Researchers at Columbia Presbyterian have linked pipe and cigar smoking to decreased lung function, a major known cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Among 3,528 participants in the population-based study, those who did not smoke cigarettes but did smoke pipes or cigars were more likely to have airflow obstruction than those who had never smoked. The study published in Annals of Internal Medicine determined whether pipe and cigar smoking was associated with elevated cotinine levels (the end product of tobacco), decrements in lung function, and increased odds of airflow obstruction. While cotinine levels among current pipe and cigar smokers were lower than among current cigarette smokers, the relative differences in cotinine levels may reflect differences in nicotine absorption but not necessarily exposure to harmful products of tobacco smoke.

"Our study shows that pipe and cigar smoking is associated with decrements in lung function that are consistent with obstructive lung disease," said R. Graham Barr, MD, DPH, assistant professor of medicine and assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia Presbyterian and lead author of the study. "These findings, together with increased cotinine levels in current pipe and cigar smokers, suggest that long-term pipe and cigar smoking may damage the lungs and contribute to the development of COPD. Physicians should consider pipe and cigar smoking a risk factor for COPD and counsel their patients to quit."

Source: EurekAlert