Type “electronic cigarettes” into any search engine and you will find heaps of information about the Electronic Nicotine Delivery devices (ENDs). Most, if not all, e cigarette companies promote the same list of 4 base e-liquid ingredients in their products: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, water, flavouring (both natural and artificial).
All of these ingredients have been deemed GRAS, or Generally Recognised As Safe for human consumption. Tobacco cigarettes on the other hand are known to produce more than 4,000 chemical components upon pyrolysis or burning. At a minimum, 69 of these chemical components are in fact additives that have been proven as carcinogenic. Prior to 1994, Big Tobacco had kept the list of ingredients in tobacco cigarettes a secret. This begs the question, exactly what chemicals are on this list?
Below is a brief list of some of the more recognisable and dangerous additives in tobacco cigarettes. When a cigarette is burned the tobacco leaves within are heated beyond the point of combustion and undergo a physical and chemical change through pyrolysis. This is the point at which existing molecular bonds are broken and new ones are formed. Unfortunately for the smoker, many of these new chemical constituents are poisonous and can cause severe damage to human tissue.
Benzene is used in the manufacturing of other chemicals such as nylon, pesticides and petrol. It is present in cigarette smoke and while definitive conclusions have not yet been drawn, it is generally understood that smokers face an increased risk of leukaemia over their non-smoking peers. Short-term, high level exposure to benzene through inhalation or ingestion can cause damage to the central nervous system leading to paralysis. Long-term exposure to benzene can lead to anemia, hemophilia and leukaemia.
Cyanide is present in the chemicals used to make numerous products such as paper, textiles and plastics. As a gas, cyanide is used in pesticides. Under the name of Zyklon B, hydrogen cyanide was used in concentration camps as a genocidal agent during World War II. Hydrogen cyanide is present when cigarette smoke is inhaled and also in second hand smoke. Non-smokers are also at risk when exposed to cigarette smoke.
Carbon Monoxide (also known as The Silent Killer) is a poisonous, colourless, and odourless gas. Cigarette smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide (molecular symbol CO). When inhaled, CO binds with hemoglobin in the lungs, decreasing the amount of red blood cells necessary to transport oxygen throughout the body.
Tobacco companies have dedicated a significant amount of resources to the research and development of their product. The formula for tobacco cigarettes is always evolving. Prior to 1970, cigarettes manufactured for use in the United States used few additives. There is evidence that the percentage of additives increased in the 1990s.
More than 100 of the additives in tobacco cigarettes are used to make the product more desirable for the consumer. According to tobacco companies, these compounds are added to improve taste and reduce harshness. In all likelihood they do, but they also camouflage their odour, enhance the nicotine delivery, mask symptoms of illness and increase the addictiveness of cigarettes. In electronic cigarettes, once the level of nicotine reaches a certain point the throat hit becomes too harsh and they no longer feel smooth. Smokers will absorb 1 mg of nicotine per cigarette (10 puffs) where e cigarette users will absorb 0.1 mg vaping the same amount.
It wasn’t until April of 1994 that Big Tobacco released a partial list of what is added to their products. All of these companies were founded and began the production of cigarettes in the 1800s. What would posses these publicly traded companies to keep the list a secret for over a century? One can ask, but it may take Big Tobacco a decade or two to answer.