Thursday, September 1, 2016

FDA Cigar Study Part II: Heart & Lung Disease Nearly Zero for 1-2 Cigars Per Day

As noted in my last blog post (here), data presented in a recent FDA review of cigar health risks (here) showed that smoking up to two cigars per day, while not completely safe, is neither associated with significantly increased risks for death from all causes, nor smoking-related cancers.       

Now we examine the FDA data regarding cigar-related circulatory and lung diseases. Here are the overall results:

Table 1. Relative Risks for Mortality From Circulatory Diseases and Emphysema Among Men Who Smoke Cigars
DiseaseStudy, YearRelative Risk (95% CI)

Coronary heart diseaseKahn, 19661.04 (0.96 – 1.13)

Carstensen, 19871.16 (0.84 – 1.57)

Ben-Schlomo, 19940.45 (0.17 – 1.22)

Shanks, 19981.05 (1.00 – 1.11)

Jacobs, 19991.30 (1.05 – 1.62) 1

Jacobs, 19990.93 (0.72 – 1.21) 2

StrokeKahn, 19661.08 (0.91 – 1.28)

Shanks, 19980.96 (0.87 – 1.06)

Aortic AneurysmKahn, 19662.06 (1.32 – 3.07)

Carstensen, 19875.10 (1.33 – 13.19)

Shanks, 19981.76 (1.29 – 2.35)

AtherosclerosisKahn, 19660.97 (0.69 – 1.33)

EmphysemaKahn, 19660.79 (0.25 – 1.86)

Carstensen, 19871.30 (0.00 – 7.45)

Lange, 19923.70 (1.10 – 12.00)

Shanks, 19981.42 (0.96 – 2.03)

1Age 30-74 years
2Age 75+ years

Compared with never smokers, cigar smokers in most studies had no elevated risks for coronary heart disease, which is one of the most common smoking-related causes of death in the U.S.; the single exception was a subgroup of men, age 30-74 years, in the Jacobs study.  Cigar smokers also did not have increased risks for two other frequent causes of death, stroke and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Aortic aneurysm – a bulge in the heart’s main artery – is the only disease risk that is consistently elevated in cigar smokers.  It is a serious disorder but a distinctly uncommon cause of death; the mortality rate due to aortic aneurysm among those 45 and older dropped precipitously from 16 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 7.4 in 2014.

For men who smoke only one or two cigars a day, the health risks are even lower.

Table 2. Relative Risks for Mortality From Circulatory Diseases and Emphysema Among Men Who Smoke 1 or 2 Cigars Per Day
DiseaseShanks, 1998Other Studies

Coronary heart disease0.98 (0.91 – 1.07)1.00 (0.90 – 1.10)1

1.18 (0.76 – 1.82)2

Stroke1.01 (0.88 – 1.17)

Aortic Aneurysm1.82 (1.11 – 2.81)

Emphysema1.39 (0.74 – 2.38)

1Kahn 1966, fewer than 5 cigars per day.
2Jacobs 1999, 1 cigar per day.

No elevated risks for coronary heart disease, stroke or emphysema among men smoking 1-2 cigars per day.  The only disease that was significantly elevated was aortic aneurysm.

The Take-Home Message for Cigar Smokers

Puffing and/or inhaling the smoke of burning tobacco is not without risks.

The FDA, which now regulates tobacco products, seems inclined to treat cigars the same as cigarettes.  FDA staff wrote in their cigar study that “…cigar smoking carries many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking…We have observed that some risks associated with cigar smoking can be as high or higher than those associated with cigarette smoking, especially at the highest doses and levels of inhalation for cigar smoking.”

The problem with such a sweeping indictment is that it ignores scientific evidence and misleads cigar smokers who could substantially benefit from truthful harm reduction guidance.

Like any risky behavior, the degree of risk is proportional to dose and duration of exposure.  In other words, risk is based on frequency of cigar smoking and the degree to which smoke is puffed and/or inhaled.


Professor Twain said...

Once again, thanks for posting.

Unknown said...

Thanks for completing the information provided in the previous post. I will try to propagate this info in cigar forums. Still, in spite of the reduced health risks tobacco controllers and regulators will raise the issue of "second hand smoke", but this is a non-issue if cigars are smoked outdoors or at the smoker's home. An important question remains: why moderate cigar smoking without inhalation is not promoted as a Tobacco Harm Reduction alternative?