What is in a Cigarette?
Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. Included are 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins.
The most notorious of these are:
Tar is a mixture of chemicals (Formaldehyde, Arsenic and Cyanide to name a few) which are drawn into a smoker’s lugs when they inhale cigarette smoke. Once inhaled, the smoke condenses and about 70% of the tar is deposited in the lungs. Many of the substances in the tar are known to cause cancer in animals and to damage the small hairs that help protect the lungs from infection.
Nicotine is a powerful and fast acting drug, which once absorbed reaches the brain in about seven seconds. Most people who smoke are dependent on the nicotine in cigarettes. After starting to smoke, nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure. Other effects of nicotine include an increase in hormone production, the contraction of small blood vessels under the skin and a change in blood composition.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless and poisonous gas, giving no warning of its presence. In large amounts it is rapidly fatal. It is formed when a cigarette is lit. It combines with hemoglobin in the blood more readily than oxygen, up to 15% of a smoker’s blood may be carrying CO instead of oxygen, thus making breathing difficult. This is why it is linked to coronary heart disease and other circulation problems.
Familiar Chemicals in Cigarettes
- carbon monoxide – found in car exhaust
- nicotine – found in bug sprays
- tar – found in material to make roads
- arsenic – found in rat poison
- ammonia – found in cleaning products
- hydrogen cyanide – found in gas chamber poison
- cyanide – a deadly poison
- acetone – found in nail polish remover
- butane – found in cigarette lighter fluid
- DDT – found in insecticides
- formaldehyde – used to preserve dead bodies
- sulfuric acid – found in car batteries
- cadmium – used to recharge batteries
- freon – damages earth’s ozone layer
- geranic acid – a fragrance
- methoprene – a pesticide
- maltitol – a sweetener not permitted to be used in foods in the U.S.
Sources: Dr. Joel Dunnington, Tobacco Almanac, Revised, May 1993.
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