What’s in a Smoke?

When you go to the grocery store all of the food has labels that list ingredients. If you are going to put something in your body, you should know what it is made of, right? Unfortunately this same logic does not apply to cigarettes. Yes, they have warning labels, but they lack a detailed list of what exactly they are comprised of. This might lead some people to simply say, “tobacco of course,” and move on with their day, thinking it’s okay because tobacco is “natural.”

While tobacco is obviously the main ingredient in cigarettes, a little research shows that there are multiple other ingredients in cigarettes that justify concern. In fact, when you read up on the ingredients, you might think that you are about to do some work on your house or catch up on some cleaning, maybe even do a little extermination work. See for yourself:

  • Tar
  • Formaldehyde
  • Ammonia
  • Hydrogen Cyanide
  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Nickel
  • Benzene
  • Polonium-210

Those are just some of the over 4,000 chemical elements that are actually in a cigarette. As you can see, not only are cigarettes more than just tobacco, they have some ingredients you would normally not consider ingesting. In fact, at least 50 of the ingredients in a cigarette are known carcinogens. Carcinogens are substances that have been shown to cause cancer. In addition to the carcinogens, cigarettes have 250 other ingredients which harm your body in ways besides causing cancer. The numbers speak for themselves: cigarettes are bad news. Not only do these harmful ingredients hurt the smoker, but they can also harm anyone who inhales the smoke second hand.

These chemicals have negative effects on the body. There is some good news though. The negative effects that these chemicals produce can begin to subside shortly after you stop smoking (and hopefully quit for good).

  • Within minutes of quitting your heart and blood rates stabilize
  • Within a few hours of quitting the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops
  • After several weeks your circulation will be improved
  • Once you have made it several months without a smoke your lungs will be stronger and more functional

That is just a brief overview of the improvements your body will experience after quitting. It is easy to see that the ingredients in cigarettes take a significant toll on the human body. While some brands might advertise that they are “more natural” than others, you can believe that no brand of cigarette is available without harmful substances in it. The best way to avoid negative aspects of smoking is to quit, not to switch to “lights” or smoke less often.

Keep in mind that the list above covers just some of the harmful ingredients in cigarettes. There are many more that begin hurting your body as soon as you start smoking. While it might take a degree in chemistry to know what all of the ingredients are off of the top of your head, it doesn’t take a scientist to know that you shouldn’t be putting them in your body.


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National Cancer Institute

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

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Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Pinellas County

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