“I don’t want to quit smoking”
“I love smoking”
“I’ve tried to quit and it’s too hard”
“I know people who’ve smoked their whole lives and lived to their nineties”
Even if you don’t want to quit, you may still want to take steps to lessen harm. Harm reduction tries to lessen the health and social harms that are linked to addiction and substance use. But this is done without stopping use completely.
For smoking, harm reduction refers to lessening contact with the harmful chemicals that the tobacco industry adds to products like cigarettes and cigars.
Research has looked at 2 main ways to lessen the harms from smoking.
To lessen the number of cigarettes or other tobacco products you smoke, you’ll first need to keep track of the number you currently smoke and when you smoke. It also helps to plan which ones you want to try to cut out.
Here are some tips to help you lessen your use:
When you smoke fewer cigarettes, you may be tempted to take longer, deeper puffs. But smoking this way won’t end up lessening harm, even if you smoke fewer cigarettes.
Many people find it hard to lessen use without getting nicotine from another source. If this is you, you may want to try switching to less harmful products instead.
It’s not recommended to lessen the amount of tobacco products you use if you’re ready to quit smoking. But it may help for a very short amount of time or if you’re ready to quit right away.
If you’re ready to quit, find out more about
Switching means replacing all or some of your cigarettes with a product that is less harmful, like:
Switching to a non-smoked product like snus or a vaping product can still cause harm. But research shows they can help people lessen the amount of cigarettes they smoke.
Smoked tobacco products are very toxic. So when you keep using them, it’s still harmful.
There is some evidence that smoking less can lessen the harm from smoking, but we don’t know for sure. More research is needed to look at ways to lessen harm if you keep smoking.
Smoking less and using NRT lessens your contact with toxic chemicals. This may improve your health by:
It’s important to know that smoking less doesn’t lower your risk of heart disease by the same amount. For example, if you smoke 1 cigarette a day, you have about half the risk of heart disease than if you smoke 20 cigarettes a day.
Lessening harm when you smoke can help you feel more in control of your smoking. It can also help you feel more confident that you’re lessening the harms from tobacco use or that you’ll eventually stop.
Current as of: September 16, 2020
Author: Tobacco Reduction Program, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.