Tea is just dried leaves, sometimes with other additives. Tobacco, similarly, includes dried tobacco leaves and other ingredients. This similarity means that smoking tea is possible. But there is no evidence that smoking tea is safe.

Companies that sell tea for smoking argue that, because it contains no nicotine or tar, it is healthier than tobacco smoke. Even if this were true, this does not prove that smoking tea is safe.

A number of studies suggest that non-nicotine smoking products can still be harmful. A person may still inhale harmful chemicals, and the smoke may damage the lungs. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), even non-tobacco cigarettes, such as tea cigarettes, produce tar and carbon monoxide.

This article explains whether a person can smoke tea, and if it is safe to do so. It also explores if there are any benefits or risks, and the legalities concerning smoking tea.

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It is possible to smoke any substance that a person can dry and burn. Tobacco is just dried leaves from the tobacco plant, and cigarettes usually contain a combination of these leaves and sometimes other additives.

Tea leaves can therefore mimic the consistency and appearance of tobacco, and a person can smoke them.

Tea companies, especially those that offer smokable tea, claim that there are benefits to smoking tea, or that smoking tea offers greater benefits than drinking it. There is no evidence to support these claims. Moreover, there is significant support that smoking tea may cause harm.

One potential benefit of smoking tea or herbs is that it does not contain nicotine. Nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes.

Avoiding nicotine may reduce the risk of becoming addicted to smoking, which may reduce the risk of smoking-related health problems. This is because the more exposure a person has to smoking, including via secondhand smoke, the more likely they are to develop health issues.

Learn more about why smoking is bad for you.

Though herbal cigarettes, including smoking tea, may be less addictive than tobacco, they are not harmless. There is no evidence supporting the claim that tea’s benefits increase when smoking it, and smoking causes chemical changes to the leaves.

According to a 2022 paper, the risks of smoking herbal cigarettes include:

  • Carbon monoxide exposure: The smoke from tea and other tobacco-free products contains carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can damage the lungs and make breathing more difficult.
  • Toxic chemicals: Various toxic chemicals are present in smoke and may become more accessible when a person heats up tea leaves. Tar is one such chemical, and other chemicals may induce genetic changes, cellular damage, and other harm that increase the risk of cancer and other diseases.
  • Mind-altering effects: Various chemicals may change a person’s mental state. For example, damiana can induce hallucinations at high doses. Lavender may ease anxiety, but this positive effect may encourage a person to keep smoking it.
  • Lung damage: The smoke from tea or any other smoked substance can damage the lungs. Over time, the lungs must repeatedly repair themselves, increasing the risk of lung cancer and other lung diseases.

People may smoke tea for several different reasons, including:

  • They may mistakenly believe it offers health benefits, or that it is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.
  • They may want to quit smoking and use it as an alternative to nicotine-containing products.
  • They may smoke tea when tobacco is not available.

There are no scientifically proven medical benefits to smoking tea, and the risks of smoking any substance are high.

Researchers have documented a number of health benefits of drinking tea. For example, a 2020 study highlights the antioxidant components of the plants in tea. Some research suggests antioxidants may preserve health, reduce the risk of cancer, or slow the aging process.

A 2019 study highlights research finding that tea may have anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties. It cautions, however, that the bioavailability of tea ingredients may be low.

This research suggests that any potential benefits of tea are available by drinking the tea, without the risks of smoking it.

There is no evidence supporting the claim that tea’s benefits increase when smoking it.

The laws governing smoking tea vary from place to place. Herbal cigarettes, which may include tea, typically face similar regulations to tobacco cigarettes. For example, in New York, it is illegal to sell herbal cigarettes to people under the age of 21.

Specific laws do not typically prevent a person from making their own cigarette from tea and smoking it, though it may be illegal to sell tea intended for smoking to minors.

Smoking tea does not typically cause immediate severe harm, though a person may cough or feel ill. But like other types of cigarettes, herbal cigarettes made from tea can steadily damage the lungs, the cells of the body, and a person’s overall health.

As restrictions on tobacco have become more common, some manufacturers have resorted to marketing tea as a healthy or less dangerous alternative to cigarettes. Some even claim that smoking tea is beneficial.

There is no evidence to support these claims. Smoking of all kinds can undermine a person’s health. While smoking tea may not be addictive, a person may continue to smoke tea for other reasons, such as reduced anxiety. And this can cause significant long-term health issues.