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Cigars can be as Deadly as Cigarettes, Study Reports

Update Date: Nov 10, 2014 10:35 AM EST

Even though some smokers might believe that cigars are not as bad as cigarettes, a new study found evidence that this belief is false.

"In spite of the fact that cigar smokers don't inhale, more attention needs to be paid to the damages of secondhand smoke, and to acknowledge that no smoking is safe," Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, commented according to Philly. "It is well known that secondhand smoking causes asthma, as well as a possible increase in the risk for lung cancer. The cloud around a cigar smoker's respiratory system is tantamount to this phenomenon."

For this study, the team tested more than 25,500 participants for chemical signs of tobacco exposure. They focused on five chemicals, which were cotinine, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (NNAL), lead, cadmium and arsenic. The last three biomarkers are not directly linked to tobacco and could be sourced from other items.

The researchers discovered that cigar and cigarette smokers had higher levels of cotinine, NNAL, cadmium and lead when compared to non-smokers. Cigar smokers with a history of cigarette use had higher levels of cotinine and NNAL in comparison to cigar smokers who did not smoke cigarettes. NNAL levels between cigar smokers and cigarette smokers were similar.

"Cigar smoking exposes users to similar types of harmful and cancer-causing agents as cigarette smoking," lead author Dr. Jiping Chen, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Science, Center for Tobacco Products, said. "Once differences are accounted for in frequency of use, the levels of NNAL, a strong carcinogen, are comparable in cigar and cigarette smokers."

The study, "Biomarkers of Exposure among U.S. Cigar Smokers: An Analysis of 1999-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Data," was published in the journal, Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

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