Smoking a pipe may be as bad for your health as puffing on a cigar, according to a study.
One in 50 British men smokes a pipe
Doctors in the United States analysed the medical records of over 138,000 men. Of these, 15,263 smoked a pipe.
They found that smoking a pipe was associated with an increased risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Writing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, they said the findings show that smoking a pipe is not as harmless as some people believe.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics, show that 2% of all men in England and Wales smoked a pipe in 2001.
The figure was highest for those over the age of 60 - 4% of whom smoked a pipe. This compares to just 0.5% of those under the age of 30.
Countless studies have shown that smoking increases the risk of a range of diseases.
However, most of these studies have looked at the effects of smoking cigarettes or cigars. Few have examined the impact of exclusively smoking a pipe.
Doctors from the American Cancer Society found that smoking a pipe increased the risk of six cancers, namely cancer of the colon, oesophagus, larynx, lung oropharynx and pancreas.
It also increased the risk of heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease.
The doctors said that while smoking a pipe is not as dangerous as smoking cigarettes, it can still seriously damage health.
"All tobacco products cause excessive morbidity and mortality," they said.
"Comprehensively documenting the deleterious health effects of pipe smoking is important in countering efforts by the tobacco industry to promote pipes as a desirable alternative to cigarettes or cigars."
Professor Robert West of Cancer Research UK backed the findings.
"Pipe and cigar smoking has been found to be less harmful than cigarette smoking in some studies because many pipe and cigar smokers do not inhale the smoke into the lungs whereas almost all cigarette smokers do."
But he added: "All tobacco smoke contains carcinogens whether it is from pipes, cigars or cigarettes."