Tobacco Myths vs Facts

Tobacco Myths vs Facts


Tobacco is not a newly-discovered substance and the harmful effects associated with tobacco products are not news to most. While many are aware of the likely harmful side effects, there are still several misconceptions that skew the real dangers of using tobacco. Check out some of the myths and get the facts about tobacco.

MYTH: Tobacco is a plant, therefore it’s not bad for you.

FACT: Natural does not mean healthy. Tobacco is a leafy, green plant that can be found growing around the world. While there are some medicinal benefits associated with the plant, there are many poisonous chemicals found in tobacco smoke, including cyanide, carbon monoxide and ammonia.[1] Today, there are 250 known harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke – 69 of which have been linked to cancer.[2]

MYTH: The bad part of cigarettes is nicotine, tobacco is not harmful.

FACT: Not quite true – both tobacco and nicotine are harmful. Tobacco smoke contains hundreds of chemicals, one of which is nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance and is the chemical that makes it hard for people to quit smoking.[3] The dangers of tobacco are due to the high amount of harmful chemicals that mix together and form a sticky tar. This tar is inhaled directly into the lungs and is the beginning of a long list of health problems.

MYTH: You can smoke occasionally without becoming addicted or sick.

FACT: Not true. The harmful effects of cigarettes begin immediately after inhaling tobacco smoke and being an “occasional” smoker is a slippery slope towards addiction.[2] The only way to truly avoid the risk of addiction and smoking-related illnesses is to never start smoking in the first place.

MYTH: E-cigarettes only produce water vapor.

FACT: Nope. The liquid in e-cigarettes contains nicotine, water, flavoring and usually a solvent like propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin. Researchers have found both nicotine and toxins, including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetic acid, present in the aerosol of the vapor.[4]

MYTH: E-cigarettes are safe.

FACT: That’s just not the case. It’s important to remember that even though e-cigarettes are marketed as safe, they (both the devices and the liquids) are unregulated. By using e-cigarettes, you risk exposing your lungs to a variety of chemicals, both from the liquid and from the heating or vaporizing process. Studies have shown the vapor from some e-cigarette products contained known carcinogens and toxic chemicals. There’s also the risk of inhaling harmful metal nanoparticles from the device, like nickel and chromium.[5]

MYTH: Once you are addicted to tobacco, the damage is already done.

FACT: False! While damage has been done, the benefits of quitting can be seen almost immediately. After 20 minutes, your heart rate drops to a normal level and within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to a normal level. Several months after quitting, the lungs begin to function better and the risks of developing respiratory illness and cancer decreases.[6] While there is some damage done, recovery is possible.

MYTH: Not that many people die from smoking tobacco.

FACT: Incorrect. A lot of people die from smoking-related causes. In fact, 480,000 deaths per year in the United States are linked to tobacco use, with more than 41,000 deaths as a result of secondhand tobacco smoke.[7] Idaho alone sees 1,800 adults die every year from smoking.[8] In addition, smokers die about 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death. Nearly 19 percent of Idaho students currently use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes.[9] Tobacco 21 Idaho is working to reduce and prevent access of tobacco products to high school students and other young people who risk becoming addicted and experimenting with other tobacco and nicotine products. To stay informed of news and updates happening with Tobacco 21 Idaho and to learn how you can take action in the near future, join our newsletter.



[1] “Harmful Chemicals in Tobacco Products.” American Cancer Society. Retrieved December 8, 2017.

[2] “Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting.” National Cancer Institute. Retrieved December 8, 2017.

[3] “Tobacco and Nicotine.” Department of Health and Human Services, BeTobaccoFree.gov. Retrieved December 8, 2017.

[4] Rachel Grana, Neal Benowitz and Stanton A. Glantz. “E-Cigarettes: A Scientific Review.” Circulation. 2014;129:1972-1986, originally published May 12, 2014.

[5] “Electronic Cigarettes.” National Institute of Drug Abuse. Retrieved December 14, 2017.

[6] ”Benefits of Quitting.” American Lung Association. Retrieved December 8, 2017.

[7] ”Smoking & Tobacco Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 8, 2017.

[8] ”The Toll of Tobacco in Idaho.” Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. November 17, 2017.

[9] ”2017 Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey.” Idaho State Department of Education.