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Are ‘rollies’ less harmful than factory-made cigarettes?

Posted on July 21, 2018

It is a common belief that rollies (roll-your-own cigarettes) are safer than factory-made cigarettes. However this is not the case.

According to a paper published today in the journal Tobacco Control by Australian researchers, rollies are at least as risky as smoking any other sort of tobacco product and research suggests that rollies may pose a greater risk of mouth cancer and possibly also bowel cancer than factory-made cigarettes.

Roll-your-own tobacco contains many of the same additives found in manufactured cigarettes as well as additional additives that help to maintain moisture content given the frequent exposure of the tobacco to air when the pouch is opened.

In any case, the authors point out that:

'it is not additives that pose the major danger to smokers but rather the inhalation of smoke created when tobacco burns'

Who smokes rollies?

The study found that 5% of Australians smoked rollies in 2016, mostly in combination with factory-made cigarettes.  1.7% of Australians smoked roll-your-own cigarettes exclusively.

The use of rollies has increased 50% since 2004, while factory-made cigarette use has been declining. Factory-made cigarettes were used by 12.1% of the population in 2016.

Roll-your-own cigarettes are about 30% cheaper than factory-made cigarettes on a cost-per-cigarette basis. The high price of smoking has led some smokers to switch to rollies as a less costly substitute. Tobacco companies have also produced smaller pack sizes for loose tobacco to encourage its use.

The popularity of roll-your-own cigarettes varies between countries. Rollies are only a small part of the tobacco market in Australia but are much more common in the UK, Netherlands, France, Germany and New Zealand.

A safer alternative

A much less harmful and cheaper alternative to smoking is vaping with electronic cigarettes. Vaping provides the nicotine that smokers need but without the smoke which causes nearly all of the serious health effects. According to the UK Royal College of Physicians, vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking. It is also around 85% cheaper.


Megan BaylyMichelle M ScolloMelanie A Wakefield. Who uses rollies? Trends in product offerings, price and use of roll-your-own tobacco in Australia. Tobacco Control 2018

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2 Replies to “Are ‘rollies’ less harmful than factory-made cigarettes?”

William F P

I find your suggestion that roll-ups (as we refer to what you call 'rollies' here in the UK) are about 30% cheaper greatly at odds with other analysts' conclusions who suggest it's more like 70%. This echoes my own experience …..

Sylvia Duggan

I am not a smoker.l tolerate 2nd hand smoke from 'roll your owns" much better than smoke from tailor made
Currently after a blast from such a source, l have been bothered by congestion in upper chest, causing me fits of coughing with discharge of pale yellow phlegm….mostly during the night.

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