What Goes into a Cigarette?

According to the second largest tobacco company in the United States, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, more than 130 ingredients go into a single cigarette with the disclaimer that the ingredients are commonly used in foods and drinks and allowed for this use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some of the ingredients actually sound healthy like prune juice concentrate for the casing and tangerine oil for the flavour.

Other ingredients, like ammonia hydroxide as a PH modifier and flavour enhancer and benzyl alcohol, don't sound at all like anything a knowledgeable human being would want to inhale. Ammonia hydroxide is a solution of ammonia in water and is traditionally used in to darken or stain wood in furniture making. Ammonia is a common cleaning agent. Benzyl alcohol is often used as a solvent for paints, lacquers, inks and epoxy resin coatings.

While it's true the maximum level of use of each ingredient in each cigarette published in R.J. Reynolds' ingredient list is low, there's no denying that after repeated and heavy use a cigarette smoker can inhale significant levels of dangerous toxins.

Cigarette Smoke

There are some researchers who argue that the smoke is the most toxic part a cigarette. This is what most smokers exhale but still end up inhaling as the smoke circles their heads. It's also dangerous for non-smokers who have no choice but to breathe the fumes when they're exposed to them.

Many studies indicate that there are more than 4,000 chemicals in the smoke itself. Of these 4,000-plus chemicals, 43 are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and at least 400 are known as toxins. A short list of these ingredients includes hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, formaldehyde ammonia, DDT, nicotine and tar.

Nicotine and Tar

Nicotine is the drug in a cigarette that makes it highly addictive. It reaches your brain within seconds of smoking a cigarette and acts as a stimulant. Over time, this stimulant becomes a depressant affecting the flow of signals between cells which creates that pleasant, calm feeling many smokers get after smoking. Near instantly lethal nicotine poison is possible because it can stop the heart or constrict the flow of blood through the vessels. For nicotine to be instantly lethal it needs to be administered as an extremely high dose at one time.

Tar coats the lungs creating a sticky mass inside of them that restricts their ability to move and your body's ability to get enough oxygen through your body. The tar content in a cigarette tends to increase closer to the bottom.

Filtered Cigarettes

When cigarettes were first produced, they were unfiltered to allow smokers to experience the full flavour. As the level of toxins in a cigarette became better known, manufacturers decided to add filters to their tobacco products. Filters do remove some of the toxins, but not enough to protect your lungs. The filters also tend to dull the taste of a cigarette which is what makes them appealing to smokers. Manufacturers discovered this so many have added even more chemicals to punch up the flavour.