A cigarette is any roll of tobacco wrapped in paper or in any substance not containing tobacco. It is the most widely used tobacco product in the United States.
Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7, 000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic. About 70 are known to cause cancer. Learn more about the health effects of smoking cigarettes. The chemicals in cigarette smoke also effect those around you. Breathing secondhand smoke from cigarettes is harmful to both children and adults. Learn more about the health effects of secondhand smoke.
You may have chosen low-tar, mild, light, or ultra light cigarettes in the past because they seemed less harmful. However—if you took long, deep, or frequent puffs—tar exposure from light cigarettes was just as high as that from regular cigarettes.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (PDF – 340 KB) bans tobacco manufacturers from using the terms “light, ” “low, ” or “mild” in product labeling and advertisements. This provision went into effect on June 22, 2010.
All cigarettes are harmful. Learn more about the health effects of light cigarettes.
Menthol is a substance naturally found in mint plants such as peppermint and spearmint that gives a cooling sensation. It is an additive in cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, smokeless tobacco products, and tobacco rolling paper. Brands marketed as menthol cigarettes have enough menthol added to describe them as having a menthol flavor. However, brands not labeled as menthol may contain low levels of it as well.
The tobacco industry has marketed menthol cigarettes as being a "healthier" and "safer" cigarette, emphasizing its cool and refreshing taste. In reality, menthol reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke, which makes it easier to smoke—especially for children and teens.
Many people choose menthol cigarettes because they believe menthol cigarettes are safer than non-menthol cigarettes. However, no evidence exists indicating that menthol cigarettes are safer. All cigarette smoking is linked to many cancers and other diseases. No tobacco product is safe. Learn more about the health effects of menthol cigarettes.
Read a Q&A about menthol.
Cigars and Pipes
From 2000 to 2011, the use of non-cigarette smoked tobacco products increased dramatically. The largest increases were in use of pipe tobacco—used for roll-your-own cigarettes—and large cigars.
No tobacco product is safe. Cigars are large, rolled bundles of dried and cured tobacco. There are three major types of cigars sold in the United States—large cigars, cigarillos, and little cigars. While some people still use traditional pipes with a bow, pipe tobacco is often purchased for roll your own cigarettes.
Like cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco smoke contains toxic and cancer causing chemicals that are harmful to both smokers and nonsmokers. Unlike cigarettes, cigars sold in the United States are permitted to be manufactured with flavors, which can mask the harshness of tobacco and appeal particularly to youth and young adults. Learn more about the health effects of smoking cigars and pipes.
Bidis and Kreteks (Clove Cigarettes)
Bidis are small, thin, hand-rolled cigarettes primarily imported to the United States from India and other Southeast Asian countries. They are tobacco wrapped in a tendu or temburni leaf—plants native to Asia—that may be tied with colorful string at one or both ends. Bidis can be flavored—such as chocolate, cherry, or mango—or unflavored. Flavored bidis, however, are not allowed in the United States because of the ban on flavored cigarettes.
Kreteks—sometimes referred to as clove cigarettes—are imported from Indonesia. They typically contain about 60% tobacco and 40% ground cloves. Kreteks are banned in the United States because of the ban on flavored cigarettes.
No tobacco product is safe. A limited amount of research on the long-term health effects of bidis and kreteks has been conducted in the United States. However, research studies from India show that bidi smoking is associated with cancer and other health conditions. Additionally, research studies from Indonesia show that kretek smoking is associated with lung problems.
Hookahs—sometimes called water pipes—are used to smoke specially made tobacco that is available in a variety of flavors. Hookahs originated in ancient Persia and India and have been used for centuries. A typical modern hookah has a head (with holes in the bottom), a metal body, a water bowl, and a flexible hose with a mouthpiece. Tobacco smoke is drawn through water or ice in the water bowl and cooled before it is inhaled.
While hookah smokers may consider this practice less harmful than smoking cigarettes, no tobacco product is safe. Water pipe smoking delivers the addictive drug nicotine and hookah smokers may absorb higher concentrations of the toxins found in cigarette smoke. A typical 1-hour-long hookah smoking session involves inhaling 100–200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.