When people smoke tobacco, they take in over four thousand chemical compounds. Forty three of these chemicals cause cancer. Cigarette smoke also contains radioactive chemicals.
One researchers estimates that “an average smoker in one year absorbs radiation equal to that of 250 to 300 chest X-rays”.
When smokers inhale tobacco smoke, they also breath in small amounts of the chemicals used by farmers to keep their tobacco plants insect and disease free.
Scientists know the health effects of these chemicals.
Nicotine – Highly poisonous, oily liquid that acts on the brain.
Tar – Thick, oily, dark mixture that causes cancers.
Carbon Monoxide – Highly poisonous, odorless gas.
Ammonia – Colorless gas with irritating odor used to make fertilizers.
Butane – Gas used as fuel.
Acetylene – Gas used as fuel.
Benzene – Clear liquid used in cleaners, insect poisons.
Toluene – Colorless liquid used to make fuels, dyes and explosives.
Arsenic – Dangerous poisons.
Nitrosamines – Organic compounds, eight of which are found in tobacco smoke and cause cancer.
The three most health damaging chemicals in tobacco smoke are nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide.
Nicotine is a poison. Small amounts, ingested or injected, cause tremors, very slow breathing, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, weakness, and headache. A tiny amount less than one drop of pure nicotine can paralyze the nerves and slow the central nervous system of an adult man so quickly that he would die within a few minutes. Nicotine in tobacco products acts as a stimulant. It speeds up a person’s heart and central nervous system. The heart beats faster, blood vessels constricts or become smaller. In turn, this decreases the amount of blood and oxygen that moves through a smoker’s body.
Nicotine acts on the brain to produce addiction.Without addiction, tobacco products would not be attractive. Nicotine is the cause of continued tobacco use by any one person. Nicotine also effects the brain and nervous system in other ways. Some smokers are calmer and more relaxed after smoking. Other smokers get more energy.
Why the different effects occur depends on how much nicotine is inhaled and which brain cells it effects. Nicotine’s effects some on quickly. Inhaled nicotine take just seven seconds to reach the brain from the bloodstream. The average cigarette contains about 1.5 percent nicotine, or about six to eight milligrams of nicotine. The average cigar has about one hundred twenty milligrams of nicotine.
Tar. When tar from tobacco smoke cools inside the lungs, it forms a dark brown or black sticky mass. Tobacco tar contains chemicals that cause cancers and lung diseases. Someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day for one year could inhale as much as four to eight ounces of tar. That is same weight as a stick of butter.
Carbon Monoxide is a deadly gas released from burning tobacco and the exhausts of automobiles, trucks and vans. When, inhaled, it reduces the amount of oxygen in blood. Carbon monoxide levels in the blood of smokers are much higher that in nonsmokers. This means that they have less oxygen in their bodies. That is why most smokers often get short of breath or gasp for air when they run up stairs.