Safe Tobacco? NOT!

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Is there a safe tobacco?

The answer is a simple no. Many people want to know if pipes and cigars are safer than cigarettes. Or, if it is better to switch to lowtar cigarettes (called "Lights"or "UltraLights") or to use smokeless tobacco. The truth is that there just is no safe form of tobacco. All forms of tobacco are dangerous to smokers and nonsmokers alike

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What are the health risks for smokers and nonsmokers?

Most people know that cigarette smoking is not healthy. One in four smokers dies early because of smoking. The Surgeon General ofthe U.S. has warned that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and many other health problems.
Nonsmokers, too, can be harmed by the smoke from other people's cigarettes, pipes or cigars. This kind of smoke is called "environmental tobacco smoke" (ETS) or "secondhand smoke." It is the mixture of smoke exhaled by the smoker and the smoke that comes off the burning end of the cigarette, cigar or pipe between puffs. It contains thousands of chemicals that can harm both smokers and nonsmokers alike.
Breathing in other people's smoke can cause cancer and heart disease in adults. If a pregnant woman smokes or her partner smokes around her, she has a greater chance of having a baby that weighs too little. Her child may have more breathing problems during its first year of life and its lungs may not grow as fast as they should. ETS may cause children to develop asthma or make it worse for those who already have it.

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Do all forms of tobacco contain nicotine?

Yes, the nicotine in tobacco is what people become addicted to. While most 0smokers know that they are addicted, many do not realize that nicotine can be just as addictive as heroin or cocaine. And, it causes more death and disease than all other addictions combined.
In its pure form, nicotine is a strong poison. A small dose of it, injected directlyinto the bloodstream, would kill a person within one hour.

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Will it help to switch to low tar and low nicotine cigarette brands?

No. Over half the cigarettes produced in the U.S. are labeled "low tar," and most smokers think they are safer than cigarettes with higher tar levels. However, there is no clear evidence that smoking the lower tar cigarettes reduces the risk of death, cancer, heart disease or other lung problems.
When smokers switch to cigarettes with lower tar levels, they tend to inhale more deeply, hold smoke longer in their lungs, smoke more cigarettes, or cover the airholes in filters with their fingers. Using these techniques, smokers can get the level of nicotine and tars they want to satisfy their addiction. So, switching to lower tar and nicotine cigarettes does not reduce the health risks of smoking. (And, these lowlevel cigarettes may be just as addicting as the higher level cigarettes.) Even though it isn't so, tobacco companies want smokers to think that lowtar and low nicotine cigarettes are safer.

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What about smoking menthol cigarettes?

Smokers get a feeling of coolness from smoking a menthol cigarette. This may cause them to inhale more deeply or to hold the smoke in for a longer time. So, menthol cigarettes may cause more harm to the smoker's health. This fact should be of particular concern to African Americans, because while only one in four whites smoke menthol cigarettes, three out of four African Americans do so.

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Are Filter cigarettes better?

Not really. Filters can reduce the health risks in theory but rarely do in actual practice. Most smokers unconsciously strive to maintain the same nicotine level and end up pulling harder to draw more smoke further into their lungs. This can actually increase the risk of emphysema.

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Should smokers switch to a pipe or cigar?

Smoking pipes or cigars is not safe. The same amounts of cancercausing chemicals found in cigarette smoke are also found in pipe and cigar tobacco. So, pipe and cigar smokers have higher risks of getting lung and heart disease than nonsmokers. In fact, people who smoke pipes and cigars have much higher death rates than nonsmokers do.

Pipe and cigar smokers reduce their health risks because they often smoke less than cigarette smokers and they usually do not inhale. However, when cigarette smokers switch to pipes or cigars, they are more likely to inhale just as they did when they smoked cigarettes. Or they may smoke more often. So, for these people, switching will not eliminate the health risks of smoking.

Pipe and cigar smokers have nearly the same risk as cigarette smokers for developing cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach) and bladder. Pipe smokers also have a high risk of lip cancer.

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What about young people starting to smoke?

While most young people do think  that smoking is harmful to health, they see these effects as something that may happen in the future. But, in fact, young smokers can reduce'their rate of lung growth and they are also less physically fit, often have shortness of breath, coughing spells, wheez ing and bad breath, which reduces social appeal. Young people also need to see that they will probably become addicted and that it can be just as hard for them to quit as for longtime smokers.
Teenagers may feel that experimenting with lowtar and lownicotine cigarettes is safe, but that's not true. Young people can get hooked on smoking these brands as well as regular brands because both contain nicotine.

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Is it safe to use chewing tobacco and snuff instead?

Not at all. Chewing tobacco is leaf tobacco that is chewed by placing a wad between the cheek and the teeth and sucking on it. Snuff is finely ground tobacco. People place a pinch of snuff between their cheek and gum or between their lower lip and gum. Chewing tobacco and snuff are called smokeless tobacco.
Advertising and promotion by the tobacco companies implies that using smokeless tobacco is both safe and socially acceptable. That's not true.
There are serious health risksfor all smokeless tobacco users such as damage to the delicate lining of the mouth and throat, which may result in cancer. Users also increase their risk of heart disease and stroke. Chewing tobacco and snuff make the heart work harder by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
For those who smoke cigarettes and use smokeless tobacco, the risks are highest for developing cancer of the mouth and throat.
Smokeless tobacco also causes bad breath, decrease in taste and smell and increase in saliva flow. Users have to spit often, causing unpleasant situations for those around them.
Today, while only about 5 percent of adults use smokeless tobacco, about 20 percent of high school males and 1 percent of high school females use it. These young people see it as a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes. In fact, they become just as addicted as cigarette smokers.
Trying to quit using smokeless tobacco may be just as hard as it is to quit smoking cigarettes.
And, worst of all, young smokeless tobacco users are more likely to take up cigarette smoking as well as the use of alcohol and illegal drugs.

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Are nicotine replacement products safe?

Nicotine gum and the nicotine patch deliver small doses of nicotine into the body. This cuts down on withdrawal symptoms and makes it easier to break the smoking addiction. Since these products keep the level of nicotine in the body fairly even, smokers don't get the same bursts of nicotine they get by smoking cigarettes. So, these products are safer and less addictive than cigarettes. And they don't have any of the tars and poisonous gases that are in cigarettes.
Some users report side effects and some do not use the products correctly.  Whether using the gum or patch, the user should never smoke a cigarette as that could result in an overdose of nicotine and cause serious harm to the body.  Remember: Both the nicotine patch and gum work best when used with a solid behavior change program such as FREEDOM FROM SMOKING from the American Lung Association.

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What is the bottom line on any safe use of tobacco?

All tobacco products are harmful to your health. Whether it comes in cigarettes, pipes or cigars, chewing tobacco or snuffit's still tobacco.
Tobacco contains nicotine, which is an addictive drug.
Whether you smoke it or chew it, tobacco causes all kinds of lung problems, as well as cancer, heart disease and many other health problems.

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What are the risks of smoking marijuana or cocaine?

Marijuana smoke can be more harmful than smoking cigarettes. Marijuana smoke contains four times the amount of cancercausing substances as cigarette smoke. It has 12 times more tar and 10 to 20 times more carbon monoxide (gas that comes from the tailpipe of a car) than cigarette smoke.
Marijuana smokers also inhale deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs to get "high." That means the lungs are exposed to more chemicals.
Smoking marijuana daily for 10 years or more causes changes in lung tissue that are the same as in people who have smoked tobacco for 10 to 15 years. These changes can lead to bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer.
Marijuana also can harm the heart and blood vessels. It increases heart rate by as much as 50 percent. It also reduces the supply of oxygen, causing chest pain in people who have heart problems. It can cause damage to the brain. Smoking marijuana can also have harmful effects on sperm and on the unborn baby of a pregnant woman.
Short term effects include confusion, panic and loss of selfcontrol. In fact, driving while under the influence of marijuana is as dangerous as driving while drunk.
Almost everyone who smokes marijuana started by smoking cigarettes. And people who smoke marijuana are much more likely to experiment with other illegal drugs.
Smoking cocaine in the concentrated form known as "crack" can be even more harmful. It increases heart rate and blood pressure and can damage the nervous system. It can cause severe mental problems. And even a small dose can cause death.

from ``Facts About ... Is There A Safe Tobacco?" by the American Lung Association
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