Cigarette substitutes: how safe or effective are the alternatives to tobacco?
Some things in life are indisputable. Puppies are cute, Bill Gates is rich, the Earth is round. And smoking cigarettes is bad for you.
Cigarettes are very addictive and can cause cancer. Alternatives are available, but just how safe are they (and can they help you quit)?
Are e-cigarettes a good alternative to smoking?
Evidence is emerging of a link between e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) and lung disease requiring intensive care. Several deaths in the United States have been linked to vaping.
An e-cigarette is a battery-operated device that heats a liquid to produce a vapor, which users inhale. This is often referred to as ‘vaping’.
E-cigarettes’ fruity flavors might make them sound less dangerous than tobacco-containing cigarettes, but the levels of chemicals in e-cigarettes may be very harmful. They include toxins such as solvents, heavy metals, particulate matter and flavoring chemicals.
One study found e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes produced about the same amount of formaldehyde.
Not enough is known about the health effects of vaping.
What about cigars?
Cigars are just as dangerous as cigarettes (if not more). On average, cigarettes contain about 8.4 milligrams of nicotine. Some brands of cigar contain between 20 and 50 times that amount, while also containing more toxic and cancer-causing compounds such as ammonia and cadmium.
A person who smokes 5 cigars a day has the same risk of developing cancer as a person who smokes a pack of 20 cigarettes a day.
Shisha is smoked using a ‘hookah’, a glass device that allows fruit-flavored tobacco smoke to pass through a water chamber and be inhaled slowly through a pipe. Like cigars and e-cigarettes, it’s a common misconception that shisha is safer than tobacco cigarettes.
It’s not. The water in the pipe does not filter harmful chemicals, and a person can end up inhaling more smoke from a shisha than a cigarette because they’re likely to take deep breaths and smoke for longer in one sitting.
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