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Health Information

Neighborly Support: Canada’s Nonsmoking Week

Borrowing a week from our neighbors in Canada. The third week of January represents Canada Nonsmoking Week. We’re highlighting a broad range of basics surrounding tobacco. This may be a longer read, so feel free to take a break and come back later!

Source: FDA

Environmental Impacts1,2

For those who are trying to be more environmentally conscious, avoiding tobacco can be a way to do so. Some facts on tobacco’s impacts on the environment include:

  • Growing tobacco requires the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which exposes farm workers to hazardous chemicals. Growing it can also degrade soil and threaten biodiversity.
  • Curing tobacco contributes to deforestation. Growers need farmland. Those who cure tobacco need wood to burn for the curing process.
  • Tobacco manufacturing requires significant water and energy use and produces greenhouse gases and hazardous waste.
  • Transporting tobacco contributes to air pollution. Air pollution can cause negative health effects.
  • Tobacco smoke contains many toxic chemicals for those who smoke. The secondhand smoke contains many of the same chemicals and can harm the people who breathe it in.
  • Disposing tobacco can result in toxic chemicals entering the environment. Cigarette butts are the most common type of litter. Their filters do not biodegrade.

Think cigarettes are the only problem for the environment? Did you know e-cigarettes aren’t good for it either? Some points to consider:

  • E-cigarettes contain metal, circuitry, single-use plastic cartridges, batteries, and toxic chemicals in e-liquids. These aren’t the friendliest waste products for the environment.
  • Manufacturers do not provide guidance to consumers on how to dispose of used devices or other components of e-cigarettes. There may not be processes for disposing of them. (Check your local or state hazardous waste facility.)
  • A survey noted that about 58% of e-cigarettes uses found it inconvenient to dispose of e-cigarette waste responsibly.
  • E-cigarette waste cannot biodegrade, even under severe conditions. Cartridges will eventually break down into microplastics and chemicals.

Check out the Truth Initiative’s post on tobacco and the environment for more details, particularly if you want more numbers.

Tobacco Use in Alaska3


  • 19% of adults smoke cigarettes, which is higher than the US average of 13%
  • 7% of adults use smokeless tobacco, with chew being the most popular. Iq’mik is most popular among Alaska Natives.
  • 5% of adults use e-cigarettes, which is similar to the US average of 4%.
  • 11% of adult cigarette smokers also use e-cigarettes

High School Students

  • 26% currently use e-cigarettes, which is below the US average of 33%
  • 46% have tried e-cigarettes, which is similar to the US average of 50%
  • 8% currently use cigarettes, which is similar to the US average of 6%
  • 11% currently use smokeless tobacco, which is higher than the US average of 4%

Source: CDC

Health Impacts4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11                                                                             

Nicotine and the Brain

  • Nicotine is found in all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Nicotine has also been found in e-cigarettes that claimed to be nicotine free.
  • A person’s brain does not fully develop until the mid- to late 20s. The prefrontal cortex (responsible for planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses) is one of the last areas to fully mature.
  • Nicotine can be particularly risky for teens due to their brains are still developing
  • Younger initiation increases the risk of addiction. About 90% of adult daily smokers first tried smoking before they turned 18.
  • Nicotine has been linked to mood disorders
  • Nicotine can permanently lower impulse control
  • Nicotine also changes how the synapses form. This can negatively impact learning and attention.
    • This wouldn’t just impact school performance. If your child participates in sports or band, they may have a hard time learning new play/formations or songs.

Cigarettes Can Cause

  • Cancer throughout the body
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung Disease
  • Diabetes
  • COPD
  • Pregnancy complications, such as difficulty becoming pregnant and tissue damage to the baby

Secondhand Cigarette Smoke Can Cause

  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Acute respiratory infections (children)
  • Middle ear disease (children)
  • More severe asthma
  • Respiratory Symptoms
  • Slowed lung growth (children)


A recent Johns Hopkins study found almost 2,000 chemicals in e-cigarettes. We still don’t know all the impacts of breathing in these chemicals. We do know the impacts of some due to them being found in cigarettes and other products. Examples of these chemicals include:

  • Propylene glycol
  • Carcinogens
  • Acrolein
  • Diacetyl
  • Diethylene glycol
  • Heavy metals
  • Cadmium
  • Benzene
  • Ultrafine particles
  • Flavorings (some flavors may be okay to ingest but are not safe to inhale. If inhaled, they can harm lungs)

These chemicals are known to:

  • Cause cancer
  • Damage organs
  • Cause lung and heart disease

There have also been reports of e-cigarettes exploding. This can result in burns. Check out FEMA’s flyer on e-cigarettes and fire safety.

Secondhand E-Cigarette Aerosol

  • A 2021 New York study found that e-cigarettes use increased particulate matter (PM) 2.5 levels in the primary room in which they were vaped.
    • PM under 10 micrometers can cause a variety of health problems, such as:
      • Premature death in people with heart or lung disease
      • Heart attacks
      • Irregular heartbeat
      • Aggravated asthma
      • Decreased lung function
      • Increased respiratory symptoms (i.e., irritation of airways, coughing, difficulty breathing)
    • A California based study reported that secondhand vape exposure is associated with adverse respiratory symptoms among young adults

Smokeless Tobacco Can

  • Cause nicotine addiction
  • Cause cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas
  • Cause nicotine poisoning in children
  • Associated with diseases of the mouth
  • Increase risks for early delivery and stillbirth when used during pregnancy
  • May increase the risk for death from heart disease and stroke

Cigar Use Is Associated with

  • The following cancers:
    • Lung
    • Esophagus
    • Larynx (voice box)
    • Oral cavity (lip, tongue, mouth, and throat)
  • Gum disease and tooth loss
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Lung diseases, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis

Source: Alaska Quitline

Want To Quit?

Concerned About Secondhand Smoke?

  • Encourage the person who smokes to quit. Just remember that the decision is on them to quit.
  • Encourage smokes to take it outside if they aren’t ready to quit.
  • Create or pass a smokefree housing policy at your apartment, condo, or townhome. You can get help from the American Lung Association in Alaska at SmokefreeHousingAK@Lung.Orgl


  1. Environmental Impacts of the Tobacco Lifecycle | CDC
  2. Tobacco and the environment (
  3. Alaska Tobacco Facts 2022
  4. NIMH » The Teen Brain: 7 Things to Know (
  5. Smoking Initiation Shifting from Teens to Young Adults – NCI (
  6. Know the Risks of E-cigarettes for Young People | Know the Risks: E-cigarettes & Young People | U.S. Surgeon General’s Report
  7. Health Effects | Smoking and Tobacco Use | CDC
  8. Effects of electronic cigarettes and hookah (waterpipe) use on home air quality – PubMed (
  9. Secondhand nicotine vaping at home and respiratory symptoms in young adults | Thorax (
  10. Cigars | Smoking & Tobacco Use | CDC
  11. Smokeless Tobacco: Health Effects | CDC


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