Besides nicotine, tobacco smoke contains over 6,000 other chemicals. Many of these substances are detrimental to one’s health and can lead to chronic lung conditions (such as COPD), cancer and cardiovascular disorders. In the Netherlands, roughly 20,000 people die each year as a result of smoking. On average smokers die five to ten years younger than non-smokers.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends reducing the quantities of a number of substances found in tobacco smoke. This is intended to limit harmful health effects caused by tobacco smoke. Moreover, it should prevent new tobacco products with greater adverse health effects from coming onto the market.
The WHO has nominated nine substances. Click on the links below to get more information about each substance´s characteristics, how it is formed in tobacco smoke and in what quantities, adverse health effects, and, where this is known, its impact on smoking addiction.
The nine substances have been selected based on:
The substances mentioned are just a few of the thousands of chemicals that comprise tobacco smoke. For this reason it is impossible to evaluate exactly how harmful a single substance is in this complex mixture. For instance, a given substance may react with other components in the smoke, which can affect how harmful the entire mixture is.
The quantity of each individual substance present in smoke is not the same for all cigarettes or all tobacco products. How much of a substance you are exposed to depends on the type of product (such as a cigarette or a cigar), the brand (because of the type of tobacco, the type of filter, and the additives used), as well as on a person’s smoking behaviour (how many puffs are taken and how deeply the smoke is inhaled).
The RIVM develops methods for measuring the amounts of various substances in cigarettes or cigarette smoke. This information can be used to evaluate the substance’s harmful effects.