Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals. Some of these chemicals include hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, arsenic, ammonia, carbon monoxide, benzene, cadmium and many more. A great deal of these chemicals are linked to serious health problems.
For decades now we have known that smoking is bad for your health. There are a long list of health problems associated with smoking, including cancer, lung disease and heart disease. Approximately half of all smokers will lose their life early as a result of smoking related illness.
Almost seven million people die due to smoking every year. In the United Kingdom alone, there are around one hundred thousand people dying as a result of smoking. Tobacco products are widely regarded as the largest preventable cause of death in the world. Second-hand smoke is estimated to cause more than ten thousand deaths each year in the United Kingdom.
That’s Some Bad Stuff
Carbon monoxide is an extremely poisonous gas which is both colourless and odourless. Apart from cigarette smoke, carbon monoxide is emitted from car exhausts as well as faulty gas stoves and boilers. Exposure to higher levels of carbon monoxide can result in a coma or death, but exposure to lower levels is also linked to a variety of health problems.
Once it is inhaled into the lungs, carbon monoxide enters the blood where it reduces the blood’s ability to transport oxygen around the body. Reduced oxygen puts more pressure on the heart and other organs and causes flu like symptoms including dizziness, headaches and weakness.
A variety of harmful chemicals that combine together to form a sticky substance which coat the lungs. Approximately seventy percent of the tar inhaled in cigarette smoke remains in the lungs where it causes tissue damage along with other health problems.
Tar contains many of the carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, chemicals found in cigarette smoke. As well as increasing the risk of cancer, tar can also cause diseases like emphysema, chronic inflammation of the lungs, reducing airflow, and bronchitis, inflammation of the airways that carry air into the lungs.
Nicotine is not a carcinogenic nor is it harmful in the same way that many of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke are. However, the addictive nature of this substance is a problem as nicotine is what makes it so difficult for the many smokers who want to quit smoking and the associated health risks.
While nicotine can be harmful in high quantities, it’s the cravings that come from nicotine addiction that are the biggest problem. This is why vaping and other nicotine replacement options make it easier to quit the dangers of smoking. In fact, vaping has been proven to almost double the chances of quitting for good.
These Harmful Toxins
Some of the poisonous chemicals, including heavy metals and carcinogenic substances are found in tobacco smoke. Of the thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke, hundreds have been linked to serious health risks and while these aren’t present in the same quantities as carbon monoxide, tar and nicotine, they can still cause permanent damage even at low levels.
Arsenic is a toxic heavy metal and exposure to higher levels is harmful to health and is commonly used as a rat poison. Arsenic is a Group 1 carcinogen meaning it’s been proven to cause cancer.
Lead is a toxic metal which can cause long term harm to the body including damage to the brain and nervous system as well as kidneys and stomach. Lead is also a Group 2B suspected carcinogen.
Acetaldehyde is categorised by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group 2B carcinogen, meaning that exposure might cause cancer in humans but it is not certain.
Benzene is also a Group 1 carcinogen. Benzene can be found in petrol and exposure to this chemical is known to cause leukaemia.
Cadmium is a toxic metal used to make batteries. Smokers typically have twice as much cadmium in their bodies as non-smokers and exposure to this toxic substance can lead to lung damage and even death.
Formaldehyde is categorised as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Formaldehyde in cigarette smoke also causes irritation to the throat, nose and eyes.
Hydrogen cyanide is a poisonous chemical that has been used in gas chambers to execute people. Lower levels of exposure can cause lung damage was well as nausea, headaches and fatigue.
Isoprene is another Group 2B carcinogen, meaning it is suspected to increase the risk of cancer. Isoprene also causes irritation of the nose, throat and eyes.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH are a group of chemicals carcinogens. PAH are associated with lung cancer and skin cancer as well as infertility.
Thousands of chemicals are present in cigarette smoke and many of them are known to be harmful. They cause cancer, lung disease, heart disease and more. Some of these substances are present in larger concentrations than others but they all contribute to the fact that around half of smokers will die as a result of smoking related illness. Quitting smoking will reduce your exposure to these poisonous and carcinogenic chemicals, lowering the risk of developing health problems that can result in long term illness and death. Quitting also reduces the health risk to those around us as more than ten thousand people in the United Kingdom perish each year from secondhand smoke.