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What's in cigarettes?

An cigarette with a smoky background and a question mark icon

There are about 4000 different chemicals in cigarettes - here's just a few of the nasties:

Acetone - A strong smelling colourless liquid that is found in Nail Varnish remover.

Acetic Acid - vinegar is a dilute solution of acetic acid.

Ammonia adds flavour to the cigarette. Ammonia is used in household cleaning products and is also found in dog poo. Ammonia can cause lung cancer in smokers. In large amounts it can also cause blindness and cause damage to the skin and to the lungs.

Arsenic is used in rat poison. It can cause damage to a smokers' heart. Large amounts of it can cause warts, vomiting, and even cause death.

Benzene is a flammable, poisonous liquid found in petrol fumes in small quantities.

Cadmium is a highly toxic metal that is used in batteries. The tobacco plant picks up tiny amounts of cadmium from the soil, but it stays in the body for up to 22 years. If you smoke for long enough, the level of cadmium in your body builds up and can cause liver, kidney and brain damage.

Carbon Monoxide - This is a poisonous gas that stops your body getting the oxygen it needs, it also thickens the blood, making it hard for the heart to pump the blood around the body and can cause heart attacks. It is also found in car exhaust fumes.

Carbon tetrachloride used to be found in dry cleaning fluid.

DDT is an insecticide now banned from being used as an insecticide in the UK because of its cancer causing properties.

Formaldehyde is used to preserve dead animals. Like dead rats that are used in laboratories are kept in jars of Formaldehyde. In large amounts Formaldehyde can cause irritation to the eyes, nose throat and skin and can cause vomiting, coma and even death.

Hydrogen Cyanide is used as a method of execution in the USA for prisoners on death row.

Lead used to be an additive to petrol and can stunt growth, cause weight loss, vomiting and brain damage.

Methanol is used as a solvent and fuel.

Nicotine - when smoked, nicotine is an extremely powerful drug that can cause addiction similar to that of heroin and cocaine. Nicotine is found in the tobacco leaf, it is absorbed by the body very quickly and reaches the brain within seven seconds when smoked. Just two drops on the tongue would kill you. Nicotine increases the heart rate and blood pressure, which means the heart needs more oxygen. Nicotine is also a pesticide.

Nitric Acid is a colourless, corrosive liquid widely used in industry.

Polonium 210 / Radon - both exist naturally from radioactive decay.

Sulphuric Acid is a colourless, dense and oily corrosive liquid used in the manufacture of fertilisers and explosives.

Tar is used to surface roads. Substances found in tar can cause cancer and damage to the lungs. Tar is also responsible for staining smokers' teeth and fingers.

Toluene is used as a solvent and in the manufacture of dyes and explosives.

And then of course there are the other 3987 other nasties as well....................