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Tobacco products

One in three cases of cancer are caused by tobacco. Living without tobacco is the most effective was to prevent cancer. Stopping smoking is always worthwhile.

Tobacco, snuff, e-cigarettes and hookahs

One in every two smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease, unless they quit the habit. Tobacco use in Finland, and everywhere in the world, is the main cause of preventable diseases and premature death.

Tobacco products are highly developed items that induce and sustain dependence. Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, pipes, different sorts of snuff, and hookahs

All tobacco products are harmful regardless of whether they are burnt, sniffed, chewed or whether you are exposed to them passively. The biggest cancer risk comes from the burning of tobacco, as the combustion process adds dangerous, carcinogenic substances.

“All tobacco products are harmful.”

Other nicotine products, like e-cigarettes and e-shishas, cause dependence and are harmful to health.

The good news is that the number of smokers has decreased in Finland. In 2014, 16% of adults smoked on a daily basis, men a little more than women. The use of other tobacco and nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes and snuff, has seen a worrying increase in recent years.

Tobacco products and others that contain nicotine create strong nicotine dependence in users. It is because of nicotine dependence that it is difficult to quit tobacco and nicotine products.

Nicotine dependence refers to the change in the number and function of central nervous system’s nicotine receptors, which are generated through nicotine use. Nicotine dependence is extremely potent

Tobacco and other nicotine products are intentionally designed to quickly induce dependence. Apart from physical nicotine dependence, the use of such products easily produces psychological and social dependence.

Dangers of nicotine

Regardless of where it comes from, nicotine is harmful in many ways: blood pressure rises, the veins in you limbs contract, heart rate increases, blood vessels gradually calcify, and the danger of cardiovascular disease rises. The function of the nervous system and hormone balance are disturbed, physical condition deteriorates by degrees, with sleeplessness, headaches, and sweating.

If you use snuff, the dose of nicotine you receive is on average greater than for a smoker. Some snuff is inevitably swallowed, and so many of the harmful substances that it contains enter are easily absorbed by the body through the stomach. Even small doses of nicotine alter endocrine modulation, put a strain on the heart, and interfere with the natural function of the stomach.

Withdrawal symptoms

Lack of nicotine causes withdrawal symptoms in people dependent on it. Withdrawal symptoms are caused by the drop in the level of nicotine in the blood and the body’s craving for more nicotine. A new dose of nicotine produces a sense of pleasure. It is dependence that induces the user to reach for his/her pack of cigarettes or snuffbox at regular intervals.

Withdrawal symptoms begin a few hours after the last dose of nicotine, and are at their worst a day or two after you’ve stopped using it.

The most common symptoms are depression, insomnia, irritability, frustration, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, and increased appetite. The symptoms last on average for a month, but a vague hankering for a cigarette can last for up to six months.


All tobacco and other products cause a variety of life-threatening diseases. Using them significantly increases the risk of premature death.

Tobacco / cigarettes: There are several lung diseases connected to tobacco. Abundant and prolonged smoking increases the risk of illness from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis. Nearly all smokers get chronic bronchial irritation or inflammation. This “smokers cough” is automatically due to the irritant effects on the lungs of tobacco smoke.

Smokers are roughly twice as likely to suffer heart attack or stroke compared to people who don’t smoke. Smoking predisposes you to type-2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Smoking harms the circulation and puts you at risk of diseases of the circulatory system. The carbon monoxide in tobacco impairs performance. Smoking also causes stomach ulcers, impotence, infertility, and osteoporosis. Smoking reduces the health of the skin, teeth and mouth.

Snuff: Using snuff increases the risk of diabetes. Snuff irritates the mucosa of the mouth and causes permanent damage to the gums. Snuff increases the risk of coronary heart disease, and heart attack and stroke.

See more on the health hazards of snuff (Duodecim-lehti)

Most tobacco manufacturers as substances other than tobacco to their tobacco products, which alter the chemical composition of tobacco smoke. These substances are called tobacco additives.

Tobacco additives include such things as cigarette flavours, substances that control the rate of combustion and the moisture of tobacco.

Additives can make cigarettes more tempting, because they get rid of some of the unwelcome effects of smoking.

For example, additives can

  • conceal the bitter taste and bad smell of the smoke inhaled
  • make the inhaled smoke softer and so reduce the irritant effect on the respiratory tract
  • change tobacco ash and smoke to be white
  • improve the look of cigarettes

Additives in snuff are designed to make the taste and consistency more pleasant and to improve the preservation of the product.

Studies show that additives can form harmful compounds when burned. It is difficult to assess the effects of an individual additive, because all the chemicals in tobacco smoke can also cause complex interactions. Also, some of the combustion additives have been shown to temporarily enhance the effect of nicotine in the brain.

Additives make tobacco more palatable pleasant

The additives used in tobacco products, such as acetaldehyde and many other additives used in the foods industry, including sugar, menthol and vanilla.

Additives make it easier for people, especially the young, who are not used to tobacco products to try them and start using them. The mote pleasant the experience of using the product is, the more likely a smoker is to continue smoking. This miserable equation facilitates the onset of dependence on tobacco.

Efforts are made to make other nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, more tempting by adding various compounds to them, such as flavours.



Quitting is always the best option

On average, smoking shortens a person’s lifetime by eight to 10 years. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your own good, and for that of your family and friends. You’re healthier without tobacco, the risk of getting numerous illnesses diminishes, and your quality of life improves.

If you don’t smoke or use other nicotine products, that’s great! Stand by your decision.

Smoking even for a short time undermines your health. The only way to permanently improve your health is to quit altogether.

The more you use tobacco or other nicotine products, the more serious is the harm they cause. It’s also particularly important how long you have used tobacco or other products.

“The only way to permanently improve your health is to quit altogether.”

The younger the age at which you quit, the better. But it is never too late to quit. The risk of cancer becomes less for people of all ages once they quit smoking.  You cannot compensate for the serious harm to health caused by smoking or the use of other tobacco products by other measures, such as remaining a normal weight or taking lots of exercise.

Everyone can quit, regardless of how long and how much they have smoked. Of course, quitting may be easier for some than for others. Quitting always requires tenacity and hard work.

There are many ways to quit tobacco. Some find abrupt cessation is best. For others the best was is first to cut down and then stop.

Tips for quitting tobacco

  • It’s good to prepare yourself carefully for quitting smoking or using snuff.
  • Think about your own reasons for quitting. What are the pros and cons of smoking or taking snuff for you? Find out about the health risks.
  • Consider in what the situations and moods you smoke or take snuff.
  • Set yourself a date when you will quit tobacco
    • do a dependence test
    • check whether you need the help of nicotine replacement therapy or medication
    • get rid of all smoking-related products
  • The majority people who quit smoking experience withdrawal symptoms, which last some 3 – 4 weeks. The withdrawal symptoms become less intense day by day.
  • Exercise, the outdoors and other pursuits, as well as relaxation, make it easier to keep your thoughts off smoking and withdrawal symptoms. Add as much enjoyment to your day as possible.
  • Tell your friends and relatives about your decision. Ask them to support you.

You may require professional help to quit smoking. You can receive this from health centres, occupational health care, school and student health care, maternity clinics, and pharmacies.

You feel the benefits of quitting immediately

  • Even during the first days, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal and nicotine disappears from your body. Your sense of smell and taste improve markedly. Your heart rate stabilises and blood pressure decreases. Your lungs start to remove mucous, and breathing becomes easier.
  • After just two weeks of quitting the function of the circulatory system and lungs, as well as your physical performance improve.
  • After a year, the risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease has decreased by half.
  • After ten years, the risk of lung cancer is about half that of someone who smokes. After 15 years, the risk of stroke has declined to that of non-smokers.

When is nicotine replacement therapy necessary?

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or drug therapy is recommended only for people who have smoked over 10 cigarettes a day and / or are strongly dependent on nicotine.

NRT includes chewing gum, plasters, inhalators, and lozenges. Doctors may also prescribe various forms of drug therapy.


Cancer Society of Finland information resources:

The Cancer Society has published a website aimed at young people on tobacco products and their use and harm

Foreign sources and information:

IARC Monograph: Smokeless Tobacco and Some Tobacco-specific N-Nitrosamines (2007) (englanniksi)

Smoking and cancer, Cancer Research UK (englanniksi)

Tobacco Atlas (englanniksi)

Tobacco, European Code Against Cancer, IARC

Grana RA, Popova L, Ling PM. A. Longitudinal, Analysis of Electronic Cigarette Use and Smoking Cessation. JAMA Intern Med 2014;174(5):812–813.

Vickerman ym. Use of electronic cigarettes among state tobacco cessation quitline callers. Nicotine Tob Res 2013 Oct;15(10):1787–91.

Zendehdel ym. Risk of gastroesophageal cancer among smokers and users of Scandinavian moist snuff (pdf) International Journal of Cancer 2008 Oct; 122(5): 1095–1099.