Tobacco Products

Chemicals in Every Cigarette

During the cigarette manufacturing stage, harmful chemicals are naturally created and others may be added. Explore this process below.
 

Not all of the harmful chemicals created during tobacco manufacturing are added; some occur naturally as tobacco is prepared for use. These chemicals include a class of carcinogens called tobacco-specific nitrosamines, or TSNAs.1

The amount of TSNAs can vary depending on the way that tobacco is cured, which typically happens in one of three ways.1

  • In flue-curing, the tobacco leaves dry inside a heated building.
  • In air-curing, the tobacco leaves dry in an open area protected from wind and sun.
  • In sun-curing, the leaves dry in nets under direct sunlight.

Also, manufacturers may use additives to enhance product flavor and reduce harshness.1,2,3 But some of these added chemicals can also cause harm. Ammonia compounds can change how easily nicotine can be absorbed into the body, which can make the cigarette more addictive.1 Added sugars, when burned, become carcinogens.1

What are some of the chemicals added or created during the product manufacture stage?

Ammonia Acetaldehyde TobaccoSpecific_Nitrosamines

Quiz: How much do you know about how cigarettes are made?

Test your knowledge with these true/false questions.
 

FALSE. Some of the chemicals in cigarettes are present in the tobacco plant or occur naturally during processing.1,4,5 Others are created when the cigarette is lit. The bottom line: there is no such thing as safe tobacco.6 Watch the video to learn more.
TRUE. While some ammonia is present naturally in tobacco, manufacturers may also add more ammonia to a product.1,7 Ammonia compounds can make cigarettes more addictive.1 See how a cigarette is engineered or watch the video above to learn more.
TRUE. During the curing process, carcinogens called tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) form within the tobacco leaves.1 These chemicals are known to cause cancer of the lungs and esophagus. Watch the video above to learn more.

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2010.
  2. Rabinoff M, Caskey N, Rissling A, Park, C. Pharmacological and chemical effects of cigarette additives. American Journal of Public Health. 2007;97(11):1981-1991.
  3. Talhout R, Opperhuizen A, Amsterdam J. Sugars as tobacco ingredient: Effects on mainstream smoke composition. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2006;44(11):1789-1798.
  4. Cancer Research UK. What’s in a cigarette? http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/smoking-and-cancer/whats-in-a-cigarette. Updated 2016. Accessed January 4, 2017.
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2006.
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease. The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease (Executive Summary). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2010.
  7. Stevenson T, Proctor RN. The SECRET and SOUL of Marlboro: Phillip Morris and the origins, spread, and denial of nicotine freebasing. American Journal of Public Health. 2008; 98(7): 1184–1194.

 

Page Last Updated: 06/27/2017
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