Over 4000 chemical compounds are created by burning a cigarette – 69 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanides and ammonia are all present in cigarette smoke. Forty-three known carcinogens are in mainstream smoke, sidestream smoke or both. These dangerous chemicals include:
NICOTINE A highly toxic nerve poison that constricts arteries and increases adrenaline production. Between 30-60mg of liquid nicotine can kill an adult. Nicotine is a powerful stimulant—it does not relax you!
HYDROGEN SULPHIDE A poisonous chemical smelling of bad eggs.
HYDROGEN CYANIDE Used in gas chambers in the USA to carry out the Death Penalty.
METHANOL A fatal poison. Continued inhalation may cause blindness.
ACETONE A form of paint-stripper better known as nail varnish remover.
AMMONIA Prolonged exposure and inhalation causes serious injury and may be fatal. Ammonia is used to bleach, to etch aluminium, and to saponify (convert to soap) oils and fats.
DDT A pesticide, now banned from commercial use due to its lethal side-effects.
BENZENE An aromatic chemical proven to be a major carcinogen.
CARBON MONOXIDE Present in car exhaust gasses. Causes death if inhaled by preventing oxygen from entering the bloodstream.
PYRIDINE A solvent and waterproofing agent.
FORMALDEHYDE Embalming fluid.
In addition to the chemicals above (and the many more not listed), which are given off purely as a result of the tobacco leaf burning, there are various additional unwholesome substances that may be present as a result of the plantation environment, and the conditions in which the harvested leaf is stored and shipped:
- Contamination with insects, bird and rodent droppings, and animal urine etc, which occurs during the storage of the cut leaves prior to shipping.
- Contamination with human faeces and urine, which occurs during harvesting. Tobacco leaf makes an excellent substitute for toilet paper by the pickers working in the fields. In Brazil, for example, it is often the Amazonian Indians who pick tobacco and the culture there puts far less emphasis on personal hygiene. The pickers are paid by the kilo for the leaves they have picked, and they won’t throw a leaf away when it can just as easily go into their sack.
How much tar in a year?
As a cigarette is smoked, the amount of tar inhaled into the lungs increases, and the last puff contains more than twice as much tar as the first puff. Carbon monoxide makes it harder for red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. Tar is a mixture of substances that together form a sticky mass in the lungs. It is estimated that the lungs of a smoker averaging 20 a day will absorb a pint of tar in a year. If you want to see what this looks like click here