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Smoking Poppers v/s Cigarettes. What is Better for Health?

Last Updated - Fri, Jan 04 2019

Similar Questions - What are the effects of smoking cigarettes, what are the effects of smoking poppers, are poppers dangerous, What are poppers, effects of smoking, how to quit smoking, smoking cigarettes

Detailed Question:

Hi Doc, 

I need a bit of advice. I’m 23 years old, and I’ve been seeing my girlfriend for the last two years. I’ve been smoking cigarettes since I was 17 and she didn’t seem to mind it at all until recently. Over the last few months, she’s been insisting that I quit immediately, saying that smoking causes cancer and that it will reduce my lifespan. I don’t want to upset my girlfriend, but I just don’t know how to quit smoking. I don’t consider myself a heavy smoker but my job is pretty stressful, and I can’t do without a smoke for more than a couple of hours. I tried quitting a few times in the past but I can’t. I’m looking for an alternative to smoking that’s less harmful but still enjoyable. I recently heard about poppers. I’m not sure what poppers are, but I was thinking that if they’re safer to use than cigarettes, my girlfriend wouldn’t mind me switching to them. I know that there are a quite a few effects of smoking cigarettes but I would like to know the effects of poppers and whether they are better or worse than cigarettes. Please help me. Thanks a tonne.

Category: General Physician

Dr. Aditi Gupta

MD - Internal Medicine
Angeles University


Thank you for consulting us at JustDoc about whether using poppers is safer or more harmful than smoking. I understand why your girlfriend would want you to quit smoking as its harmful effects are many. You mentioned that you made a few attempts to quit in the past but didn’t manage to. Quitting would be extremely hard, especially since you started smoking at a young age, but I assure you that it is possible, even without replacing your cigarettes with an alternative like poppers. You already know what cigarettes are so I’ll tell you a little about poppers before we make a comparison between the two.
What are poppers?
A popper is made by taking a small cut, often 1/4th, of a cigarette and placing it into a metal popper shaft, with or without the cigarette paper. Weed is then stamped into the shaft on top of the cigarette. The user pulls it all in one go. Though it uses only a small quantity of weed, the user experiences an almost immediate state of euphoria.
The effect of smoking cigarettes
As you mentioned, you are hoping to turn in your cigarettes for poppers if they cause less harm to your body. You are already aware of the fact the smoking cigarettes can cause harm to your body. In the United States, cigarette smoking is the cause of nearly one out of every five deaths. Before we make a comparison with poppers, it is important to understand why smoking cigarettes is considered to have a negative impact on your health

The following are but a few of the effects of smoking on the body: 
  1. It’s a well-known fact that smoking cigarettes increased the risk of lung cancer. Along with this, it can also affect the respiratory system in other ways, including causing an increased risk of respiratory infections, flu, etc. Long-term smoker especially suffer the most as, over the years, their lungs become incapable of filtering harmful chemicals, because of which toxins remain in their body
  2. The cardiovascular system is also affected by the nicotine as well as the other substances that are present in the smoke. Smokers and those who inhale secondhand smoke are at risk of developing medical issues such as atherosclerosis, a low blood oxygen level and blood clots
  3. Smoking cigarettes has a harmful effect on the nervous systems as it results in an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. As it acts as a stimulant which affects the neurotransmitters, it often leads to depression and anxiety, and can also hamper the cognitive ability of the smoker.
  4. The digestive system is put at risk as smoking increased the risk of a number of cancers, including that of the mouth, esophagus, pancreas and stomach. Oral conditions such as inflammation and infection of the gums can also develop due to smoking.
  5. Smoking reduces the ability of both men and women to achieve an organism and can also result in infertility. Women who smoke often suffer from a number of complications during their pregnancy and also put the health of their babies at risk.
  6. The skin of a smoker is often noticeably affected as tobacco smoke can lead to wrinkles, premature ageing and discoloration of the skin. 

Are poppers worse than cigarettes? 

The growing popularity of poppers has made many wonder about whether they are more or less harmful than those of cigarettes. A common assumption that people make is that since only a part of a cigarette is used in a popper, the amount of tobacco in a popper is significantly less, making it less harmful. However, this is only one of the many points that need to be considered while making a comparison between the two. 

One of the main reasons why poppers are considerably more harmful than cigarettes is that they do not have a filter. The purpose of the filter in cigarettes is to make them less harsh in order to lessen the negative impact that they have on the body. When you smoke a cigarette, the filter reduces the quantity of tar, smoke and harmful particles that you would otherwise inhale. When you smoke a popper, you are injecting the tobacco directly into your lungs, which makes its effects greater than that of a cigarette. The aforementioned effects that smoking has on the various parts of the body, thus, are applicable to poppers too, only they are intensified. 

The tar in the smoke which gets deposited in the lungs leads to reduced appetite which results in weight loss. Although it hasn’t been scientifically proven, a number of people have experienced extreme weight loss due to smoking poppers. 

It is not easy to figure out how to quit smoking and you mentioned that you had difficulty with the same. This is due to the presence of nicotine, which is an addictive substance, in the smoke of the cigarette. Poppers are much more addictive than cigarettes, which is another reason why they are considered to be worse. Users of smokers have also experienced stabbing pains in their chest when they take a deep breath. 

While cigarettes have been around for ages, the use of poppers is relatively new. Thus, the effects that poppers have on the body as not as widely known as that of cigarettes. 

Poppers – the drug 

As you are looking for a comparison between cigarettes and poppers, I assume that you are talking about the poppers that you smoke. However, the term, ‘poppers’ is also used to refer to a class of chemicals which belong to the alkyl nitrite family. They became a part of club culture in the 1970s, and the rave scene in the 1990s increased their usage. They, thus, came to be known as a ‘club drug’ which were and are still used for recreation, especially to increase pleasure during intercourse. These kinds of poppers are in the liquid form but have extremely low vapour points, which means that as soon as the liquid is exposed to air at room temperature, it turns into vapour. To use the drug, one holds the vial under his/her nose and inhales the vapour. This is the most commonly used as well as the safest method of using poppers. Since you are searching for a safe alternative to smoking, you may be interested in learning that studies have shown that inhalation of this drug poses an insignificant hazard and is less harmful than tobacco. This being said, they do have their negative effects as well, including headaches, time distortion and more. When consumed orally, they could lead to unconsciousness, coma, cyanosis, or even death. 

I hope that this information will help you. Although the degree of the effects of cigarettes and poppers may vary, both can cause grave harm to your body. It is advisable that you consult a specialist who will be able to advise you further. 


Dr. Aditi Gupta

MD - Internal Medicine
Angeles University

Dr. Aditi Gupta has worked in the emergency department for Hospitals like Fortis Hospital (Bengaluru)and St.Philomena's Hospital(Bengaluru). She has also participated in numerous health studies in Philippines.

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The above medicine data is written by Dr. Aditi Gupta. It is edited, updated and maintained by JustDoc Quality Team. If you have any queries regarding the data, please email us at Read about our Medical Team here.

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Dr. Aditi Gupta

MD - Internal Medicine

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