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Hull City Council

What's in a cigarette? - The chemicals

Around sixty of the chemicals in cigarettes have been shown to cause cancer. Many others are irritants.


Carbon Monoxide

Most commonly known as car exhaust fumes, this poisonous gas stops the body getting the oxygen it needs. It also thickens the blood so the heart has to work harder to pump the blood around the body. Heavy smokers may have the ability to carry blood oxygen cut by as much as 15%.


A pesticide and very addictive chemical that acts on the brain within seconds of inhaling cigarette smoke. Nicotine increases the heart rate and blood pressure which means that the heart isn't getting enough oxygen.



Tar can cause cancer and damages the lungs (even the low-tar brands). It is also responsible for the yellow-brown stains on smokers' fingers and teeth.

Cigarettes also contain many other 'household names', including:

  • Benzene (petrol)
  • Ammonia (cleaning agent)
  • Formaldehyde (embalming fluid)
  • Hydrogen cyanide (poison used in the gas chambers)
  • Acetone (nail varnish remover)
  • Radon (radioactive gas)
  • Arsenic (rat poison)

Please refer to for additional information

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