In decades past, people who wanted to quit smoking by replacing the habit with alternatives gravitated largely toward one of three options: nicotine patches, nicotine gum, or various forms of chewing tobacco. Each of these products sought to substitute for certain aspects of smoking, so that those attempting to quit could taper off of the habit without the full negative effects of cigarettes. And because they were effective to varying degrees, these products were quite popular (and were advertised continually). We talked to Snusdaddy, who sells nicotine pouches and snus online and found out that around 70% who try nicotine pouches quit smoking within a year.
Today, we tend to hear less about them, likely due in part to the fact that smoking is less prevalent than it used to be. However, it is far from gone. A CDC look at recent smoking data indicates that as of 2020, some 12.5% of American adults (over the age of 18) were still smoking. That percentage amounted to nearly 31 million adults still practicing the habit. Interestingly enough though, we also know from a report by the Surgeon General of the United States that out of adults who smoke, nearly 70% want to quit (with 50% of smoking adults actively trying to quit every year).
We do not have precise data as to how most of those people try to quit. However, it’s worth considering what alternatives are in use now and as we look forward to the near future –– because there is a far wider range of products available now than in the heyday of nicotine patches. While smokers eyeing cessation can still get their hands on the aforementioned products, there are newer alternative options that may be poised to define the quitting market, so to speak, moving forward.
In some senses the spiritual successors to patches and gum, nicotine pouches are newer on the market, but catching on quickly. These are small, nicotine-filed pouches that are wedged into one’s upper lip to release nicotine gradually over time. And a look at the pouch trend on Prilla’s blog reveals that their market approached $220 million in activity in 2020 in the U.S. alone.
The post chalks some of this success up to the pandemic; for instance, people increasingly concerned with respiratory health were less likely to opt for smoking alternatives like vapes, and thus sought out products of this nature. However, the post also clarifies that there was clear growth exhibited in convenience store sales even before the pandemic, indicating consumer demand for the products — possibly due to increasing restrictions on options like vaping or snuff. For these reasons, pouches look poised to compete as competitive smoking alternatives moving forward.
CBD products are becoming more popular by the day for a number of reasons, with some believing they may be helpful in curbing cigarette cravings. There might be something to this point on a case-by-case basis, given that CBD is used to reduce anxiety, and some do attribute their smoking habits to nervous or anxious behavior. From a scientific or chemical standpoint however, there is little reason to think of CBD as a direct alternative to smoking.
To expand on that point, a study by Wiley-Blackwell Online Open indicated that an 800-mg dose of CBD did not influence smokers’ cravings or withdrawal symptoms. So while individuals may ascribe to the idea of CBD’s ability to curb anxiety being helpful with regard to smoking habits, the concept is not backed by data. That said, studies on CBD are somewhat lacking; and more studies with larger sample sizes need to be conducted in order to discern if CBD is a viable option for smoking cessation in the future.
Vapes (or e-cigs) may be mentioned as smoking alternatives more than any other products today. But unfortunately, the use of vapes is so strictly regulated across the U.S. that it is not at the moment a particularly useful option for those who want to quit smoking cigarettes.
We should note that for now, the state of Arizona does allow vape products. Furthermore, there is hope that as time goes on, safer versions of vapes will be created, and restrictions will be lifted or at least lessened in most states. Meanwhile, those who want to use vaping as a method of smoking cessation should consult a medical professional to discuss the option and associated risks — which per an article on vaping at Parade can include undesirable outcomes like yellow teeth, premature aging, and hair loss.
In our previous piece “Is Switching To Hemp Cigarettes Healthier Than Smoking Tobacco?”, we acknowledged that smoking too much of anything can harm the lungs and lead to negative long-term effects. At the same time however, these alternative, tobacco- and nicotine-free cigarettes don’t expose users to the same harmful chemicals associated with cigarette habits.
Hemp cigarettes are often compared to marijuana (without the high), though it is most accurate to refer to them as CBD cigarettes. Though they differ from the standard “CBD product” (which is typically a liquid or oil), these alternatives consist largely of rolled hemp and CBD derived from hemp. As with the other CBD products we alluded to above, these cigarettes can help to ease anxiety, and may calm stressed smokers in need of a fix. However, they do not provide a chemical fix or anything that directly addresses cravings. Additionally, while some like the idea of having a smoking-like habit as an alternative to cigarette smoking, it is again worth mentioning that inhalation itself is harmful. For instance, while we don’t have too much data yet on hemp smoke, a peer-reviewed write-up at the Ro health guide asserted that even marijuana smoke can damage the lungs.
Looking at all of these modern smoking alternative and adjacent options, it’s safe to say that they’ll all be around moving forward. Pouches are gaining influence among nicotine replacement options; hemp cigarettes and other CBD products are still emergent; and vapes, despite widespread restrictions, don’t appear to be disappearing just yet.
Among the options though, it remains the case that tobacco-free nicotine replacement products –– including pouches and the tried-but-true options of patches and gum –– are the most direct smoking alternatives. This is unlikely to change in the near future.