What Is Organic Tobacco?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 23, 2021

"Organic" or "natural" products usually refer to a healthier or safer alternative to a harmful product. However, that's not the case with organic tobacco. 

All kinds of tobacco, when inhaled in a burnt form, are harmful to your health. Cigarettes labeled "natural" or "organic tobacco" pose the same risks as regular cigarettes because they contain the same toxins. These include heavy metals, carbon monoxide, tar, nicotine, and more. So what exactly is "organic tobacco?" 

Organic tobacco is grown without using any sort of fertilizers, chemicals, or pesticides. Tobacco naturally contains nicotine, but the drying process may add many types of chemicals, flavorings, and preservatives to it.

What Are Different Types of Tobacco Products?

Some common variations of tobacco products include:

  • E-cigarettes
  • Edibles
  • Hookahs
  • Heat-not-burn cigarettes
  • Smokeless tobacco

E-cigarettes usually don't contain tobacco, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still classifies them as "tobacco" products because they contain nicotine, the addictive ingredient in cigarettes. 

What Kind of Chemicals are Found in Cigarettes?

Regardless of whether you purchase a regular cigarette or an organic one, every type of tobacco product has the same chemicals. Some common chemicals in tobacco include:

  • Nicotine
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Ammonia
  • Lead
  • Benzene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Arsenic
  • Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Tobacco leaves also contain radioactive materials that come from the soil and fertilizer used to grow the plant. When the tobacco gets burned, the radioactive materials come out in the smoke. All of these components are capable of causing cancer, along with several heart and lung diseases.

Is Organic Tobacco Less Harmful?

In a word, no. The misleading cigarette advertisements and packaging can lead to false perceptions among consumers, who believe that natural cigarettes are less harmful than others. All medical professionals emphasize that no form of tobacco is safe. The only way to stay safe from harmful tobacco smoke is to avoid smoking

A study found that a majority of the Natural American Spirit smokers believe that they are smoking less harmful cigarettes. The researchers at the University of Minnesota analyzed the chemicals used in 13 different Natural American Spirit cigarettes varieties, one of the leading "organic" tobacco products manufacturers.

The study concluded that Natural American Spirit cigarette smoke has the same amount of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals as regular cigarettes. Additionally, they contain higher nicotine content than commercial brands. This indicates that, ultimately, the "organic" products could be more addictive. 

These labels and claims are so problematic that the FDA had to step in. They asked the manufacturers of Natural American Spirit cigarettes, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, to stop using the terms "organic," "natural," and "additive-free" on their product labels, advertisement campaigns, and all promotional materials.

What Are Smoking Health Risks?

Smoking has many harmful effects. It is not only a significant cause of lung and mouth cancers, but it can also lead to organ dysfunction.

Some common health risks connected to smoking include:

Secondhand smoke is also a risk to nonsmokers in the same environment. The death rate among people who inhale secondhand smoke is around 41,000 adults and 400 infants per year.

Infants who live with smokers have an increased risk for:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Acute respiratory infections
  • Middle ear disease
  • Severe asthma
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Slowed lung growth

Show Sources

American Cancer Society: "Is Any Type of Tobacco Product Safe?," "Harmful Chemicals in Tobacco Products."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Smoking & Tobacco Use."
Central Tobacco Research Institute: “Tobacco Curing.”
Nicotine & Tobacco Research: "'Organic,' 'Natural,' and 'Additive-Free' Cigarettes: Comparing the Effects of Advertising Claims and Disclaimers on Perceptions of Harm."
The University of Minnesota: "Cigarettes marketed as 'natural' and 'organic' are loaded with nicotine and toxicants, just like other cigarettes."
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Chemicals in Every Tobacco Plant."

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