While most people know that smoking cigarettes puts you at risk for cancer (and many other diseases), they tend to give a pass to other forms of tobacco, thanks to a lot of myths put out there by people trying to sell it. Somehow tobacco cigarettes’ bad reputation has seemed to “lift up” other ways of using tobacco. While we’ve moved on from the Marlboro man (well, actually they’ve moved on, too: At least four of them have died of smoking-related causes), there’s still a mystique around other ways of using it.
So, let’s be clear: No tobacco product is safe.
Hookah hype. A hookah burns flavored tobacco and passes the smoke through water before a user inhales it. A lot of people think the water somehow makes hookah smoke safe, but that’s just a myth. Tobacco contains the same tar and other chemicals when used in a hookah as it does in cigarettes—plus with a hookah you’re inhaling carbon monoxide from the charcoal used to heat the tobacco.
People also tend to smoke a lot in one sitting with a hookah. An hour-long hookah smoking session could have you inhaling 100 to 200 times as much smoke as you’d get from a single cigarette!
Keep the tweed, lose the pipe. Tobacco pipes allow people to burn loose tobacco in one end and inhale or taste the smoke from the other. People also sometimes use pipe tobacco to make their own cigarettes. Despite a lot of myths about pipes being safer, your risk of getting cancer is no less with them than if you just smoked cigarettes.
Cuban food = good. Cuban cigars = not good. Despite myths about some kinds of tobacco being superior, all cigars and cigarillos are still just rolled bundles of dried and cured tobacco. Cigars can be flavored, which some worry could make them more appealing to young people. But as with pipes, cigars seem safer (read: myth) because they don’t require you to inhale the smoke. If only. The health risks are just as great as with cigarettes.
Dissolvable tobacco is no Tic-Tac. Products that melt in your mouth—like strips, lozenges, orbs or sticks—and contain finely ground tobacco are pretty new to the market, so research about their health risks is just getting underway. But we already know that these products are another way to get hooked on nicotine.
Don’t inhale, don’t get hooked? MYTH!
- Chewing tobacco: This is a type of smokeless tobacco that is placed between the cheek and gums. It’s just as addictive as cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco can also cause cancer, mouth sores, and gum disease.
- Snuff: Another type of smokeless tobacco, snuff is often dried and finely ground so users can snort it up their noses (ewww). It is also sold moist and consumed in the same way as chewing tobacco. And like other forms of tobacco, snuff is addictive, thanks to nicotine, and can cause cancer.
- Snus: Snus have the same old tobacco as chewing tobacco and snuff, but in little pouches, kind of like teabags.
Whatever tobacco product you come across, remember that the reason it’s being sold is to make a profit…and the best way to get repeat customers is to get them addicted (literally) to what you’re selling. Beware of the myths put out there by people trying to make a buck off of your addiction.