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Are Roll Your Own Cigarettes A "Healthier" Smoking Choice?

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Updated July 13, 2014

Are Roll Your Own Cigarettes A

Person hand rolling a cigarette.

Juanma Aparicio/age fotostock/Getty Images

Question: Are Roll Your Own Cigarettes A "Healthier" Smoking Choice?

Do you know whether it's really any better or worse to smoke hand-rolled cigarettes? My son has taken up rolling his own cigarettes as a method of cutting back on his smoking and the harmful chemicals that are in regular filtered cigarettes. He thinks smoking hand-rolled cigarettes is a healthier choice, but I'm not so sure.

Answer: Roll your own (RYO) cigarettes appeal to young smokers for some of the same reasons your son voiced:

  • Price
    A pouch of rolling tobacco and cigarette papers is much cheaper than buying brand name cigarettes - or even the generic cigarettes marketed today.
  • A More Natural Smoking Choice
    People often think that smoking RYO cigarettes is a "healthier" smoking choice, an attitude that is encouraged by tobacco advertising as well. While RYO cigarettes don't contain the thousands of chemical compounds regular cigarettes do, they're not a safe alternative either. The lack of a filter on this kind of cigarette means the smoker is inhaling more tar than with regular cigarettes.
  • To Smoke Less
    Because smoking a hand-rolled cigarette involves rolling it first, smokers tend to light up less often than with traditional filtered cigarettes.
People who smoke hand-rolled cigarettes have an increased risk of the following: Rolling tobacco also has the potential to expose the smoker to high levels of:
  • Tar
    In solid form, tar is the brown, tacky substance that is left behind on the end of the cigarette filter. It stains a smoker's teeth and fingers brown and coats everything it touches with a brownish-yellow film. As mentioned above, hand-rolled cigarettes lack filters, which means more tar reaches delicate lung tissue.
  • Nicotine
    Nicotine is a colorless, poisonous alkaloid, derived from the tobacco plant and used as an insecticide. Nicotine is addictive and poisonous.
  • Carbon monoxide
    Carbon monoxide(CO)is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced as a result of incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels. Exposure to CO reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen. Cigarette smoke can contain high levels of CO.
It's difficult to assess the overall risk because each hand-rolled cigarette is unique. The amount of tobacco will vary along with how the cigarette is smoked.

The bottom line is this: the only "safe" cigarette is an unlit one. RYO cigarettes are no different; they endanger the health of anyone who smokes them.

As parents, we are the single most influential factor in our children's lives. Let your son know how serious the risks of smoking are for his health and remind him often. Your input may help him quit sooner than he might have otherwise.
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