What Chemicals Are in Your Cigarette?

It's not just nicotine. You may be shocked to learn what else you're inhaling when you smoke.

woman pugging on a cigarette

Updated on March 1, 2024.

In addition to highly addictive nicotine, cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals. Here's what you're inhaling with each puff:

  • Arsenic (also found in rat poison)
  • Ammonia (a poison; present in many household cleaners)
  • Acetone (also found in fingernail-polish remover)
  • Benzene (also used as an industrial solvent and found in car exhaust)
  • Carbon monoxide (also found in car exhaust-pipe fumes)
  • Cadmium (used in rechargeable batteries)
  • Cyanide (a poison used in gas chambers)
  • DDT (an insecticide)
  • Formaldehyde (also found in embalming fluid)
  • Lead (a poison that's been removed from nearly all paints)
  • Mercury (a highly poisonous substance; easily absorbed through respiration)
  • Nickel (also poisonous; a known cancer-causing agent)
  • Hydrogen cyanide (a deadly poison used in gas chambers)
  • Hydrogen sulfide (sewer gas)
  • Polonium-210 (a radioactive substance)
  • More than 50 cancer-causing agents (carcinogens)

And, of course, nicotine, which isn't just addictive, it's a natural insecticide (it protects the tobacco plant from bugs). In its pure form, nicotine is a deadly poison. One drop could kill a human in minutes.

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