The Truth that Hides Behind the Smoke

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

When you light a cigarette, it starts a chain of chemical reactions. Chemicals mix with one another and create new compounds. And what is more bothering is that some of these chemicals that were inactive before may have become active and more dangerous. The mixtures are so diverse and unpredictable that it is almost impossible to pinpoint the exact consequences of inhaling these compounds. But studies agree that cigarette smoke is a deadly cocktail.

Cancer SticksAn Eye Opener

While there is a long list of toxins found in cigarette smoke that can be discussed, below are only a few eye openers.

Ammonia is a common chemical used in different cleaning products. Tobacco and cigarette manufacturers add ammonia to cigarettes to enhance the effect of nicotine. It boosts addiction, keeping smokers hooked into the habit.


Lead-210 and polonium-210 are radioactive chemicals from the natural decay of uranium. These radioactive metals somehow get their way into tobacco plants in very small amounts and remain inactive until the tobacco leaf is burned. These small amounts of radioactive chemicals later build into radioactive zones, increasing the risks of lung cancer.

Benzene, a carcinogen linked to leukemia, is a chemical used to produce gasoline and nylon. It is a very potent toxin. If a person is exposed to great amounts of benzene in short period of time it can cause coma, convulsions, and paralysis. Long term exposure, can damage your genes and immune system.

Tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines or TSNA, are carcinogens found in cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products. Exposure to these chemicals can lead to liver, pancreatic, and lung cancer. Studies also link these chemicals to cervical cancer.

Formaldehyde is a chemical normally used to preserve dead bodies. Short term exposure to this compound can cause watery eyes, coughing, nausea, and can even burn sensitive eyes, nose, or throat. It is also a carcinogen.


Arsenic is a compound used in pesticides used on tobacco plants which can cause damage to your circulatory system.

These chemicals and compounds are just a few in the long list of dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes. Other potent chemicals includes nicotine, an addictive substance responsible for smoking addiction; carbon monoxide, which inhibits proper oxygen flow; Cadmium, a compound used in batteries; and Acrolein, a chemical weapon.


In 1994, major tobacco companies published a list of 599 additives being used in cigarettes. And no other list has been released ever since. The list did not even specify how the ingredients were used. They simply indicated that these chemicals were used to create the particular unique flavor in cigarettes. Without the real “recipe”, it’s really difficult to identify the composition of chemicals in a particular brand. It is logical therefore to assume that cigarettes and other tobacco products are far more dangerous than what we think they are.


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