Despite the numerous health warnings and campaigns against smoking, the habit continues to be a significant health concern globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cigarettes kill more than 8 million people annually, with over 7 million of those deaths being a result of direct tobacco use, and around 1.2 million resulting from non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
In Pakistan, smoking has become an increasingly widespread issue, with nearly 20.3% of the population being smokers. Smoking-related illnesses, such as lung cancer and heart disease, are also on the rise, putting a significant burden on the healthcare system.
This is where science comes into play with several alternatives to cigarettes that are also scientifically substantiated. The world is shifting towards less harmful alternatives, such as vapes, nicotine pouches, snus, e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, for those who wish to continue smoking with fewer risks than traditional cigarettes that burn tobacco. These products, though not risk free, present a reduced level of risk than traditional cigarettes. For example, heated tobacco products heat the tobacco, releasing vapor instead of smoke, which reduces the number of toxins released into the air and disintegrates faster than tobacco smoke. Nicotine pouches remove the element of tar completely from a nicotine user’s experience. While these alternatives are not completely risk-free, several countries that have regulated them have seen a significant reduction in their number of smokers.
It is essential to note that burning tobacco, as well as other materials, has severe health implications, and stopping altogether is the best course of action. However, for those who choose to consume tobacco by burning it, switching to less harmful alternatives may be a better option.