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Tobacco Smoke or Health

Cigarette Smoke - Major Constituents Of Particulate Matter

  • Nicotine and other alkaloids
  • Naphthalene and other aromatic hydrocarbons (polynuclears)
  • Phenols
  • Terpenes
  • Carboxylic acids
  • Indoles
  • Benzofurans
  • Aromatic amines
  • Inorganic particulate matter such as silicates may also be present
  • Tar etc.. 
The electron microscope image shows alveolar macrophages from the lungs of a heavy smoker. The cells are laden with dense 'smokers' inclusions' which include particulate matter arising from tobacco smoke. These cells also have an abnormally smooth surface when compared to normal alveolar macrophages.

Cigarette Smoke - Major Constituents Of Gaseous Phase

  • Gaseous oxides (of Carbon, Nitrogen)
  • Ammonia
  • Hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen cyanide and nitriles (organic cyanides)
  • Aliphatic hydrocarbons (Alkanes, Alkenes, Alkynes)
  • Aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Carboxylic acids
  • Aldehydes (saturated and unsaturated)
  • Alcohols and ketones
  • Furans
  • Pyridines, Pyrroles and others
  • etc

Health consequences of exposure to cigarette smoke:

It is doubtful whether one could identify a single 'environmental exposure' which has as widespread, and as well documented a range of harmful effects throughout the human body as the inhalation of tobacco smoke.  The harmful effects include: 
  • Cancer of various organs: notably the lung, but also of other organs such as the larynx, bladder, oesophagus 
  • Damage to blood vessels (atherosclerosis): notably of the heart (leading to heart attacks), but also of the brain (leading to strokes), eyes (increasing the risks of blindness), limbs (and other appendages).


  • Damage to the lungs causing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis and emphysema). Exposure to tobacco smoking increases the risk of asthmatic attacks in sufferers from asthma, and perhaps even the likelihood of developing asthma.


  • Other damage - directly or indirectly e.g. to the skin. 

Public Health aspects of smoking

  • There has been a positive trend in reduction of exposure of the public to tobacco smoke, through its banning in public places in an increasing number of countries throughout the world.


  • Further information (as well as opinion) can be gleaned from a variety of sources including Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).