A worker at a cigarette

Who made the cigarette?

Nicotine in small doses acts as a stimulant to the brain. In large doses, it's a depressant, inhibiting the flow of signals between nerve cells. In even larger doses, it's a lethal poison, affecting the heart, blood vessels, and hormones. Nicotine in the bloodstream acts to make the smoker feel calm.

As a cigarette is smoked, the amount of tar inhaled into the lungs increases, and the last puff contains more than twice as much tar as the first puff. Carbon monoxide makes it harder for red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. Tar is a mixture of substances that together form a sticky mass in the lungs.

Most of the chemicals inhaled in cigarette smoke stay in the lungs. The more you inhale, the better it feels—and the greater the damage to your lungs. You can ask anyone working on bachelors degree in any medical field and they will be able to tell you what damage smoking does to the lungs.

What's In Cigarette Smoke?

Cigarette smoke contains over 4, 000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins. These include nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, as well as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and DDT.

Nicotine is highly addictive. Smoke containing nicotine is inhaled into the lungs, and the nicotine reaches your brain in just six seconds.

Nicotine in small doses acts as a stimulant to the brain. In large doses, it's a depressant, inhibiting the flow of signals between nerve cells. In even larger doses, it's a lethal poison, affecting the heart, blood vessels, and hormones. Nicotine in the bloodstream acts to make the smoker feel calm.

Most of the chemicals inhaled in cigarette smoke stay in the lungs. The more you inhale, the better it feels—and the greater the damage to your lungs.

Cigarette Maker Now Lists Ingredients

For the first time, an American tobacco company has begun listing long-secret ingredients contained in its cigarettes directly on the label. Yesterday, Liggett Group Inc. introduced cartons that the company plans to begin using that list the ingredients in its L&M cigarettes, including molasses, phenylacetic acid and the oil of the East Indian mint called patchouli. The move comes as the state of Massachusetts is trying to compel disclosure of all ingredients by all cigarette makers, an effort that other major tobacco companies are fighting.

Liggett, which broke with the industry by signing the first settlements ever with states and private attorneys suing it, supports the Massachusetts effort as well. "Liggett believes that its adult consumers have a right to full disclosure, " Liggett head Bennett S. LeBow said in a statement. Along with blended tobacco and water, the 26-item L&M list includes high fructose corn syrup, sugar, natural and artificial licorice flavor, menthol, artificial milk chocolate and natural chocolate flavor, valerian root extract, molasses and vanilla extracts, and cedarwood oil. Less familiar additives include glycerol, propylene glycol, isovaleric acid, hexanoic acid and 3-methylpentanoic acid.

Some 600 ingredients are used in American cigarettes, but a Liggett spokesman said the L&M statement was a "quite exhaustive list" of every ingredient used in that brand.

Ingredients in tobacco products have never been proved harmful - especially when compared with the many toxins found in tobacco smoke itself. But activists have long pushed for disclosure of the ingredients, in part because consumers tend to be more wary of risks imposed upon them by others than of the risks they knowingly choose.

The companies have provided lists of ingredients to the federal Department of Health and Human Services for more than a decade, but government officials are legally not allowed to release the information. The industry also presented a composite list of 599 additives to congressional investigators in 1994, but that was never officially made public.

David Remes, an attorney who represents the four other tobacco companies challenging the state of Massachusetts, said the case comes down to the industry's right to protect its trade secrets.

Lowell Kleinman, M.D., and Deborah Messina-Kleinman, M.P.H.
drkoop.com Health Columnists
Cigarette flavors have gone through many changes since cigarettes were first made. Initially, cigarettes were unfiltered, allowing the full "flavor" of the tar to come through. As the public became concerned about the health effects of smoking, filters were added. While this helped alleviate the public's fears, the result was a cigarette that tasted too bitter.

Filters Don't Work
Filters do not remove enough tar to make cigarettes less dangerous. They are just a marketing ploy to trick you into thinking you are smoking a safer cigarette.

The solution to the bitter-tasting cigarette was easy - have some chemists add taste-improving chemicals to the tobacco. Unfortunately, some of these chemicals also cause cancer.

But not all of the chemicals in your cigarettes are there for taste enhancement. For example, a chemical very similar to rocket fuel helps keep the tip of the cigarette burning at an extremely hot temperature. This allows the nicotine in tobacco to turn into a vapor so your lungs can absorb it more easily.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner?
Most people prefer to use ammonia for things such as cleaning windows and toilet bowls. You may be surprised to learn that the tobacco industry has found some additional uses for this household product. By adding ammonia to your cigarettes, nicotine in its vapor form can be absorbed through your lungs more quickly. This, in turn, means your brain can get a higher dose of nicotine with each puff.

The complete list of chemicals added to your cigarettes is too long to list here. Here are some examples that will surprise you:

  • Fungicides and pesticides - Cause many types of cancers and birth defects.
  • Cadmium - Linked to lung and prostate cancer.
  • Benzene - Linked to leukemia.
  • Formaldehyde - Linked to lung cancer.
  • Nickel - Causes increased susceptibility to lung infections.
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