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What's in Cigarettes

Let’s take a look at a number of known carcinogenic chemical compounds that are produced by a burning cigarette. This list will certainly shock you.

Acetaldehyde –used to produce acetic acid and butadiene – both toxic substances in their own right

Acrylonitrile – used in manufacture of plastic – toxic in small doses

4-Aminobiphenyl – use prohibited in many countries in the world

Arsenic – potent poison – highly regulated use in all countries in the world

Benzene – benzene is a toxin used as a pesticide. It’s also used in gasoline and explosives manufacture

Beryllium – highly toxic substance that can cause a pulmonary condition called chronic berylliosis – one third of sufferers will die from it while the survivors are left disabled

Cadmium – lethal dose for a rat is 25 mg/m3 – cadmium is used to produce batteries and in processes of nuclear fission

Ethylene oxide – known carcinogen that also causes acute poisoning in higher doses

Formaldehyde – also used for preserving dead tissue in embalming fluids

Furan – increases the risk of hepatocellular and bile duct tumors

Hydrazine – used in rocket fuel, fuel cells, and pesticides

Isoprene – used in production of rubber


Lead – causes microcytic anemia and interferes with cognition

Polonium-210 – highly toxic, radioactive isotope

o-Toluidine – causes DNA damage which results in tumors


Three major ingredients of a cigarette are:

Carbon monoxide

They have the most adverse effects on human body, regardless of the fact that they are not the most poisonous ingredients that can be found in there.

Tar – it’s important not to mix cigarette tar with natural occurring tar such as wood tar. Wood tar has microbicidal properties that cannot be claimed for cigarette tar. Tar is an umbrella name for a number of particulates that smokers ingest when smoking– basically, tar is everything a smoker inhales and contains every single poisonous particle that can be found in cigarettes.

Tar coats the lungs, causing cilia cells to die out. Without that barrier, tar gets immediate access to the alveoli where it infects the organ with carcinogenic ingredients and causes cancer and other pulmonary diseases.

Nicotine – the addiction culprit. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that compels you to smoke. It’s why smokers go back to cigarettes even when they try to quit. It is a compound naturally found in the tobacco plant and it serves as a bug repellent. That is why it has been used as a pesticide for decades.

Nicotine causes a rush of adrenaline and dopamine in humans. It also increases blood sugar and inhibits insulin production, making smokers feel less hungry as a result. These combined effects make it as addictive as heroin and cocaine and most smokers have serious withdrawal symptoms, both psychological and physical, when they try to quit smoking.

Carbon monoxide – carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas that is a by-product of burning cigarettes. It is also found in car emissions and interferes with breathing and circulatory system. Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream via the lungs, taking up the space reserved for oxygen. As a result, the cells in the body get less oxygen and the heart has to pump faster in order to deliver that limited supply. Blood pressure also shoots up and this puts smokers at a higher risk of suffering a heart attack.

Other Ingredients in Cigarettes

While we don’t have enough room in this article to highlight every single ingredient that can be found in cigarettes, we wanted to draw your attention to a couple of more which might surprise you.

Acetic acid – acetic acid can be found in household products such as cleaning wipes, disinfectants, and degreasers. It’s also used for industrial and manufacturing purposes.

Toluene – found in gasoline and used in the manufacturing of explosives.

Naphthalene – a poisonous compound used in production of mothballs.

Hydrogen cyanide – a poison that was used in prison executions.

Acetanisole – a fragrance used in perfume industry.

Methanol – an ingredient regularly found in antifreeze used in car industry.

Methane – gas found in excrement.

Urea – a compound found in sweat and urine.

The most controversial aspect here is the fact that cigarette manufacturers are not required by the law to write a list of ingredients in their product! How many times have you picked up a product in a store that didn’t have a comprehensive list of ingredients on the back cover? It happens very rarely and in most cases it’s not even legal. Cigarette manufacturers get away with it because their list of ingredients is so huge that it wouldn’t fit on a cardboard box of cigarettes, let alone a single pack – and because it’s so frightening that no one would touch a cigarette ever again.

Make sure you know what you’re smoking and what kind of consequences it could have on your overall health and well-being. Quit now and start restoring your health and make sure you warn all your smoker friends about these highly-toxic ingredients that can be found in every single cigarette. All of them are bad for your health and a good number of them will also lead to cancer in organs such as lungs, mouth, tongue, trachea, skin, nose, and others as well.

Read About the Most Common Withdrawal Symptoms


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External Resources for Listings of Chemicals
and Ingredients In Cigarettes

American Lung Association - Cigarette Ingredients   

US FDA - Cigarette Ingredients List

American Cancer Society - Harmful Cigarette Ingredients   

Verywell Mind - Ingredients in Cigarettes - Ingredients Found in Cigarettes


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Updated March 2019