How many substances does a cigarette contain and what damage does it cause?

What substances does a cigarette contain and what damage do they cause?

Modified on: 16/05/2022

Learn more about the harmful substances in an analogue cigarette: find out how many there are and what their effects are

Did you know that every year, worldwide, smoking causes the death of more than 8 million people?

Yes, and it’s not just smokers, but also people who are frequently exposed to second-hand smoke.

Unbelievable numbers!

The damage caused by the combustion process of cigarettes is enormous and affects most of the organs and systems of our bodies.

It is why, year after year, more and more smokers are being made aware of the need to give up smoking, with the help of a variety of remedies (electronic cigarettes, patches, nicotine gum, etc.).

But how many substances does a cigarette contain?

And how many of them are harmful?

Here is all the information you need.

Cigarette smoking and harmful substances

Harmful substances in tobacco: it all starts with the manufacturing process

Many people mistakenly think that the only harmful substance in analogue cigarettes is nicotine.

In reality, this is not the case because there are many more harmful substances that tobacco users are exposed to!

Please note that tobacco undergoes a lengthy manufacturing process before it is used to make cigarettes.

During this stage, it develops nitrosamines (carcinogenic substances) due to a natural biological reaction. Not only that, during the treatment to improve its taste and ease of use, tobacco absorbs ammonia and acetaldehyde.

During cultivation, tobacco plants also absorb fertilisers and other substances from the air and the soil, which, unfortunately, will be transformed into many other toxic substances during cigarette combustion.

But now, let’s get into the details.

Read also: How to make circles with an electronic cigarette? Practical 3-point guide

Carcinogenic substances in cigarettes: how many are there?

Suppose the information you have just read has already alarmed you. In that case, you will be shocked to learn that a cigarette releases 7000 substances during combustion, of which at least 250 are toxic and 69 are carcinogenic!

Yes, the combustion process is mainly responsible for the damage caused by smoking. It is why heavy smokers are often advised to switch to e-cigarettes to get rid of them.

The heat of a battery vaporises vape liquids without any flame.

But now, back to the carcinogens of smoking.

These include

  • nitrosamines;
  • Aromatic amines;
  • formaldehyde;
  • benzene;
  • cadmium;
  • arsenic;
  • chromium;
  • acetaldehyde;
  • ethylene oxide;
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from tar; etc.

These are just ten of the many hazardous substances contained in cigarette smoke, and, unfortunately, some of them enter the body 15 minutes after the first puff.

In addition to these, there is nicotine, carbon monoxide, acetone, cyanide… In short, cigarette smoke is a veritable cocktail of harmful substances!

At this point, you are probably wondering: “What effects do these ‘poisons’ have on the human body?”.

We will tell you about this in the next paragraph.

Harmful effects of tobacco substances

If you’ve always heard that smoking cigarette is harmful, but you’re not sure in what way or how much, reading these brief descriptions will help to clarify your thoughts.


Nicotine is, without doubt, the most well-known substance in cigarettes.

It is an alkaloid that, when inhaled through smoking, tends to increase the heart rate and raise blood pressure.

But that’s the least of it.

The worst thing is that it is physically addictive (just like alcohol and cocaine), which is why when smokers try to quit smoking, they experience the symptoms of what is known as nicotine withdrawal syndrome.


Benzene, a known carcinogen, is also released when a cigarette is burned.

This substance is linked to human diseases such as leukaemia and anaemia, to particular genetic damage or bone tissue disorders.


Formaldehyde has also been classified as a specific carcinogen by the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC).

When we smoke or come into contact with second-hand smoke, this substance is also responsible for irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes and frequent coughing attacks.

Carbon monoxide

When inhaled through cigarette smoke, this odourless and colourless gas causes incorrect and/or insufficient oxygenation of the tissues. Once it enters the body, it binds to the iron ion in haemoglobin instead of oxygen.


Do you know that brownish patina that soaks into smokers’ teeth, hands, and clothing?

It is tar, a harmful substance that also ends up in the lungs and is responsible for the poor functioning of the respiratory system.


Yes, this is the same unbearable-smelling substance used to wash windows and many other surfaces in the home.

The ammonia in cigarettes increases the absorption of nicotine and amplifies the effects of addiction.

Woman annoyed by second-hand smoke

Difference between an analogue cigarette and an electronic cigarette

If you have read the previous paragraph, you may now be wondering whether vaping e-cigarette liquids with nicotine can also cause the same damage to the human body as smoking.

Let’s start with the basics.

If you use an electronic cigarette as a smoking cessation aid, you no longer have to deal with the combustion process and, therefore, not with all the thousands of substances that come with it.

The e-liquid base is vaporised thanks to the heat produced by a battery’s energy without reaching high temperatures.

Liquid nicotine can be gradually reduced by vaping.

Read also: Where to buy e-cigarette liquids?

To conclude

As we have made clear in the previous paragraphs, cigarette smoking is very harmful!

Quitting smoking is very important for the preservation of your health. Still, it can be too complicated for those addicted to nicotine, who cannot do without tobacco aromas and smokers’ gestures!

In cases like this, as reported on the AIRC website, the electronic cigarette can help control nicotine addiction in smokers because it avoids inhaling so many toxic substances, exposing the user to less risk.

If you are also struggling with tobacco addiction and are looking for an effective solution, visit our store.

In the electronic cigarette section, you can choose from various practical and high-performance vaping devices. In the vape liquids section, you can access tobacco, fruity, and other liquids, with different amounts of nicotine and in various formats.

We are waiting for you!