In their plight to quit smoking for good, many are looking toward alternative methods. These may include nicotine-free cigarettes. However, these are sometimes more hazardous than traditional cigarettes.
Many producers of nicotine-free cigarettes advertise that their products are a safe alternative to smoking “real” cigarettes. These products have brought about much confusion to the smoking cessation market. They have many people asking, “Are these products safer than conventional cigarettes?” “Do these products pose no real risks?” Unfortunately, the answer may not be what many were hoping. In fact, the answer may not be so cut-and-dried, at all.
What are Nicotine-Free Cigarettes?
Nicotine-free cigarettes are generally a cigarette-like product that instead uses various herbs and other ingredients, while avoiding the use of traditional tobacco. The companies boast the fact that their products are without nicotine, and therefore are a “safer” alternative. Some companies advertise that these products help the user to quit smoking. They claim that these products are smoking cessation aids. However, this is not exactly the case.
Nicotine-free cigarettes usually use ingredients such as jasmine, ginseng, passion flower, lotus leaf, licorice root, red clover flowers, rose petals, and corn silk. Many of these herbal supplements are considered harmless or even healthy when consumed. However, this depends on the manner in which they are consumed, as well as the amount consumed. According to WebMD, ingredients such as licorice root may possibly cause severe health complications when used in large amounts for more than 4 weeks. Consuming licorice daily for more than four weeks or longer may lead to severe side effects including “high blood pressure, low potassium levels, weakness, paralysis, and occasionally brain damage in otherwise healthy people.”
How Safe are Nicotine-Free Cigarettes?
Unfortunately for those hoping that they have found a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, nicotine-free cigarettes are not as healthy as they are advertised to be. Any cigarette-like product which requires the user to inhale smoke, the byproduct of combustion, is still subject to unsafe quantities of tar and carbon monoxide. These chemical properties lead to lung cancers, mouth cancers, and esophageal cancers.
In fact, it is believed that as the user feels safer smoking the product, they may do so more frequently, and may also inhale more often and deeper per cigarette. This overloading of tar and carbon monoxide can ultimately be more hazardous than smoking a traditional cigarette in the long-term. These products may place the smoker at greater risk of cancer than traditional cigarettes.
The buzz surrounding these alternative cigarettes often neglects to reflect the settlement reached in 2000, by the FTC which stated that alternative cigarette advertisements have been found to be deceitful. “Settlements require companies to disclose that herbal cigarettes are dangerous and that “no additives” does not mean a safer smoke.”
Risks of Nicotine Free Cigarettes
tar ash lungsNicotine free cigarettes are not safer than traditional cigarettes. Any kind of cigarette you can smoke, whether it’s made from tobacco or other herbs, still contains tar and carbon monoxide. These chemical components in smoking that lead to lung problems and cancers including lung, esophageal and mouth cancers. Some herbal cigarettes, like imported bidis flavored like cherry or vanilla, must be puffed more often so that they will stay lit, which ultimately brings more smoke into the lungs where damage can occur.
Like tobacco based cigarettes, herbal cigarettes also increase the risk of heart disease due to the tar they contain. The carbon monoxide you inhale from smoking any cigarette can also cause brain damage, asphyxiation and breathing problems.
In addition, some people can have allergies to the herbs used in herbal cigarettes. These allergic reactions can be severe and may occur either immediately or after repeated use.
The Bottom Line
Products such as these fail to address the fact that in order to render the effects, or even the lack thereof, the user must first use a flame to light the end, and inhale smoke. The advertisements claim that these products help the user “quit smoking”. However, one cannot quit smoking by using a product that requires them to smoke in order to do so. These products still require smoking, therefore by definition and action, one cannot quit smoking by use of these products.
The products claim they are safer because they do not contain nicotine, however, they still embody the chemicals which may lead to several forms of cancer. This fact does not imply safer. The fact that one may believe it is safer may ultimately lead the individual to smoke these cigarette alternatives more frequently, thus, leading to greater health hazards – and more quickly than traditional cigarettes.