Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and affecting the health of smokers in general. Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits for you and your loved ones.
Learn more about the harmful effects of smoking, smokeless tobacco, and secondhand smoke from the resources below and find out about resources that address prevention.
Make this the year you or someone close to you quits smoking.
What is in a cigarette? To know what is in secondhand smoke, we first have to know what is in a cigarette. To that end, the following is a basic description of what is found in most cigarettes sold in the United States:
Cigarette tobacco is blended from two main leaf varieties: Virginia tobacco that contains 2.5-3% nicotine; and "burley" tobacco that has a higher nicotine content (3.5-4%). U.S. blends also contain up to 10% of imported "oriental" tobacco that is aromatic but relatively low (less than 2%) in nicotine.
In addition to the leaf blend, cigarettes contain "fillers" which are made from the stems and other bits of tobacco that would otherwise be waste products. These are mixed with water and various flavorings and additives. The ratio of filler varies among brands.
Additives are used to make tobacco products more acceptable to the consumer. They include humectants (moisturizers) to prolong shelf life; sugars to make the smoke seem milder and easier to inhale; and flavorings such as chocolate and vanilla.
Additives are used to make cigarettes that provide high levels of 'free' nicotine that increases the addictive 'kick' of the nicotine. Ammonium compounds can fulfill this role by raising the alkalinity of smoke.
Additives are used to enhance the taste of tobacco smoke, to make the product more desirable to consumers. Although seemingly innocuous, the addition of flavorings making the cigarette 'attractive' and 'palatable' is in itself cause for concern. Furthermore, sweeteners and chocolate may help to make cigarettes more palatable to children and firs time users; eugenol and menthol numb the throat so the smoker cannot feel the smoke's aggravating effects. Also, additives such as cocoa may be used to dilate the airways allowing the smoke an easier and deeper passage into the lungs exposing the body to more nicotine and higher levels of tar.
What is in the smoke? Cigarette smoke is toxic soup of more than 4,000 known chemical compounds. Cigarette smoke is made up of "sidestream" smoke from the burning tip of the cigarette and "mainstream" smoke from the filter or mouth end. Tobacco smoke contains thousands of different chemicals that are released into the air as particles and gases. The particulate phase of cigarette smoke
includes nicotine, "tar" (itself composed of many chemicals), benzene and benzo(a)pyrene. The gas phase includes carbon monoxide, ammonia, dimethylnitrosamine, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and acrolein. According to a November 2001 report issued by the National Cancer Institute, there are 69 known or probable carcinogens in cigarette smoke.
Secondhand Smoke - Negative Effects on Health
The scientific evidence on the health risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke is clear, convincing, and overwhelming. Secondhand smoke (also referred to as involuntary smoking, environmental tobacco smoke, and passive smoking) is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease, chronic lung ailments such as bronchitis and asthma (particularly in children), and low birth-weight births. Exposure to secondhand smoke has been estimated to result in at least 38,000 annual deaths in the United States and over one million illnesses in children (see table below).