Does Herbal Really Equal Healthy?

There's Nothing New Under The Sun

It is a well-known fact that if something can be rolled up and smoked, then someone somewhere has done it. Kids on the farm hid in the barn and lit up corn silk cigarettes, while kids in the tropics rolled banana leaves and did the same thing. Mind you, this kind of thing has never been limited to kids. Anyone desperate for a smoke has improvised with whatever was available.

Most experimental cigarettes don't make it to the "most popular" list, but there have been a few non-tobacco substances that have caught on. Today, with all of the press and information advising against cigarette smoking, "alternative" cigarettes have become a booming business. The variety includes herbal mixtures, combinations of tobacco and cloves, dried tendu leaves (a plant found in India and Southeast Asia), and other exotic ingredients.

Alternative Music, Alternative Style, Alternative Cigarettes - Why Not?

Sold in convenience stores and over the internet, alternative cigarettes are marketed as a healthy alternative to real cigarettes. They are easy to find and buy, so kids who aren't old enough to buy tobacco can access them. They look exotic and come in great flavors like cherry and vanilla. One company uses a slogan that says, "Gotta smoke? Smoke smart."

The problem is that alternative cigarettes are not smart, nor are they safe. In fact, some of them are much more toxic and dangerous than traditional cigarettes. The health industry and most informed people know there is no such thing as a safe cigarette. Being free of or having reduced additives or nicotine does not mean an "herbal" cigarette is better for you.

Special Imports From India And Southeast Asia

Several so-called herbal cigarettes are popular with the younger crowd. Bidis, small, hand-rolled cigarettes made with dark tobacco wrapped tightly in a tied tendu leaf are imports from India and Southeast Asia. They look like marijuana joints and have as many flavors as there are colors. They are very inexpensive, costing about $2.00 for 20, probably because little kids in sweatshops roll them. It's obvious who the target market is for these cigarettes. The fact is that these tasty numbers contain about two to three times more tar and nicotine than regular cigarettes and since they don't stay lit, the smoker has to inhale very deeply to keep the cigarette going. That means toxins and cancer-causing compounds in the smoke get into the deep tissue of the lung. If that's not enough to put you off, consider the fact that the tobacco used for bidis is usually stored in rat-infested warehouses and the tobacco isn't cleaned. Add a little rodent feces for taste?

Herbs and Cloves - Great For Cooking, Bad For Smoking

Herbal cigarettes, made up of such wonderful herbs as passionflower, jasmine, ginseng and marshmallow, are sold with the promise that they are tobacco and nicotine free. However, these herbs, while healthy and helpful in their natural or dried state, become toxic and dangerous once lit. They produce the same tars and carbon monoxide found in cigarette smoke and are every bit as dangerous.

Finally, clove cigarettes, known as kreteks, contain about 60 percent tobacco and 40 percent cloves. These treats offer twice as much nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide as regular cigarettes. Inhaled clove oil may raise the risk of pneumonia, bronchitis and many different lung infections. They have been known to cause pulmonary edema, lung injury, and comas.

So, what's so great about herbal cigarettes?