Tobacco cigarettes are widely known to be harmful to your health, and their nicotine content makes them addictive. Some of the most common dangers are an increased risk of stroke, coronary artery disease and various lung diseases, including cancer. Herbal cigarettes sound like a healthier option because of the lack of nicotine, but this product poses its own risks to users.
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Herbal cigarettes contain no tobacco or nicotine. Instead, they are filled with herbs or flowers and come in varieties like menthol, ginseng or rum. Herbal cigarettes are not addictive because of the lack of nicotine, so they are often regarded as a stop-smoking aid. You can use them as you would a regular cigarette while you wean yourself off the smoking habit.
Nicotine is not the only dangerous substance in cigarettes. Cigarette smoke contains tar and other toxins, and herbal cigarettes also generate tar, carbon monoxide and other toxic materials as they burn. You do not get addicted to herbal cigarettes, but you face health risks from the toxins for as long as you continue to smoke them.
Herbal cigarettes are supposed to be made from natural ingredients, but some brands contain synthetic cannabinoids that are very similar to THC, the active substance in marijuana, Dr. Paul Kivala of the Queen of the Valley Medical Center in California warns. Smokers who do not realize this can get an unexpected high and experience medical problems like vomiting and seizures. These cigarettes also cause psychological effects like agitation, anxiety and hallucinations.
Herbal cigarettes do not contain any substances regulated by the federal government, so they are legal for sale to minors in most states. Herbal cigarettes expose youngsters to health risks and may increase their chances of moving on to tobacco cigarettes. Many herbal cigarette brands have products with flavors that appeal to minors, like vanilla and cherry. These herbal varieties may act as a gateway product, enticing users to sample regular cigarettes and opening them up to an eventual nicotine addiction.
Cigarettes are a leading cause of household fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, killing about 1,000 people every year. Herbal cigarettes pose a fire risk because you ignite them in the same way that you light a tobacco cigarette. They can start a fire if you drop them on something flammable or fall asleep while smoking them, or if you leave lighters and matches lying around to be misused.
- Health Canada; Consumers' Awareness and Perceptions of Potential "Harm Reduced" Products; June 2006
- Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program; Herbal Cigarettes, Tobacco Starter Kits for Minors; Francisco Buchting; November 2000
- Napa Valley Register; Hidden Danger: Spice Cigarettes are Far From Safe; Paul Kivala; October 2010
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention; Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking; March 2011
- U.S. Fire Administration: Smoking and Fire Safety