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Smoking and Tobacco




What are the main drugs or ingredients in cigarettes?


Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in all forms of tobacco, including smokeless tobacco. According to the American Cancer Society:

"It is absorbed readily from tobacco smoke in the lungs and from smokeless tobacco in the mouth or nose and rapidly spreads throughout the body.

Tobacco companies are required by law to report nicotine levels in cigarettes to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) but in most states are not required to show the amount of nicotine on the cigarette brand labeling. The actual amount of nicotine available to the smoker in a given brand of cigarettes may be different from the level reported to the FTC. In one regular cigarette, the amount of nicotine ranges between about 1 mg and 2 mg.

Tobacco companies can get away with misleading advertising because neither the ingredients nor the advertising for cigarettes are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)."

Virtually anything can be added to tobacco products.

Secondhand smoke, or Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. This mixture contains more than 4,000 substances, more than 40 of which are known to cause cancer in humans or animals and many of which are strong irritants. Secondhand smoke has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a known cause of lung cancer in humans (Group A carcinogen).

You would have to search the website of a particular brand of cigarette for a listing of the specific ingredients. For example, Philip Morris lists Marlboro's Full Flavor 100's Filter Box as listed below:

Marlboro Full Flavor 100's Filter Box


15 Milligrams (NY State - 17 Milligrams)


1.1 Milligrams (NY State - 1.3 Milligrams)

To learn more about the three categories of cigarette ingredients used in the manufacture of Philip Morris USA brands, view Ingredients Lists.

The other major ingredient is tar. Carbon monoxide is also found in both mainstream and sidestream smoke. The same arsenic used in rat poison is found in cigarettes, as well as substances like hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia.

A good website to refer to is the Environmental Protection Agency: www.epa.gov

Search for indoor air quality/environmental tobacco smoke. A specific publication that contains ingredients of both mainstream and sidestream smoke (ETS) is the December 1992 Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking, Lung Cancer & Other Disorders (EPA/600/6-90/006F).

For more information:

Go to the Smoking and Tobacco health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Kathy Vesha, RN, BSN, MA
Kick It!
The James
The Ohio State University