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The different smoking alternatives fall into a few basic categories. One alternative to tobacco smoking is to simply use smokeless tobacco products, of which there is some variety. Another option is to choose nicotine replacement products, which can be used on the skin, chewed, or dissolved in the mouth. The best alternative is to quit smoking altogether, because of the harmful effects this habit has on the lungs. Smoking alternatives are less available for other substances that are usually smoked, in general because their medicinal or chemical counterparts are illegal, only available with a prescription, or otherwise unavailable.
Smoking alternatives are commonly sought because smokers become aware of the present and potential future consequences of smoking. Current smokers may notice shortness of breath, chronic cough and bronchitis, more and worse colds, and other harmful effects. The dangers associated with tobacco smoking include higher rates of a number of cancers, heart damage, increased stroke and heart attack risk, and many more. Habitual marijuana or other smoking can also have harmful effects on the heart and lungs, and marijuana smoke contains some of the same cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco smoke.
Smokeless tobacco products are one alternative to cigarette, cigar, and pipe tobacco smoking. Moist snuff, also called dip or chew, is moist, shredded tobacco that users place between the gum and cheek or lip. Dry snuff is a very fine, powdery tobacco preparation that users sniff through the nose. True chewing tobacco is made of tobacco leaf fragments that are also placed between the jaw and cheek. All smokeless tobacco products increase the risk of oral and other cancers.
A number of smoking alternatives deliver nicotine in a variety of ways. The nicotine patch, placed on a skin segment, continually releases nicotine over a period of many hours. Nicotine gum is chewed for a short time before being "parked" between the cheek and gum, and lasts about 30 minutes. Nicotine spray is applied in one nostril or both below a certain recommended number of times each day. Lozenges dissolve somewhat slowly in the mouth. All nicotine replacement therapies may have side effects, though they are usually mild. Some non-nicotine prescription drugs exist that making quitting tobacco smoking easier.
Using nicotine or other drugs are not the only smoking alternatives. People who smoke often do it to lower stress or otherwise feel good, so better stress management is one example of an alternative approach. Options for stress management include exercise, relaxation exercises, deep breathing, and meditation or yoga. Each of these choices reduces stress, improves mood, and might reduce smoking urges. Other healthier alternatives are really only limited by the imagination, and could be any activity a person finds enjoyable.