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There are about 600 ingredients in cigarettes and more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. Many of these chemicals are poisonous and at least 69 of them cause cancer. The truth is, one cigarette probably has more chemicals than all the stuff you keep in your garage. Let's take a look:

  1. Ammonia is one of the most commonly produced industrial chemicals in the United States, but you probably know it best as a household cleaner—the kind that you wear gloves around and avoid breathing in.
  2. Arsenic is notorious for its use in rat poison. It's also one of the World Health Organization's 10 chemicals of major public health concern, along with two other ingredients on this list, benzene and cadmium.
  3. Benzene is found in glues and adhesives—such as rubber cement—as well as car fumes and gasoline exhaust. But according to National Cancer Institute, cigarette smoking accounts for about half of the total U.S. population exposure to this cancer-causing chemical.
  4. Butane is highly flammable and often used as fuel for lighters.
  5. Cadmium is an active component in battery acid. Cadmium itself is classified as a human carcinogen, and smokers have about twice as much of it in their bodies as do nonsmokers.
  6. Carbon monoxide, a deadly, colorless, odorless and poisonous gas, is released in car exhaust fumes as well as from a burning cigarette.
  7. Hexamine is found in barbecue lighter fluid.
  8. Naphthalene is an ingredient in mothballs, which are basically small balls of pesticide. Naphthalene turns directly from a solid into a toxic vapor, which in the case of mothballs kills insects and may repel animals.
  9. Nicotine is the infamous addictive substance in tobacco products. But did you know it's also used as insecticide because of its toxicity?
  10. Tar is black and sticky material for paving roads. In cigarettes, it's the solid, sticky substance that remains after tobacco is burned, both in the ashtray and inside your lungs.
  11. Toluene is used to manufacture paint and it's also found in gasoline. Exposure to toluene may affect the central nervous system.

This is just the short list. Learn more about what's in a cigarette and the health effects of smoking, as well as how you can quit smoking with proven and effective methods.

Illustration by MacKenzie Olsberg

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