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Study: Cigar smokers face double the risk of fatal cancer

Cigar smoker

In this story:

March 19, 1998
Web posted at: 9:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT)

SANTA FE, New Mexico (CNN) -- Despite popular belief that smoking cigars is relatively harmless, a California researcher has found that cigar smokers face nearly double the risk of dying from all forms of cancer, and from potentially fatal cardiovascular ailments.

Kaiser Permanente researcher Carlos Iribarren said the results of his study disprove the widespread belief that cigars are not as harmful as cigarettes because the smoke is not deeply inhaled.

To the contrary, he says, "It is well documented that cigar smoke is a source of toxins."

But he added, "I'm not talking a cigar now and then. I'm talking chronic cigar use."

vxtreme CNN's Al Hinman reports on the new study

Iribarren surveyed the death rates of 225 men between the ages of 30 and 89 who smoked only cigars, at an average of twice a day, for 10 years against a control group of more than 14,200 men who said they never used tobacco products.

He found that the cigar smokers had a 25 percent higher mortality rate overall and twice the risk of dying from all forms of cancer combined.

Cigar and martini
Smoking cigars has become a '90s trend  

The smokers also showed significantly increased levels of potentially fatal cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm and other heart damage.

Women not included in study

The study's significance is reflected in the 10 to 12 million Americans who have taken up cigar smoking, following the lead of celebrities who have made cigars a "hip" alternative to cigarettes. The study says there has been a 44 percent jump in cigar sales since 1993, and they are expected to continue to climb.

"With the severe health hazards associated with cigarettes now obvious, tobacco marketers have increasingly popularized cigars, particularly the large, expensive variety," the study said.

Iribarren, who presented his findings Thursday at the American Heart Association's 38th Epidemiology Conference, said, "Cigar smoking is a popular fad, but the health consequences aren't well identified."

Although women are a growing segment of the cigar-smoking population, they were not included in the study because statistically too few reported smoking cigars during the survey years.

Iribarren did offer one bit of good news: cigars, unlike cigarettes, do not appear to increase the risk of dying from coronary artery disease, the main cause of heart attacks.

Correspondent Al Hinman and Reuters contributed to this report.


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