Tobacco Smoke is Toxic graphic cigarette warning front of packTobacco Smoke is Toxic graphic cigarette warning back of pack
Front of Cigarette Pack
(representation only)
Back of Cigarette Pack
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  • Cigar smoking is also toxic.

Cigarette smoke is a mixture of over 4000 chemicals, many of which are harmful to the human body.1 All currently available tobacco products that are smoked deliver substantial amounts of toxic chemicals to their users and those who breathe their smoke.

Cigarette smoke is a combination of:
  • mainstream smoke - the smoke inhaled by a smoker;
  • sidestream smoke - the smoke from the end of a lit cigarette; and
  • secondhand smoke - the smoke exhaled by a smoker plus sidestream smoke.
Of the more than 4000 chemicals present in cigarette smoke, more than 60 have been identified as cancer causing chemicals, 11 of which are known to cause cancer in humans and 8 that probably cause cancer in humans.1

Cancer causing chemicals in tobacco smoke include:
  • Benzene;
  • 2-naphthylamine;
  • 4-aminobiphenyl;
  • Chromium;
  • Cadmium;
  • Vinyl chloride;
  • Ethylene oxide;
  • Arsenic;
  • Beryllium;
  • Nickel; and
  • Polonium-210.1,2
Toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke include:
  • Nicotine – the addictive agent in tobacco smoke;
  • Formaldehyde – used in preservation of laboratory specimens;
  • Ammonia – used in toilet cleaner;
  • Hydrogen Cyanide – used in rat poison;
  • Acetone – used in nail polish remover;
  • Carbon monoxide - found in car exhaust;
  • Tar - particulate matter in cigarette smoke;
  • Toluene - found in paint thinners;
  • Phenol – used in fertilisers.1,2
These chemicals are considered toxic because they have serious health impacts on the human body. For example:
  • Hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide and tar cause, or are associated with, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive lung disease;1 and
  • Ammonia and formaldehyde cause eye, nose and throat irritations and other breathing problems.4
The chemicals present in mainstream, sidestream and secondhand smoke are similar; however the quantities of the various chemicals present differ. Sidestream smoke is generated at lower temperatures and under different conditions than mainstream smoke, and consequently it contains higher concentrations of many of the toxins found in mainstream smoke.5

With approximately one non-smoker dying due to secondhand smoke exposure for every eight smokers dying of smoking related disease6 it is no surprise that secondhand smoke has been designated a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).5 Further, about half of regular smokers will die of a smoking-related disease and have a reduced life expectancy of about 13 to 16 years as compared with non-smokers.7,8

Decided to quit? For help, talk to your doctor or pharmacist, call the Quitline on 131 848 or visit the Quitline web site.

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Sources
  1. Hoffmann D, Hoffmann I and El-Bayoumy K. The Less Harmful Cigarette: A Controversial Issue. A tribute to Ernst L. Wynder. Chemical Research in Toxicology 2001, 14(7): 767-790.
  2. The Department of Health and Human Services Tasmania. Fact Sheet: Health Effects of Environmental Tobacco Smoke, 1/12/2006; www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/healthyliving/smoking/healtheffectsofenvirosmoke.php (This website link was valid at the time of submission)
  3. Tobacco smoke and involuntary smoking by IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France : World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2004. http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/index.php (This website link was valid at the time of submission)
  4. Health Canada. Toxic Emissions Statement, 1/12/2006; www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/tobac-tabac/legislation/label-etiquette/tox/index_e.html#form (This website link was valid at the time of submission)
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke: a report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006. www.cdc.gov/tobacco/sgr/sgr_2006/index.htm (This website link was valid at the time of submission)
  6. Schick S and Glantz SA. Sidestream cigarette smoke toxicity increases with ageing and exposure duration. Tobacco Control 2006; 15;424-429.
  7. Peto R, Lopez AD, Boreham J and Thun M. Mortality from smoking in developed Countries, 1950 to 2000: Australia. (2nd edition, revised June 2006: www.deathsfromsmoking.net) available at www.ctsu.ox.ac.uk/~tobacco/C5020.pdf
  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: what it means to you. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004. www.cdc.gov/tobacco/sgr/sgr_2004/consumerpiece/index.htm (This website link was valid at the time of submission)
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