What Are Herbal Cigarettes And Are They Actually Better For You?

Cigarettes have changed cultural value in the United States several times over the years, going from medicinal, to glamorous, to deadly. Cigarettes were once advertised as a means to help prevent irritation in the throat (via Stanford Medicine). They were also popularized and romanticized on screen in Hollywood. However, in 1964 then United States Surgeon General Luther Terry rang the alarm bells with a convincing report that showed medical researchers establishing the relationship between smoking and cancer of the lungs, reports the Atlantic.

Despite the ongoing body of knowledge that builds the case for everyone to stop smoking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that some 30.8 million adults in the United States smoke (as of 2020). Further, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths in America alone per annum. One reason that it is difficult to quit smoking cigarettes is because they contain the addictive chemical known as nicotine. Some people prefer other types of cigarettes that do not contain tobacco or nicotine. These types of nicotine and tobacco-free smokes are known as herbal cigarettes. You might wonder if herbal cigarettes are a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes. Here's everything you need to know about herbal cigarettes and whether or not they are a safer choice.

Are herbal cigarettes a better choice?

According to the National Cancer Institute, an herbal cigarette is made up of a blend of natural ingredients like herbs and flowers. Notably, while herbal cigarettes do not have any tobacco or nicotine, they are similar to the smoke from tobacco cigarettes because they potentially still produce harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide and tar.

A 2015 study published in the journal Toxicological Research compared a popular type of herbal cigarette to a standard tobacco cigarette to determine the health effects of the two in comparison by using a smoking machine. The researchers found that while herbal cigarettes contained only some of the toxins that tobacco cigarettes produce, they contained similar levels of tar and also produced a greater mutagenic effect.

The term mutagenic refers to the ability of a substance to alter or mutate cellular DNA, per the National Cancer Society. These mutations to DNA can result in the development of cancer. Overall, herbal cigarettes do not appear to be a healthy alternative to tobacco smoke because inhaling the burned products of any herbs may cause damage to the human body.