Tobacco products come in many shapes, sizes, and brands.  Regardless of the form, tobacco use carries health risks.  Learn more about different types of tobacco products, the related health issues, and resources for quitting.  

Smoking Tobacco

There are many methods used to smoke tobacco:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Hookah
  • E-cigarettes (aka E-cigs)

Cigarettes are the most commonly used form of tobacco. 1 in 5 deaths in the US is associated with cigarette smoking. Cigarettes are known to increase the risk of many cancers, especially lung and bladder cancer, as well as heart disease and stroke. At least 69 of the 7000 chemicals in cigarette smoke are known to increase the risk of cancer.

Cigars are defined as tobacco wrapped with a tobacco-containing product. They are historically used in celebratory contexts, but the introduction of flavored cigars is newly targeting youth. Cigars pose the same health threat as cigarettes do, along with gum disease.

Hookah, a water pipe used to vaporize smoke “shisha” (flavored tobacco), is usually smoked as a “group activity,” putting users at risk of catching contagious illnesses. Since a one hour hookah session exposes someone to more toxins than smoking one cigarette does, hookah puts the user at a potentially higher risk than cigarettes do for the same health effects.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices used to deliver chemicals such as nicotine, the addictive component of cigarettes, into a vapor that can be inhaled by the user. They are sometimes advertised as a means to quit smoking, but there is not adequate research on E-cigarettes to clinically suggest their use. Some studies suggest E-cigarettes cause short term lung effects similar to what cigarettes cause. Studies also show that E-cigarette users are twice as likely as non-users to consider smoking cigarettes.

Hookah and E-cigarette use is gaining popularity in the United States, especially among college students. For more information on smoking tobacco and smoking cessation resources, check out the CDC’s website

Smokeless Tobacco

Smokeless tobacco comes in many forms:

  • Chewing Tobacco
  • Snuff
  • Snus
  • Dissolvable Tobacco

Smokeless tobacco products are often not associated with the health risks of cigarettes.  For example, Snus is often regarded as a “safe” tobacco product, despite the fact that Snus contains many carcinogens.  Similar to cigarette use, smokeless tobacco use increases the risk of oral, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers, along with gum disease, cavities, heart attack, and stroke. 

Overall, smokeless tobacco is not a “safe” alternative to cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs.  For more information on smokeless tobacco and smoking cessation resources, check out the American Cancer Society’s website.

Social Smoking

Social smoking is characterized as light or intermittent smoking.  Social smoking is a common trend in the US, particularly among college students.  In fact, almost half of all smokers are social (light) smokers.  Although social smokers may not consider themselves to be “real smokers,” the health consequences of any level of tobacco use are real:  

  • Smoking only 5 days a month cause shortness of breath
  • Smoking only 1-4 cigarettes a day puts you at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and many of the cancers associated with smoking  

Social smokers may experience nicotine addiction and have difficulty quitting.  For more information about social smoking and smoking cessation resources, check out the American Cancer Society’s Website.

Georgetown University’s Policy on Smoking

There are certain guidelines stated by the Student Code of Conduct about where smoking is prohibited on campus. The Georgetown University Hospital property is 100% smoke free. Additional guidelines are listed below:

  • prohibited in all indoor locations
  • prohibited in all public spaces (ie: residence hall rooms, apartments, townhouses, common areas, private residential spaces)
  • smoke at a distance that does not cause others to be exposed to second-hand smoke
  • smoke at a distance of 25 feet from entries, outdoor air intakes and windows to avoid blocking entrances and transmitting smoke into buildings

Contact the University Safety Office for more information.


On Campus Resources

Dr. Patrick Kilcarr
Director, Center for Personal Development
Village C West 207
(202) 687-8944

Online Smoking Cessation Services