What’s In A Cigarette?

One well-known fact about cigarettes is that a single cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals. And of course, many of these chemicals are actually toxic and even cancer causing. No one wants to purposefully put these harmful chemicals in their systems, so learning about the chemicals cigarettes contain and the effects they can have on your body is a good way to make up your mind about deciding to quit smoking.

Three Main Components of Cigarettes
Cigarette smoke – What people who smoke and those around them inhale when having a cigarette, contains three main ingredients: nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide. Here’s a little more information about those ingredients:

Nicotine: This is the addictive component of tobacco. It is absorbed into the blood and affects the brain within 10 seconds. It causes smokers to feel good because of the neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain) that it releases. It also causes a surge of heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline (which also feels good). Unfortunately, because of the nature of addiction, when the effects of nicotine on the brain and body wear off, the smoker feels worse than before. This reinforces the craving for another cigarette.

Tar: Tar itself contains many poisonous substances to the body. It is a thick, sticky substance, and when inhaled it sticks to the tiny hairs on the lungs, the cilia. These normally protect the lungs from dirt and infection, but when covered in tar they can’t do their job. Tar also coats the walls of the whole respiration system, narrowing the tubes that transport air (the bronchioles) and reducing elasticity of the lungs.

Carbon Monoxide: Carbon monoxide is the poisonous chemical found in car exhaust fumes. It decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood, which deprives all the organs of oxygen too. Because there’s less oxygen in the blood, it gets thicker and puts a strain on the heart to pump.

Other Components of Cigarettes
Other toxic components of cigarettes include:

  • Benzene – a solvent used in fuel and chemical manufacturing
  • Formaldehyde – a very poisonous liquid that is used to preserve dead bodies
  • Ammonia – a chemical found in cleaning fluids
  • Hydrogen cyanide – a poison used as a fumigant to kill ants. It is also used to manufacture plastics, dyes, and pesticides
  • Cadmium – an extremely poisonous and radioactive metal found in batteries
  • Acetone – a corrosive liquid solvent found in nail polish remover
  • Arsenic – another ingredient in rat poison

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