UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
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So you know cigarettes are bad news for your health. Let's look closer at why:
Tobacco is a plant that's used to make cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco (AKA chew, snuff, dip, or spit tobacco). Tobacco contains nicotine, which is addictive. It also contains tar, a sticky, yellowish-brown gunk that coats the lungs and throat, and stains teeth and hands. It kills lung cells and causes cancer.
As if tobacco wasn't nasty enough, cigarette companies add other things to tobacco when they make cigarettes. They know this stuff is bad for people's health, but they add it anyway.
Cigarette smoke contains 69 chemical compounds that are known to cause cancer. Some of the things you'd find in cigarette smoke are:
- Benzene—usually made from petroleum. It's used in bug spray, detergents, and motor fuels.
- Carbon monoxide—a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas.
- Arsenic—a poisonous metal. It's used in bug and weed sprays 'cause it kills them, too.
- Hydrogen cyanide—a colorless, volatile, extremely poisonous liquid; it's used to make dyes, pesticides, disinfectants, and plastics.
- Polonium 210—a naturally radioactive metal.
Some companies add urea to cigarettes. Urea is also in human urine—that's pee!
There are super-dangerous chemicals in cigarettes that would make front-page news if they were in anything else.
In 1989, millions of cases of imported fruit were banned after a teeny bit of cyanide was found in just two grapes. A single cigarette has thirty-three times the cyanide that was found in those two grapes.
In 1990, 72 million bottles of water were voluntarily recalled because of small traces of benzene. The smoke from one pack of unfiltered cigarettes has as much benzene as 169 bottles of the contaminated water.
The hit from the nicotine is jacked up because tobacco companies add ammonia. Ammonia is also used to make fertilizers, explosives, and refrigerants. It's also what makes cat urine smell bad. Cat pee! Gross!
So, to recap, when you smoke, you're sucking in over 69 kinds of poison, including stuff that's in bug sprays, cat pee, and plastic.
- Division of Population Health/School Health Branch
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4770 Buford Highway, Northeast, Mailstop K-27
Atlanta, GA 30341
TTY: (888) 232-6348
- Contact CDC-INFO