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What is tobacco?

​​ Tobacco comes from the dried leaves of the tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana rustica). Other ingredients are added to manufacture a range of tobacco-based products.

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Tobacco smoke is a mixture of almost 7000 different chemical compounds, including nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, acetone, ammonia and hydrogen cyanide. Over seventy of these chemicals have been proven to be carcinogenic (causing cancer).
The major chemical components of tobacco smoke are:

  • Nicotine - the stimulant component in tobacco smoke that causes dependency, as it is highly addictive. Nicotine is a poison.

  • Tar – released when the cigarette is burnt. It is a sticky brown substance that is the main cause of lung and throat cancer in smokers. Tar can also cause unsightly yellow-brown stains on fingers and teeth.

  • Carbon monoxide – a gas that is absorbed by the lungs and binds with red blood cells displacing oxygen. The body then makes more red blood cells to compensate which thickens the blood making it more prone to clotting. This increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and vascular disease.

Immediate effects can include

  • dizziness
  • watery eyes
  • shortness of breath
  • detrimental effect on appearance (breath, teeth, hair and skin)
  • mild feeling of relaxation
  • lightheadedness
  • mild euphoria

How tobacco affects your body

Tap a body part to learn more of the effects Tobacco places on your body.

Long term effects can include

  • cancer of the lung, throat, mouth, lips, gums, kidney and bladder
  • heart disease and stroke
  • emphysema and other lung disease
  • gangrene and other circulatory diseases

General information

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