2000 Surgeon General's Report Highlights: Tobacco Products




Overview of Tobacco Products

  • More than 4,000 chemical compounds have been identified in tobacco smoke. Of these, at least 43 are known to cause cancer.
  • Current tobacco product regulation requires cigarette manufacturers to disclose levels of magnify tar and nicotine. Smokers receive very little information regarding chemical constituents in tobacco smoke, however, and the use of terms such as “light” and “ultra light” on packaging and in advertising may be misleading.
  • Cigarettes with low tar and nicotine contents are not substantially less hazardous than higher-yield brands. Consumers may be misled by the implied promise of reduced toxicity underlying the marketing of such brands.
  • Early data showed a lower cancer risk from low-tar cigarettes; however, more recent data suggest otherwise. Lower-yield cigarettes may be somewhat better than very high-yield cigarettes; but, when comparing full-flavor cigarettes and current light cigarettes, there is no evidence to suggest a lower cancer risk from the low-tar cigarettes.

Cigarette Additives

  • Federal law (the Comprehensive Smoking Education Act of 1984 and the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act of 1986) requires cigarette and smokeless tobacco manufacturers to submit a list of ingredients added to tobacco to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • Hundreds of ingredients are used in the manufacture of tobacco products. Additives make cigarettes more acceptable to the consumer—they make cigarettes milder and easier to inhale, improve taste, and prolong burning and shelf life.
  • In 1994, six major cigarette manufacturers reported 599 ingredients that were added to the tobacco of manufacture cigarettes. Although, these ingredients are regarded as safe when ingested in foods, some may form carcinogens when heated or burned.
  • Knowledge about the impact of additives in tobacco products is negligible and will remain so as long as brand-specific information on the identity and quantity of additives is unavailable.

Smokeless Additives

  • In 1994, 10 manufacturers of smokeless tobacco products released a list of additives used in their products. The additives list contained 562 ingredients approved for foods by the FDA.
  • Moist snuff products with low nicotine content and pH levels have a smaller proportion of free nicotine. In contrast, moist snuff products with high nicotine content and pH levels have a higher proportion of free nicotine.
  • The epidemiology of moist snuff use among teenagers and young adults indicates that most novices start with brands having low levels of free nicotine and then “graduate” to brands with higher levels.
  • Sweeteners and flavorings, such as cherry juice concentrate, apple juice, chocolate liqueur, or honey are used in various smokeless tobacco products. As with manufactured cigarettes, these additives increase palatability and may increase the use of smokeless tobacco, at least among novices.


Disclaimer: Data and findings provided in the publications on this page reflect the content of this particular Surgeon General’s Report. More recent information may exist elsewhere on the Smoking & Tobacco Use Web site (for example, in fact sheets, frequently asked questions, or other materials that are reviewed on a regular basis and updated accordingly).