What's in that cigarette?

Smoking is associated - in advertising campaigns - with after-action satisfaction and as a passport to an exciting life. Real life however reveals a few bare facts about how unromantic cigarettes are:

  • Filters do not remove enough tar to make cigarettes less dangerous
  • Some taste-improving chemicals added to tobacco also cause cancer
  • A chemical very similar to rocket fuel helps keep the tip of the cigarette burning at an extremely hot temperature. This allows the nicotine in tobacco to turn into a vapour so your lungs can absorb it more easily
  • Most people prefer to use ammonia for things such as cleaning windows and toilet bowls. By adding ammonia to cigarettes, nicotine in its vapour form can be absorbed through your lungs more quickly. This, in turn, means your brain can get a higher dose of nicotine with each puff

Here is a list of chemicals added to your cigarettes that will surprise you:

  • Cadmium - In industry and consumer products, cadmium is used for batteries, pigments, metal coatings, and plastics. Cadmium damages the lungs, can cause kidney disease, and may irritate the digestive tract.
  • Benzene - Naturally occurring substance produced by volcanoes and forest fires and present in many plants and animals. But benzene is also a major industrial chemical made from coal and oil. Benzene is used to make other chemicals, as well as some types of plastics, detergents, and pesticides. It is also a component of gasoline. Linked to leukaemia
  • Formaldehyde - used as glue in wood products and a preservative in some paints. It can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat, nausea, coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, skin rashes, and allergic reactions.
  • Nickel - Hard, silvery-white metal. Causes increased susceptibility to lung infections, chronic bronchitis and reduced lung function.
  • Lead – Used in ammunition, roofing, gasoline, paints and ceramic products and caulking. Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. The most sensitive is the central nervous system, particularly in children. Lead also damages kidneys and the immune system. Exposure to lead is more dangerous for young and unborn children. Harmful effects include premature births, smaller babies, decreased mental ability in the infant, learning difficulties, and reduced growth in young children.
  • Acetone – Present in vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, and landfill sites. Breathing moderate-to-high levels of acetone for short periods of time can cause nose, throat, lung, and eye irritation; headaches; light-headedness; confusion; increased pulse rate; effects on blood; nausea; vomiting; unconsciousness and possibly coma; and shortening of the menstrual cycle in women.
  • Pyridine - Made from crude coal tar or from other chemicals and is used to dissolve other substances. Headaches, giddiness, a desire to sleep, quickening of the pulse, and rapid breathing have been witnessed in people who have breathed in pyridine.

Many of these chemicals were added to make you better able to tolerate toxic amounts of cigarette smoke. They were added without regard to your health and with the intent to keep you addicted.

Read more:
Ways to quit smoking

Visit the SA Thoracic Society for more information

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