What components of cigarettes cause cancer

Nicotine is only one of around 4800 chemicals in tobacco smoke, around 90 of which have been shown to be carcinogenic. These include arsenic, lead, cadmium, formaldehyde, benzene and nitrosamines. They can irreversibly damage the genetic material of the cells and trigger malignant tumors and leukemia.

Other components of tobacco smoke increase the carcinogenic effect. Ammonia irritates the airways even in low concentrations and acetaldehyde paralyzes the cilia in the bronchial tract, which are supposed to free the airways of pollutants. Carcinogenic chemicals are more difficult to remove from the lungs and can act on the tissue for longer.

In addition, at least 250 ingredients in the smoke are toxic. Hydrocyanic acid is one of the most toxic substances. Smoking tobacco releases small amounts of the potentially deadly poison. This can lead to dizziness, vomiting and headaches.

There is no threshold up to how many puffs per day smoking is harmless to health. Every single cigarette delivers a cocktail of poison with unpredictable consequences. Studies have shown that three cigarettes a day increase the risk of heart attack by two thirds. The most important ingredients are:


Nicotine is the substance that is addictive. The "happiness maker" is quickly absorbed through the fine blood vessels of the lungs. The more nicotine floods the brain, the more intense the "kick" from the cigarette and the greater the risk of addiction.


Where tobacco burns, there is condensation, the so-called tar. The viscous precipitate collects in the respiratory tract and turns the smoker's lungs black over the years. Anyone who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day inhales about a cup of tar a year. The condensate sticks the inner lining of the airways, the so-called ciliated epithelium. The airways lose their most important barrier against dirt, pathogens and pollutants. This makes smokers more susceptible to respiratory diseases of all kinds. With the typical smoker's cough, the body tries unsuccessfully to get rid of the tar. The condensate contains carcinogenic components that no filter can hold back. According to the statutory limit, the smoke from a cigarette must not contain more than ten milligrams of tar. But that is enough to cause lasting damage to the airways.

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless and poisonous. In the blood, the gas displaces the oxygen from the red blood cells. In order to compensate for the insufficient supply of the organs, the heart beats faster and the blood pressure rises. Carbon monoxide not only reduces physical performance, but also promotes cardiovascular diseases.

Additives make cigarettes more dangerous

The cigarette industry mixes hundreds of additives with raw tobacco to make smoking easier. When the cigarette is burned down, harmless substances can be transformed into new, sometimes highly toxic substances. For example, sugar, which is supposed to mask the strong tobacco taste, is turned into carcinogenic acetaldehyde.