"Safe" Smoking: Ways to reduce cigarette harm without quitting.

Cigarettes are bad. We all know that. In fact, I think that we are “overly informed” about the harms cigarettes can cause in the human body. Yet, people continue to smoke, because they want to, or they like it, or most commonly they’re addicted. This thread is not meant to discuss the addiction part.

I perfectly understand the points non-smokers make when they argue against cigarettes. Second hand smoking is bad. Smoking is a pointless habit, etc.

However, I find many non-smokers to be very, very annoying in the sheer ferocity they have against non-smokers, not to mention the horrible “Truth” adds that are just way too over the top, IMHO.

There are also many people that argue, that smoking 2 or 3 or 4 cigarettes is not “better” for your health than smoking more than that, and people who use that argument are only fooling themselves.

I’ll have to disagree. I think smoking 3 or 4 cigs a day to be a much better alternative than smoking a-pack-a-day but a worse one than not smoking at all.

I won’t go into details in this post, for reasons involving length, but I am a “week-end” smoker, and have been for the better part of a year and a half. When I go out on weekends and have a few drinks, I’ll have maybe 6 cigarettes MAX. Many argue this is not a good alternative and blah, blah, blah.

To cut a long post short, I do this, and consider this to be a “health(ier) way of smoking” than other ways.

What ways can a person smoke a cigarette while reducing the damage it does to you?

(Not smoking is not an argument in *this *thread)

Short answer: aside from not inhaling (which at least limits your likelihood of developing lung and throat cancer) you can’t. Occasional but consistent smoking doesn’t really help either. Epidemiological studies contrasting heavy and light smoking, while hardly conclusive, tend to indicate a low regular threshold for smoking being a strong co-factor in the development of cancer or other smoking-related illnesses indicates. In other words, it is probably better to be a pack-a-day smoker for five years than a five coffin nail consumer for twenty years. For casual “social” smokers it is much harder to quantify effects, but it is clear that there is a strong genetic predisposition for many types of cancer that is aggravated or triggered by smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke, even if exposure is limited.

You are, of course, free to disagree with the studies and forensic researchers on this conclusion based upon your own “feels good to me” analysis. You may also conclude that the Earth is flat, the lunar landings were a hoax, or that helmet laws cause more accidents if you like, but don’t expect anyone to take you seriously.


As long as you realise none of it’s good for you.

Roll your own.

There are organically grown, all natural, blah blah blah, tobaccos which don’t have additives and preservatives and ammonia and stuff.

There are also those with much much higher nicotine content which should mean you won’t feel the urge to smoke as much.

And even the most expensive and exotic “Perique, creekside grown at Winterbury Farm, not dried but shipped to New Orleans and fermented in Oak barrels” tobacco is still cheaper than buying premade cigarettes.

There are connoisseurs out there who act like this is wine.

I’ve wondered about this too. If we leave cancer out of the picture and just consider COPD and emphysema, heart attack and stroke, would regular aerobic exercise counteract the effects of light smoking?

Smoking constricts blood flow – aerobic exercise increases it. Doesn’t it?

I have a friend who’s a light smoker, maybe 3 or 4 cigarettes a day. She’s almost 60 and has smoked for 40 years, off and on, but mostly on. She told me a couple months ago about a pre-cancer screening test she took as part of her annual physical. I don’t know what all it involved – a lung capacity test for sure, maybe an EKG and some other stuff – but the results showed no negative effect from smoking. She’s trying to quit smoking completely, but every time she does, she gains weight (and she exercises regularly and eats healthy). She feels like it’s a toss-up – quit smoking and deal with the possibility of weight-related health issues, or keep smoking, keep her weight down, and take her chances.

Not smoking is best.

That said, fewer cigarettes is better for you than more cigarettes. This is simple fucking common sense, and anyone who tries to convince you that YOU ARE GOING TO DIE from smoking six cigarettes per week really needs to take a deep (clean) breath and remind themselves that WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE from something.

Typically risk from smoking is calculated based on Packs/Day Years. As this number goes up your chance of developing ‘X’ goes up. Smoking less keeps this number down, so yes, smoking a couple of smokes a day is less harmful than 2 packs - statistically speaking.

However, as Stranger mentioned - statistics don’t really mean a whole lot when it comes to individuals - everyone knows someone who’s smoked a pack a day for 60 years, and everyone knows someone who died from lung cancer at 40 who never smoke in their life. They are outliers statistcially, but they are also actual people.

It really doesn’t mean much - how you’re affected by smoking depends on your own genetic makeup, predispositions, other health issues and luck. If you want to roll the dice that you don’t have ‘Precondition X’ that’s going to cause 4 smokes a day for 5 years to be fatal, that’s your choice, ya know?

Heh. To paraphrase Bill Hicks:

Got a little fact for you non-smokers. Non-smokers die . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . every day.

I quit smoking almost 2 years ago after 35 years at a pack or so a day (35 pack-years) with apparently very little lasting effect. My father smoked 4 packs a day for about 45 years (180 pack-years) before he got lung cancer. So could I actually have smoked for the rest of my life and a couple other lives without getting lung cancer? Nah, probably not. Do I think you’ll die of lung cancer from your 6 cigarettes a weekend outing? Nah, probably not that, either. I don’t think you’ll have time, the way things are going–eventually tobacco will be outlawed, and only outlaws will have tobacco…heh.

My thinking tends to be along the line of what Mongo Ponton suggests–eliminate what you can of the toxins in the cigarettes. No need to be pumping in all those adulterants along with the tobacco smoke. I also think doing most of your smoking outdoors is probably better than surrounding yourself with the smoke of others in a bar or restaurant.

Now, I have a related question. What would be my cancer risks if, after smoking cigarettes for 35 years, I quit doing that and started chewing tobacco? Not that I would (yuk), but would I be likely to get mouth or throat cancer more so than someone who had never smoked? I’m almost 50 already, so I could chew for another 20 years or so, after which time I will almost certainly be dead.

Oh, and don’t smoke around kids. That’s the only thing I get preachy about.

Why do you like smoking? If you’re looking for a safer way to get nicotine into your system, why not use the patch or chew the gum? Never tried the gum, so maybe it tastes like crap, but wouldn’t the patch give you the same effects of smoking without the carcinogens?

I’m a mostly weekend smoker (or try to be; I’ve ben smoking more since not working :rolleyes:), and think it’s fine. When I quit before, it was the thought of never having another cigarette, ever, even when having a drink, that would put me off. I would always fall after a few drinks, and then think, Oh, I’ve started again, I may as well buy a pack. Now I think, well, if I’m going out for the night, I’ll pick up a pack of ten cigarettes. Once or twice a week isn’t ideal, no, but if knowing I can smoke at the weekends means I don’t smoke during the week, then I’m not going to get too stressed about it.

I agree, but I think there are a lot of people who claim (and believe) that they smoke a lot less than they actually smoke. These people have the potential to really foul up the statistics about the dangers of light smoking.

In any event, I think that if you are a light smoker, what tends to happen is that something stressful happens in your life; you increase the amount of your smoking; the stress recedes; you decrease the amount of your smoking, but not quite as much. So you slowly turn into a normal smoker.

P.S. I realize that in Doperland, there are “social smokers” who don’t fall into this pattern.

Can your cigs into one end of a water pipe and less crap will get through.

Not perhaps as simple as you think. Incidence of illnesses that are associated with smoking (lung cancer, cancers of the mouth and throat, mesothelioma, et cetera) tends to occur over a certain threshold, so there is no applicable linear relationship. And as previously mentioned, individual risks deviate wildly from the norm; someone with a genetic predisposition to some cancers might have a very low threshold, while others may seem to be nearly immune.

Ever seen someone suffering throat cancer, or dying from emphysema? This is an utterly miserable existence. Of course, non-smokers can also suffer from these syndromes, but only at a tiny fraction of the incidence of smokers.

Unfortunately, the bulk of carcinogenic substances in tobacco are found regardless of how it is processed, as they are the basic constituents of cultivated tobacco. Nicotina tabacum (cultivated tobacco) is essentially a scavenger which strips the ground for every nutrient and produces nicotine as a natural insecticide. Nicotine is, of course, an alkaloid and a powerful neurotoxin. All tobacco contains natural tars, and also non-trivial amounts of [sup]210[/sup]polonium and various isotopes of radium which are alpha and beta emitters. Tobacco smoke contains detectable levels of radioactivity.

Incidence of many smoking related illnesses follows an “S” curve, with a limited mount giving little statistical incidence, a ramp up, and then a plateau. After 35 years of smoking, your incidence levels for many smoking-related illnesses are pretty much the same whether you stop smoking or not. (Other possibly syndromes, however, are reduced and cardiopulmonary function improves measurably from not smoking, so their is a pervasive medical argument for quitting smoking at any time.) I’m not sure about the cumulative incidence levels of lip and mouth cancers, but consumers of smokeless tobacco have dramatically higher occurrence of these cancers than smokers, so trading smokes for chew isn’t necessarily a great way to go (not to mention what chewing does to oral hygiene).

I haven’t kept current with the medical literature on the topic, but perhaps Qadgop the Mercotan can provide current incidence and morbidity info from the JAMA and surveillance summaries from MMWR.



(Long, drafty sigh.)

Sure, it delivers nicotine, but it doesn’t deliver the other pleasures of smoking. The ritual of extracting a cigarette, lighting, the first draw, the hot smoke, the exhalation. It’s just not the same. Damn it.

I’m in the quitting process once again. My mother died of lung cancer from a lifetime of smoking, and it’s a slow, ugly, painful, hellish way to die. If I can’t learn that lesson, maybe I’m too stupid to live anyway. Or the addiction is incredibly, astonishingly powerful. Or both.

If you’re a tobacco user your relative risk for acquiring certain types of cancer rises well above the non-smoker rates for those types of cancer. To be precise:

Lung and bronchus 15 to 30 times that of a nonsmoker.
Larynx 10
Oral cavity and pharynx 4 to 5
Esophagus 1.5 to 2.5
Stomach 1.5 to 2.5
pancreas 2 to 4
Kidney and renal 1.5 to 2
Urinary bladder 3
Cervix 1.5 to 2.5
Acute myelogenous Leukemia 1.5 to 2

From: Tobacco and Cancer, recent epidemiological evidence. J Natl Cancer inst 2004;96: 99-106

Smoking raises the relative risk for other diseases too:

Coronary artery disease 2 to 4 times
Stroke 2 times
Peripheral vascular disease 10 times
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 10 times

From: http://www.cdc.gov/Tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/sgr_2004/highlights/3.htm

Most of these tobacco-related disease risks do seem to be very dose-dependent, i.e. the more you smoke, the greater the risk. But the data thus far has shown no evidence that there is a risk-free dose.

Data is not that good on exactly just how high the relative risk is for tobacco chewers alone, regarding oral cancers; More than half of the chewers are also at least occasional smokers too. But the risk is certainly at least 2 times that of smokers who are non-chewers and 4 times that of people who don’t use tobacco products.

I take care of people daily who are dying by inches from heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, stroke, COPD, and various cancers. The ones who die miserably bit by bit are more likely to have been smokers. It just raises your risk for a more miserable degree of morbidity while waiting for that pain-ending mortality to arrive.

Here’s the CDC’s clearinghouse site on tobacco data: http://www.cdc.gov/Tobacco/index.htm

Should read “persuasive”. :smack:


Drink a lot of water, eat lots of green leafy vegetables and foods with antioxidants.

Biggest thing, I think, is only smoke as much as you really want to. A lot of people just smoke out of habit, or are used to smoking at particular times. But if you pay attention you’ll find that if you just smoked when you had actual cravings you would smoke less. This goes for smoking individual cigarettes as well - often smoking half the cigarette or even sometimes just a few puffs will satisfy your cravings and the rest of the cigarette is just smoked because, well, it isn’t “finished” Only smoke til your craving is satisfied, and then put out the cigarette even if you haven’t finished the whole things.

Also, sometimes people mistake other cravings for a nicotine urge. You might actually be thirsty, hungry, horny, whatever. See if having a drink, a snack, a wank, or a jog is what you really need at that particular time.

And don’t put yourself into the mindset that a cigarette is ‘forbidden’. Not being able to smoke will make you crave it more than if you’re allowed to but just don’t bother with it.

Since we’re on the topic, I might as well ask this question now. Last time I was having a checkup, the doctor said “two is as bad as ten.” She meant that smoking two cigarettes a day (I’ve smoked 2-4 a day for the last 2 years), was as unhealthy as smoking ten per day. Is that true? Is that because of the low threshold that Stranger mentioned? But I thought Qadgop just said that the risk does get higher with increased use?

I’m really confused now. If I’m going to have an unhealthy habit like this, I’d like to know just how fast I’m hurting myself.

Best evidence doesn’t bear that out. Less is better and none is best seems to be the most credible advice.

Odd question–didn’t I hear that pipes were less dangerous?