Smoking cigarettes can cause many health issues. Various alternatives to cigarettes are available, although some can also cause health problems and may not be a “healthy” alternative to smoking.

When a person smokes a cigarette, they inhale a variety of chemicals. These substances can cause serious health conditions, such as cancer and heart disease.

The American Cancer Society states that tobacco smoke contains at least 70 chemicals known to cause cancer. The organization also notes that smoking causes around 20% of all cancers in the United States.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that cigarette smoking is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in the United States each year.

This article explains the effects of smoking alternatives, tips for quitting smoking, and when to talk with a doctor.

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If a person wants to quit smoking, they can swap cigarettes for other tobacco- or nicotine-containing products. Some of these products can be safe alternatives to smoking. However, others contain chemicals that can cause health issues.

Below are some alternatives to smoking standard tobacco.

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vape pens, are battery-powered devices that come in different sizes in styles.

E-cigarettes are a fairly new product. This means there is little information about their long-term effects. However, the American Lung Association notes that e-cigarettes contain the following harmful substances:

  • nicotine
  • carcinogens, which are chemicals that can cause cancer
  • acrolein, an herbicide that can cause irreversible lung damage
  • diacetyl, which has links to the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans
  • diethylene glycol, a chemical linked to lung disease
  • heavy metals, such as tin, lead, and nickel
  • cadmium, a toxic metal that causes breathing issues and disease
  • benzene, a chemical that can cause cancer and other health issues

Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that the use of e-cigarettes can increase the risk of:

  • lung injuries
  • seizures and other neurological symptoms
  • injury from the device overheating, catching on fire, or exploding

Learn more about e-cigarettes here.

Cigars are tobacco rolled inside a tobacco leaf or tobacco-containing substance. They can come in different forms, such as cigarillos.

The CDC notes that cigars contain the same toxic and cancer-causing substances as cigarettes. This means they are not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.

If a person smokes cigars regularly, they have an increased risk of certain cancers. Smoking cigars may also contribute to gum disease and tooth loss.

A person who smokes cigars heavily may be at higher risk of coronary artery disease and lung diseases.

Shisha is a flavored tobacco-containing product smoked through a water pipe called a hookah. Some people may also use the word “shisha” to refer to the hookah.

The CDC states that smoking shisha is not a safe alternative to cigarettes. Shisha can contain many of the same harmful chemicals as cigarettes.

The CDC notes that smoking hookahs can cause the following health problems:

The charcoal used to heat the shisha may also increase the chances of developing certain health issues. Burning charcoal can produce high levels of toxic chemicals, such as:

Learn more about the health risks of hookah smoking here.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance found in tobacco. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can help wean a person off nicotine without exposing them to harmful chemicals. The FDA notes NRT products are a safe alternative to smoking.

However, NRT should not be used by:

  • pregnant people
  • people still smoking or using other forms of tobacco
  • adolescents

There are a variety of NRT products a person can use, such as:

  • gums
  • lozenges
  • sprays
  • inhalers
  • patches

A person using NRT should follow the product instructions carefully. Misusing these products can lead to nicotine overdose, which can be fatal on rare occasions.

Learn more about smoking cessation aids here.

Nicotine is an addictive drug, so it can be difficult for a person to quit smoking. It often takes many tries to quit successfully.

In 2018, the CDC noted that 55.1% of U.S. adult smokers attempted to quit in the past year. However, only 7.5% quit successfully.

In 2021, just over 60% of adolescents who use tobacco products stated that they had stopped for a day or more in the last year in an attempt to quit.

But in 2018, 61.7% of adults who ever smoked had successfully quit.

A study from 2021 looked into the effects of swapping from cigarettes to e-cigarettes and other tobacco-containing products. Researchers found that swapping to other tobacco-containing products increased the reuse of cigarettes by 8.5%.

Learn more about nicotine dependence here.

Despite the difficulties, a person who wants to stop smoking should try not to become discouraged. It is very possible to quit smoking. There are various techniques a person can use to stay smoke-free. If one does not work, there are many more for a person to try.

Techniques a person can use to stop smoking include:

  • making a quit plan with a doctor
  • using a quit smoking app
  • starting an exercise routine
  • spending more time with nonsmoking friends and family
  • avoiding triggers, such as caffeine and alcohol
  • avoiding places where smoking is common, such as bars
  • throwing away all cigarettes and other smoking equipment

Find 11 tips for giving up smoking here.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following tips to help a person manage cigarette cravings:

  • Get out of the house and take a brisk walk.
  • Keep substitutes nearby, such as gum, hard candy, carrot sticks, apples, celery, or pickles.
  • Acknowledge that feelings such as anger and irritability are normal and will subside in time.
  • Keep hands busy with a pen or toothpick.
  • Take a bath or shower.
  • Practice relaxation techniques.
  • Say “no” out loud when feeling cravings.
  • Wear a rubber band on the wrist and snap it when cravings occur.

There are many places a person can find help to quit smoking. If a person wants to quit or is struggling, they can speak with a healthcare professional. Additionally, a person can find help from:

Smoking can affect a person’s health in many ways. If a person smokes cigarettes or other tobacco-containing products, they are encouraged to speak with a doctor if they develop any unusual new symptoms.

A person can also speak with a doctor if they have difficulty giving up cigarettes. A doctor can advise about different methods they can try, including medication.

Although it can be difficult to stop smoking, using NRT can make it easier. The American Cancer Society notes that NRT can almost double a person’s chances of stopping smoking.

If a person successfully quits smoking, it can provide them with many health benefits, such as:

  • improved general health and quality of life
  • reduced risk of premature death
  • reduced risk of many health conditions, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease

Learn about what happens after quitting smoking.

Cigarettes contain many toxic chemicals, which can cause many health issues. There are various alternatives a person can use instead of cigarettes. However, many of these contain tobacco and other harmful substances.

When used properly, NRT is a safe alternative to cigarettes.

If a person wants to quit smoking, many forms of support are available. A person can speak with a doctor if they have difficulty giving up cigarettes.

A person who smokes is encouraged to speak with a doctor if they notice any new or unusual symptoms.