Apparently, this may come as a shock to some. A new study has found that cigars are bad for you — just as bad as cigarettes. 

Although cigars can contain just as many toxic substances as cigarettes, many people believe they aren't as unhealthy. That's because cigar smokers inhale less smoke than cigarette smokers. But a new study has concluded that cigar smoking is just as bad as cigarette smoking when it comes to your health.

While cigarette smoking has fallen out of fashion over the last decade, the number of cigar smokers doubled between 2000 and 2011. Thus, a team of federal researchers decided to explore just how detrimental cigars are to human health.

The study, which was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, looked at urine and blood data from 25,000 participants — both smokers and non smokers — and found that cigar smokers had higher levels of toxic substances in their bodies than non-smokers. They also had concentrations of a specific carcinogen at levels similar to those found in cigarette smokers.

“Cigar smoking exposes users to similar types of harmful and cancer-causing agents as cigarette smoking,” wrote lead researcher Dr. Jiping Chen, an epidemiologist from the Office of Science at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products."

According to the National Cancer Institute, cigar smoking causes oral cavity cancers, as well as cancers of the larynx, esophagus and lung. Researchers did note that cigar smokers are at a lower risk of developing smoking-related diseases — like lung cancer and heart disease — than cigarette smokers. However, the rates of these diseases in cigar smokers are still higher than in non-smokers.

The study found that participants who were cigar smokers with a history of cigarette smoking had higher levels of cotinine (a chemical compound that is considered the most reliable indicator of tobacco exposure) and NNAL (or 1-butanol, a strong carcinogen) than those who never smoked cigarettes. This backs up previous research that suggests cigarette smokers are more likely than non-cigarette smokers to deeply inhale cigar smoke.

“Our results are consistent with epidemiological evidence demonstrating cigar smoking as a cause of disease and premature death,” the researchers wrote.

Bottom line: Whether it comes in the form of a cigar or a cigarette, smoking is bad for you. And now is as good a time as any to quit.

Related on MNN: