What if anything can be smoked safely?

Is there any substance that can be smoked in cigarette or pipe form that has no negative health effects, intoxicants, mood-changing or addictive substances. That means it will be burned with a flame and wrapped in paper. No nicotine, carcinogens, THC, or substances that might otherwise be considered medications appropriate for regulation.

No expertise whatever, but I don’t see how inhaling burned particulate matter into your lungs can have anything but a bad outcome, however long it may take.

Some punctuation might help your title:

What, if anything, can be smoked safely?

That meaning is slightly different from the question is seems like you are currently asking.


This begs the question: then why do it?

That’s a different conversation.

I tend to agree - even if you take out the tar or what ever causes lung cancer - I think smoking (anything) in and of itself is an irritant that can cause things such as bronchitis.

Why do it? – a non smoking actor has to smoke on stage…

As far as I know, however, inhaling smoke is bad. Even the new electronic “vapor” cigarettes are coming under scrutiny as they may not be as “harmless” as first envisioned.

What if you don’t inhale?

If you don’t inhale, in what sense are you “smoking” the substance concerned?

There is a burning paper object in your mouth and you might be blowing smoke from your mouth.

My understanding is that’s pretty much how cigars are used. Is that wrong?

Then your name is Bill Clinton. At least Obama was honest about his smokery.

Well, I can’t imagine that taking burning particulates into your mouth is a fantastically good idea either. Smoking tobacco is associated with oral cancer, and I wouldn’t assume that there’s a safe alternative.

People do claim that about cigars - that is for sure, but they are obvious still inhaling some - as second hand smoke at least - millimeters from their nose.

According to a professor quoted in this article:

Burning any organic substance - including paper - puts you at risk for cancer.

ETA: actually he said it increased your risk for heart disease - cancer was for other stuff.

Moderator Note

Lets keep the political pot shots out of GQ, please.

No warning issued.

Water vapor, like in an e-cigarette. It may not be ‘burning’ but it’s very similar to smoke. It does get created with heat, so in a sense it’s burning.

Not really; warming and burning are not the same thing at all.

Besides, the OP specifies “burned with a flame and wrapped in paper”.

If you’re combusting something, then you’re almost guaranteed to be creating carcinogens.

The paper alone is mostly cellulose. Burn that, and you’re going to get all kinds of nasty stuff. Combustion is never completed to 100%; you’re going to get some CO, some PAH’s (some of which are carcinogenic), and who knows what else. In addition, combustion that takes place with atmospheric air will produce nitrogen dioxide, which is toxic.

Bottom line? Combustion-generated smoke is bad for you.

Particulate matter that gets deep into your lungs can be problematic. Large PM gets caught in your nose and throat and can be removed by coughing and by the action of cilia in the larger passages, but PM[sub]2.5[/sub] - particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter - tend to stay airborne until they reach very deep into the smallest passages and of your lungs and even into the alveoli, where they get deposited and can transfer toxins into your blood. Mechanical action (natural erosion, industrial grinding, etc.) tends to creates large particulate matter, but combustion reactions tend to generate a lot of PM[sub]2.5[/sub], which means the nasty stuff in smoke tends to go where it does the most damage.

How about pure carbon (e.g., graphite)? If you burn that, you should produce pure CO[sub]2[/sub], which I suppose isn’t too dangerous provided you inhale a lot of regular air with it. (CO[sub]2[/sub] is already present in the air at concentrations of about 600 ppm, but it isn’t until 1000 ppm that you’d experience difficulty breathing.)

For starters, you will produce some carbon monoxide. Exactly how much depends on air flow and other factors, but any amount is not good for you:

You will also get nitrogen dioxide if you’re burning in air (as opposed to pure oxygen), which may cause long-term lung damage.

You may also get fine-particle soot, as carbon vaporizes and then recondenses without combusting, which then settles in your lungs. Bad stuff.