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Any tobacco use can hurt your body

Although cigarettes are the most common form of tobacco used in Canada, other forms of tobacco are available. Because you may not recognize them as tobacco, you and your family may not know that they’re also harmful to your body.

  • Smokeless (or spit) tobacco

    Smokeless tobacco has over 3,000 chemicals, including 28 that can cause cancer.

    Using smokeless tobacco can lead to:

    • oral cancer (cancer of the mouth – lip, tongue and cheek, floor and roof of the mouth)
    • esophageal cancer
    • pancreatic cancer 

    Smokeless tobacco comes in 2 forms:

    • Chewing tobacco is a leafy tobacco sold in pouches.
    • Snuff is finely ground tobacco that is either moist or dry. Moist snuff is taken orally. It’s rolled in a pellet and placed between your gums and cheek inside your mouth. Dry snuff is sniffed through the nose.

    Smokeless tobacco is highly addictive because it contains nicotine.

  • Cigars, bidis and kreteks

    Although some people think cigar smoking is less harmful to their health than smoking cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos are simply rolls of tobacco wrapped in tobacco leaf paper. They come in different sizes but usually contain several times as much tobacco as cigarettes do.

    Smoking cigars increases your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, lung, esophagus and pancreas. And the second-hand smoke from cigars increases health risks to non-smokers too.


    Popular in Indian and other Southeast Asian cultures, bidis are small cigarette-like products that are usually flavoured. The flavouring doesn't make them any less harmful. Studies have linked bidi smoking with an increased risk of developing oral and esophageal cancer.


    Kreteks are clove-flavoured cigarettes. Kreteks have not been studied as much as regular cigarettes – but similar to cigarette smoking, kretek smoking has been shown to damage the lungs. The flavouring doesn't make them any less harmful.

  • Pipes

    Some people believe that using a pipe to smoke tobacco filters the smoke and makes it less harmful. But pipe tobacco contains many of the same chemicals as cigarette smoke. And like smoking cigarettes, it’s addictive.

    Smoking a pipe may increase the risk of developing:

    • oral cancer
    • throat cancer
    • esophageal cancer
    • laryngeal cancer
    • lung cancer
    • colorectal cancer

    Pipe smokers are also at a higher risk for cancer of the lip if they suck on the pipe stem when not smoking.

    Smoking a pipe can also hurt others around you. The second-hand smoke is equal to the smoke from several cigarettes due to the amount of tobacco usually put into a pipe.


    In recent years, more young adults have been using water pipes (also known as hookahs). In a water pipe, tobacco is heated and the smoke is passed through water before it’s inhaled through a tube. The water doesn’t really reduce the cancer-causing substances in the smoke. And users of water pipes usually inhale larger amounts of smoke than cigarette smokers do.

    Smoking a water pipe can be addictive and may increase your risk of cancer.

  • Marijuana

    Smoking substances like recreational marijuana may harm your health as well because smoking marijuana releases tar into the lungs in the same way that smoking tobacco does. We need more research to know for sure whether long-term smoking of marijuana increases your risk of cancer. Some research says it does, while other research says it doesn't.



Dr Jessie Lee-McIsaac Preventing cancer through healthy living school policies

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