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Alternatives to Cigarettes-What are the Risks?

We all know about the perils of smoking cigarettes. Cigarette smoking accounts for a majority of deaths in the United States due to lung cancer, coronary heart disease and chronic lung diseases. But there exist myths that other forms of tobacco use are “less deadly” than cigarettes. I will address the most common alternatives to cigarettes as well as the risks.


Cigar Smoking

Evidence shows that cancers of the lip, tongue, mouth throat larynx and esophagus are associated with cigar smoking. Cigar smokers that inhale are at increased risk for heart and lung disease. The biggest difference between cigar and cigarette smoking is the degree of inhalation. The health risk difference between cigars and cigarettes has to deal with the degree of inhalation. The exposure to the same carcinogens is the same. The lung cancer risk from inhaling smoke from five cigars a day is comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. 

 Smokeless Tobacco

There are two forms of smokeless tobacco: snuff (packaged in pouches and put between cheek and gums) or chewing tobacco (loose leaf, plug or twist that is also put between the cheek and gum). Smokeless tobacco also has carcinogens and nicotine. The amount of nicotine absorbed from smokeless tobacco is 3-4 times greater than cigarettes. Nicotine is absorbed slower but the dose is higher than from cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco users are at risk for oral cancers (lip, tongue, gums, cheeks and roof and floor of the mouth. The Surgeon General concluded that “the use of smokeless tobacco is not a safe substitute for cigarette smoking.” 

 Light, Ultra Light or Low Tar Cigarettes

It is a common myth that these “lighter” alternatives are safer than smoking regular cigarettes. They do not reduce the health risks caused by smoking. Smokers crave nicotine, so they tend to inhale light cigarettes more deeply, puff more frequently, or smoke more cigarettes during the day. They really end up inhaling more tar and nicotine. There is no scientific evidence that smoking a “lighter” form of cigarette helps smokers quit or reduces risk factors.

There are NO safe forms of smoking. Tobacco use is “self inflicted”. It is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. It is a major source of increased healthcare costs.


Source: National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov