eli5: if cigarettes contain so many bad chemicals, then can’t we just take them out?


my biology textbook says that there are over 60 carcinogens in cigarettes that cause cancer, but can’t we take them out? aren’t people just addicted to the nicotine? couldn’t we just put nicotine and some sort of smoke producing substance that isn’t a carcinogen and leave it at that

Edit: Thank you for the answers, everyone!

In: 43

Nicotine vapes. You’re describing vapes.

Which carry a whole batch of other issues, but that’s certainly the pitch they give.

Lol that’s what vaping is, they also have nicotine gums and skin patches. I am an adult who quit smoking years ago thanks to vapes


Smoke is a carcinogen so if you’re lighting a cigarette on fire you will always be inhaling carcinogens.

And yes, if normal people farmed tobacco and made cigarettes themselves then they could go ahead and not add chemicals to their tobacco. But it’s illegal for normal people to ~~grow~~ sell their own tobacco, at least in the U.S., because tobacco companies lobbied to make it illegal. This way large corporations have control over the farming and chemicals, and they can add special chemicals to make cigarettes more addictive.

E-cigarettes are basically that. Nicotine, plus a carrier fluid (usually propylene glycol and/or glycerine), and some flavorings. Except there’s no smoke involved – it doesn’t get hot enough to actually burn anything, at least not in significant quantities.

The problem with cigarettes is that the smoke itself contains carcinogens, and this is true for essentially any organic material that is burned. Wood smoke, cannabis smoke, even over-toasted bread. When carbon-based materials burn, you never have complete, clean combustion down to CO2 and water vapor, unless you have an extremely hot fire. And several of those partially-combusted byproducts that make up smoke, like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are carcinogenic.

Edit: low molecular weight carbon-based fuels like natural gas and propane do burn quite cleanly. Large amounts of smoke are mostly from solid materials combusting

The health problem with cigarettes is breathing smoke from a fire. You shouldn’t breathe smoke, because it’s seriously unhealthy. Doesn’t matter if it’s tobacco, wood, plastic, weed or whatever. Lungs are for *air* and anything else is bad to some degree.

Nicotine isn’t the only active chemical in tobacco either. It’s certainly the *primary* one. But anyone who’s tried nicotine patches or similar stuff will tell you it’s not quite the same. That’s because tobacco also contain other substances with their own effects. One of the most significant ones is one that basically potentiates the nicotine. It’s a reversible MAO inhibitor IIRC, which makes our brain more receptive to the nicotine. That’s just one, it’s a witch’s brew of psychoactive substances in there.

Then there’s the habit part of it. Addiction happens because our minds associate certain things with receiving the substance. If you’ve always gotten your nicotine through cigarettes while standing on your porch, your mind will have associated aaaall details it can with the nicotine. A nicotine patch or injection won’t be the same, because it doesn’t include all the other stuff. That other stuff doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the nicotine, but your mind doesn’t know that. It just wants the whole package.

I’m a Snus user. Popular type of tobacco in scandinavia, which is held under the lip. For me, the taste of it is important. I’m not even satisfied with a different brand of Snus, much less a nicotine patch.

No. New chemicals are produced from the chemical reactions caused from combustion. Once lit , chemical reactions are started. Everything from ammonia to rat poison is produced and sucked into your lungs.

Most of the toxic ingredients in cigarettes are preservatives. You can buy cigars or loose tobacco and enjoy it that way, but it’s less convenient and it has a shelf life where it will dry out. That’s pretty much why cigarettes are the way they are.

Your lungs are designed to breathe in air and use the oxygen as fuel. If you’re filling your lungs with anything else, you’re poisoning yourself.

The extras are also part of the flavor so lots of tobacco lovers would not like not having all the extras. It just wouldn’t taste or feel right. Some smokers need the nicotine but also the light asphyxiation to get their desired results (buzzed + light headed vs just buzzed).

It’s expensive, that’s why. Cigarette companies don’t care about health, they care about profit. This is just unregulated capitalism working as designed.

Yes, it is possible to remove some of the harmful chemicals in cigarettes, but it is not possible to remove all of them. Even if all of the harmful chemicals were removed, cigarettes would still be addictive and harmful to your health.

Some of the things they add to cigarettes make the smoking experience better, which is important when you’re competing with dozens of other brands. Some chemicals make the smoke less harsh, others make the tobacco burn more evenly, etc.

You can vape nicotine and avoid the 100 other chemicals that you inhale when combusting tobacco.

Of course smoking is bad for you. Of course it is expensive. However, if you have had a hard time quitting tobacco in the past, try nicotine patches and possibly vaping nicotine. You can control how much nicotine you consume, and that is the fear from nay-sayers, patches and vaping gives you the ability to overdose on nicotine too.

Cigarette companies aren’t adding poison because they’re evil. The dangerous chemicals are from creating the smoke and inhaling it. A cigar is basically just rolled tobacco leaves and it’s still bad for you.

You just described a Vape pen. MOST of those 60 chemicals are added by the tobacco companies, each for a specific purpose > Self extinguishing, preservative, moisture retaining, burn rate control, flavor enhancement, etc. They ain’t real likely to take those out. As a 70yo who smoke 3 packs a day for almost 60 years, my best advice is just DON’T. We ALL have a tendency to feel immortal and invulnerable UP UNTIL the time things start to catch up with us. In my case, COPD and emphysema. And it fucking hurts. And scares the shit outta me. And THAT ain’t easy to do. I’m a war hardened ole cuss, and there are only two things on this rock that I am actually afraid of. They’re both spiders. But smothering for air sucks worse than anything else.

Nicotine itself also goes through reactions that create carcinogens. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobacco-specific_nitrosamines