What do cigarettes, cigars and beedies contain?

June 2018
  • Cigarettes are made up of tobacco, nicotine, tar, arsenic, acetone, additives as well as flavour and texture agents.
  • The combustion of a lighted cigarette produces smoke which becomes, in the words of many experts, a " genuine chemical plant "
  • Combustion of a cigarette involves the formation of many toxic chemicals.
  • Some 4000 different substances are present and produced in the cigarette smoke.
  • Of these chemicals more than 40 are carcinogenic .
  • Lighting a cigarette produces benzene, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrocyanic acid , ammonia and mercury as well as other harmful metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium.
  • When a cigarette is smoked, the chemicals get mixed together and form a sticky tar .
  • Cadmium is a heavy metal which if ingested requires 70 years typically to be eliminated by the body.

Never let a cigarette stand smouldering for any length of time in an ashtray as the substances released in its smoke are even more toxic than those which are normally inhaled.

What are the effects of nicotine?

  • Nicotine itself is not carcinogenic .
  • Nicotine is added to cigarettes and is addictive making smokers dependant on them. As a result it exposes the smoker to all the many toxic substances and carcinogens mentioned above.
  • It stimulates the nervous system and provokes a strong dependence close to, or even higher than, that caused by heroin or cocaine.
  • It take only 8 seconds for nicotine to reach the brain where it instantly gives the smoker a pleasurable and relaxing sensation .
  • Nicotine acts on the brain reducing stress as well as giving a contented feeling or a stimulant effect.
  • Nicotine causes harmful cardiovascular effects by increasing the smokers heart rate .
  • Nicotine narrows and hardens the arteries causing poor blood flow to extremities such as the hands and feet.
  • Nicotine is present naturally in tobacco and its concentration varies throughout the plant. It is also added during the manufacturing of cigarettes.
  • Nicotine exists as tiny suspended particles in exhaled smoke.


  • The tar present in the tobacco smoke is composed of many carcinogenic chemical substances among which the most important are hydrocarbons, benzene, inorganic compounds .
  • Tar is the substance principally responsible for nicotine-related cancers.
  • The tar comes from the combustion of the cigarette. It tends to stick to the inside walls of the mouth, the pharynx and the bronchial tube.
  • A person smoking a packet of cigarettes a day inhales into his lungs approximately 250 ml of tar per year.

Carbon monoxide, CO

  • Carbon monoxide molecules attach themselves to the haemoglobin of the red blood cells and so reduce the transportation of oxygen to the body tissue.
  • CO causes the occurrence of hypoxia, where there is a reduction in the number of red blood cells in blood. As a result it increases the heart rate, causes breathlessness, coughing bouts and other cardiovascular symptoms as well as the risk of increasing a cardiovascular event.
  • The carbon monoxide produced is similar to that emitted by the exhaust fumes of cars.
  • Smokers who draw strongly on their cigarettes fix more CO to their haemoglobin
  • It takes between 4 to 6 hours to eliminate the carbon monoxide from the bloodstream.


  • The additives are substances added to the tobacco in cigarettes.
  • Certain additives themselves release dangerous components during combustion.


  • Acetone, phenols and hydrocyanic acid are all irritants which can attack the walls of the bronchi, the nose and the eyes.
  • Hydrocyanic acid, more commonly known as Prussic acid, is one of the most toxic products found in tobacco smoke.


  • The cigar is more toxic than a cigarette
  • The smoke produced by cigars is not filtered as is often the case for cigarettes (filter tips)
  • The nicotine levels vary according to the type of cigar
  • The tobacco leaf wrapped round the cigar prevents the evaporation of the noxious substances produced by the combustion
  • The risk of lung cancer and bad cardiovascular effects increases with the number of cigars smoked
  • The risk of lung cancer is multiplied by a factor of 3 because cigar smokers typically inhale the smoke very deeply in their lungs
  • The risks of developing a cancer of the mouth, larynx or pharynx is multiplied by a factor of 4 compared to a non-smoker as the cigar smoker tends to hold the inhaled smoke in his mouth for long periods.
  • The type of tobacco used in cigars is richer in N-Nitrosonornicotine (NNN), a high Group 1 classified carcinogen

Light-brand cigarettes

  • Many experts have highlighted the toxicity of the so-called light cigarettes: Smoking such cigarettes shows no beneficial effects over smoking normal, non-light, ones.
  • These "light" cigarettes are both harmful and toxic, because they also cause another type of lung cancer.
  • The filter present in these cigarettes is peppered with small holes to allow air in and the smoke to pass out. But these orifices very soon clog up and as a consequence cannot fulfil their function, which originally gave them the classification of being "light".
  • To satisfy a craving for nicotine, a smoker of branded "light" cigarettes tends to smoke more, deeper and more often .

The pharmacological dependence on nicotine pushes smokers of light cigarettes to always inhale more deeply, exposing the pulmonary alveoli and the small bronchi to high amounts of toxic compounds present in the smoke. This may lead to the formation of a malignant lung tumour of the adenocarcinoma-type.


  • Beedies are artisanal Indian cigarettes which are flavoured, and filterless made up of tobacco wrapped in eucalyptus leaves.
  • Beedies produce 3 times more carbon monoxide and nicotine and 5 times more tar than normal cigarettes.
  • The absence of a filter and the poor porosity of the leaf used to wrap the tobacco causes the smoker to inhale more frequently and more deeply if the beedie is to remain alight.
  • Studies revealed that the risk of lung, mouth, oesophagus and stomach cancer were higher than for a non smoker.
  • The risk of myocardial infarction is 3 times higher than for a non-smoker and there is a risk 4 times higher of chronic bronchitis

Rubbing tobacco

The increasing price of tobacco is forcing smokers to roll their own cigarettes using ready rubbed or loose tobacco. Most smokers of rolled cigarettes are not aware of the risks of ready rubbed tobacco.
  • Rolling tobacco is four times more harmful than a normal cigarette tobacco
  • The ready rubbed tobacco is a toxic product, which releases more cancerogenic compounds than the most normal cigarettes.
  • It contains 4 to 6 times more nicotine and tar
  • It normally does not have a filter.
Latest update on November 13, 2013 at 10:59 AM by Crashounette.
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