10/05/2023

What’s in a Cigarette?

Ever wondered how cigarettes are made, and what goes into them? As an adult smoker, it might come as no surprise to know that cigarettes contain - and produce - harmful substances. The word “produce” deserves special emphasis, as many of the problematic substances in cigarettes are not necessarily the ingredients. Rather, they are substances produced through burning - or combustion.


The Ingredients of a Cigarette


Identifying the ingredients of a cigarette isn’t too difficult - there are a few key ones that make up a cigarette․ What makes identifying factors in a cigarette challenging, is the thousands of chemicals produced by a burning cigarette. Before we review this factor, let’s first examine what one might consider the “main ingredient of a cigarette.” Which is, of course, the tobacco leaf.


The tobacco leaf contains, and releases, nicotine when a cigarette is burnt. It is important to note that nicotine is an addictive chemical. However, contrary to popular belief, nicotine is not the primary cause of smoking-related diseases. Other non-tobacco materials such as paper can also be found in a cigarette. Mainly those are what it consists of; however, it can be useful to understand that there is more to cigarettes than just what goes into them.


What Does a Burning Cigarette Produce?


During combustion, a burning cigarette releases thousands of chemicals which can be harmful, such as carbon monoxide. This harmful gas is released when an adult smoker has a cigarette, and it can have significant implications. You can learn about the impact of carbon monoxide by following the link. The same is true for tar which is also being produced as a result of burning a cigarette.


Are There Alternatives to Smoking Cigarettes?



Yes, there are smoke-free alternatives for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke or use other nicotine products. Those are tobacco heating devices that use heating technology instead of combustion. IQOS is the #1 heated system.1 Over 13.2 million adult smokers have stopped burning tobacco and started heating it with IQOS.2


One of the main benefits of IQOS is that it produces on average 98% less carbon monoxide* (CO), compared to cigarettes.3 Also, IQOS does not produce tar because it heats the tobacco instead of burning it. It produces an aerosol residue that is significantly different from tar and consists of significantly lower levels of harmful chemicals.4


As a result, switching completely to IQOS is less harmful than continuing to smoke.5


More information about IQOS tobacco heating devices can be found here:





1. PMI global estimate of total In-Market Sales of Heated Tobacco Units as of May 2022. (excluding China and US).

2. PMI Financials or estimates (excluding Russia and Ukraine), IQOS user panels and PMI Market Research. Status as of December 2020. IQOS users who have completely quit cigarettes and for whom PMI HeatSticks represent at least 70% of their past 7-day heated tobacco consumption.

3. IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This does not mean a 98% reduction in risk, and carbon monoxide is only one of many harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke. IQOS is not risk-free, and contains nicotine which is addictive.

*We measured the level of certain harmful chemicals prioritized for reporting by renowned public health organizations, and these are reduced on average by 95% compared to the smoke of a cigarette (nicotine excluded).

4. IMPORTANT INFORMATION: The absence of tar does not mean that IQOS is risk free. IQOS provides nicotine which is addictive.

Average reductions in levels of a range of harmful chemicals (excluding nicotine) compared to the smoke of a reference cigarette.

5. IMPORTANT INFORMATION: IQOS is not risk-free, and provides nicotine which is addictive.

Average reductions in levels of a range of harmful chemicals (excluding nicotine) compared to the smoke of a reference cigarette.


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