Heath Zone: Smoking: SMOKED OUT..; the 600 Ingredients in Your Cigarette May Include Radioactive Chemicals, Lethal Poisons, Bleach, Acids, Cancer Agents, Cocoa (Honest). Oh, and a Fair Amount of Tobacco

The Mirror (London, England), September 6, 2001 | Go to article overview

Heath Zone: Smoking: SMOKED OUT..; the 600 Ingredients in Your Cigarette May Include Radioactive Chemicals, Lethal Poisons, Bleach, Acids, Cancer Agents, Cocoa (Honest). Oh, and a Fair Amount of Tobacco


Byline: HELEN FOSTER

LIGHT up, take a deep drag and enjoy the subtle flavours of... arsenic, cocoa, radio-active polonium, lead and embalming fluid. Oh, and tobacco.

For along with the well-documented perils of nicotine and tar, up to 600 other, often bizarre, ingredients are used to make your favourite cigarette.

These additives do everything from making the smoke taste nicer to speeding up the hit you get from the nicotine. They also create a chemical cocktail that's exceptionally harmful to our health.

"People don't realise what they are smoking when they light up," says John Connelly from anti-smoking pressure group ASH.

"The ingredients used in the cigarettes plus the reactions that occur when these are burnt mean you can take in 4,000 types of gas or particles with every puff - many of them harmful.

"For example, nitrosamines cause cancer in practically everything they touch. These include poisons like lead, arsenic and cyanide which even in minute doses, don't do your body any good."

Nor will rolling your own save you from this deadly onslaught. Many of the nastiest chemicals in cigarettes, like arsenic, formaldehyde, lead or the nitrosamines, appear in the tobacco itself (either as a by-product of burning or through growing and manufacturing processes like the addition of pesticides).

So smoking roll-ups is no escape.

And changing to organic cigarettes won't help either - you may lose the lead and the arsenic from fertilisers but you still get the nitrosamines and carbon monoxide.

You can't even escape the chemicals if you don't smoke - according to the University of Arkansas, passive smokers can be exposed to up to 75 times more carbon monoxide than is good for them; seven times more formaldehyde and up to 130 times more of the carcinogen acroleine.

By December, however, your cigarette may be a mite less lethal - the Department of Health is drawing up a list of the most harmful ingredients in cigarettes and will ask UK manufacturers to remove them by the end of the year.

"This is what we'd like smokers to be made aware of," says Connelly. "We don't know enough about what's in cigarettes to say what should or shouldn't be taken out."

Here's our guide to some of the surprising - and shocking - ingredients that could be in your favourite smoke.

Tobacco

MOST UK cigarettes contain a mix of the leaves of two types of tobacco - yellow and burley - plus all the chemicals used in growing the plants. "When tobacco burns, a number of chemicals are produced," says John Connelly.

"These include hydrogen cyanide (used in gas chambers) and formaldehyde (used in embalming fluid)."

Add these to the reactions that occur and it is believed the average puff of cigarette smoke contains 43 carcinogens - and 400 other toxic substances. Carbon monoxide

THIS is the gas found in car exhausts. Smokers take in levels 10,000 times more concentrated than the air on a motorway in rush hour.

Its main effectis to lower the oxygen levels in the blood by about 15 per cent.

It starves vital organs of oxygen and makes the blood sticky which can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

It is also believed to be one of the major reasons why smoking leads to low birth weight or birth defects in babies of mothers who smoke.

Nicotine

NATURALLYoccurring in tobacco, it's the stuff to which you become addicted. In cigarettes it's not so much the nicotine that's dangerous but what it becomes when it burns.

"It creates substances called nitrosamines," says Professor Heinz Ginzel, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Arkansas.

"These are horrifyingly carcinogenic.

A typical non-smoker absorbs one microgram of these a day, smokers absorb 17mcg per pack of 20 smoked.

A rocket fuel plant in the USA that was found to be emitting an amount equivalent to 14mcg a head was closed down for safety reasons. …

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Heath Zone: Smoking: SMOKED OUT..; the 600 Ingredients in Your Cigarette May Include Radioactive Chemicals, Lethal Poisons, Bleach, Acids, Cancer Agents, Cocoa (Honest). Oh, and a Fair Amount of Tobacco
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