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Is Smoking Vegan?

Despite decades of debate, denial, and dubious behavior on the part of the tobacco industry regarding the potential dangers of cigarettes, it’s now generally agreed upon that smoking is bad for your health. Smoking damages nearly every organ in the body, causing strokes, coronary heart disease, respiratory diseases, a whole slew of cancers, and other deleterious effects. [57][58] And while big tobacco has done its best to feign ignorance since the 40’s, we now know the answer to “Is smoking bad for you?” is a resounding yes. But a less-hotly debated question remains: is smoking vegan? [tweet this]

While being vegan is often associated with a level of health fanaticism approaching daily wheatgrass juice enemas and coffee colonics, the truth is, not everyone goes vegan for their health. There are junk food vegans, vegans who drink alcohol (more on that there) and yes, even vegans who smoke. And I mean tobacco, not the other thing everyone assumes all vegans smoke…

But can cigarettes be considered vegan? As usual, the answer to this question is more complex than it would first appear. I’m going to touch on the various areas of concern, but please refer to this article's citations for more detailed information.

The main areas of concern we’ll be addressing are:

  1. Animal ingredients in cigarettes
  2. Animals killed in tobacco farming process
  3. Animal testing and the tobacco industry
  4. The environmental impact of smoking
  5. Second-hand smoke and companion animals
  6. The human cost of tobacco (child labor and worker toxicity exposure)
  7. A nod to the health consequences of smoking

Animal Ingredients: Pig's blood, Beeswax and Beaver Anal Sacs

The most basic measure of whether something is vegan or not is whether it contains animals or their by-products. When we combine the myriad of ways we disguise animal by-products with the close to 600 ingredients found in cigarettes,[39][51][61] including arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, ammonia, acetone and other far less-pronounceable elements, it becomes rather difficult to ascertain if anything is animal-derived.

This issue was brought to a very public head back in 2010 when a press release, light on the facts but big on the sensation, claimed that cigarettes may contain pig’s blood.[tweet this] This revelation came from an artist Christien Meindertsma’s three-year-long project Pig 05049, which tracked and documented all of the ways one pig’s body was used post-slaughter, including in cigarette filters. [63] Anti-smoking advocate Professor

Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney saw this as an opportunity to use public outrage, particularly among Jewish, Muslim, vegetarian and vegan populations, to bring to light “concerns that ingredients such as additives or processing aids used in tobacco products are virtu­ally unregulated and non-transparent.”[9]

After creating the press release, the story went viral and built into quite a frenzy, with Iranian officials calling it a Zionist conspiracy and tobacco companies churning out denials left and right. The truth of the matter is far less titillating. In 1997 a Greek tobacco company set out to create a healthier cigarette, using pig’s blood in the filter to mitigate toxins. The resulting BioFilter led the company to second place in the Greek tobacco industry, though every scientific study to evaluate these claims found them to be patently false, [1][2][3] and in 2002 Greece finally outlawed their “healthier smoking” claims. As far as I can tell, the filters are still on the market and I have link below to the company’s website with more information. [see citation 4]

There are also at least two other animal-derived ingredients in cigarettes, which are far more regularly employed: beeswax and castoreum. Beeswax is rather self-explanatory and you can see my video here on the vegan-ness of bee products for more information. Castoreum, used in cigarettes to lend a sweet, smoky flavor, is another matter entirely.

I covered the glories of castoruem in one of my very first vegan nuggets ever on What’s Really In Your Food, back when both my editing skills and language were a little less polished.

Castoreum, the source of artificial raspberry, vanilla and strawberry flavors, is an extract made from the dried, ground up anal sacs located by the anal glands of beavers. Castoreum be added to foods such as gums, alcohol, candy and baked goods.

Castoreum is harvested by killing beavers and cutting out their castor glands,[66] making it a most definitively un-vegan ingredient.

So when it comes to animals in your smokes, bees and beaver butts are more likely than pigs blood, but just as un-vegan. [tweet this]

The Animal Toll of Tobacco Farming

Now I’ll just speak very briefly to the concern of animals killed during tobacco farming and harvesting. While we should strive for pesticide-free, sustainable farming, with any crop, field animals are going to be unintentionally harmed and killed in the farming and harvesting process. We have to eat but we don’t have to smoke, so the animals killed by tobacco farming are entirely avoidable deaths.

Animal Testing and the Tobacco Industry

And now, to the heavy-hitter of the vegan cigarette debate: animal testing.[tweet this] I have a four-part video series on animal testing which goes into greater detail about the inefficacy of animal tests, why we are still conducting them, how they endanger and even kill humans, and what viable alternatives exist, which I’ve linked up here and below if you want to delve deeper into this matter.

Perhaps the most insane aspect of animal testing as a whole is its complete and utter lack of credible results. It’s no secret that our bodies differ greatly from other species, and so, it follows, would our reactions to stimuli and toxins.

In regards to tobacco specifically, Dr. C Ray Greek of Americans for Medical Advancement states that “Animal experiments failed notoriously to demonstrate a smoking-cancer connection for over half a century…If the greatest killer of our time was promoted by physicians based on animal experiments, there is obviously something terminally wrong with the system.” [67]

A 2015 paper drawing on more than 50 recent toxicology studies, demonstrated the superiority of widely available modern, non-animal models over inaccurate animal tests for measuring the toxicity of tobacco products. [46] In 2012, the U.S. Congress even stated that “there is significant scientific evidence that animals are poor models for the testing of tobacco products used by humans.”[45]

Unlike all medications, tobacco products are not required to undergo animal testing. The UK, Germany, Belgium and other countries even banned their usage and Canada requires only in vitro studies, meaning on a cellular level rather than on whole living animals.[42][45]

Even the tobacco industry’s own studies have concluded that “in vitro toxicology tests can be successfully used both for better understanding the biological activity of cigarette smoke … and for guiding the development of cigarettes with reduced toxicity.”[30][46] Despite this fact, tobacco companies, government agencies,[29] the American Cancer Society, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, among other organization and, yes, even anti-smoking groups continue to test cigarettes on animals.

I have links below to several articles and studies which catalog, describe, and demonstrate the myriad of horrifying animal tobacco tests, [25][26][27][56][59][15] but I’m going to just share a few of them with you.

Direct Smoking Tests

Perhaps the most visually shocking type of tobacco testing are the direct smoking tests, made famous in 1975 by undercover Sunday People reporter Mary Beith in her expose known as “The Smoking Beagles.” Beith got a position in an Imperial Chemical Industries laboratory where 48 beagles were restrained with straightjackets, placed into what Beith described as “medieval stocks” and fitted with tubed masks which forcibly pumped cigarette smoke into their lungs day in and day out for up to three years for some of the dogs. Beith reported that, “when they have finished their smoking stint the dogs are killed and sent to pathology laboratories to be cut up and examined for signs of cancer, liver or heart diseases or other possible effects. Some of the dogs have acquired a smoker’s cough judging from the sounds I heard.” [48]

The images Beith captured sparked global outrage, yet only two of the 48 beagles were rescued in a technically illegal act of liberation by activist Mike Huskisson and an unnamed partner in the early days of the Animal Liberation Front. [49]

While not garnering the same level of disgust from the public, direct smoking tests on mice and rats are just as horrifying. Their entire bodies are crammed into tiny canisters that pump smoke directly into their noses for six or more hours a day up to two years.[25][26][27][32][33][34][35][36][37]

Direct smoking tests can also involve tracheotomies. In a 2001 study at the Oregon National Primate Research Center involving sixty-seven pregnant Rhesus macaque monkeys, half of the monkeys had tubes surgically implanted in order to subject them to a continuous flow of nicotine for the last four months of their pregnancies. Five days before the mothers reached full term, the experimenters cut out, killed and dissected the fetuses of all 67 mothers. [38]

These kind of experiments are still being carried out on mice, rats, beagles, monkeys, apes, and other sentient beings. [see all studies below] They are not required by law, have no scientific validity and they even endanger humans with the cross-species application of their results, and are all for a product that is not only completely unnecessary but also deadly to consumers and damaging to the environment.

The Environmental Impact of Smoking

Speaking to the environmental impact of smoking, around 5.6 trillion cigarette butts are dumped into the environment every year. When these butts land in water or on the soil, all of the chemicals and carcinogenic ingredients we discussed creates leachates, a toxic soup that poisons fish and other wildlife. [50][52]

The Harm to Companion Animals: Second-Hand Smoke

Of course smoking also affects one’s home environment as well. A series of studies at Tufts University and Colorado State University found that second hand smoke is just as harmful to companion animals as it is humans. Cats living with smokers are twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma, and dogs living with smokers develop cancers of the nose and sinus area, all of which are terminal within a year.[21][22][24]

The Human Cost of Tobacco: Child Labor and Worker Toxicity Exposure

And then there’s the human cost of tobacco farming. Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS) is caused by the constant exposure of workers to the nicotine of the plants, which is absorbed through their skin.[54] This is exacerbated in the case of child workers and child labor is a major issue within America’s tobacco farming. While several countries, including major tobacco producers such as Brazil and India, prohibit children under 18 from working on tobacco farms, in the US children as young as 12 work in fields for 50 to 60 hours a week in extreme heat and with ongoing exposure to pesticides and nicotine.[55][53]

The Health Consequences of Smoking

And of course, there are the health consequences, which may or may not even be an inherently vegan issue, and which is thoroughly documented elsewhere. If you are a smoker and want to stop for any reason, please see the list of resources to quit smoking below for support.

In Closing…

I hope that this video has been helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts- do you think smoking can be considered vegan? If you were a smoker who went vegan, did you quit? Are you a vegan smoker now? Are you a non-vegan smoker wanting to go vegan but overwhelmed that now you have to ditch the cigarettes too? [If so, personally, I’d say focus on the meat, dairy, eggs and honey first and then tackle big tobacco.]

The time it to produce this video clocks in at around 52 hours. If you’d like to help support Bite Size Vegan so I can keep putting hours to bring you this educational resources, please check out the support page where you can give a one-time donation or receive perks and rewards for your support by joining the Nugget Army.

If you enjoyed this video, please share it around to help inform others!







Featured videos:
What's REALLY In Your Food
Animal testing series
Is Honey Vegan?
Is a Vegan Diet Too Extreme?
Do Vegans Kill More Animals Than Non-Vegans [animal deaths in harvest]

Resources to quit smoking:
How to quit smoking
Resources from the American Heart Association
Smokers anonymous
Freedom: A cold turkey support group

Is it vegan series


[1] Tobacco Smoke: Involvement of Reactive Oxygen Species and Stable Free Radicals in Mechanisms of Oxidative Damage, Carcinogenesis and Synergistic Effects with Other Respirable Particles by Athanasios Valavanidis, Thomais Vlachogianni, and Konstantinos Fiotakis, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2009 Feb; 6(2): 445–462.

[2] Effects of Smoking of Conventional Cigarettesand of Hemoglobin Filter Cigarettes on Autonomic Cardiac Control George K. Andrikopoulos, Dimitrios J. Richter2, Polychronis E. Dilaveris, Elias E. Gialafos, Elena A. Lazaki, Nikolaos I. Exadaktylos, John E. Gialafos,  Pavlos K. Toutouzas, Hellenic Journal of Cardiology 44: 108-115, 2003

[3] A comparative study by electron paramagnetic resonance of free radical species in the mainstream and sidestream smoke of cigarettes with conventional acetate filters and ‘bio-filters’ by A. Valavanidis; E. Haralambous, Redox Report Volume 6, Issue 3 (01 June 2001), pp. 161-171

[4] SEKAP [Greek Tobacco Company & Makers of BioFilter] to see the brands they make, click on “International Presence” and then “Next Page” at the bottom right of that section. [website doesn't have unique page URLs]

[5] Pig’s Blood in Cigarettes? By The Skeptical Vegan

[6] CDC’s Quit Smoking Help

[7] alpha-Radiation dose at bronchial bifurcations of smokers from indoor exposure to radon progeny by E A Martell, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

[8] Pig's blood, tobacco control and mass media

[9] Pig's blood in cigarette filters: how a single news release highlighted tobacco industry concealment of cigarette ingredients. By Mackenzie R, Chapman S., Tobacco Control. 2011 Mar;20(2):169-72

[10] Eggs vs. Cigarettes in Atherosclerosis by Dr. Michael Greger of

11] Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque J. David Spence, David J.A. Jenkins, Jean Davignon  2012

12] What Women Should Eat to Live Longer by Dr. Michael Greger of [egg a day = 5 cigarrettes]

13] Risk factors for mortality in the nurses' health study: a competing risks analysis. Baer HJ, Glynn RJ, Hu FB, Hankinson SE, Willett WC, Colditz GA, Stampfer M, Rosner B., American Journal of  Epidemiology 2011 Feb 1; 173(3):319-29.

14] Euromonitor International. Country Sector Briefing. Cigarettes—Greece. London: Euromonitor, 2009.

15] Tortured by Tobacco by

16] The Attempted Production of Pulmonary Neoplasms in Experimental Animals by Exposure of the Trachea-bronchial System to Tobacco Smoke Progress Report, December 1955

17] Application for Renewal of Research Grant for Trachea-bronchial research

18] Hartnett Cites British Tobacco Tests Failing to Produce Animal Cancer, Tobacco Industry Research Committee [painting mice with tar

19] Alveolar Airway Barrier Permeability to Liquid and Macromoldeuces in Dog and Sheep Lung, Progress Report

20] An Experimental Model For The Assessment Of The Effects Of Cigarette Smoke Inhalation On Pulmonary Physiology, R. Binns And G. C. Clark.  The Annals of Occupational Hygiene (1972) 15(2-4): 237- 49 CDC.

21] Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Risk of Malignant Lymphoma in Pet Cats by Elizabeth R. Bertone, Laura A. Snyder, and Antony S. Moore, Am. J. Epidemiol. (2002) 156 (3): 268-273.

22] p53 Expression and Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure in Feline Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma, by L. A. Snyder, E. R. Bertone, R. M. Jakowski1, M. S. Dooner, J. Jennings-Ritchie, and A. S. Moore, Veterinary Pathology May 2004 vol. 41 no. 3 209-214

23] Secondhand Smoke Is A Health Threat To Pets Science News

24] Cancer of the Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Pet Dogs

John S. Reif, Christa Bruns and Kimberty S. Lower, Am. J. Epidemiol. (1998) 147 (5): 488-492.

25] An evaluation of the toxicity of 95 ingredients added individually to experimental cigarettes: Approach and methods by Charles L. Gaworski, Michael J. Oldham1, Karl A. Wagner, Christopher R.E. Coggins, and George J. Patskan, Inhalation Toxicology 23 (2011): 1-12.

26]  Safety Assessment of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) as an Ingredient Added to Cigarette Tobacco, by Mari S. Stavanja et al.,  Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology 57 (2006): 267-81.

27] Chronic Nose-Only Inhalation Study in Rats, Comparing Room-Aged Sidestream Cigarette Smoke and Diesel Engine Exhaust, byWalter Stinn et al., “Inhalation Toxicology 17 (2005): 549-76.

28] A Responsive, Sensitive, and Reproducible Dermal Tumor Promotion Assay for the Comparative Evaluation of Cigarette Smoke Condensates, by D. Meckley, J.R. Hayes, K.R. Van Kampen, A.T. Mosberg, and J.E Swauger, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 39 (2004): 135-49.

29] Freedom of Information Act Documents Regarding the National Cancer Institute Selling Mice Tobacco Companies for Animal Testing

30] A Review of In Vitro Methods to Assess the Biological Activity of Tobacco Smoke With the Aim of Reducing the Toxicity of Smoke, by C. Andreoli, D. Gigante, and A. Nunziata., Toxicology In Vitro 17.5-6 (2003): 587-94.

31] 12-Week Clinical Exposure Evaluation of a Third-Generation Electrically Heated Cigarette Smoking System (EHCSS) in Adult Smokers, by Frost-Pineda et al., Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 52 (2008): 111-17.

32] Short-Term In Vitro and In Vivo Analyses for Assessing the Tumor-Promoting Potentials of Cigarette Smoke Condensates. By Curtin, G.M., Hanausek, M., Walaszek, Z., Mosberg, A.T., Slaga, T.J., Toxicological Sciences 2004: 81, 14-25.

33] Toxicologic evaluation of flavor ingredients added to cigarette tobacco: skin painting bioassay of cigarette smoke condensate in SENCAR mice. By Gaworski, C.L., Heck, J.D., Bennett, M.B., Wenk, M.L., Toxicology 1999: 139, 1-17.

34] Effect of a flue-curing process that reduces tobacco specific nitrosamines on the tumor production in SENCAR mice by cigarette smoke condensate. By Hayes, J.R., Meckley, D.R., Stavanja, M.S., Nelson, P.R., Van Kampen, K.R., Swauger, J.E. ,  Food and Chemical Toxicology 2007: 45, 419-430.

35] A Bayesian statistical analysis of mouse dermal tumor promotion assay data for evaluating cigarette smoke condensate. By Kathman, S.J., Potts, R.J., Ayres, P.H., Harp, P.R., Wilson, C.L., Garner, C.D., Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 2010: 58, 106-113.

36] Comparative study of smoke condensates from 1R4F cigarettes that burn tobacco versus ECLIPSE cigarettes that primarily heat tobacco in the SENCAR mouse dermal promotion assay. By Meckley, D.R., Hayes, J.R., Van Kampen, K.R., Ayres, P.H., Mosberg, A.T., Swauger, J.E.  Food and Chemical Toxicology 2004: 42, 851-863.

37] Cytotoxicity, mutagenicity, and tumorigenicity of mainstream smoke from three reference cigarettes machine-smoked to the same yields of total particulate matter per cigarette. By Roemer,E., Ottmueller, T.H., Zenzen, V., Wittke, S., Radtke, F., Blanco, I., Carchman, R.A. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2009: 47, 1810-1818.

38] Prenatal Nicotine Exposure in Rhesus Monkeys Compromises Development of Brainstem and Cardiac Monoamine Pathways Involved in Perinatal Adaptation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Amelioration by Vitamin C. by Theodore A. Slotkin et al., Neurotoxicology and Teratology 33 (2011): 431-4.

39] What’s In A Cigarette by The American Lung Association

40] IARC Monographs On The Evaluation Of Carcinogenic Risks To Humans Volume 83: Tobacco Smoke and Involuntary Smoking (2004), World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer [detailed descriptions of tobacco animal tests starting pg. 1323

41] Phillip Morris Parent Company Altria Statement on Animal Testing and Use

42] Better Testing For Tobacco Products Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:

43] Scientific Standards For Studies On Modified Risk Tobacco Products, Institute Of Medicine Of The National Academies

44] Modified Risk Tobacco Product Applications: Draft Guidance for Industry FDA

45] Congress Asks FDA Reconsider Tobacco Animal Tests

46] Toxicity assessment of tobacco products in vitro. Manuppello JR, Sullivan KM, Alternatives to Laboratory Animals, 2015 Mar;43(1):39-67.

47] Carcinogenic Action Of Cigarette Smoke Condensate On Mouse Skin An Attempt At A Quantitative Study, T. D. Day, From the Tobacco Research Council Laboratories, Harrogate Received for publication September 28, 1966

48] The Smoking Beagles Article from 1975 by Mary Beith in the Sunday People January 26, 1975 [reposted on Occupy for Animals]

49] Outfoxed by Mike Huskisson

50] Cigarettes Butts and the Case for an Environmental Policy on Hazardous Cigarette Waste by Thomas E. Novotny, Kristen Lum, Elizabeth Smith, Vivian Wang, and Richard Barnes, Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2009 May; 6(5): 1691–1705.

51] List of Additives in Cigarettes:

52] Butt really? The environmental impact of cigarettes [contains a number of studies] by Cheryl G Healton1, K Michael Cummings, Richard J O'Connor, Thomas E Novotny, Tob Control 2011;20:i1 doi:10.1136/tc.2011.043729

53] US: Ban Hazardous Child Labor in Tobacco Farming Bills Before Congress Set 18 as Minimum Age Human Rights Watch

54] A Smokescreen for Slavery: Human Rights Abuses in UK Supply Chains Fact finding visit to the tobacco fields of North Carolina, Trade Union Group November 2014

55] Tobacco’s Hidden Children Hazardous Child Labor in United States Tobacco Farming Human Rights Watch

56] Truth About Tobacco Industry Documents University of California San Francisco:

57] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014

58] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010

59] Tobacco Explained: The truth about the tobacco industry…in its own words by Clive Bates and Andy

60]  Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition by Robert N. Proctor

61] Cigarette Ingredients Tri-County Cessation Center

62] Example of Light-On-Facts Media Release

63] PIG 05049 by Christien Meindertsma

64] Original Address of Press Release [would not load]

65] Iran report: Cigarettes implicated in Western plot Associated Press (AP), 2010-07-30

66] Castoruem Harvesting Guide

67] Cows and Golden Geese: The Human Cost of Experiments on Animals by C. Ray Greek, MD, Jean Swingle Greek, DVM pg 144-145, Continuum, April 2000

68] Benzo[a]pyrene-enhanced mutagenesis by asbestos in the lung of lambda-lacI transgenic rats., Loli P, Topinka J, Georgiadis P, Dusinska M, Hurbankova M, Kovacikova Z, Volkovova K, Wolff T, Oesterle D, Kyrtopoulos SA.  Mutat Res. 2004;553:79-90.

69] Researchers discover nicotine stimulates growth of new blood vessels By Krista Conger Stanford Report, July 11, 2001

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  1. louise on October 7, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Are Vaccine n immunisation s vegan?

    • Sue on March 15, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      Smoking is obviously not good for us, but how many people are being injected with vaccines? THAT is a direct product from animals, not only in the testing, but in the ingredients (including dog and monkey kidneys, cows’, horses’, and sheep’s blood, mouse brains, army worms, to name a few – and then there’s the aborted human fetus cells AND, it is even more destructive than smoking, because it is injected directly into the body, bypassing all the natural defense systems.

      Back in the 50’s and 60’s when cigarettes were being advertised on TV, and even doctors were televised recommending them, few people knew the damage and death smoking causes.


      There is so much that is still being withheld from the public. Do away with vivisection, period.

  2. louise on October 8, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Mohawk n other native cultures have,had herb tea birth control ,which made illegal by all religions
    Which supply masses of slaves to businesses who return favor by paying priests n pays to build intimidating power tripping synagogues temples cathedrals etc,see book Saharasia,twenty five pages chapter devoted to worldwide native birth control herb teas also mucus method fr Dr Billings

  3. Charlotte on October 8, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Not so much about smoking (I don’t smoke) but about the broader use of castoreum: I read in various places that while it is used in the perfume industry, it’s barely used at all in the food industry as it’s hard to come by and therefore expensive – which makes sense given where it comes from – and synthetic flavourings are far more common. Thoughts?

  4. Anna on May 1, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    I don’t see any issues with smoking cigs that aren’t tested on animals or with growing your own tobacco and smoking that. You can be vegan and still smoke.

  5. Jessica on March 16, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    How about cigars?
    I can’t seem to find anything about possible animal ingredients in cigars…

    • Ricardo on November 22, 2017 at 8:46 am

      I am curious about cigars as well, they are entirely different from cigarettes, in essence, just bundled up leaves of tobacco.

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