Are there safe smoking and tobacco options?

There is no safe smoking option – tobacco is always harmful. Light, low-tar and filtered cigarettes aren’t any safer – people usually smoke them more deeply or smoke more of them. The only way to reduce harm is to quit smoking.

Smoking is never safe

Some companies might sell tobacco products that look like they might be healthier for you. But there is no safe level of tobacco consumption – every cigarette is doing you damage. Your best option is to quit smoking.

All tobacco products contain nicotine and other toxic chemicals. Even if you don’t breathe in the smoke, you still absorb harmful chemicals through the lining of your mouth.

Did you know that your smoking also affects the safety of others, including children, through second-hand smoke?

Filtered cigarettes

Some people may think that the use of cigarette filters is a safe or healthy alternative to other types of cigarettes. This is not true.

The only reliable evidence of reduced risk associated with cigarette smoking is to not smoke, and to avoid exposure to cigarette smoke. Ultimately, there is no such thing as a safe cigarette.


Cigars are not a safe option. Cigar smoke contains many of the same toxic and cancer-causing chemicals as cigarette smoke.

Many cigars also contain more tobacco and nicotine than cigarettes:

  • large cigars can contain between 5 to 17 times more tobacco than cigarettes
  • many cigars contain at least 10 to 20 times more nicotine than cigarettes.


Pipes are not a safe option. Pipe smoke also contains many of the same toxic chemicals as cigarette smoke, including nicotine, which is highly addictive. Nicotine reaches your blood even if you don’t inhale the smoke into your lungs.

Pipe tobacco also contains chemicals, such as nitrosamines, that can cause cancer.


Shisha, or waterpipe tobacco, is a not a safe option. There are at least 80 toxic chemicals in  shisha tobacco smoke, including:

  • acrolein – causes lung disease
  • carbon monoxide – causes heart disease
  • formaldehyde – causes cancer
  • benzo[a]pyrene – causes cancer.


E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, do not contain tobacco and are considered an alternative nicotine product. These devices heat an e-liquid to create a vapour which the user inhales. Many people are choosing to vape instead of smoking. Scientists are still learning about e-cigarettes, but they have been linked to a number of health harms and cannot be considered safe – even though they don’t contain tobacco.

Find out more about e-cigarettes.

Heated tobacco products

Like e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products use battery-powered devices to heat nicotine and other chemicals. The main difference between heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes is that heated tobacco products use tobacco to generate the nicotine.

There is no evidence that heated tobacco products are safe or are less harmful than other tobacco products. All heated tobacco products contain nicotine, an addictive and toxic drug, and other toxic chemicals.

Other types of tobacco products

Tobacco products that do not involve heating are commonly referred to as smokeless tobacco products. Common forms of smokeless tobacco products marketed globally include:

  • snuff, which is available in loose tobacco form, in dissolvable lozenges or strips, or in tea bag-like sachets. Snuff can be consumed through the mouth or inhaled into the nose
  • chewing tobacco, which consists of shredded tobacco in the form of loose leaves.

Smokeless tobacco products are not safe. Like cigarettes and cigars, they:

  • are addictive and harmful
  • contain nicotine and cancer-causing chemicals.

They can:

  • cause cancer of the mouth, oesophagus and pancreas
  • increase your risk of death from heart disease and stroke.

Find out more about the health effects of smokeless tobacco.

Did you know?

The use of products containing nicotine poses dangers to youth, pregnant women and their unborn babies.

The use of products containing nicotine in any form among youth, including in e-cigarettes, is unsafe. Exposure to nicotine in adolescence may have long-term consequences for brain development, potentially leading to learning and mood disorders.

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