Smoking is highly addictive because of nicotine – although this is a relatively harmless chemical, it keeps tempting you to light another stick and inhale all the other bad chemicals.
Each cigarette contains thousands of chemicals that are dangerous to your lungs, stomach, blood, and other organs in various ways. Smoking is also a major cause of cancer – each stick contains 69 chemicals known to be carcinogenic to humans.
Despite knowing this, many smokers consume tobacco products – after all, nicotine is highly addictive and hard to detach from. But, knowing the dangers of smoking has indeed helped many motivate smokers to do the right thing and drop the ciggies.
In today’s post, let’s learn more about the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes and how they affect the body.
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You’ve never felt the urge to inhale a chemical used for metal plating and mining, but a smoker inhales it each time they take a hit from a cigarette.
Hydrogen cyanide is highly toxic to humans. It’s used for fumigation, chemical synthesis, plastic manufacturing, and pesticide formulations.
You might never have known that you’re directly inhaling pesticides or lighting up plastic for inhalation while you smoke, but you have been doing so the entire time.
Hydrogen cyanide interferes with the body’s oxygenation, reducing its ability to use oxygen effectively.
It’s why industrial workers have masks with filters that purify the air while they work with the chemical.
Prolonged exposure to this chemical can lead to breathing difficulties, loss of appetite, thyroid enlargement, eye irritation, and other disorders.
Lead has been around for millennia, with human ancestors using it to create everyday tools for eating, constructing, and other purposes. While sturdy and reliable, lead is a dangerous metal that can contaminate water and everything else, causing life-threatening conditions.
Skin contact with lead may cause irritation and your body to absorb small amounts of it. However, the biggest danger lies in inhaling or accidentally consuming it.
Upon inhalation, lead will immediately affect the nervous and cognitive systems. If the level is high enough, it can cause comas, convulsions, and even death.
Lead poisoning can also occur with frequent chemical inhalation. Experts find lead correlates with cases of anaemia. Lead poisoning is also associated with renal impairment, immunotoxicity, and reproductive issues.
Another industrial-grade chemical that smokers inhale with every hit, arsenic is used in agricultural pesticides, wood finishes and preservatives, glassmaking, and semiconductor manufacturing.
Basically, the body does not need this chemical used for manufacturing and processing.
Like lead, arsenic can poison the body, causing your skin to have dark pigmentations, hard patches, and even lesions in the long term. Continuous exposure also causes liver cirrhosis and kidney malfunction, leading to eventual failure.
If you stop smoking today, you’ll reduce the arsenic levels in your body, enabling it to recover and rid your body of it for good.
While this chemical can be highly useful in emergency situations involving a fainted person, high levels of ammonia can cause irritation and damage to the body.
Ammonia can irritate the throat and severely affect your lungs, making breathing difficult and inducing coughing. Prolonged exposure to ammonia can cause permanent lung damage and vision issues leading to blindness.
Furthermore, while the data and research about it are inconclusive, researchers have found that ammonia enhances nicotine absorption each time you take a hit, making the product extremely addictive.
Carbon monoxide is present anywhere a vehicle with a running engine or factory emitting smoke is nearby. Smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide, which is why there are plenty of protective laws on car maintenance and smoke emissions worldwide.
This chemical is also present in cigarettes. In fact, a smoker inhales more carbon monoxide with each hit compared to the amount a well-maintained engine emits.
Inhaling a small amount of carbon monoxide can cause dizziness, nausea, weakness, and confusion as the chemical blocks the amount of oxygen entering the brain.
Frequent cigarette smoking or continuous exposure to carbon monoxide can cause severe damage to the nervous system and the brain. Studies have shown that exposure to the chemical can cause memory loss, personality changes, and mobility issues.
If you decide to stop smoking today, you allow your body to rid itself of carbon monoxide. More importantly, you ensure your aging body is at less risk of brain-related diseases and disabling mobility problems in your retirement years.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Perhaps the most dangerous (and hard to say) chemical in cigarettes, mothballs, and pesticides is PAHs – at high levels, they can damage your DNA and increase the risk of lung, bladder, and skin cancer.
PAHs form as soon as you light a cigarette and consume it. The more cigarettes you smoke, the more PAHs you inhale, increasing the risk of cancer.
Every time you consume PAHs, you also put yourself at risk of severe pulmonary, stomach-related, and kidney and renal-related conditions that can cause permanent damage to these organs.
Formaldehyde has a strong scent that can irritate the eyes and lungs. It is used in embalming as a disinfectant before the process can begin.
In small amounts, formaldehyde can cause throat and respiratory irritation leading to coughing and difficulty breathing. Aerial exposure to it can cause teary and irritated eyes.
Prolonged formaldehyde exposure can cause severe skin irritation resulting in rashes. It can also cause permanent breathing problems.
For older adults who still smoke, the effects of formaldehyde get much worse, making it ideal to stop smoking for good before reaching the age of retirement.
Are These Chemicals Also Present in Rolled Cigarettes?
Many smokers believe rolled cigarettes are less dangerous than cigarette smoke, thinking they contain fewer hazardous chemicals and preservatives as they’re ‘natural’ tobacco leaves and ‘organic’ paper.
Unfortunately, this isn’t true at all. Anything combustible can contain some or all of the chemicals mentioned above.
Rolled cigarettes still contain carbon monoxide and aldehydes in formaldehyde. They also contain cadmium, a chemical you can find in batteries.
In short, anything that’s combustible, whether factory-made or grown and rolled at home, harms your lungs.
Learn more about the dangers of rolled cigarettes here.
Knowing the dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes has helped many motivated smokers start on their quit journey and embrace wellness. While some might not be convinced yet, it’s understandable – cigarettes are highly addictive and will take plenty of time to wean off from.
Once you’re ready, you can speak to a specialist or learn more about the dangers of smoking here at Smokefree Clinic.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.