RSSThat is not tobacco you are smoking

Posted on Thu, 27 Aug 09

That is not tobacco you are smoking

Even though the major side effect of smoking, death, is three fold that of non-smokers in middle age (35-69), smoking is on the rise, particularly in developing countries. In 2006, approximately 5.763 trillion cigarettes were manufactured, that’s 2.4 per day for every person on earth (1,2). The underhanded behaviour of the tobacco industry is infamous and exemplified by the ingredients, beyond tobacco that are used in cigarettes.  Since the 1970s the tobacco industry has been adding hazardous unregulated chemicals to cigarettes. If it’s not only tobacco people are smoking, what is it?

Glue and floor sweepings

Reconstituted tobacco, a major ingredient in cigarettes is made from recycled stems, stalks, scraps, collected dust, and floor sweepings. The recycled material is then ground up, nicotine is extracted from them, and chemicals, glue and other agents are added. The mixture is then pressed out and puffed, sprayed with the nicotine, ground up and added to cigarettes to enhance nicotine levels (3).

599 chemical additives

There are at least 599 chemical additives used in cigarettes, and while the tobacco industry claims they are largely to improve taste and decrease harshness, independent evidence suggests otherwise.  Chemical additives are thought to camouflage the odour of environmental tobacco smoke emitted from cigarettes (increasing potential for harm and addiction in children and passive smokers), enhance nicotine delivery (increasing addictiveness),may even be directly addictive, and mask symptoms and illnesses associated with smoking (such as reducing airway pain and increasing breathing ability) (3).

Add quality years to your life

Beyond a premature death, smoking significantly decreases quality of life. Fortunately quitting extends lifespan, however the sooner the better. Compared to smokers, those who quit at the age of 35 exceeded life expectancy by up to 8.5 years.  Smokers who quit at younger ages realise more benefit and those who quit at the age of 65 are lucky to gain a couple of years of life (4).


1. Doll R, et al. Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years' observations on male British doctors. BMJ  2004;328:1519 (26 June)

2. Slama K. Global perspective on tobacco control. Part I. The global state of the tobacco epidemic. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2008 Jan;12(1):3-7

3. Rabinoff M, et al. Pharmacological and Chemical Effects of Cigarette Additives. American Journal of Public Health | November 2007. Voi 97, No. 11

4. Tsiara S et al. Influence of Smoking on Predictors of Vascular Disease. Angiology 2003;54:507-530

Tags: Smoking, Tobacco

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