Dr. Write's Sample Research Papers

Alternative Cigarettes
By Ben Brink








Manufacturers should disclose complete information about their products so consumers can make choices that best meet their criteria (safety, quality etc.). Current US government regulations do not require manufacturers to fully disclose what is in a product, or where or how products are made. Consumers are especially vulnerable to incomplete disclosure of food and agricultural products because consumers are exposed to unknown toxic ingredients in unknown proportions. Safety may be compromised. Without full disclosure, illnesses from toxic exposures are difficult to accurately diagnose, adding the possibility of greater illness from medical mistreatment.

Generally, there is a legal incentive to warn consumers about dangers. Manufacturers will sometimes disclose ingredients or list hazards to reduce liability to the company from consumers harmed by their products. However, cigarette manufacturers have no incentive to report risks; "When the United States Congress mandated the so-called 'Surgeon General's Warning Label' on cigarette packs and advertisements, it simultaneously excused the tobacco industry from any obligation to warn consumers in detail about the dangers of those products" [26, viii].

Cigarette manufacturers and manufacturers of alternatives to cigarettes are not required to fully disclose ingredients or toxic byproducts added from production processing. The recent disclosure of cigarette ingredients by whistleblowers, investigators, legal discovery etc.[16], has increased the available safety information about cigarettes. In spite of the disclosures, major cigarette manufacturers continued to deny knowledge of any health risks associated with cigarette smoking [26, x].

Consumers now have the opportunity to make informed choices about hazards associated with smoking cigarettes that they were unable to make before, because knowledge about the toxicity of the ingredients is well documented. There is sufficient research and generally available documentation about the health risks associated with smoking cigarettes. Most people know that smoking cigarettes may be dangerous, but many have not know the details of the risks [26,viii]. The health effects of using these processed tobacco products have been publicly debated for years, though the controversy officially ended when the U.S. Surgeon General released the first report in 1964 [26,viii]. Cigarettes are generally recognized as carcinogenic [22, 1-2].

Government regulations do not require manufacturers to fully disclose the ingredients in alternative cigarettes either, even when manufacturers state the ingredients are fully disclosed. Advertising regulations for truth in advertising make allowances for FDA and USDA exceptions. Some pesticides, preservatives, and processing chemicals may be hidden in alternative cigarettes. There is insufficient research or generally available documentation about the health risks associated with cigarette alternatives. The health risks associated with smoking alternative cigarettes can be deduced from ingredients in alternative cigarettes, once manufacturers disclose the information that they have yet to [26,viii]. Most people know that smoking cigarettes has dangers, but essential information is missing for a comparative assessment of the hazards of smoking alternative cigarettes. In 1996 Americans--smokers and nonsmokers alike--have only the most cursory understanding of the extent and magnitude of the health risks associated with cigarette smoking as compared with other alleged health risks in the environment"[26,viii].

Some habitual smokers and social smokers are exploring alternatives to cigarettes, such as pipe tobacco, herbal cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and all-natural tobacco products [16]. Incense burning is also becoming a popular alternative. This report considers incense burning as a form of alternative cigarette smoking because many of the main ingredients are similar to herbal cigarettes, and the emissions from burning incense may be comparable to second hand smoke from herbal cigarettes.

There is enough information about pipe and cigar smoking, domestic cigarette smoking and smokeless tobacco use for consumers to make informed decisions, but there is not enough information about "100% natural tobacco" and mixed herbal products. The tobacco industry has an "ethical responsibility to give consumers adequate information about the full range and magnitude of smoking's risks" [26,viii]. Consumers are making choices based on incomplete information.

More consumers are choosing alternative cigarettes to regular ones. Some people perceive alternatives to cigarettes to be safe, or safer than regular cigarettes. Some may assume there are less health risks associated with alternative cigarettes than regular cigarettes because there is less information about alternative cigarette health risks, or because as manufacturer advertising insinuates, "simpler is better" or "more natural is better." The reasons vary, but media focus on the dangers of smoking regular cigarettes, without consideration to dangers of smoking alternatives, is a likely factor. Promotions that distort sound argument also cloud equitable comparisons. "Could it be that the chemicals and additives cause more health problems than the natural tobacco itself? Much research needs to be done on this subject" [29]. Some natural-tobacco cigarette sellers display a list of the ingredients often added to American cigarettes, for example Alertnative Cigarettes, Inc. displays the list at

Since most cigarette alternatives are manufactured in Eastern Asia, the products are subject to fewer quality controls than their American counterparts. Pesticides banned in the U.S. are frequently used. Also, manufacturing practices that are regulated in the U.S. remain unchecked overseas. Rules may already be in place, but unless they are enforced, industry will continue practicing their own standards. As an example of governmental attitudes toward the smoking industry, consider the attitudes of the legal infrastructure. Smoking is banned in government buildings and offices of some Asian countries, such as Indonesia. Yet, the rules are ignored because enforcement lacks power-based backing [13].

Consumers have a right to make informed decisions about using the products. This report addresses the health hazards of smoking alternative cigarettes, including "100% natural tobacco" cigarettes, herbal cigarettes, and incense by reviewing expert opinions based on studies, ingredients likely to be found in alternative cigarettes, and the possible toxicity from inhaling the burning residue. After reading this report, consumers should have a clearer understanding about health risks associated with smoking cigarette alternatives.

Some people have chosen to smoke in exchange for a certain perceived level of risk.

We are reminded about risks throughout our daily lives: "Coffee is Hot", "Electrical Hazard", "Toxic--Do not inhale or drink". Warning labels are posted on household cleaners, bug sprays, cosmetic sprays and lotions, and some foods, such as saccharin, an artificial sweetener. With warning labels everywhere reminding us of the dangers, cigarette smoking still is responsible for killing about one in four people [26, xi].

It is difficult to identify a level of smoking that can be considered safe, ie without any side effects. Smoking a single cigarette can immediately effect the cardiovascular system and create other physiological effects as well. [26, ix] Although a scientific consensus is made about the health risks associated with smoking, each individual's susceptibility depends on other factors too, including genetics, environment and diet.


American cigarettes are the cigarettes made by American manufacturers. They are the common variety sold in convenience and grocery stores across the United States, and smoked by the majority of American smokers. American cigarettes offer conveniences similar to processed foods. They are consistent in quality, portable, and easy to consume effortlessly. They provide a way for the consumer to conveniently enjoy a 'quick smoke'. The efforts in using other tobacco products usually resembles a ritual or ceremony [26,vii].

In 1997, over 4 out of every 5 cigarettes were deemed to have a very high amount of nicotine, including many that were labeled 'light' or 'ultra-light'. The remaining cigarettes were deemed to have a moderate level of nicotine. American cigarettes deliver moderate to high doses of nicotine. Since nicotine is the ingredient considered responsible for the addictive properties of cigarettes, American cigarettes may be more addictive than officials previously realized [34].

Limiting smoking to just one or two cigarettes a day may not be a significant health risk to some people. However, most cigarette smokers smoke over 15 cigarettes a day. That high level of consumption definitely increases the danger contracting one or more related diseases [26, ix].

Cigarette smoking affects nearly every part and function of the human body. Chronic use can cause tumors, cancers, and toxicity on organs that do not directly touch cigarettes or cigarette smoke. "It is also a causative factor in male impotence, infertility, blindness, hearing loss and bone loss. [26, ix-x]. Cigarette smoking is a major cause of cancers of the lung, larynx, oral cavity, and esophagus. It contributes to cancers of the bladder, kidney, and pancreas. It is a major contributing factor of coronary heart disease, and chronic obstructive lung disease. Risks of spontaneous abortion, fetal death, and neonatal death increases directly with increasing amounts of smoking by pregnant mothers. These illnesses also affect healthy nonsmokers through involuntary smoking of passive smoke. Children of parents who smoke are adversely affected, too [22, 1]. Consumers are least likely to know that smoking can result in a stroke, or stroke precursers [26, 104].

Smoking can lead to insulin resistance, and an increased risk for becoming diabetic or having high colestrol [26,137-9].

Smoking while "on the [birth control] pill" is especially hazardous. It increases the chance of stroke, heart attack, blood clots in the lungs, and other heart and blood circulation problems. These health problems can be fatal [23, 133-4]. A special warning is included with the pill box.

With all these risks and warnings. It is no wonder that consumers are considering alternatives to cigarette smoking.


Cigars, Pipes

There is less lung cancer risk associated with pipe smoking than with cigarette smoking [35]; however, the risk of cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus are greater with pipe and cigar smokers. Pipe smoking is also related to cancer of the lip [22,1]. Cigar and pipe smoking are not healthy alternatives to cigarette smoking.

Also, pipe and cigar smokers are at a greater risk than nonsmokers of dying from cancer, coronary heart disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and peptic ulcer [22,1].

A study comparing concentration levels of thiocyanate in the blood suggests that current cigarette smokers inhale the greatest tobacco smoke, followed by pipe and cigar smokers that previously smoked cigarettes, and then smokers that have only smoked pipes or cigars. Nonsmokers inhale the least smoke [74].

There are health risks associated with breathing passive cigar or pipe smoke, but no comparisons have been made to cigarette smoke.

Smoke-free Tobacco (Chewing and Snuff Tobacco)

The risks associated with chewing or snuffing tobacco are fairly well known. Smokeless tobacco can cause cancer, and can lead to various noncancerous oral problems. The health risks are considered greater for smokeless tobacco use than for cigarette use. Nicotine in the tobacco can lead to nicotine dependance and addiction [22,1].

100% Natural Tobacco (Mini cigarolos, Microsmokes)

It's "Additive free!" Natural tobacco is promoted as tobacco with no additives. As stated earlier, manufacturers are not legally obligated to (and they do not) disclose additives that are added during the growth, harvest, and processing of tobacco. Furthermore, there is no incentive for tracking source crops and production chemicals. Tobacco purchased from various localities and farmers are likely to contain different strengths and kinds of insecticides, herbacides, fungicides, other kinds of pesticides and fertilizers. Pesticides banned in the U.S, are still manufactured in the U.S. and used on crops outside of the U.S. around the globe [78, 125-6].

"Robin Sommers, Santa Fe's president and CEO, says the New Age smokes are made from whole-leaf tobacco and contain no chemical additives, preservatives, reconstituted sheet tobacco, stems, flavorings, moisteners or burning agents. In contrast, popular American-blend cigarettes contain only 60% of shred cut from tobacco lamina. Although they have higher levels of nicotine and tar than conventional smokes, the all-natural cigarettes contain none of the many substances that major tobacco companies have disclosed are added to their products. Sommers stops short of claiming his American Spirit cigarettes are healthy, but disingenuously notes that no studies have been done on them...." :The premium-price cigarettes are available in regular filter, menthol filter, unfiltered and 'Pow Wow Blend'; the latter is a combination of tobacco and herbs like red willow bark and sage, as well as organic pouch tobacco...."[17]

Industry analysts estimate Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company's 1997 sales to top US$55 million. It's success has inspired other major cigarette manufacturers to market their own 'microsmokes'. "The Philip Morris Co. has introduced Dave's, while R.J. Reynolds created its Moonlight Tobacco subsidiary to market products with names like Sedona and Planet" [17].

R.J. Reynolds carefully states that its "new Winstons contain none of the additives tobacco companies usually mix in..."[16]--side stepping the issue about additives used in crop management and production. Perhaps the statement is more carefully worded because "The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association jointly filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission..." [16]--the agency responsible for upholding truth in advertising. The petition claimed Winston advertisements suggested additive-free smokes are healthier than other types of cigarette smokes [16].

Alternative Cigarettes, Inc recently started selling "alternative cigarette brands to smokers across the country. The brands give consumers a choice over commercialized brands. The five major American tobacco companies could have offered such products to smokers years ago. However, they have refused to do so.... Native Americans smoked all natural tobacco without the ills that are associated with smoking today" [29]. Alternative Cigarettes, Inc does not cite any epidemiologic studies backing their statement.

Also, Alternative Cigarettes, Inc boldly states that "Water is the only ingredient added to tobacco in the manufacture of PURE and GLORY."[30] This statement is not qualified, and has not been verified by objective, third party testing.

Some brands are offered in full flavor, lights, menthol, or filtered (regular or menthol).[29] Each of these options are offered to accommodate the 'unnatural' preferences of 1990's individual smokers. Lights refer to flavor, not nicotine content

Some consumers believe that smoke from slow combustion (coal-action) cigarettes are safer than the hotter burning American cigarettes. Nicotine levels are similar in both kinds of smoke [75]. Research theorize that nicotine acts as a potent toxin to the central nervous system.

There has been a gradual transition from natural tobacco products in the early 1950's to the infamous American cigarettes of the 1990s. Average tar yields from smoke went from a high of 38 mg in 1954 to 12 mg in 1992; Similarly, nicotine yields went from a high of 2.7 mg in 1954 to 0.95 mg in the same period. The reductions in tar and nicotine are the result of evolving American cigarette manufacturing standards, including the introduction of filter tips, different tobacco types, use of high-porous cigarette papers, use of reconstituted tobacco, open and cut ribs, and 'expanded tobacco'. Additionally, the nitrate content of air-cured (burly) tobacco about doubled in the same period. More nitrates means hotter burning tobacco and an increase in the rate of burn. The more efficient combustion of the tobacco decreases the formation of the carcinogenic PAH in smoke, but increases the formation of nitrogen oxide gases. Nitrogen oxides form carcinogenic N-nitrosamines [40].

Pesticides in Natural Tobacco

Organochlorinated pesticides DDT and DDE were banned for use on tobacco in the United States in 1970. These pesticides have persisted in the soil for years. Tests in 1995 showed DDT residue still detectable on tobacco, but within the Environmental Protection Agency's maximum limits [62]. DDT is still used in a few countries [63].

Lindane levels are low in all tobaccos [63].

Conventional curing reduces residues of the insecticide monocrotophos by at least 99% or to less than 0.84 to 0.41 ppm [64].

Pesticide residues in tobacco have followed their use in the tobacco fields [65].

Other pesticides used in the farming of tobacco are acephate (a contact and systemic insecticide[28]), maleic hydrazide (controls suckering of tobacco (28); cadmium, methamidophos and nicotine also control infestation of tobacco by insects [68].

Dimethyldithiocarbamates, a class of carbamate pesticides, are used as active fungicides [69].

The insecticide, endosulfan may be present in dried tobacco leaves and tobacco products [70].


28% of whatever was in the tobacco made it through the filter. Contaminate, parathion ranged from 10 to over 200 micrograms [42]. Filters did not significantly lower the amount of parathian in mainstream (inhaled) smoke [42].

Fibers are released from cigarette filters. The cellulose acetate fibers are likely inhaled and/or ingested. As of 1995, no tests had been completed to show the extent of toxicity or tumorigenicity of filers [56].

Cigarette filters reduce inhalation of cadmium, lead, magnesium, and iron by significant amounts, but overall, smokers still showed four times the amount of cadmium in their systems over non-smokers [65].

Nicotine-free Tobacco

Nicotine-free tobacco has been created to reduce or eliminate the addictive properties of smoking cigarettes. Nicotine affects the brain and central nervous system. It changes the mood and temperament of smokers [35]. Nicotine is addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol [35]. Like the other addictive compounds, nicotine creates an addictive physiological-memory. If an ex-smoker smokes, years after quitting, the addiction may be triggered, restarting the old habit [35]. Switching to nicotine-free tobacco could be a positive step in managing nicotine addiction.

Alternative Cigarettes, Inc has licensed an invention that eliminates nicotine in tobacco. the patent pending technology blocks the key enzyme QPRTase that evenutally makes nicotine in the plant [33]. The technology can be applied to all varieties of tobacco, removing nicotine from the plants. They also claim that taste and aroma are not affected. [33]

Still, companies have not disclosed the process used to remove the nicotine from the tobacco. Most extractions leave chemical residues. There is no information available about the new chemicals and processes indirectly added to the tobacco.

If the nicotine-free tobacco is made from genetically altered or hybrid tobacco plants, then the new plants should be tested for toxicity and carcinogenic properties. The hazardous properties of some tobacco strains differ. For example, 'black tobacco' may have a greater significance than 'blond tobacco' in an early, nonreversible affect of creating bladder cancers [44]. Genetically altering a plant could change its carcinogenicity and toxicity.

This is not the last word on the hazards of nontobacco products. Little epidemiologic evidence has been gathered to accurately assess and quantify health risks associated with nontobacco products.

We know that air is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.033% carbon dioxide, 0.9% Argon and about 0.5ppm of nitrous oxide [18]. When tobacco, or nicotine-free tobacco, is burned, toxic gases and chemicals are produced. Tobacco smoke contains toxic gases in significant concentrations, including carbon monoxide, hydrocyanic acid, nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide and acetonitrile. The smoke contains particulate carcinogenic tars, radioactive particles [25, 85-6], and gases or products of pesticide and production chemical residue reactions. ethylene thiourea (ETU) is in the smoke of tobacco containing high EBDC residues [40]. Ethylenebisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs) are a subclass of the carbamate pesticides. Over 50 carcinogens are identified in tobacco smoke, including the following classes of chemicals: polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), aromatic amines, and N-nitrosamines [40]. The tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines (TSNA) are especially toxic [40].

Without the manufacturer disclosing the new chemicals added to tobacco as residue from processing nicotine-free tobacco, one can only speculate at the new chemistry of nicotine-free tobacco smoke.

Flavored Tobacco Cigarettes (Menthol, Clove)


Menthol is a flavoring agent. It can be a natural extract from peppermint or other mint oils, but it is more often artificially made from hydrogenating thymol. Thymol comes from the essential oils of lavender, origanum and other oils. It has a pleasant aromatic odor. Thymol is known to cause allergic reactions, and so is omitted from hypoallergenic cosmetics [79].

Menthol cigarettes are tobacco cigarettes with (likely artificial) menthol flavoring. They account for about one third of all cigarettes sold in the U.S.

Mentholated tobacco products are more dangerous than nonmentholated tobacco products. There is usually enough menthol in the tobacco product to create a cool, numbing sensation in the throat when the smoke is inhaled. Smokers may inhale more deeply or longer than smokers of non-menthol cigarettes [35]. Also, carcinogens, such as benzo[a]pyrenes, are produced by menthol combustion. These carcinogens increase menthol smokers' risk of lung cancer [57].

Clove cigarettes

Clove cigarettes are a major industry in Indonesia, where they are commonly called "Kreteks". Most Indonesians smoke them. The smoke is considered sweet, and the clove cigarettes last longer than American cigarettes. There are few restrictions on clove cigarette use. Children smoke them. Cigarettes are advertised on billboards, radio, TV, and in newspapers and magazines. [13]

Clove cigarettes cost between $3.50 and $4.25 for a pack of 20 [11]. Sales in the United States have increased from 12 million in calendar year 1980 to 150 million in fiscal year 1984. [2] Most clove cigarettes use a denser packed tobacco and do not contain oxidizers (such as nitrates and chlorates). So, clove cigarettes tend to burn slower, and can stop burning when not actively being smoked. Smoking clove cigarettes can take about twice the time it takes to smoke American cigarettes [11].

Similar to menthol cigarettes, clove cigarettes are tobacco cigarettes with (likely artificial) clove flavoring. The clove flavoring could be cloves, clove oils or clove extracts, but often is artificial clove flavoring and fragrance [37].

Clove oil contains about 80% to 95% eugenol [8], which delivers the familiar clove smell and taste [79, 130].

It is a spice that is found in highest concentrations in oils of clove leaves, buds and cinnamon leaves [8]. It is also found in significant quantity in nutmeg, pimento, calamus, cananga, camphor, and sassafras. Roses, carnations, hyacinths, and violets also contain some eugenol [8].

Eugenol is considered highly toxic, and like menthol, is a potential allergen [79, 179]. It has been used as an insecticide and fungicide [8]. "Eugenol dissolves vinyl" [67].

A number of cases of inflamed lungs have been reported from inhaling clove cigarette smoke [37].

Eugenol and Isoeugenol are contained in Phenol compounds. [10.] Iso-eugenol is a propenyl ether [4].

In 1962, the tobacco industry recognized the dangers of phenol compounds in cigarettes, but did not disclose the hazards to the public [66].

"Some researchers ahve suggested that eugenol.. anesthetizes the backs of smokers' throats and tracheas, permitting deeper inhalation and possibly encouraging smoking in persons who might otherwise be dissuaded by the harshness of regular cigarettes."[2]

"Clove cigarettes contain about 60%-70% tobacco and 30%-40% cloves. Exposure to tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide is higher from clove cigarettes than from regular American cigarettes. In smoking machine tests, clove cigarettes averaged over twice as much tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide delivery as moderate tar-containing American cigarettes. [note: machines will not breath deeper due to Eugenol effect]. Also, in the United States, clove cigarette smoke is inhaled deeply and retained in the lungs. [Maybe it is not inhaled so much in Indonesian smokers?]. [2]

Clove cigarettes deliver about twice the amount of tars, nicotine, and carbon monoxide found in American cigarettes [12].

Clove cigarettes are tobacco products and have the same potential for causing illnesses associated with smoking tobacco.[12] In addition, they can cause lung injury, bronchospasm and other respiratory diseases, hemoptysis, and pulmonary aspiration.[12].

Clove cigarettes do not have any health benefits [12].

Smoking kreteks can cause severe pulmonary toxicity.[73].

Many of the studies about kreteks lack the depth of testing and number of participants needed to accurately quantify risks. [73].

"..composed of 60% tobacco and 40% ground cloves, clove oil and other additives"..[1]

The smoke of burning clove oil may cause cancer [1].

Clove cigarettes may create serious health problems for some smokers who only smoke them for a short time. Some symptoms include coughing up blood, nosebleeds, severe sore throats and frequent upper respiratory infections [1].

Other symptoms reported with smoking clove cigarettes include "pulmonary edema, bronchospasm, and hemoptysis. Milder symptoms reported with clove cigarette use included nausea and vomiting, angina, increased incidence of respiratory tract infections, exacerbations of chronic bronchitis, increased incidence and severity of asthma attacks, dyspnea, chronic cough, and epistaxis. Blood-streaked sputum and mild hemoptysis have been reported with particular frequency. " [2]

"In April 1985, New Mexico outlawed sales of clove cigarettes; Michigan has introduced legislation to ban clove cigarettes." [2].

The risk of lung problems becomes greater the more smoke is inhaled, and the deeper the inhalation. Smoking clove cigarettes that are equivalent to 116 American cigarettes a day (about 30 to 50) increases health risks to the lung by 20 times [45].

The FDA states that eugenol and other FDA approved additives found in some clove cigarettes, such as cocoa, licorice and carmel, are presumed safe to smoke because they can be safe to eat in limited quantity. Yet, the FDA has not reviewed any research on the safety of these ingredients when burned [58]. In addition, occupational chemical hazard sheets do not recognize or suspect eugenol is carcinogenic [9].

Unfiltered clove cigarettes may provide three times the tar one gets from smoking regular American cigarettes [37].

Besides eugenol, clove and clove cigarette smoke contain eugenol acetate, beta-caryophylene, and alpha-humulene [59]. Eugenol is the most toxic ingredient.

Studies reported congestion of the lung with interstitial hemorrhages, acute emphysema, and acute pulmonary edema among the clove cigarette smokers [59].

Eugenol may be toxic to the immune system. Dr. Tee L. Guidotti, professor of occupational medicine at the University of Alberta believes that in addition to an acute toxic reaction, burned eugenol, or some of its byproducts, may immobilize infection-fighting cells, thereby allowing infections to spread [58].

"..eugenol causes lung edema in isolated lungs through oxidant-mediated mechanisms in the absence of circulating formed blood elements. Eugenol may be a valuable compound in the laboratory investigation of edemogenic disorders."[60]

Eugenol may be converted to a chemically reactive intermediate compound (such as quinone methide), and potentially adversely affect vital polymorphonuclear leukocyte functions.[61]

Clove cigarettes contain the phenylpropenes, safrole, eugenol (yes, it is a phenylpropene also), and methyleugenol. Safrole and eugenol [7] are known carcinogens in animals. All three of these phenylpropenese may be carcinogenic to humans, too [71].

"...The amine addition to the methyleugenol world produces 3,4-dimethoxyamphetamine, or 3,4-DMA..."[77] "Anyway, 3,4-DMA [3,4-Dimethoxyamphetamine] is one of the ten essential amphetamines that can, in theory, arise from the ten essential oils of the spice and herb trade. In this case, the origins are methyl eugenol and methyl isoeugenol." .."The 3,4 orientation has always been the most appealing to the life scientists as this is the positional substitution pattern found in the natural neuro-chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine." "...A few non-military studies have indicated that 3,4DMA is orally active at 160 milligrams, and so probably its potency by this more conventional route would fall midway between that of mescaline and of MDA."[38]

Nevada [15], New Mexico [15], and Utah [14] ban the import and sale of clove cigarettes. Florida legislators also banned clove cigarettes [15]. Other states, such as Missouri and Maryland have considered similar bans.[15]


There are few studies about smoking nontobacco products. It is not ethical for researchers to subject people to various smokes and wait to see what happens. And, there are too few smokers of nontobacco products for scientists to be able to make objective associations based on epidemiologic or population-based studies.[26,2-3]

However, some observations have been fairly consistent. For example, smokers of non-tobacco cigarettes have more respiratory symptoms than smokers of regular cigarettes.[72]

Cigarette smoke contains various chemicals and toxins that affect the air passages and lungs. When smoke is inhaled, the body protects itself by coughing. The early morning cough experienced by smokers is based in a different physiological process. Normally, cilia (tiny hairlike formations lining the airways) sweep material out of the lungs. Smoke decreases the sweeping action, so some of the toxins from smoke remain in the lungs. As a smoker sleeps, some cilia recover and continue sweeping material out. The smoker coughs soon after waking, because the lungs are trying to clear the build-up of toxins previously deposited in the lungs. Extended exposure to smoke destroys the cilia's functioning. Once cilia stop functioning, the smoker's lungs become extra susceptible to bacteria, viruses, and toxins in the air [35].

100% Herbal-mixed Cigarettes

Alternative Cigarettes, Inc. sells Herbal Gold brand, "100% nicotine free herbal cigarettes!" With slogans like "No Nicotine" and "Improved Taste and Aroma". Alternative Cigarettes, Inc states that "Herbal Gold does not contain any nicotine or tobacco. It is made from herbs which include Althaea, jasmine, Ginseng and Red Clover." [31]. They also include "Khatmi, and Yerba Santa" [31].

American Cigarettes, Inc. claims "These herbs have very good reputations with the health food industry and herbalists. Their histories and other information can be found in numerous herbal and health books." Apparently, they are not referring to Varro E. Tyler, Ph.D, ScD a recognized authority on plant drugs (herbs) and their uses, and author of numerous scientific and educational publications [32, About]. He writes:

"Particularly insidious is the myth perpetrated by these promoters that there is something almost magical about herbal drugs which prevents them-in their natural state- from inflicting harm on living organisms. Think how completely false this argument is! Even those unfamiliar with the execution of Socrates by poison hemlock more than two thousand years ago are probably not inclined to collect and eat wild mushrooms indiscriminately."[32, 2] The United States consumer advocacy group refer to his publications, among others.

Since each herbal brand likely contains a different blend of herbs (and other ingredients), it would take volumes of studies, and vast amounts of scientific resources, funds, time, and expertise to quantify the risks associated with these products. As consumers, one can guess at the ingredients and draw reasonable conclusions based in common sense.

"Herbal Gold looks and smokes just like tobacco cigarettes. Herbal Gold is taking the country by storm since smokers can now enjoy a great tasting cigarette without any nicotine... Regular and menthol are available." [31] We know that menthol increases one's capacity to inhale smoke more deeply.. The cigarettes include althaea, jasmine, ginseng, red clover, khatmi, and yerba santa [31]. Red clover contains eugenol, suggesting that these cigarettes are mentholated clove cigarettes. There are no studies available about the toxicity of inhaling smoke from burning these herbs. Still, insecticides, fungicides, and other pesticides are used on herb crops and are likely found in these herbs as well. The smoke is likely to contain products of burning pesticides, many are carcinogenic or toxic.

"The vast majority of smokers and non-smokers alike say that the smoke from Herbal Gold is a lot less irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat than tobacco smoke." [31] This statement from American Cigarettes, Inc. is likely based on the anesthetic activity of eugenol in the cigarettes.

"The herbs in our cigarettes are natural and are not cured or processed like tobacco" [31]. Natural has no standardized meaning in this instance. Weeds and poisonous plants are natural, too. American Cigarettes, Inc. also promotes the cigarette brands Herba Ghani, Organja, and Inda-Kind:

"Herba Ghani, [ a] High potency smoking herb consisting of a unique blend of imported organics cured with rare essential oils and concentrated herbal extracts. ...Herba Ghani is tobacco free, 100% natural and contains no artificial ingredients. Contents: motherwort, jaborandi, lovelia, artemesia, wild dagga, nepeta mint and California poppy. ($15 for 0.5 oz package)" [36]. This cigarette contains mind altering herbs. The hallucinogens are combined with toxic phenols from "rare" essential oils. Concentrated herbal extracts often include ethers of alcohols or glycols. This kicker is certain to create toxic chemistry when lit.

"Organja [is ] a unqiue blend of fluffy green herbs, buds and flowering tops. blended with high quality organics... 100% natural and contains no artificial ingredients..($17 for 1 oz package)" [36]. The company does not disclose any of the ingredients in this brand. What one does not know can hurt. Companies must disclose the ingredients of consumptive products, including cigarettes.

"Inda-Kind, The ultimate alternative smoking mix. Contains only natural potent botanical ingredients. 100% tobacco free and organic blend of powerful psychotropic herbs include mugwort, lettuce opium, wild dagga, south american damiana, indian hemp, lupulin hops resins, lobelia mint. Cured and activated using a secret process ($20 for 1.5 oz)" [36]. The company does not mince words with this brand. It contains "psychotropic herbs" that are "activated using a secret process".

"Many edible substances become toxic and potentially harmful when burned" [1]. Activated products are sometimes referred to as free-radicals. Burning essential oils in the presence of preservatives, like nitrates, can result in the nitrosating of essential oils. The product of nitrosating bulk essential oil will likely include contaminated amphetamines, some like PMA in large enough concentrations have been implicated in deaths in Canada and Australia. [4]

Eugenol is an essential oil found in clove buds, clove leaves, cinnamon leaves, pimento, calamus, cananga, camphor, sassafras, and nutmeg. Roses, carnations, hyacinths and violets contain eugenol, too. Eugenol has insecticidal and fungicidal properties [8].

Thymol comes from the essential oil of lavender, origanum oil and numerous other volatile oils. It has a pleasant odor, and is used to spice flavorings for drinks, candy, gums, lotions, soaps, and dental products. Ethers of thymol reduce hypermotor activity, prolong sleeping time, lower body temperature, and alter the effects fo adrenaline and strychnine in rats [6]. Ethers of thymol are potentially serious central nervous system depressants.

Nutmeg contains a spectrum of allylbenzenes that are very similar to psychedelic amphetamines--they all have the allylbenzenes. Dr. Weil states that nutmeg contains 4% myristicin, 0.6% safrole, and 0.2% eugenol [19]. Nutmeg also contains elemicin and methyleugenol [20]. The Merck Index states that Nutmeg (Myristica) contains 25-35% fixed oil and 5 - 15% volatile oils. The myristicin and elemicin (greater than 25% of the content) are "supposedly responsible for the purported hallucinogenic properties of nutmeg seed" [28,822].

Safrole, the main ingredient in sassafras oil, and an ingredient of nutmeg, is banned as a flavoring agent because of its carcinogenicity [32, 3].

Myristicn is a naturally occurring methylenedioxyphenyl found in nutmeg[27] and parsley [32, 235-6]. It is a uterine stimulant, which explains the use of parsley volatile oil as an emmenagogue and the misuse of it as an abortifacient [32, 236]. Myristicin is partially responsible for nutmeg's toxicity. "..Five to 15 grams can cause symptoms similar to atropine poisoning: flushing of skin, tachycardia, absence of salivation, and excitation of the central nervous system. Euphoria and hallucinations have given rise to abuse of this material" [27,4] Myristicin is not entirely responsible for the psychoactivity of nutmeg [27].

Some herbal experimenters are delving into new psychedelic drugs. One proposes "a most appealing extension of these materials would be the amphetamine derivatives, things with a 3-methoxy group, and.. equally interesting would be the 4-hydroxy analogue. This would be an easily made compound from vanillin.. and it would be directly related to the essential oils, eugenol and isoeugenol. This amphetamine compound has already been synthesized, but it is still unexplored in man" [5]. Clearly, smoking volatile oils and ethers of essential oils could result in unmapped neurologic and toxic experiences.


Incense creates passive smoke. Like herbal cigarettes, the ingredients in incense and incense smoke are not fully disclosed. The health hazards are unknown. As consumers, we can deduce some of the likely health risks associated with inhaling incense smoke.

NO2 levels in humans increased by 10% when they inhaled incense smoke at home [39]. In cases where people reported respiratory symptoms such as a chronic cough or allergic rhinitis, NO2 levels averaged 19% [39]. The carcinogen N-nitrosamine is contained in incense and incense smoke [50]. Other major carcinogens are also present in incense smoke [51]. Incense smoke also contains carbon monoxide, isoprene and benzene [52]. The smoke from burning incense is similar in toxicity and carcinogenicity to cigarette smoke" [52]. Nitroarenes may play a role in incense smoke mutagenicity [46]. Preliminary tests suggest that incense smoke may have a higher risk than cigarette smoke for creating some cancers, and a lower risk than cigarette smoke for creating other cancers [46].

Documented immediate effects include cases of contact dermatitis [48], eye irritation, headaches, nausea, dizziness [35], and pigmented contact dermatitis [49]. In an extreme case, the smoke from hemlock tainted incense killed two individuals during a religious ceremony [43].

Long term effects include the possible risk of developing brain tumors [50] and leukemia [46] in children of mothers who inhaled incense when they were pregnant [50]. Additionally, there is an increase risk of leukemia for children if their parents burn incense in the home. The risk increases with frequency of use [54]. Other nervous system tumors may also be associated with incense burning [50]. Incense affects cyclo-oxygenase-2 activity and may aggravate rheumatological symptoms [53].

"...the greater the initial particulate mass concentration, the more rapid the rate of decay of the smoke. In relation to the quantity of particulate generated, cigarette smoke was found to produce proportionally larger quantities of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides than did incense. Due to the fact that burning incense was found to generate large quantiities of particulate.., it is likely, in cases in which incense is habitually burned in indoor settings, that such a practice would produce substantial airborne particulate concentrations."[47]

About 80% of tobacco smoke is released as passive smoke. Passive smoke may be the most dangerous, because the smoke particle sizes are smaller and so reach deeper into the lungs--and more toxins are absorbed. There is a long list of chemicals that are more concentrated in passive smoke, such as from incense, than smoke actively inhaled by smokers. Some of these chemicals are 3-vinylpyridine, N-nitrosodimethylamine, N-nitrosodiethylamine, nicotine, 2-naphthylamine, 4-aminobiphenyl and polonium-210. Passive smoke particles are generally so small that the nose is unable to filter them out of the inhaling air. Passive smoke penetrates deeper into the lung than smoke that smokers inhale [26,70-1].

If a nonsmoker marries a smoker, the nonsmoker's risk of lung cancer increases by 30%. The children of smokers are more likely to suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis [35], cognitive and behavioral difficulties [26, 88] and do not compete as well in school [26,88].

One third of smokers are annoyed by the smell of other's smoke. One half or more of nonsmokers are annoyed by the smell of smoke [22, 8].

Smoke does not have to be inhaled to cause harm. When toxic substances touch living tissue, harm is done. Pipe and cigar smokers are at an increased risk for lip, mouth, and tongue cancers even though smoke may not be directly inhaled. The indirect inhalation of smoke (passive smoke) increases one's risk for lung cancer [35].

Other Alternatives

Smoking marijuana or cocaine has carcinogenicity comparable to smoking tobacco. Smoking a combination of any two of marijuana, cocaine, and tobacco has an even greater cancer causing risk [80].

Surveys show that a significant number of smokers are not aware that quitting smoking can bring substantial health benefits at any age. It is true that once a 'threshold' of toxins have been absorbed, there are indications that irreversible increases in risk exist for some of the possible associated diseases, but quitting can stop the risk from accumulating further.[26,xii]

We accelerate the symptoms of aging by subjecting ourselves to free-radicals. Free-radicals are activated, toxic and potentially harmful products, usually found in smoke, environmental pollutants, and cellular damage caused by radiation and sunlight. Some free-radicals are also formed from the everyday metabolism and functioning of the body. Increasing free-radical exposure will cause death soon than later [24,12].

Tobacco manufacturers continue to argue the uncertainty between the association of disease and smoking. There will always be a degree of uncertainty in studies. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the evidence points to no clear health benefits from inhaling smoke and reasonable alternative explanations for the data have been ruled out [26,xvii].

No smoke has been proven to be entirely healthy. This writer is considering experimenting with gaseous, cooled carbon-dioxide (sublimed from dry ice). Dry ice may prove to be one of the healthier choices for bubbly, foggy, and nonaromatic entertainment at social occasions.


These citations are in draft form, have not been properly standardized, and are not in order.

1. Kristen Vlaun, Tobacco and Lung Disease Program Manager, American Lung Association of Washington (kvlaun@alaw.org), email dated 5 aug 1998,su: Clove cigarettes

2. "Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Illnesses Possibly Associated with Smoking Clove Cigarettes", MMWR, CDC, May 31, 1985 Vol 34,No 21;pp297-9

3. http://www.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco/docs/html/1133.01/1133.01.4.html pp4-6.

4. http://www.hyperreal.org/durgs/synthesis/mdma.synth.pseudonitrosite (1 Feb 1997) [Rerference for further research only. Not to be used directly--look for confirmations]

5. http://www.hyperreal.org/drugs/pihkal/pihkal123.html (Reference only)

6. FDA, Dental Products Panel Advisory Committee, OTC Plaque Products Subcommittee acdental.pdf (pg ref00-000114)

7. NIH, NICHS.. TR-223 Carcinogenesis Studies of Eugenol in F344/N Rats and B6C3F Mice (Feed studies). http://ntp-server.nichs.nigh.gov/htdocs/LT-studies/tr223.html

8. Truett MD, Trey. contact Dermatitis Home Page: Index of Allergens, "Eugenol".

9. EDF.ORG. National Risk Characterization Data: Eugenol (97-53-0). http://www.scorecard.org/...

10. EPA. Enivrofacts Master Chemical Integrator: Eugenol.

11. Clove Connoisseur. Clove Information:Questions and Answers. http://magnaweb.com/cloves/info.htm

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13. Budi Rahardjo. Smoking in Indonesia. http://www3.elga.net.id/Bandung/1000/indoway/smoking.html

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19. As a footnote: Ray Dueland raydu@ico.isc.com in alt.drugs newsgroup message dated 11 Oct 88 (http://www.hyperreal.org/drugs/faqs/FAQ-Ecstasy), cites information from Weil, Andrew (1965). Nutmeg as a Narcotic. 19(3), 194-217. Other references to Weils comments about nutmeg should be added to this reference. {21.

20. Refered to in quote from 19, these two ingredients are "stated as being previously included with the myristicin portion incorrectly.[19]. Shulgin, alexander T. (1964). Composition of the myristicin fraction from oil of nutmeg. Nature, 197:4865, p379.

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