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What is in a Cigarette?

Every day 1,172 Americans die from smoking-related conditions and diseases.

Do you know what’s in a cigarette? Think it’s just made of nicotine and tobacco? Think again! A cigarette releases 4,000 chemicals when a person smokes it. If you take a look in your garage, basement, or under your kitchen sink, you will find some of the things put into cigarettes. If you smoke, these are just some things you’re putting into your body:?

  • Formaldehyde. This preserves dead bodies. Yuck!
  • Cyanide. This is used to make rat poison.
  • Tar. See those yellow stains on a smoker’s teeth? The same chemical is used to pave streets!
  • Benzene. Helps your car run, because it’s also used to make gasoline.
  • Acetone. You can use it to take off your nail polish, but you also inhale it when you smoke cigarettes. Gross!
  • Ammonia. You clean your house with this chemical.

Besides these ingredients, cigarettes also have nicotine, the drug that makes it hard to quit smoking.

What Is Nicotine?

Nicotine is the drug in tobacco leaves. Whether someone smokes, chews, or sniffs tobacco, he or she is delivering nicotine to the brain. Each cigarette contains about 10 milligrams of nicotine. Nicotine is what keeps people smoking despite its harmful effects. Because the smoker inhales only some of the smoke from a cigarette and not all of each puff is absorbed in the lungs, a smoker gets about 1 to 2 milligrams of the drug from each cigarette. A drop of pure nicotine would kill a person—in fact, nicotine can be used as a pesticide on crops.

What Are the Common Street Names?

You might hear cigarettes referred to as smokes, cigs, or butts. Smokeless tobacco is often called chew, dip, spit tobacco, or snuff.

How Is It Used?

Tobacco can be smoked in cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. It can be chewed or, if powdered, sniffed.

An alternative to cigarettes is "bidis." Originally from India, bidis are hand-rolled. In the U.S., bidis are popular with teens because they come in colorful packages with flavor choices. Some teens think that bidis are less harmful than regular cigarettes. But bidis have even more nicotine, which may make people smoke more, causing them to be more harmful to the lungs than cigarettes.

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