the presence of five substances in their blood and urine that could demonstrate tobacco exposure.
Lead, cadmium and arsenic are three of those five substances and can be found in both in tobacco and in the environment. Cotinine and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL) can exclusively be found in tobacco. The assessment showed that cigar smokers have much higher levels of cotinine and cadmium than non-smokers in their blood and urine.
Cotinine is produced right after nicotines enters the body, making it the most reliable way to measure tobacco exposure. Cadmium, in turn, is related with several diseases such as kidney disease, respiratory and inflammatory diseases. NNAL is severely carcinogen.
Researchers observed that cigar smokers that smoked cigarettes before had higher levels of cotinine and NNAL than those who had never smoked cigarettes. This fact supports a previous study stating that former cigarettes smokers are at a higher risk of inhaling cigar smoke. In addition, those who smoked cigars on a daily basis had NNAL concentrations in their urine comparable with the concentration of the same substance in daily cigarette smokers.
“Cigar smoking exposes users to similar types of harmful and cancer-causing agents as cigarette smoking,” Dr. Chen said in an American Association for Cancer Research news release.
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