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What Is Tobacco Harm Reduction?

August 30, 2022


What Harm Is Caused by Tobacco?

Why Is It Important to Reduce Tobacco Use?

How Is Tobacco Harm Reduction Approached?

Regaining Control

In the last few years, harm reduction has become a prevalent approach to substance use treatment. It’s most often a method used for drug or alcohol substance use disorder. But fewer people associate harm reduction with tobacco use. 

But for smokers and people who struggle with tobacco use, harm reduction could be life-changing.

A harm reduction model aims to help those struggling to kick habits that have gotten out of control. It’s a way to reduce the harm caused by tobacco whilst using more feasible methods to do so. 

Nothing will top kicking the habit to the curb cold turkey, but that approach isn't always possible. Smokers know the difficulty of resisting cravings and relapsing after attempting to quit cold turkey. It’s why harm reduction might help.

What Harm Is Caused by Tobacco?

It's not necessarily the smoking of tobacco that is harmful. Modern cigarettes are rolled together with tobacco, nicotine, and other chemicals and compounds. It’s the side effects of all those chemicals that get released — and you breathing them in — that present various health conditions.

Prolonged tobacco use can result in any of these harmful side effects: 

Coronary Heart Disease

When you smoke, plaque forms within your blood vessels. As that plaque builds up, you risk developing blockages called clots, which can lead to coronary heart disease (CHD). Studies suggest that smoking contributes to 20-40% of CHD deaths in men and women in the UK.

This cardiovascular disease is deadly, and cigarette smokers are between 2 and 4 times more likely to get it than non-smokers.


Smoking increases the risk of stroke, and it’s not a hazard for active smokers, either — passive smoking increases the stroke risk by 45%. Imagine what that number would be for direct tobacco inhalation. 

Smoking messes with the normal functioning of the blood, the heart, and lungs, all of which can increase the risk of stroke.

Lung Cancer

It's well known by now that smoking causes cancer. The carcinogens activated and released when burning the cigarette are not good for the human body.

Lung cancer can have all sorts of adverse effects on those it afflicts, including the growth of tumours, weight loss or gain, frequent sore throats and discomfort eating, changes in bowel or bladder habits, and lethargy and exhaustion.

Decreased Hair and Skin Lustre 

Another adverse side effect smoking can have on the smoker is dulling of the hair and skin. Hair can grow brittle, dry, and lose all its sheen. Skin too can go grey, dry, and ashy. 

Even if you apply copious amounts of nourishing lotion and frequently get your hair washed, smoking can negatively impact both.

Persistent Cough and Diminished Lung Capacity

The first indications of lung cancer are a persistent cough and diminished lung capacity. It's the latter eventuality that is worrisome. 

Damaged lungs can lead to worse complications. Cancer is one of them, but also panic brought on by hyperventilation, the inability to exercise like one used to, and more.

Pregnancy Complications

All pregnant women should avoid cigarettes, tobacco, and nicotine whilst pregnant – and for a good reason. 

Pregnant women's immune systems are compromised. Maternal smoking exposes their unborn children to toxins such as nicotine, which can cause defects and complications like congenital heart disease in children.

Why Is It Important to Reduce Tobacco Use?

Smoking is a more complex process than it looks. Contained within any cigarette is tobacco, a substance named for the cured and ground-up leaves of the tobacco plant, nicotine, which is the naturally occurring stimulant found within tobacco, and then all sorts of other chemicals and compounds. 

When you light up a cigarette, you incinerate all those ingredients, producing smoke. It's not the incineration of tobacco which should concern your health. It's the incineration of the other materials that contain toxic chemicals and compounds that should worry you. 

The toxins in cigarette smoke can seriously compromise the body's immune system. That makes it harder to stop cancer in its tracks and can invite in other conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases.

How Is Tobacco Harm Reduction Approached?

Harm reduction involves reducing the frequency you use, replacing tobacco use with other kinds of activities, and switching over to devices like vapes. It’s a set of practices that allows people to continue to use but reduce usage. It’s a vital new substance use disorder framework that is worth exploring. 

When it comes to harm reduction for tobacco users, there are three different approaches. 

  • Quitting cold turkey: This is the harshest approach and the most challenging to follow, particularly for heavy smokers. Harm reduction is all about gradual steps towards decreased consumption to get to a healthy place with the substance. To that end, quitting cold turkey might be the goal, not necessarily the first step.
  • Substitution: In this approach, users substitute traditional tobacco cigarettes for something else to relieve cravings. It could be vaping to wean off nicotine dependency or chewing on a pencil to satisfy the oral fixation. 
  • Modulation and Reduction: Finally, there is modulation and reduction. To this end, users modify how much of the substance they use with the goal of slowly ramping down use. You can create a calendar of use and update it daily with how much you smoked and in what state of mind you turned to the substance. 

Regaining Control

When you implement a harm reduction model within your own life, you're taking steps towards regaining control of that life. And when you have control, nothing can keep you down. 

If vaping as a method of tobacco harm reduction interests you, consider the
RELX Pod Pro. With varying nicotine strengths, including zero-nicotine, it could be the tool you need to reduce your reliance on tobacco.

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