SUU Health and Wellness Program

Understanding Tobacco


What are the different types of tobacco products?

Cigarettes are rolls of tobacco wrapped in paper or any other non-tobacco product. Natural cigarettes are made without chemical additives or flavorings, using full tobacco leaves rather than reconstituted sheet or scrap tobacco. If your eco-friendly minded, than natural cigarettes is one way to lessen your carbon footprint. However, natural cigarettes still pose major health risks.

Nicotine is a substance that is found naturally in tobacco. Other chemicals identified in cigarettes may come from fertilizers or insecticides used in the growing process or from contaminants in air, soil, or water. Some chemicals are added when tobacco is cured; others are added in the manufacturing process.

Hundreds of ingredients are used in manufacturing cigarettes to make them more user-friendly and appealing. Some additives make cigarettes milder and easier to inhale, while others improve taste, prolong burning, or even increase a cigarette’s shelf life. More than 7,000 chemicals has been identified in tobacco smoke, of which 70 are known carcinogens (cancer causing).

  • Smokeless tobacco, or "spit tobacco," refers to two types: chewing tobacco and snuff, better known as "dip." Chewing tobacco comes in three forms: loose leaf, plug and twist. Snuff is finely ground tobacco that can be dry, moist or in sachets (pouches). Smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, which is absorbed through the gums and lining of the mouth. The nicotine dose in smokeless tobacco is at least double that of the amount in cigarettes, making smokeless tobacco more addictive than smoking cigarettes.
  • Cigars are rolls of cut tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco. Cigars differ from cigarettes in size and type of tobacco use. Large cigars can average 7 inches in length, contain 5-17 grams of tobacco, 100-200 milligrams of nicotine, and can take up to 2 hours to smoke. In contrast, the average cigarette contains about 1 gram of tobacco and 8.4 milligrams of nicotine and takes about 10 minutes to smoke.

A common misperception of cigar smoking is that they are less harmful than cigarettes because most smokers only indulge in the occasional use. However, because of their size, smoking a cigar is like smoking 3-8 cigarettes.

Moreover, unlike cigarettes, a cigar does not have a filter to reduce tar and nicotine, and cigar smoke contains many harmful toxic and carcinogenic compounds. Many people who smoke cigars do not inhale directly, however, even without inhaling smoke still enters the mouth, throat and lungs.

How can I quit using tobacco?

There are several resources available on and off-campus to assist with quitting your use of tobacco.

SUU Resources

  • Schedule an Appointment with Nikki Gwin, SUU Wellness Specialist to discuss your health and quitting.
  • Free Nicorette Gum available in ST 201B.

Smoking Cessation Classes

Classes begin every other month starting in January, dependent upon size of class enrollment. Classes are offered to individuals who are looking to quit smoking. There are six classes that provide individuals with the necessary steps to quit. Class size is limited so contact us soon to seize the opportunity.


For more information about this service:
E-mail: [email protected]

Online Resources

  • Freedom from Smoking; American Lung Association - 1.800.LUNGUSA (111-4872)
    Free on-line program with focus on withdrawal symptoms, weight control, stress management, assertiveness and relaxation techniques. Group sessions for 10 or more people; fees may apply.

Additional Resources

  • National Cancer Institute (NCI) at 1.800.4.CANCER (422-6237)
  • American Cancer Society (ACS) at 1.800.ACS.2345 (227-2345)

Keep in mind that a significant factor in a person's success is their readiness to quit. If you feel ready, you can seek support from one of the programs listed here, or make a go of it yourself.

What are Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT)?

There are a variety of products that may help you to quit if you are addicted to nicotine. Unless, you are physically addicted, these products probably will not help you quit.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products provide nicotine to ease withdrawal symptoms (such as nervousness, restlessness, irritability, headache, dizziness and stomach upset) until you are weaned from smoking. It’s important to remember that they don't make you quit and they don't help you cope with the psychological challenges of quitting.

Some non-prescription NRT products include:

  • Patches (Nicoderm CQ, generics): these can be applied once a day and provide a steady amount of nicotine that is absorbed through your skin.
  • Gum (Nicorette, generics): these are chewed and can be held in your mouth throughout the day.
  • Lozenges (Commit): these can be used throughout the day so nicotine is absorbed through your mouth.

Some prescription NRT products include:

  • Nicotrol Inhaler: this product has a plastic mouthpiece similar to a cigarette. Cartridges containing nicotine are placed into the mouthpiece and puffed on for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Nicotrol nasal spray is absorbed through your nose and can be used several times a day.

Other Non-nicotine products are available by prescription, can also assist in smoking cessation. Talk to a clinician if you are interested in this product:

  • Chantix (varenicline tartrate): this option works on nicotine receptors in the brain and comes in pill form that must be taken once or twice per day. It is believed to decrease the reward mechanism of smoking and reduce the urge to smoke. It may cause serious neuropsychiatric symptoms. Before starting Chantix, tell your clinician about any history of psychiatric illness. While taking it, inform your clinician of behavior and mood changes.

Not interested in using NRTs? Some people report using acupuncture, hypnosis, yoga or meditation as useful alternative to help them quit.

I'm ready to quit, but I'm worried about the withdrawal symptoms!

First off—Congratulations! It’s great that you are interesting in learning about what you might experience. Preparation is a key part of knowing what to anticipate and how to avoid any challenges you may experience as you try to quit.

Physical symptoms that you may experience generally result from nicotine withdrawal. As a part of the quit process, your body does not receive the nicotine it craves, which results in withdrawal symptoms.

These include:

  • Intense craving for nicotine.
  • Tension.
  • Irritability.
  • Headaches.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Drowsiness and trouble sleeping.
  • Increased appetite and weight gain.

The majority of individuals who quit suffer some form of nicotine withdrawal, and it's generally more intense for people who have used tobacco for a long time. Fortunately, this discomfort is typically brief, lasting only for a few days to a few weeks. Most withdrawal symptoms are most intense within the first few days of quitting, and will subside as your body adjusts. Learn about Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) that can help in the short-term and lessen these symptoms.

In addition to the physical symptoms of withdrawal, there is also several behavioral components of quitting that should be addressed. Check out our section on How Do I Lead a Tobacco-Free Life? to learn different helpful tips.

How would quitting tobacco help me in the long-term?

Quitting smoking can be difficult, but reminding yourself why you're undertaking such a challenge can prove extremely useful. Check out the American Cancer Society's list of benefits in their Guide to Quitting Smoking that you can expect almost immediately upon your last inhale of smoke:

  • 20 Minutes After Quitting: Heart rate and blood pressure drops.
  • 12 Hours After Quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • 2 Weeks To 3 Months After Quitting: Circulation improves and lung function increases.
  • 1 To 9 Months After Quitting: Food tastes better. Your sense of smell returns to normal. Ordinary activities (climbing stairs, housework) no longer leave you out of breath. Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
  • 1 Year After Quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
  • 5 Years After Quitting: your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.
  • 10 Years After Quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker's. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decrease.
  • 15 Years After Quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker's.

Want more information about quitting? Pick up a Free Quit Kit, with information and tools to help you quit tobacco, available in the Wellness Center, McCabe Hall, 1st Floor.

How do I lead a tobacco-free life?

Becoming comfortable with a tobacco-free life is a process that takes time and commitment. A good "quit tobacco" program includes some of these tips:

  • Maintaining perspective, since it takes time and commitment to change a familiar, addictive behavior.
  • Providing rewards, even marking a calendar for each day, week, and/or month that someone stays off tobacco, can make a difference.
  • Reinforcing one's commitment and successes, however small, when talking with others by using positive statements can help.
  • Allowing others to give support and encouragement for efforts can have an impact.
  • Avoiding "triggers," those certain times, places, and/or situations that are associated with using tobacco, are another way of taking control.
  • Planning and using healthier choices for coping with stress can replace the use of tobacco.
  • Remaining committed to the goal by keeping in mind any personal reasons for quitting up front and center.

Some people experience stronger cravings in certain situations associated with their use of tobacco. Here are some suggestions from The American Cancer Society that may be helpful:

  • Avoid people and places where you are tempted to smoke. This may mean taking a different route to work or school, or going for a walk at breaks instead of going to the area where people smoke.
  • Replace cigarettes with oral substitutes, such as sugar-free gum, carrot or celery sticks, or sunflower seeds.
  • Exercise more, which can help you reduce stress and avoid weight gain.
  • Delay. If you feel that you are about to light up, tell yourself you must wait at least 10 minutes. Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the strong urge to smoke.
  • Breathe deeply. When you were smoking, you breathed deeply as you took a drag. When the urge strikes now, breathe deeply and picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air, and remind yourself of your reasons for quitting.

Want more information about quitting? Pick up a Free Quit Kit, with information and tools to help you quit tobacco, available in the Wellness Center, McCabe Hall, 1st Floor.

What about resources for quitting smokeless tobacco?

Although, most tobacco cessation programs focus on cigarette smokers, many of the strategies used can be adapted to quitting smokeless tobacco, as well.

For example:

  • Self-help booklets, videotapes, and "quit kits" offer privacy, low cost, and flexibility.
  • Primary care physicians can either work out plans for quitting or can offer referrals.

Although current research suggests that Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) (link to NRT question) work best for smokers, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not specifically approved NRTs for people quitting smokeless tobacco, many users find these over-the-counter products helpful. Before starting on NRTs, consult your health care practitioner.

SUU students can meet with a tobacco cessation specialist at the Wellness Center. Although the program provides many smoking cessation resources, the program can also be used for help in quitting smokeless tobacco.

What is the difference with quitting smokeless tobacco vs. cigarettes?

There are two specifics components of quitting that are exclusive to smokeless tobacco users.

  • A stronger desire initially to find a replacement for the oral fixation associated with using smokeless tobacco products. Gum or candy can be a helpful alternative.
  • The second difference is the experience of the user once they quit. When someone stops using smokeless tobacco products, they almost immediately experience an improvement in regards to their oral health, with fewer mouth sores and/or gum problems. This instant gratification can reinforce their motivation and commitment to quitting.

If you feel ready to quit, SUU students can meet with a tobacco cessation specialist at the Wellness Center. Although the program provides many smoking cessation resources, the program can also be used for help in quitting smokeless tobacco.

What about hookah?

Hookah or water pipe smoking (also known as shisha, goza, hubble-bubble) originated in the Middle East and has recently become popular on many college campuses. Flavored tobacco, which often used in hookahs, is sweet, and typically marketed toward younger people.

The tobacco is heated in a water pipe and the smoke is moved through water in the base. It's commonly assumed that hookah pipes are safer than cigarettes because the smoke is "filtered" through water. In reality, the water only cools the smoke; it does not filter it. The smoke still contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and cancer-causing chemicals, all of which are masked by the sweet flavors of the tobacco. The tobacco inhaled is similar to smoking an unfiltered cigarette. It has the same cancer-causing substances and is as addictive.

Are they safer than cigarettes?

In a word: No. In fact, smoking hookah pipes may cause more lung damage than cigarettes because hookah smokers tend to inhale much more smoke than cigarette smokers during a typical smoking session, exposing users to higher levels of nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other carcinogens found in tobacco. In fact, an hour spent smoking a hookah delivers as much as 100-200 times the volume of smoke than you would if you smoked one cigarette. As such, Hookah smokers face the same health risks as cigarette smokers, including decreased lung functioning, heart disease and lung cancer.

Sharing is not always so thoughtful. Since hookah smoking is often a social activity, sharing a hookah can increase the risk of transmission of tuberculosis, viruses such as herpes or hepatitis and many other illnesses.

What are e-cigarettes and can I use them to quit?

Electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as “E-cigarettes" or "e-cigs, come in a variety of brands, flavors, and nicotine strengths, and are available for purchase at convenience stores and online. E-cigarettes are designed in the likeness of the traditional cigarette, with the same size, shape and color—but with the addition of a small, battery-powered vaporizer. When a user inhales, this triggers a sensor that causes a tiny heating coil to heat up the nicotine cartridge inside, which in turn releases the nicotine as an odorless vapor.

The short and long term consequences of using E-cigarettes have yet to be determined. Recent FDA tests have raised legitimate questions around quality control after finding problems with both the amount and type of chemicals in the cartridges. The FDA is so concerned about the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes that they have repeatedly warned the public about the unknown amounts of nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals being inhaled during use.

Can I Use Them to Quit?

In recent years, the E-cigarette has become increasingly popular, despite limited understanding of their risk to an individuals’ health. Although some users claim that E-cigarettes' helped to kick their nicotine addiction, there is still no scientific evidence that E?cigarettes can help smokers quit. In fact, the FDA does not permit manufacturers of the E-cigarette to make such claims.

Bottom Line: Until more is known about the potential risks, the safe play is to say no. If you're looking for help to stop smoking, there are many FDA-approved options that have been shown to be safe and effective.