By this point, most people are aware that smoking cigarettes is bad for your health. Nearly
But smoking is addictive, and quitting is easier said than done. Still, some companies, including American Spirit, sell cigarettes that are marketed as being “natural,” “organic,” or “additive-free,” leading some to assume they’re a less harmful cigarette.
What do these terms actually mean when it comes to cigarettes? And is organic tobacco actually any safer than conventional tobacco? Read on to find out.
In the world of cigarettes and tobacco, “organic” and similar terms don’t mean much. This is partly why cigarette packing using these terms must also carry a disclaimer explaining that the product isn’t any safer than others.
In terms of plants, organic means a particular plant has grown in soil that’s only been treated with federally approved, non-synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. But the term isn’t regulated within the tobacco industry, so it’s mostly meaningless.
And even if the tobacco in a cigarette is truly organic, it doesn’t have much of an impact on how the cigarette will affect your health.
The concept of “organic” cigarettes or “natural” and “additive-free” tobacco comes from a popular misconception that it’s all the artificial additives in cigarettes, rather than tobacco, that makes cigarettes harmful. But this isn’t true.
When both organic and conventional tobacco burns, it releases a range of harmful toxins, including:
- carbon monoxide
You inhale all of these chemicals when you smoke a cigarette. In addition, sugars in tobacco produce a compound called acetaldehyde when burned. This compound is linked to respiratory problems and an increased cancer risk. It may also be related to the additive nature of tobacco.
If you fell for the marketing ploy of “organic” cigarettes, you aren’t alone.
A 2018 study explored the opinions of more than 1,000 adults, including over 340 people who smoke. The investigators noted that the use of “organic” and similar terms in cigarette ads had a big effect on how people perceived the harm caused by cigarettes.
And that disclaimer they have to put on the packaging, explaining that “organic” doesn’t mean it’s safer? It didn’t have much of an effect on the study’s participants, though it did seem to have a small effect on perceived harm. Still, some said they didn’t even notice the fine-print text, while others didn’t fully trust the information.
In short, there’s no evidence to show that “organic” or “additive-free” cigarettes are any less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
Many people know cigarette smoke can cause lung cancer, but cigarette smoke can negatively affect health throughout your entire body. People around you who inhale secondhand smoke can also experience negative health effects.
Here’s a look at some of the main side effects of smoking any kind of cigarette.
- trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- persistent cough (smoker’s cough)
- worsened asthma symptoms
- difficulty exercising or being active
- dry, dull skin
- early wrinkle formation
- loss of skin elasticity
- other changes to skin tone and texture
- yellowing teeth and nails
- dental issues, such as cavities, loose teeth, and tooth loss
- mouth sores and ulcers
- bad breath
- gum disease
- difficulty smelling and tasting things
Hearing and vision effects:
- reduced night vision
- cataracts (clouded eyes)
- macular degeneration (vision loss)
- inner ear damage (hearing loss)
Reproductive health effects:
- difficulty becoming pregnant
- pregnancy complications or loss
- labor complications, including heavy bleeding
- erectile dysfunction
- damaged sperm
Smoking can also:
- lower your immune system function, causing you to get sick more often and take longer to recover
- lower your bone density, causing your bones to break and fracture more easily
- decrease your body’s ability to heal from wounds and injuries
Smoking can have various long-term side effects on your health. If you smoke, you have a higher risk for multiple health issues, including cancer, respiratory disease, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
People who smoke are more likely to die younger than those who don’t smoke, usually as a result of smoking-related health conditions.
These conditions include:
- Cancer. Smoking not only increases your risk of developing many types of cancer, it also increases the risk you’ll die from cancer.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Your risk for COPD increases if you smoke for a long time or smoke frequently. There’s no cure, but if you quit smoking, treatment can help manage symptoms and prevent them from worsening.
- Thickened blood and blood clots. These can both increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. It can also lead to peripheral vascular disease (PVD). With PVD, the flow of blood to your limbs decreases, which can cause pain and trouble walking.
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is a condition that involves a buildup of plaque that begins to block your arteries. With PAD, you have a higher risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.
Whether you smoke daily or only on occasion, quitting can have both immediate and long-term benefits for your health.
Check out this timeline of what happens to your body when you quit smoking.
Set a date
If you’re ready to take the first step, start by choosing a day to begin the process. If you’ve tried to quit before and failed, don’t be too hard on yourself. Many people go through several attempts.
Plus, the nicotine found in tobacco is addictive, so quitting smoking is often more complicated than simply deciding not to smoke anymore.
Make a list
Once you have a day picked out, you might find it helpful to start creating a list of reasons why you want to quit. You can come back to this list when you need a reminder.
Identify potential triggers
Finally, prepare yourself to deal with triggers. If you typically take a cigarette break at the same time each day, decide in advance what you’ll use that time for instead. If you can’t avoid situations or places where you usually smoke, try bringing something you can fidget with.
Get extra support
If you smoke a lot or have been smoking for a long time, don’t be discouraged if you can’t seem to quit on your own. For some, medication, including nicotine patches or gum, and counseling provide the additional support they need.
Terms on cigarette packages such as “organic” and “additive-free” can be misleading, since they can give the impression these cigarettes are safer. The truth is, no cigarette is safe to smoke.
When burned, even the purest tobacco produces harmful substances that are strongly linked to cancer and other health conditions.
If you’re trying to switch to a safer cigarette, “organic” isn’t what you’re looking for. The only way to reduce the negative side effects of smoking is to stop smoking.