The health risks of tobacco

Are different types of tobacco bad for you?


Smoking is, by far, the most common type of addiction in the world. Back in the day, there might have only been one type of smoking, but in this 21st century, there are endless ways to indulge in your nicotine cravings. There are other delivery methods such as smoking roll-ups, cigars, cigarettes, pipes and vaping. You might think that the different forms of smoking all have the same effects on your body because they contain the same active ingredient (nicotine), but this is not the case. 


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In 2019, 14.1% of the UK population are currently smokers. That is a staggering 6.9 million people. This number has just been on the rise from past years, and it is the single largest preventable cause of disease. ? of these smokers also live with smoking-related diseases such as COPD. 

A cigarette is a pre-made roll of tobacco, unlike roll-ups which smokers roll themselves. It is nicotine wrapped in thin paper, with a filter at the end. It is the most common form of smoking in most developed countries. When a cigarette is lit, it starts a chain of chemical reactions called combustion. This process alters the chemicals in the cigarettes, producing gasses toxic in nature which are harmful and detrimental to your health. When you inhale cigarette smoke, you inhale dangerous and cancer-causing chemicals during the combustion reaction. 



Cigars, unlike cigarettes, are cured tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco. They usually come in various sizes. Smaller cigars are also referred to as cigarillos. The varying sizes of cigars come with varying health risks. Large cigars deliver about 10 times more nicotine, 2 times more tar and 5 times more carbon monoxide than a normal cigarette. 



Hookah, shisha or argileh are just some alternative names used to talk about waterpipes. Waterpipes are a method of smoking specially made tobacco. This type of tobacco comes in a variety of flavours like mint, berries or sweets(liquorice). The way the tobacco is delivered to the smoker’s lungs makes it at least or more toxic than cigarette smoke. Research has proven that people who smoke waterpipes absorb more of the harmful ingredients in cigarette smoke. This is due to the nature of smoking waterpipes. As they are less aggressive on inhalation and come in fun flavours, smokers tend to engage in longer smoking sessions, increasing their exposure to harmful components. 

A typical 1-hour shisha smoking session can have you inhaling 100-200 times more cigarette smoke than a single cigarette. 



E-cigs or vapes are the modern twists on cigarettes. Instead of lighting the cigarette, vapes use a heat source to turn the nicotine liquid into a vapor to be inhaled. Based on the brand, the amount of nicotine in each vape might vary. As this form of smoking is still new, there is little evidence on the safety of this method of smoking, but it still carries health risks associated with nicotine. 



Roll-ups are basically hand-rolled cigarettes. For people who are avid smokers, this is a preferred smoking choice as it is cheaper than manufactured cigarettes. Roll-ups tend to contain less tobacco than cigarettes and as the nicotine is not as tightly packed inside the roll-up, less carbon monoxide is produced. However, roll-ups tend to contain more additives. 

Here are some cigarette equivalents:

  • 2.5 cigarette = 1 pipe

  • 4 cigarettes = 1 cigar

  • 2 cigarettes = 1 cigarillo

  • 50 cigarettes = 25mg of loose nicotine 

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