I have been getting a lot of questions lately about the safety of smoking herbs (vs tobacco) because it is still smoking, and smoking is bad for your lungs. Unfortunately there is not a lot of scientific research on this topic. I am looking into starting to collect information on lung volume in people who use my smokes (stay tuned for that!). For now I will share my thoughts, personal experiences, and customer reports on the matter. I am going to limit this to a physical body discussion and a discussion of the relationship with the smoking process. There are so many aspects to the problem that Big Tobacco started that if I don't limit myself I could write a book about it!
My original intent when I created my herbal smoking blends was to address the reasons why people engage with tobacco and provide them herbal support for those needs and thereby a way to break the addiction to tobacco. I found three primary reasons why people are smoking: psychic protection/spirit support: Gentle & Protective blend; physical body dependency/withdrawal symptoms: Take it Easy blend, and social smokers: True to You blend.
To elaborate/for example, some people use tobacco when they are already drinking or doing other drugs and really don't smoke otherwise. These are our social smokers/people with addictive tendencies and the herbs in True to You are all partners in supporting people in social situations and/or in situations where drugs or alcohol are often present or desired. My smoking blends are also (hopefully!) used by people who have never had tobacco but, choose them instead of habit-forming tobacco or if they can't or prefer not to smoke m jay.
In this light, you can see the idea is to help decrease overall smoking. People who have quit tobacco using my smokes report that they smoke my herbs a few a day for a while, occasionally, or only when they would otherwise break down and start smoking tobacco again. Though smoking a few a day is a lot, it is far better than a pack plus a day that they were previously smoking. In each instance the person in question is smoking far less than tobacco and feel they are able to separate the addiction from the ritual of smoking. They also report feeling a greater sense of wellbeing. Ultimately because the addiction is broken I find people are not in control of their decision to smoke. As a former smoker of tobacco I experienced "needing" to smoke even when my lungs were very sick. If you are smoking something non-addictive it is very unlikely that you would do so if it was making you feel uncomfortable and not making you high.
On a purely physical level habitual smoking is not good. Smoke produces tar (barbeques and camp fires included). In some cultures however, occasional smoking is seen as a beneficial option for delivering medicine and one that has some advantages. For example: mullein was smoked in some Native American cultures as a treatment for pneumonia and other lung ailments. In my personal practice I have tried this remedy as a tea and not had as much luck as with smoking it, particularly if there is a lot of dampness in the lungs. As a former asthmatic, I find that I am so sensitive that I cannot smoke anything if it does not have mullein in it. I find it very helpful and it is in all of my blends for that reason. In Ayurvedic medicine (traditional medicine from India) for patients with digestive/absorption issues, breathing in smoke (sometimes they are just burning in the area, such as a large bonfire of herbs) is a way to bypass the gut and get the medicine in the body.
I recommend trying the herbal cigarettes for yourself. See how they compare to other things that you smoke. If you are concerned about your lungs, I definitely recommend trying the filtered cigarettes. Pipe smoking is even easier on your lungs because the paper is not smoked. Tune into your body and see what it's comfortable with. If the process feels okay, then find the blend(s) that support you the most. I find that during certain periods a particular blend will really help me out and then it changes. However if you are a smoker and have trouble quitting cold turkey then they might help you to have a healthier option, ie a nonaddictive one. I made these into cigarettes because for most people I talk with they say that having an option that is just as easy as grabbing a tobacco stick is very helpful to making a better decision.
Good luck and keep the questions coming.