What’s in a cigarette?

How many chemicals does a cigarette contain, 40, 400 or 4000?

A few are already naturally inside the tobacco plant, a few more are added by the farmers such as pesticides to kill insects that attack the plant and fertilisers to help the plants grow. Most chemicals are added when the tobacco is made into the cigarette. In all there are around 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke.

These chemicals or additives are used to make the cigarette look better, taste nicer and help nicotine to reach the smoker’s brain as quickly as possible.

Many of the chemicals in cigarettes are harmful, and the three main nasties are carbon monoxide, nicotine and tar.

Carbon Monoxide

You might have heard of carbon monoxide as being one of the toxic gases in car exhaust fumes. Carbon monoxide is poisonous and stops the body from getting the oxygen it needs. It also thickens the blood, so the heart has to work harder to pump the blood around the body.


Nicotine is a very addictive drug, which acts on the brain within seconds of inhaling cigarette smoke. Nicotine increases the heart rate and blood pressure, which means that the heart isn’t getting enough oxygen.


This is a sticky brown mixture of chemicals in cigarettes that can cause cancer and damage a person’s lungs. Tar also leaves yellow-brown stains on smokers’ fingers and teeth.

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