Nearly 46 million Americans smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease in the world, and is the number one cause of lung cancer. Despite the known risks, more and more people smoke, particularly the younger ones. And some of them are turning to herbal tobacco with the hope of reducing the damage their habit brings.
Herbal cigarettes look like regular cigarettes. However, they contain a combination of herbs instead of tobacco. Some of the herbs used in manufacturing “alternative “cigarettes are rose petals, passion flower, licorice root, ginseng, jasmine, and red clover flowers. There are some herbal cigarettes that contain tobacco.
Health hazards of Herbal Cigarettes
Many people believe that herbal cigarettes are safe and are non-addictive. They are even marketed as “quit smoking aids”. It turns out however, that these products are just as dangerous and addictive as regular cigarettes. Why?
- They produce high levels of carbon monoxide. Scientists from the University of Vienna have found that vegetable-based cigarettes produced high amount of carbon monoxide similar to that produced by regular tobacco cigarettes. Because of this, the researchers concluded that herbal cigarettes have a “potential health hazard”.
- They produce dangerous compounds. Many smokers think that nicotine is the culprit behind the health hazards of cigarettes, so they tend to substitute tobacco with herbal cigarettes because they don’t contain nicotine. Whilst nicotine is addictive, it isn’t the only chemical that can cause cancer and other health problems. Ginseng, rose petals or jasmine are generally healthy and safe, until they are burned. When a plant is burned, dangerous compounds are still formed, regardless if it’s tobacco or not. According to the charity Action on Smoking and Health, herbal cigarettes are less likely to help smokers quit.
- Kreteks and clove cigarettes contain more nicotine than tobacco cigarettes. Not all herbal cigarettes are free from nicotine. Also known as kreteks, these cigarettes are made of 60% tobacco and 40% ground cloves. According to the American Lung Association, kreteks contain deliver twice as much as nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide as regular tobacco.
- Bidis, which is popular among teens, also delivers more nicotine than tobacco cigarettes. Bidis are unfiltered cigarettes that are hand-rolled and tied with colorful strings. These herbal cigarettes also come in various flavors such as orange, strawberry, and chocolate. While Bidis contain less tobacco, these cigarettes have less nicotine.
- Some brands of herbal cigarettes contain synthetic cannabinoids which are very similar to THC – the active substance in marijuana. This substance increases the risk of health complications, including vomiting and seizures. Synthetic cannabinoids may also cause psychological effects like anxiety, hallucination and agitation.
So what’s the bottom line of all these? There’s no healthy or safe substitute to tobacco cigarettes. Even herbal cigarettes can be as dangerous and as deadly as the regular cigarettes many of us are using today. If you really want to free yourself from the major health consequences of cigarette smoking, the best thing you can do is to QUIT NOW.