Why Pipes & Cigars Are Not the Villain

By Erin McRoy

thinking-manI do a lot of thinking.  I’m not trying to say that others don’t, I just do a lot of it.  The problem with the fact that I do a lot of thinking is; I have schizophrenia.  This means that sometimes my thoughts are disjointed and don’t make sense logically.  That’s when I do something that I call “reality checking”.  I’m not certain if that’s an actual term, but it is the term I use to determine whether or not my thoughts make sense to people who are not crazy.  Well, less crazy than I am. Seriously, though.

So, I sometimes order pipe tobacco from the U.S. because even with duty, it works out to about half the price as buying it in stores here, and there was something that I noticed on my pipe tobacco tins and pouches that was different from when I use to get cigarettes from the U.S.  There is no Surgeon General’s warning on pipe tobacco!?  There is just a warning that the product contains chemicals known in the state of California to cause cancer.  So I began to research it.

Then I came across This Article on sott.net called Nicotine – The Zombie Antidote and re-posted it in the magazine.

Well, I thought, I guess quitting smoking isn’t the answer, but rather harm reduction in smoking.

People are going to smoke and prohibiting it is not going to stop them.  History has proven that prohibition does not work for anything but still people keep trying it.  Liquor was never easier to get than during prohibition in the twenties.  In the last near hundred years of cannabis prohibition, my 13-year-old son was capable of getting pot, which goes to show how that is working.

And now, some independent research has shown that there are actual benefits to nicotine, as shown in the article that I re-posted called 10 Surprising Benefits of Nicotine, the original article Found Here.

Furthermore, research done by the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health in 1964 (I can’t find any document more recent) tends to support that while smoking in and of itself is harmful, smoking a pipe or a cigar is considerably less harmful than smoking cigarettes.

First of all starting with Background and Highlights page 25 of the report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service on Smoking and Health shows a marked increase in deaths due to lung cancer between 1930 (at less than 3000) to 1962 (at 41,000) and remarks that though some of the statistics are due to increased population and better detection facilities that this in no way accounts for the 1366% increase in reported cases of lung cancer.  It also reported a little more than 100% increase in reported deaths from arteriosclerotic, coronary, and degenerative heart disease between the period of 1940 and 1962 and a 650% increase in reported deaths due to emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

The last sentence on page 25 is crucial;

“the changing patterns and extent of tobacco use are a pertinent aspect of the tobacco-health problems.”

It then goes on to say on page 26 that;

“Cigarette consumption in the United States has increased markedly since the turn of the Century, when per capital consumption was less than 50 cigarettes a year.  Since 1910, when cigarette consumption per person (15 years and older) was 138, it rose to 1365 in 1930… to a peak of 3986 in 1961.”

Further saying in the next paragraph,

“In contrast to the sharp increase in cigarette smoking, per capita use of tobacco in other forms has gone down.  Per capita consumption of cigars declined from 117 in 1920 to 55 in 1962.  Consumption of pipe tobacco, which reached a peak of 2 1/2 lbs. per person in 1910, fell to a little more than half a pound per person in 1962.  Use of chewing tobacco had declined from about four pounds per person in 1900 to half a pound in 1962.”

The background for the Committee’s study thus included much general information and findings from previous investigations which associated the increase in cigarette smoking with the increased deaths in a number of many disease categories.”

So to be clear, the advisory committee admits that this document pertains primarily to cigarette smoking, and much of the research is on cigarettes alone.

The document goes on to say on page 28,

“the mortality ratio for male cigarette smokers compared with non-smokers for all causes of death taken together, it is 1.68, representing a total death ratio nearly 70% higher than for non-smokers.”

Note, that this again singles out cigarette smokers and this statistic is used in all sorts of cigarette warning labels.

The document goes on to say on page 30,

“Possible relationships of death rates and other forms of tobacco use were also investigated in the seven studies.  The death rates for men smoking less than five cigars a day are about the same as for non-smokers.  For men smoking more than five cigars daily, the death rates are slightly higher.  There is some indication that these higher death rates to occur primarily in men who have been smoking more than 30 years and who inhale the smoke to some degree.  The death rates for pipe smokers are little if at all higher than for non-smokers, even for men who smoke 10 or more pipefuls a day and for men who have smoked pipes for more than 30 years.”

Later on in the document (page 32) pipes are slightly discredited in the sentence that reads,

“Pipe smoking appears to be causally related to lip cancer.”

And goes on to say,

“The evidence supports the belief that an association exists between tobacco use and cancer of the esophagus, and between cigarette smoking and cancer of the urinary bladder in men, but the data are not adequate to decide whether these relationships are causal.  Data on an association between smoking and cancer of the stomach are contradictory and incomplete.”

On the same page, in the next section we read,

“Nicotine is rapidly changed in the body to relatively inactive substances with low toxicity.  The chronic toxicity of small doses of nicotine is low in experimental animals.  These two facts, when taken in conjunction with the low mortality ratios of pipe and cigar smokers, indicate that the chronic toxicity of nicotine in quantities absorbed from smoking and other methods of tobacco use is very low and probably does not represent an important health hazard.”

Two things stand out in that paragraph.  One is; low mortality ratios of pipe and cigar smokers, and the other is; chronic toxicity of nicotine… is very low and probably does not represent an important health hazard.

The next interesting thing in this document is the Committee’s Judgment in Brief on page 33 which reads;

“On the basis of prolonged study and evaluation of many lines of converging evidence, the Committee makes the following judgment:

Cigarette smoking is a health hazard of significant importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action.”

Again, you can take notice that they mentioned cigarettes specifically, “CIGARETTE smoking is a health hazard…”

Then they state in Chemistry and Carcinogenicity of Tobacco and Tobacco Smoke;

“Bronchogenic carcinoma has not been produced by the application of tobacco extract, smoke, or condensates to the lung or the tracheobronchial tree of experimental animals with the possible exception of dogs (Chapter 9, p.  165).”

The selfsame document goes on page 35 in the section on Mortality to say;

“The death rate for smokers of cigarettes only, who were smoking at the time of entry into the particular prospective study, is about 70 percent higher than that for non-smokers.”

And the third paragraph of page 36 reads;

“Death rates of cigar smokers are about the same as those of non-smokers for men smoking less than five cigars daily.  For men smoking five or more cigars daily, death rates were slightly higher (9 percent to 27 percent) than for non-smokers in the four studies that gave this information.  There is some indication that this higher death rate occurs primarily in men who have been smoking for more than 30 years and in men who have stated that they inhaled the smoke to some degree.  Death rates for current pipe smokers were little if at all higher than for non-smokers, even with men who smoke 10 or more pipefuls per day and with men who had smoked pipes for more than 30 years.  Ex-cigar and ex-pipe smokers, on the other hand, show higher death rates than both non-smokers and current pipe or cigar smokers in four out of five studies (Chapter 8, p.  94).  The explanation is not clear but may be a substantial number of such smokers stopped because of illness.”

In Cancer by Site cigar and pipe smoking are mentioned twice.  Once in the section on Lung Cancer, which reads; 

“The risk of developing cancer of the lung for the combined group of pipe smokers, cigar smokers, and pipe and cigar smokers, is greater than for non-smokers, but much less than for cigarette smokers.  The data are insufficient to warrant a conclusion for each group individually (Chapter 9, p. 196).”

And again to the detraction of pipe smoking as mentioned again in the Oral Cancer section; 

“The causal relationship of smoking of pipes to the development of cancer of the lip appears to be established. “

However, pipes and cigars are not mentioned in any of the other Cancer sections, though cigarettes are referenced repeatedly.

The next 25 pages are mostly filled with Scientific Data that makes no sense unless you’re a scientist, or at least have a background in chemistry but there is an interesting finding in the section on Pesticides and Additives on page 61;

“Cogbill and Hobbs (8) found that main-stream smoke of cigarettes containing 7.1 µg of arsenic per cigarette contains 0.031 µg per puff.  This amount would be equivalent to 0.25 µg of arsenic per cigarette (8 puffs), and hence a smoker consuming 2.5 packs of such cigarettes per day might inhale 12.5 µg of arsenic per day.  By comparison, analysis the atmosphere of New York City over a 12-year period indicated an average content of 100 – 400 µg of arsenic per 10 cubic meters, which is an approximate daily intake per person (38).”

What’s interesting about that?  Well that would mean that in 1964 a person would consume 8 to 32 times the amount of arsenic from walking down the street in New York then they would from smoking 2 1/2 packs of cigarettes a day.  Now, granted with efforts made by the EPA, and other such agencies, the amount of arsenic emissions from factories and automobiles is minuscule in comparison, but the sheer volume of traffic and factories I think makes up for it in some way.

On the next page there is a lone sentence forming its own paragraph; “It seems unlikely that the amount of arsenic derived even from unfiltered cigarettes is sufficient to present a health hazard.”

If that is true then why do the anti-smoking advocates continue to point out that there is arsenic in cigarettes?  I think that is stupid, because it makes us question the validity of their other claims.  Just how much formaldehyde, benzene and cadmium are there in cigarettes?Secrets_they_keep_poster_June_2011

“The most notable action of nicotine involves a direct effect on sympathetic and parasympathetic ganglion cells (18). This usually occurs as a transient excitation, followed by depression, or even paralysis with effective doses.

The ganglia are rendered more sensitive to acetylcholine initially and thus make preganglionic impulses more effective. Paralysis is associated with diminished sensitivity of ganglia to acetylcholine and concomitant reduction in the intensity of postganglionic discharges. Similar effects occur at the neuromuscular junction, resulting in a curariform action in skeletal muscle with adequate doses (16). In the central nervous system, as in ganglia, primary stimulation is succeeded by depression. Furthermore, nicotine like acetylcholine discharges epinephrine from the adrenal glands and other chromaffin tissue (20) ; it also releases antidiuretic hormone from the posterior pituitary by stimulating the supraopticohypophyseal system (3) .

Nicotine also augments various reflexes by excitation of chemoreceptors in the carotid body (10).”

That’s what it reads on page 69, Chapter 7, in the section General Pharmacologic Action of Nicotine On Nerve Cells


Ok, I’ll break it down for you;

“The most notable action of nicotine involves a direct effect on sympathetic and parasympathetic ganglion cells… as a transient excitation, followed by depression, or even paralysis…”

The sympathetic ganglion cells are the nerves responsible for delivering information about stress to the body and create the fight-or-flight adrenal response, stimulating heartbeat, pupil dilation, etc.  The parasympathetic ganglion cells are the nerves acting in opposition to them, inhibiting heartbeat, contracting pupils, etc.  Transient excitation, depression or even paralysis means that nicotine stimulates the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, then causes a depression in the nervous receptors. In other words, you’ll have withdrawal symptoms.

“The ganglia are rendered more sensitive to acetylcholine initially and thus make preganglionic impulses more effective. Paralysis is associated with diminished sensitivity of ganglia to acetylcholine and concomitant reduction in the intensity of postganglionic discharges. Similar effects occur at the neuromuscular junction, resulting in a curariform action in skeletal muscle with adequate doses.”

Acetylcholine is an acid released into the muscle that increases synapses and causes muscular action.  Basically, it says that nicotine is a performance enhancing drug, but like all drugs, physical dependency can result by decreased sensitivity.  It also says that adequate doses can cause curare-like muscular paralysis.

“In the central nervous system, as in ganglia, primary stimulation is succeeded by depression. Furthermore, nicotine like acetylcholine discharges epinephrine from the adrenal glands and other chromaffin tissue”

Epinephrine is a hormone secreted by the adrenal medulla, increases heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac output, and carbohydrate metabolism.  Synthetically it is used as a heart stimulant and a bronchial-relaxant during asthma.

“it also releases antidiuretic hormone from the posterior pituitary by stimulating the supraopticohypophyseal system.”

It releases hormones that suppress your need to urinate by suppressing the production of urine.

“Nicotine also augments various reflexes by excitation of chemoreceptors…”


It enhances reactions and reflexes.

In the section on Gastrointestinal Effects, page 71, we read;

“Most but not all experimental and clinical evidence supports the popular view that smoking reduces appetite (6, 17 p. 271 ). This reduction has been attributed both to direct effects on gastric secretions and motility and to reflexes arising from local effects on the taste buds and mucous membranes in the mouth. The unpredictable and temporary elevation of blood sugar is probably too small to contribute significantly (17. p. 326). Nicotine effects on the hypothalamus, comparable to the appetite reduction produced by other stimulants like amphetamine, and psychological mechanisms may play significant roles (23). Hunger contractions are inhibited but gastric movements of digestion do not appear to be influenced significantly by moderate smoking (4).”


“It is now generally agreed that nicotine stimulates peristalsis but the mechanism is a complex one, probably involving local, central and reflex actions. Schnedorf and Ivy (21) found wide individual variation in gastrointestinal passage time in medical student smokers and non-smokers but gained the impression that smoking tends to augment motility of the colon.”


“The summative effects of all of these pharmacological actions on the whole intestinal tract do not produce a consistent pattern…The only consistency is that symptoms attributable to nicotine effects on the gastrointestinal tract are very common.”

Then there is the passage that reads,

“Even though animal experimentation is inadequate, especially in long-term effects of nicotine on large animal species, existing data permits a tentative conclusion that the chronic systemic toxicity of nicotine is quite low in small to moderate dosage.”

On page 73, in the section on Chronic Toxicity, and goes on to say on the next page,

“There is no acceptable evidence that prolonged exposure to nicotine creates either dangerous functional change of an objective nature or degenerative disease. The minor evidences of toxicity, nausea, digestive disturbances and the like, are similar in kind and degree with all forms of use.”

In short they are saying that nicotine is not really toxic, and you may experience an upset stomach.

This is held up in the following paragraph,

“The fact that the over-all death rates of pipe and cigar smokers show little if any increase over non-smokers is very difficult to reconcile with a concept of high nicotine toxicity. In view of the mortality ratios of pipe and cigar smokers, it follows logically that the apparent increase in morbidity and mortality among cigarette smokers relates to exposure to substances in smoke other than nicotine.


Ok, maybe I shouldn’t have shouted that, but COME ON!? How many times does it have to be said?!

As if to emphasise this point, the next section (Chapter 8) is on Mortality.

It starts of by reiterating the Statistics on page 33 with mortality rates for cigarette smokers ranging between about 40% higher and 85% higher, and mortality rates for pipe and cigar smokers ranging from about 5% increase to 11% increase, with 2 studies (of the 5 cited) showing a DECREASED mortality rate in pipe smokers (5% to 14%) and cigar smokers (3% to 5%).

I should point out the following that was footnoted in the document on page 86;

“Statistical significance throughout this report refers to the 5 percent level unless otherwise specified. In testing whether an observed mortality ratio of smokers relative to non-smokers is greater than unity, the probability is calculated that a ratio as large as or larger than the observed ratio would occur by chance if the smokers and non-smokers were drawn from two populations having the same death rate. If this probability is less than 0.05 (5 percent) the observed increase in the death rate of smokers relative to non-smokers is said to be statistically significant at the 5 percent level. The results of significance tests will be quoted only for mortality ratios in which the number of deaths raises a doubt as to whether the difference from unity could be due to sampling errors.”

What does that mean?  It means that in many cases a difference of 0.95 to 1.05 can be attributed to sampling errors, and that they will only quote significance tests if the number of deaths causes doubt as to whether that difference is due to sampling errors.

You can see on Table 4 (Current Cigar Smokers) the overall result shows only a statistically significant increase in mortality when smoking 5 or more cigars a day. (BTW, you can read along by downloading the document, HERE)

Table 5, showing mortality rates among current pipe smokers, gives an overall ratio of 1.01 to 1.05  and I quote from page 86 “The over-all mortality ratio of 1.05 does not differ statistically from unity.”

In other words, the document fully states, not just implies, that pipe smokers DO NOT have an increased mortality rate, and the increase in mortality for cigar smokers is only applicable to heavy cigar smokers (5 or more a day) and the increased mortality is less than half of that of cigarettes (20% as opposed to best case study among cigarettes at 33%, most being 44% or higher even in light cigarette smokers (1-10 a day)).

Table 9 on page 90 indicates that mortality among cigarette smokers increases with duration of the habit, though increased mortality rates in cigar smokers are only statistically significant in long-term (35+ years) cigar smokers, and cannot be statistically shown in pipe smokers except in two study groups and they are admittedly “both based on relatively small numbers of deaths. (p.91 para. 1)”

For inhalation of smoke, Table 10 gives a variation of less than 3% for cigarette smokers who don’t inhale to 250% increase in those who deeply inhale 40 or more cigarettes a day.

But the statistics for cigar smokers is miniscule, with 1 study showing an increase in mortality of 37% for those who inhale cigars, but a decrease in mortality of 11% for those who don’t.  However, the 37% is based on only 91 deaths and the data have not been subclassified by amount and the results may be partially a reflection of increased death rates noted in Table 4 for heavy cigar smokers.  Their words not mine.

Mortality rates among pipe smokers in the U.S. study are 0.8 for non-inhalers (a decrease of 20%) and statistically the same (1.0) as non-smokers in those who inhale.

The Canadian data contain too few deaths in both cigar smokers and pipe smokers to allow a breakdown by inhalation.

Table 14, page 94; shows that there is actually an increase in mortality for those who quit smoking pipes and cigars, except in one study.  In all cases, “According to Hammond and Horn (10) and Dorn (6), the explanation may be that a substantial number of cigar and pipe smokers give up because they become ill:”

I could go on through the rest of the document, but if you have 6-12 hours you don’t need and can never get back, read it, it really is quite interesting.

So, you might find yourself asking, “So, what’s the difference?”

It’s simple, it is sort of the difference between Alligator mississippiensis(American) and Alligator sinensis (Asian).  They are both dangerous predatory animals of the family Alligatoridae, but an American alligator is 13 feet long and weighs 900 lb where an Asian alligator tops out at about 6-7 feet and 100 odd pounds.  Both can kill, both are hunters, but the American gator can bite you in half.

So all forms of tobacco are dangerous, all can increase your mortality rate, and that increases with both young age of smoking/length of habit and amount smoked.  However, there are huge differences between 83% increased mortality and 11% increased mortality, and oceans of difference between a 2.50 increased mortality in heavy cigarette smokers and 1.05 increased mortality in heavy pipe smokers.

“So you’ve said, but why are cigarettes so much worse?” you ask.

It’s in there, but you have to look for it. Processing and additives.  There are more additives in cigarette tobacco, than in either pipe tobacco or cigars.  In the 2nd world countries of the cigar making world, often the only pesticide used on the leaves is concentrated tobacco juice, whereas cigarettes made from American grown tobacco uses all sorts of pesticides, from DDT to TDE, and additives for flavour, moisture, preservative and even burning.  American grown pipe tobacco may or may not have been grown with pesticides, but there are considerably less additives to the tobacco, and cigars in most places have very few additives, except for flavouring.

Also, cigarettes burn hotter than pipes and cigars so the pyrolysis of the cigarette smoke, burning hotter than other methods, causes the release of more carcinogenic compounds.  Furthermore, you have to take the paper into account.  On cigarettes, the paper is known to contain many times the carcinogens as the tobacco itself.

In the end, my point comes down to this.  Smoking is bad.  We can agree that putting smoke in your lungs can’t be good for you.  However, people are GOING to smoke.  People like smoking and nicotine has a number of possible benefits they are just discovering. So, you are not going to stop it.  But take a look at the statistics, and realize that the perpetrator is cigarettes, not pipes and cigars.  Sure you shouldn’t smoke in enclosed spaces with non-smokers, but there is more toxicity in the auto exhaust you are breathing walking down the street than there is in pure tobacco smoke , and as far as harming yourself; well smoke less than 5 cigars or 10 pipes a day and statistically you’ll be fine.

Harm reduction, that’s the key.  They figured it out with heroin, just not smoking.  Encourage the smokers in your life to drop cigarettes and pick up cigars or a pipe, it takes a lot of effort, but I tell you, you can change over.  If you can’t quit the butts, pick up cigars as well, you will smoke less cigarettes and studies have shown a decrease in mortality for mixed smokers as opposed to smokers of cigarettes alone.

Let’s look at the real culprit, damn those cigarettes and leave the pipes and cigars alone.  Besides, they both smell better than cigs, so…

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!

3 thoughts on “Why Pipes & Cigars Are Not the Villain

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  3. Pingback: Smoke a Pipe, It Is the Only Responsible Thing You Can Do! | Smoking Jacket Magazine

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