A Healthier Cigarette?


When I heard there are organically grown tobaccos, I wondered if there is anything good about that. I don’t smoke, but I am a proponent of organically grown crops for multiple reasons: because they do not use human-made chemicals such as synthetic pesticides, they are better for me and my children; they also pose fewer health risks to workers who grow and handle them since workers would not be exposed to many of the substances that are used on conventional foods; and they are better for our environment since they do not add more chemicals to the soil, water and air.

First let’s consider the environmental impact. Anything being grown and processed with fewer chemicals is a step up in my book. Since they do not use added chemicals, they are not fueling the demand for those chemicals, nor are they dumping them into the environment. Also, workers would be exposed to fewer harmful substances.

Next consider the impact on the smoker. Wikipedia lists 599 substances that are ADDED to cigarettes in the major brands in the U.S. These are substances not naturally occurring in tobacco by itself. So, tobacco that is grown and processed naturally would conceivably be somewhat less harmful in terms of having hundreds of fewer substances that are being burned and inhaled.

However, tobacco without additives still contains naturally occurring substances, which when burned still result in thousands of harmful chemicals that smokers inhale. In addition, strains of tobacco have been bred with double the amount of the addiction-causing nicotine, compared to the native plant. I don’t know if the organically grown tobacco is this high-nicotine kind or not. Tobacco without additives is still addictive, because it still contains nicotine and other harmful substances.

At least one popular “natural” and organic brand is owned by a large tobacco corporation, whose primary goal and reason for existence is STILL to sell tobacco. Buying natural and organically produced tobacco may be supporting better farming practices, but it is also still supporting big tobacco.

Some smokers who use natural and organic tobacco say that they smoke fewer cigarettes because they get longer effects and reduced cravings. If that’s the case, the argument could be made that it is a small step in the right direction, for less exposure of the lungs to smoke. But in the end, smoking is still smoking, and quitting is still quitting. Tobacco use is still the most preventable cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Score: People, 2; Tobacco, 98.

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