Cigarettes and Loose Tobacco (RYO)

Cigarette smoking is still one of the most preventable causes of disease, disability, and death in the world.

The dried and cured leaves of the tobacco plant are used to create cigarettes. Nicotine is the most addictive substance found in cigarettes. Nicotine, like heroin and cocaine, alters brain function and generates cravings for more nicotine.

According to studies, cigarettes contain a variety of harmful chemicals. Some are found directly in the tobacco leaf, others appear when the cigarette burns, and some are added by cigarette manufacturers. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, of which almost 70 are carcinogenic.

Harmful substances include:

  • Carbon monoxide —also found in car exhaust.
  • Lead, mercury, chromium and cadmium — toxic metals.
  • Hydrogen cyanide — Highly flammable and very toxic substance, also for aquatic organisms.
  • Ammonia — found in cleaning products and added to cigarettes to increase the nicotine hit.
  • Polonium 210 — a radioactive substance.

Some of the toxins in cigarettes affect the mouth, throat and lungs, while others travel in the bloodstream throughout the body.

Cigarette Filter:

The cigarette filter is a continuing target of product innovation by the tobacco industry. Most of the cigarettes or RYOs consumed in the world have filters. Following smoking, the cigarette butts are often thrown into the environment, ending up as litter. Cigarette butts generally contain several toxic substances that are trapped in the cigarette filter. Filters are made of non-biodegradable materials such as cellulose acetate (a type of plastic) and remain in the environment for a long time. The cigarette butts themselves contain thousands of dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, benzene, hydrogen cyanide, PAHs (a very cancerous chemical), pyridine, heavy metals and so forth.

Some studies have also explained that each cigarette butt can pollute up to 1000 litres of water. Other reports, such as from Kadir & Sarani (2015) indicate that from one cigarette butt some toxic effects may even occur at concentrations of one cigarette butt per 4,000 litres. Thus, in consideration of an estimated of 1.2 million tonnes of cigarette butt waste per year, with these figures expected to increase by more than 50% by 2025, cigarette butts are having devastating effects on our environment that go largely unseen.


Hull, Philip (2014): Tobacco. HEALTH EFFECTS OF SMOKING. Hg. v. Australian Government, Department of Health. Australian Government, Department of Health. Online verfügbar unter

Unisanté (2014): Composition d'une cigarette. Hg. v. Unisanté. Online verfügbar unter

The FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) (Hg.) (2016): How a Cigarette Is Engineered. The design and content of cigarettes continue to make them attractive, addictive, and deadly. Every day, more than 1,300 people in the United States die because of cigarette use. FDA. Online verfügbar unter

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