BOSTON — Smokers who attempt to avoid the hazards of cigarettes by switching to cigars continue to have a sharply elevated risk of heart attacks, a new study concludes.
In fact, men who switched had about five times the risk of heart attacks as those who gave up smoking completely, the study said.
"Our results suggest that cigars are not a good alternative to cigarettes in terms of the risk of coronary heart disease," the researchers wrote. "Cigarette smokers would be better advised to give up smoking altogether."
"The punch line appears to be that those who switch from cigarettes to cigars continue to inhale," Dr. David W. Kaufman said. "That's probably why we see the difference."
The researchers found the elevated risk in men who had been off cigarettes for two or more years but who smoked at least five cigars a day. Heart attack risk appeared to be only slightly increased for heavy cigar smokers who had never used cigarettes. There was no clear evidence that pipe smokers had an increased hazard.
The study, directed by Kaufman at Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Unit, was published in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal.
10% Had Switched
In the study, about 10% of the former cigarette smokers had switched to cigars. Until now, there has been little information about whether this strategy is healthy.
Cigarette smokers also have a significantly increased risk of cancer. The new study did not examine whether switching to cigars affects cancer, but Kaufman said he believes that risk also remains high.