By now it is standard knowledge that chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco containing products are dangerous. Due to their dangerous nature, the FDA requires tobacco producers to report the levels of harmful or potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs) in their products or the smoke from their products. HPHCs are chemicals or chemical compounds in a tobacco product or smoke from a tobacco product that are known to cause harm.
A few of the known chemicals in cigarettes include nicotine, lead, ammonia, benzene, and carbon monoxide. Some of the harmful chemicals in cigarettes are present from the beginning and found in the tobacco plant itself, while others are added later. These chemicals, found at every stage of tobacco product development, are toxic to just about every organ in the body.
Are chemicals in cigarettes naturally occurring or added?
Nicotine is a naturally occurring chemical in the tobacco plant. It acts as a pesticide, but is highly addictive and is why it’s so hard for people to stop smoking. Nicotine changes the way the brain works, causing you to crave more. Other HPHCs like the heavy metals cadmium and lead, are often found in soils used to grow tobacco plants, and nitrates are commonly found in fertilizer. These chemicals all build up in the plant and are harmful to the body when they are released upon burning.
After the tobacco is harvested it’s sent to a manufacturing plant to be made into cigarettes and other tobacco products. During manufacturing, chemicals are added to enhance flavor, control moisture, or decrease harshness, while others naturally occur during curing. Naturally occurring chemicals are called tobacco-specific nitrosamines, or TSNAs the amount present varies according to how the plant is cured. The addition of the chemical ammonia changes how the body absorbs nicotine, and adding sugars leads to the formation of acetaldehyde, a known cancer-causing chemical that makes nicotine more addictive.
Though cigarettes contain a number of toxic chemicals, cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 and more than 70 are carcinogens. Lighting a cigarette releases chemicals like butadiene and benzene. Both affect the reproductive system and fertility. Another, acrolein, causes irreversible lung damage, and others cause lung disease, heart disease and many other cancers.
Click here to learn more about the FDA’s cigarette and tobacco warning.
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