What we commonly call "tobacco" includes cigarettes, cigars, loose pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff. These products contain the dried, processed leaves of the tobacco plant nicotiana rustica or nicotiana tabacum. All tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive drug. Today’s tobacco also contains thousands of other chemicals designed to make the products more user-friendly and addictive.
Chemicals in Tobacco
In addition to nicotine, cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals. The vast majority of these chemicals are added to the tobacco to add to its addictiveness, improve its flavor, and/or to increase burn rate, which increases sales.
Here’s one example of a chemical added specifically to make tobacco more addictive:
Ammonia (one of the 4,000 chemicals placed in cigarettes) is added solely for the purpose of enhancing the effects of nicotine. Ammonia added to commercially made cigarettes can boost the impact of nicotine 100 times. -- (The Washington Post, July 30, 1997)
Following are some of the categories of chemicals found in each cigarette:
Cancer Causing Agents
Nail Polish Remover
Cigarette Lighter Fluid
Car Exhaust Fumes
Dead Body Preserver
Gas Chamber Poison
Nitrous Oxide Phenols
Ingredient of PVC
How are tobacco products different from each other?
Tobacco products differ mostly in the way they are used and, consequently, the way they injure users. Cigarettes are the most common form of tobacco used, but cigars and smokeless tobacco are every bit as dangerous. All tobacco causes cancer; cigars and cigarettes most commonly cause lung cancer, but they can lead to a variety of other cancers, as well. Smokeless tobacco, on the other hand, mostly causes cancer of the mouth, throat, and stomach. All tobacco use also leads to heart disease.
All tobacco contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug, but the different products have different amounts. For example, one cigar has as much nicotine as almost three packs of cigarettes. A cigar can contain up to 444 mg of nicotine, while a cigarette can contain up to 11 mg of nicotine! A pocket-size packet of smokeless tobacco contains as much nicotine as three packs of cigarettes. The moister the tobacco, the higher the nicotine content.
All tobacco also contains a variety of toxic chemicals. Cigar smoke has the same poisons and chemicals that cause cancer as cigarette smoke and contains higher levels of some of those chemicals. Smokeless tobacco contains formaldehyde, which is embalming fluid, nitrosamine and benzopyrene, which are known carcinogens, and Uranium 235 and Polonium 210, both of which are nuclear products. In all, chewing tobacco (or spit tobacco) contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals!