Some may think that forms of tobacco other than cigarettes are safe especially if they don’t involve inhaling smoke, but this is not the case! Each type of tobacco alternative has its own share of harmful components and effects, so read on to find out more.


800px-Disposable_Electronic_Cigarette Although electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, do not contain tobacco, they do have nicotine in them, which is the addictive component of cigarettes. Basically, e-cigarettes are devices that look and are used (and sometimes taste) like actual cigarettes but are made of plastic or stainless steel. However, they do not expose the user to tobacco smoke or chemicals. Even so, these types of cigarettes are controversial as their impact on health has not been thoroughly studied. Health Canada actually advises people not to use them, and they have not been approved to be sold in stores.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at e-cigarettes, here’s some QuitNow info on E-cigarettes (PDF link) as well as some points from both sides of the debate in this Toronto Star article.

Cigars/Cigarillos and Pipes

416px-Cigar_box“It is not unusual for some premium cigars to contain the tobacco equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes.” (Oral Cancer Foundation)

Even though some people think that they are safe from harm if they smoke cigars, cigarillos (smaller cigars), or pipes without inhaling, it is in fact pretty much impossible to have zero contact with smoke. People who smoke cigars and pipes are still at greater risk of lip, mouth, tongue, throat and larynx cancers. There are some differences between the smoke from cigarettes and cigars/pipes, such as:

  • The way that cigars are made produces high concentrations of cancer-causing compounds, which are released when cigars are smoked.
  • Cigar wrappers are not as porous as cigarette wrappers, which causes the burning of tobacco in cigars to be less complete, and the concentration of toxins to be higher in cigar smoke.

For more information on the impact of smoking cigars and pipes, check out this factsheet from the Lung Association.

Smokeless Tobacco

800px-SnusAlthough users of smokeless tobacco are not exposed to tobacco smoke, the different types of smokeless tobacco are not completely safe alternatives to smoking cigarettes or cigars and pipes. Smokeless tobacco, such as snuff and chewing tobacco, contain 28 cancer-causing substances, and even though some of these may be in small amounts, who knows what the effect could be once they build up in the body over time? In fact, snuff dippers consume over 10 times more cancer-causing substances than cigarette smokers. Also, since nicotine is absorbed 2 to 3 times faster in users of smokeless tobacco compared to cigarette smokers, these users get addicted faster.


Snuff is finely ground tobacco that is packaged in different forms such as dry, moist, and in pouches. It can be used by putting a pinch or dip between the cheek and gum, or by inhaling the dry form through the nose.

Chewing tobacco

Chewing tobacco comes in looseleaf forms and is used by sticking a wad of it inside the mouth between the cheek and gum. The juices that build up from saliva are typically spitted out, so that this type of tobacco is sometimes referred to as “spit” or “spitting” tobacco.


Snus is a newer type of smokeless tobacco that does not require spitting. It is packaged in the form of pouches that users put in their mouth between the upper lip and gum.

Effects of smokeless tobacco

Aside from addiction, using smokeless tobacco can cause a whole array of unpleasant and often lethal effects, such as:

  • Oral lesions that can become cancerous
  • Gum disease
  • Gum recession
  • Loss of bone in the jaw
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth loss
  • Worn spots on teeth
  • Yellowing of teeth
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

Click here if you’re curious to see some nasty photos of what oral cancer can look like.

For additional information on smokeless tobacco, check out these resources: