A report on healthy alternatives to cigarettes
4,80,000- that is the number of deaths caused by smoking every year. Despite that, 1600 people try their first cigarette every day, every year. The risks posed by cigarette smoking are no new to anyone. Smoking is notorious for causing cancer, respiratory ailments, strokes, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which could end in stroke too.
Cigarettes made their debut in the early 19th century in the United States. Before that, tobacco was consumed in the form of cigars and pipes. European Explorer Christopher Columbus introduced the concept of smoking on a commercial scale. Still, as per Archeological studies, tobacco use has been around since the first century BC, when the Maya people of Central America employed it for traditional and sacramental ceremonies.
You would be astonished to know that in its hay days, cigarettes were often advertised as “the asset to a gentleman”, making cigarettes the critical attribute to the “ideal cowboy image” in the early 19th century. Phillip Morris International led the marketing campaign under the brand name: Marlboro, which has been the top cigarette brand in the world since 1972.
But unaware of more than 7,000 chemicals that pollute the body and surroundings, cigarettes became a statement piece, spreading across America like wildfire.
But, the golden era of cigarettes faded, and the adverse health impacts started to reveal themselves. In 1964, the link between smoking and lung cancer was established, and by 1st January 1966, warning labels were put on every cigarette pack under Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.
For those already addicted, the addiction did not vanish with just the ad label. There was neither any alternative cigarette nor much assistance in combating the addiction, so people consciously chose to smoke. By identifying the market's need, companies soon began experimenting with “alternatives to cigarettes”.
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Are herbal cigarettes the green alternative?
The earliest experiments were undertaken in China, where the concept of “herbal cigarettes” budded in the early 1970s. China-based Nanjing Herbal Company was the first to develop the concept of herbal cigarettes. It came up with a brand called YangJinHua, which by mixing Flos daturaea herb with tobacco, claimed to treat asthma.
These herbal cigarettes contain an amalgam of tobacco and herbs which not only claim to help quit smoking but also aid in respiratory ailments, such as Asthma.
As per the report of Tanjin hospital in 2002, herbal cigarettes were 98.6% effective in treating asthma, a Chinese news article articulated.
Soon, the profitable “herbal business” swayed Korea, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, too, skyrocketing its market share in the early 2000s. Finally, in the late 2000s, the herbal cigarette business mushroomed worldwide, thanks to China.
However, these claims were not backed up by any scientific research. In the late 2000s, many news articles and research papers bashed many myths surrounding herbal cigarettes.
For starters, no doubt herbal cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes since they are nicotine and tobacco-free but have little medicinal benefits; a research paper written by Aiyin Chen, Stanton Glantz, and Elisa Tong named “Asian herbal‐tobacco cigarettes: “not medicine but less harmful”?” claimed.
Secondly, no matter the constituents, any burning smoke, when inhaled, produces carbon monoxide and tar. Its prolonged exposure might cause carcinogenesis (formation of cancer), which is equally dangerous to smoking cigarettes.
Now, over 20 distinct brands in China are invested in the herbal cigarette business. Herbal cigarettes have similar physical attributes to regular cigarettes but contain herbs such as Passionflower, Corn silk, Rose petals, Lotus leaf, Licorice root, Jasmine, Ginseng, and Red clover flowers.
Herbal cigarettes come in various forms, such as bidis; They are called herbal because they are free from nicotine and tobacco. Hence, they are advertised as “safe” and “non-addictive” alternatives to regular cigarettes that can combat cigarette addiction without any side-effect.
Although in India, AnantVed Research Lab (AVRL) produced “Maruk” as the first company to secure a patent for non-nicotine, non-tobacco herbal cigarettes, which claims to tackle cigarette addiction.
But the bottom line is that herbal cigarettes are void of nicotine and tobacco and contain fewer harmful chemicals than regular cigarettes. That being said, even with a reduced level of chemicals, its herbal composition makes it prone to causing ailments in the body.
So, when herbal cigarettes did not look promising enough, another smoking substitute emerged: Electronic Cigarettes.
The first modern-day e-cigarette was made in 2003 by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik. By 2004, the prototype was launched under the brand name “Ruyan”. The brand gained popularity in the early 2000s in China. By the mid-2000s, the brand made its debut in the U.S., and similar brands began popping up by 2010, including Janty.
By 2007, mainstream advertising and commercials with celebrities stormed electronic media, making e-cigarettes more popular than ever. Vaping and other innovative designs and flavours flourished in the market. It almost became cool to flaunt e-cigarettes in schools and teen parties. However, by 2013, more than 1.3 million teens were aware of e-cigarettes.
According to data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, in 2011, only 1.5 per cent of students used e-cigarettes, and by 2015, the numbers snowballed to 16%. This hike in numbers raised a few eyebrows and fewer pens.
As per a survey report, most parents neglect to vape compared to conventional smoking. The majMost credit goes to up to 7700 unique flavours, making them wildly popular and making it difficult for parents and guardians to notice if their kid has smoked.
E-cigarettes are packed with nicotine and flavoured juice, which is heated in the cigarette body. Inhaling this smoke is called vaping.
The studies show that E-cigarettes are not any better than regular cigarettes. One study even claims that, at increased temperatures, the risks of cancer-causing particles in the smoke increase ten times, so, in that sense, vaping is ten times more dangerous than regular cigarettes.
Smoking is contagious and not just in context but in a literal sense. Smokers, on the one hand, influence their peers to smoke; on the other, they choke the lungs of their loved ones.
Just mere exposure to someone else’s smoke fumes can cause life-threatening ailments in the body, called exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS).
While the alternatives to smoking are many, as advertised in the market, quitting smoking is the only healthy alternative!
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