To Inhale or not to Inhale

Most people think that smoking a pipe is less hazardous to health than cigarette smoking. These smokers are considered respectable and even have an intellectual quality about them. Is it true then that men who smoke a pipe are at less risk of health consequences than cigarette smokers? Perhaps they are not exposed to the harmful effects that are normally associated with cigarette smoking. Early studies actually suggested that these smokers lived longer than non-smokers! Could it be that pipe smoke is actually a health tonic, or at least not as harmful as cigarette smoke? There are clear differences between the two types of smoke. Cigarette smoke is acidic whilst pipe smoke is alkaline. Also there is a very obvious difference in the smell of the two types of smoke. Few find the aroma of cigarette smoke pleasing, whilst pipe smoke is aromatic and pleasing to the senses. Unlike cigarette smokers, pipe smokers don’t usually inhale their smoke and therefore the smoke does not actually enter the lungs.

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The Health Question

The effect of cigarette smoking on health has been thoroughly investigated however, there have been very few studies looking at pipe smoking and health pipes for smoking. This is mainly due to the fact that there are not many men who belong to this select smoking club and the numbers have been steadily declining since the 1960’s. It is difficult to obtain good data on these smokers because they are a minority smoking group. Data from a 2001 UK study showed that only 2% of men belonged to this category whilst 27% were regular cigarette smokers. So is it possible to make any conclusions about this smoking group and health considering the small numbers involved? Fortunately a recent American study, reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, looked at the health of 15,000 pipe smokers. This study found these smokers had an increased risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. In particular, they had an increased susceptibility to oral, larynx, oesophageal, colon and bladder cancers.

All Tobacco Consumption is Bad

Pipe tobacco smoke contains nicotine and toxins which are absorbed through the mouth and therefore it should come as no surprise that smoking this type of tobacco is injurious to health. All types of tobacco whether smoked or chewed are going to have a negative impact on the health of the user. The only good news for pipe smokers is that they have a lower risk of lung cancer than cigarette smokers. It seems that the earlier studies were wrong and all smokers, regardless of the type of tobacco consumed, are at serious risk of smoking related disease and health problems.

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