Different Tobacco Products, Similar Risks

What you need to know about cigars, herbal cigarettes, dissolvables and more

A variety of tobacco products exist that deliver nicotine like cigarettes but come in various forms and flavorings. These alternative products include:

  • Cigars – rolled tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco and often flavored. Includes little cigars, cigarillos and cheroots.1
  • Herbal cigarettes — cigarettes marketed as “herbal” or “all natural,” usually containing herbs, flavoring and little to no tobacco.1
  • Clove cigarettes —cigarettes made by mixing tobacco, cloves and other additives, often imported from Indonesia. Also known as kreteks.2
  • Bidis — small, thin, hand-rolled cigarettes imported from Asia. They are often flavored and secured with a colorful string at one or both ends.2
  • Dissolvables — flavored tobacco products sold as lozenges, orbs, strips, toothpick-sized sticks, breath mints or gum. These products are held in the mouth, chewed, or sucked until they dissolve and the juices are swallowed.3
  • Heat-not-burn tobacco products — products that heat tobacco, releasing nicotine and other chemicals. Devices in this category — including IQOS, TEEPS and glo — are sold overseas but are not available in the United States pending review by the Food and Drug Administration.4



What You Need to Know

Here’s what we know about these alternative tobacco products on the market today.


Alternative tobacco products typically contain nicotine, which harms developing brains and bodies.

  • Most alternative tobacco products contain some level of nicotine, which is highly addictive. Ingesting nicotine in different forms does not reduce your risk of getting hooked.7
  • Alternative products may contain the same toxic and carcinogenic compounds as cigarettes, and some products contain even more chemicals than traditional cigarettes.5


Young people who use smokeless tobacco products are more likely than tobacco-free individuals to start smoking cigarettes and become addicted to nicotine.4


Flavors make alternative tobacco products appealing to kids.

  • Cigars, little cigars and cigarillos may contain flavors that appeal to adolescents, and are marketed to kids and teens.6
  • Little cigars can be sold one at a time, making them very inexpensive and accessible to youth. In many stores, the price of tobacco initiation is less than $1 thanks to cigarillos.
  • Cigars are also available in self-service displays, making them easier for kids to steal or purchase.
  • Ingesting smokeless tobacco in any form can lead to nicotine poisoning and even death in children who mistake it for candy.3
  • Dissolvable tobacco products – often packaged and flavored like gum or candy – are an easy way for youth to experiment with tobacco products and become addicted to nicotine.3

Common Myths About Alternative Products


Cigars are less addictive and safer than cigarettes. Plus only old guys smoke them.



Cigars may actually be worse for your health than cigarettes, and they’re increasingly popular with youth and young adults. Compared to cigarettes, cigars can contain higher concentrations of nicotine and chemicals directly known to cause cancer and other diseases. One large cigar can contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes.1 While cigarette smoking has been declining in the United States, cigar sales have more than doubled since 2000, driven by an explosion of cheap, sweet small cigars. Teens and young adults are much more likely than adults 25 years and older to report smoking cigars– especially flavored varieties.6


If an herbal cigarette is labeled as containing “no tobacco,” it’s safe.



Even if an herbal cigarette is labeled as “tobacco free,” the smoke still contains tar, particulates, and carbon monoxide, which are harmful to your health.1

1. Is Any Type of Smoking Safe?, American Cancer Society, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/is-any-type-of-smoking-safe.html
2. Bidis and Kreteks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. Retrieved fromhttps://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/tobacco_industry/bidis_kreteks/index.htm
3. Health Risks of Smokeless Tobacco, American Cancer Society, 2015. Retrieved fromhttps://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/smokeless-tobacco.html
4. Heat-Not-Burn tobacco products information sheet, World Health Organization, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/tobacco/publications/prod_regulation/heat-not-burn-products-information-sheet/en/
5. Harmful Chemicals in Tobacco Products, American Cancer Society, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/carcinogens-found-in-tobacco-products.html
6. The Flavor Trap: How Tobacco Companies are Luring Kids with Candy-Flavored E-Cigarettes and Cigars, Tobacco Free Kids, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/microsites/flavortrap/
7. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/smokeless/health_effects/index.htm