01 December 2017

What's really in a cigarette?


In the UK today almost 1 in 5 adults smoke regularly, with smoking becoming even more prevalent in younger people. We are all told about the dangers of cigarettes to health, but do we really know what’s lurking inside them?

Inside cigarettes

But that’s just in the Cigarette, what about when it’s burnt?

Although Cigarettes contain around 600 raw ingredients, when a cigarette burns it releases a toxic cloud of smoke harbouring over 7000 deadly chemicals, almost all of which are poisonous, and over 10% are known to cause cancer.


These chemicals are hiding in the smoke:

  • Benzene – an industrial solvent, refined from crude oil
  • Formaldehyde – used in mortuaries and paint manufacturing
  • Polonium-210 – a highly radioactive element
  • Chromium – used to manufacture dye, paints and alloys
  • 1,3-Butadiene – used in rubber manufacturing
  • Nickel – used to protect metals from corrosion
  • Vinyl chloride – used to produce plastic and vinyl products
  • Beryllium – used in nuclear reactors
  • Ethylene oxide – a disinfectant used to sterilise hospital equipment
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – a group of dangerous DNA-damaging chemicals, including benzo(a)pyrene
  • Ortho-Toluidine – used in the production of weed killers
  • 4-aminobiphenyl and 2-naphthyl-amine – used in dye manufacturing until it was banned in the EU
  • Tobacco nitrosamines- Cancer-causing chemicals only found in tobacco.
Yet these don’t solely affect the smoker, these chemicals linger in the air and can affect anyone around the smoker who breathes them in.

Nicotine -
poisonous alkaloid derived from the tobacco plant. It is a powerful drug, which affects the brain and quickly becomes addictive.
Tar - is the term used to describe the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes. It’s a sticky brown substance that forms when tobacco cools and condenses. It collects in the lungs and can cause cancer.
Carbon monoxide - An odourless, colourless gas that is released from burning tobacco. When it is inhaled it enters the blood stream and interferes with the working of the heart and the blood vessels. Up to 15% of a smoker’s blood can be carrying carbon monoxide instead of oxygen.

Lung cancer

What are some of the health problems caused by cigarette smoking?

Smoking has been found to harm nearly every bodily organ and organ system in the body and greatly diminishes a person’s overall health.   

Smoking is a leading cause of cancer and death from cancer, with an average of 46,403 new cases of smoking caused lung cancer diagnosed in the UK each year, leading to 35,895 deaths from smoking related lung cancer, yet 89% of these cases could have been prevented by quitting earlier.

Smoking can cause cancers of the lung, oesophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum.

It’s not only cancer…

Smoking causes more damage to our bodies than we realise and is a leading factor in the development of heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm (a balloon-like bulge in an artery in the chest), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (chronic bronchitis and emphysema), diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts, and worsens asthma symptoms in adults.

Smokers are at higher risk of developing pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other airway infections. In addition, smoking causes inflammation and impairs immune function.

There is however one way to avoid all of these conditions…quitting!

Quitting smoking can be a difficult step, but it is a positive step towards becoming healthier, saving money and preventing second-hand smoking for your friends, family and colleagues.

At Newcross we want all our employees to be able to provide excellence in healthcare, we recognise that sometimes you need extra support so that you can feel mentally and physically well. In order to do this we provide an online portal called myWellbeing with information to help you quit smoking, so you can come to work feeling great!

Sources of information:

myWellbeing provides you with the right information for the support you may need in life, you can access it here.

Cancer Research - Cancer Causes

Cancer Research -Smoking and Cancer

Quit Smoking Support

Cancer. Gov


Medical News Today

Cancer Research Smoking Statistics