Degreasing engines, dry cleaning clothes, removing nail polish, preserving dead bodies and controlling pests: do you know what these seemingly unrelated activities have in common? They all use toxic, hazardous chemicals-chemicals you subject your body to every time you smoke a cigarette.

There are approximately 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke; 250 are known to be harmful and about 50 are known to cause cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports that smoking causes 87 percent of all lung cancer deaths annually and approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths. Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States.

Do you know what's in your cigarette?

Cigarettes contain high levels of lethal chemicals and heavy metals used in industrial processes and many household products. Here are just a few well-known, ingredients in cigarettes.


Common use


Paving roads


Removing nail polish


Dry cleaning


Preserving bodies


Killing pests


Killing rats

Hydrogen cyanide

Gas chambers

Carbon monoxide

Car exhaust


Emissions from burned petroleum products

Nicotine is probably the most familiar substance in cigarettes and the one that gets the most press. Of all the harmful substances in cigarettes, nicotine is not actually linked to cancer. However, nicotine is just as addictive as street drugs such as heroin and cocaine, so once you're hooked on cigarettes, you're continuously bombarding your body with cancer-causing chemicals.

Smokers aren't the only ones who suffer from these chemicals. Nonsmokers increase their risk of lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent when they live with a smoker.

Light cigarettes: fact or fiction

Cigarettes marketed as low-tar, mild, light, or ultra-light are just as harmful as full-strength cigarettes. When you smoke these cigarettes, you inhale the same chemicals and your risk of developing smoking-related cancer is just as great-perhaps more so. There's evidence that smokers of so-called light cigarettes take bigger puffs to compensate.

Many people also believe that hookah, a form of smoking that uses a water pipe instead of a cigarette, is less harmful. This is a dangerous misconception. The World Health Organization says a 30 to 60 minute hookah session is equivalent to smoking an entire pack of cigarettes in one sitting!

There is no such thing as a safe cigarette. The only way to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer is not to smoke.