You’ve heard that part of the reason tobacco cigarettes are dangerous is that they contain tar. What, exactly, is tar in tobacco cigarettes, and why is it considered to be so harmful? Let’s explore these questions in detail.
Anatomy of a cigarette
The modern tobacco cigarette contains a ludicrously complicated cocktail of more than 7,000 distinct chemical substances. The main component of a tobacco cigarette, though, remains tobacco leaf, a natural plant product that inherently contains tar.
To clear up a common misconception, tar is naturally present in tobacco cigarette smoke, and it is not usually added. It isn’t produced by the paper or added chemicals: tobacco simply produces tar when burned.
What is cigarette tar made from?
Cigarette tar naturally occurs when tobacco is ignited. Consisting primarily of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), cigarette tar is a resinous, semi-combusted substance that adheres to the lining of your mouth, throat, and lungs where it forms a persistent sticky layer. The majority of the carcinogenic substances in tobacco smoke are contained in tar.
Tar in cigarettes is not directly related to nicotine, and it has more to do with the fact that tobacco is a plant than it does with the fact that all sorts of additives have been put in cigarettes over the years. Nicotine vapes do not contain tar because they do not contain plant matter, just nicotine salts.
1. What is nicotine in cigarettes?
Nicotine is the addicting, psychoactive chemical present in nicotine. It is not the same thing as tar, and nicotine does not produce tar. Nicotine is, however, dangerous to your heart health regardless of how you consume it.
2. What is carbon monoxide in cigarettes?
Like tar, carbon monoxide is a byproduct of cigarette smoke. Inherently poisonous, carbon monoxide should not be consumed in any concentrations. Carbon monoxide is so toxic you have detectors in your home specifically designed to detect its presence: Do you really want to consume carbon monoxide in the form of cigarette smoke?
3. How much tar is in a pack of cigarettes?
The amount of tar in tobacco depends on the type of cigarette, but some evidence suggests that even the cigarettes with the least tar contain around 200mg of tar per pack.
Out of that 200mg, it’s unclear how much tar actually ends up in your lungs. What’s obvious, though, is that putting tar infused with toxic chemicals in your lungs is something you should probably avoid whenever possible.
Which is worse in cigarettes: nicotine or tar?
It’s hard to say whether nicotine or tar is worse for you. The majority of cancers and similar conditions related to cigarette use are due to the presence of tar, but the reason you keep sucking this tar into your lungs over and over again is because nicotine is addictive, and this addictive substance also seriously harms your heart, veins, and arteries.
Instead of trying to decide which is worse, it might be more profitable to look at how tar and nicotine combine to make cigarettes extra-terrible. Addicting you to a habit that slowly but surely toxifies your lungs and hardens your heart, tobacco cigarettes seem designed to do as much harm as humanly possible.
Why is tar added to cigarettes?
Tar is not usually added to cigarettes. Instead, tar naturally occurs as a result of tobacco leaf matter catching on fire. Since it is produced by the very active smoking, there is no way to remove tar from cigarettes. Every time you inhale a puff of a tobacco cigarette, you will bring tar into your lungs — unavoidably.
Is cigarette tar addictive?
No, tar is not the substance responsible for making cigarettes addictive. That great distinction goes to nicotine, a chemical that is otherwise less harmful than tar even though it damages your heart and circulatory system. By getting you addicted to cigarettes, though, nicotine essentially compels you to inhale tar.
Where is tar found besides cigarettes?
“Tar” is a general term used to refer to a wide variety of resinous substances produced in the process of lighting something on fire. Forms of tar are sometimes used to patch roadways, adhere substances together, or even pigment textiles.
Fortunately, consumers won’t come across tar in many contexts other than cigarette smoke. All forms of tars are generally recognized as being harmful substances, excluding them from use in the majority of consumer applications.
Which cigarette contains the most tar?
In 1975, the United States government identified Carlton, a now defunct cigarette brand as the lowest-tar option available in the American market at 2mg tar per cigarette. More recently, the Hong Kong Consumer Council found that some brands of cigarettes available in Southeast Asia contain as much as 15mg of tar per cigarette.
When it comes to American cigarette brands, don’t expect too much variance when it comes to tar. Even cigarettes advertised as being “low-tar” still contain this toxic substance in concentrations high enough to do more than just raise eyebrows.
Do hemp cigarettes contain tar?
Most resinous plants produce tar when you light them on fire, and the same is true for hemp. Scientists have been aware of the presence of tar in cannabis and hemp for decades, and recent research seems to indicate that tar in hemp affects your body quite differently than tar in tobacco.
Is tar in hemp harmful?
A recent study with more than 2000 participants found no increase in incidences of lung cancer in cannabis smokers despite the fact that cannabis appears to contain considerably more tar than cigarettes. Perhaps it’s time to realize that it isn’t the resinous tar in tobacco cigarettes that’s inherently harmful but rather the thousands of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals that get trapped in tobacco tar and then adhere themselves to the lining of your lungs. Cannabis does not contain these toxic chemicals, potentially explaining why hemp tar doesn’t appear to have the same harmful effects as tobacco tar.
Do hemp vapes contain tar?
If you want to avoid tar altogether when you use hemp, just switch to vapes. Tar is a byproduct of combustion, and since vapes use vaporization instead of combustion, do not produce any tar.
In the absence of plant matter, all that’s left is the active ingredients when you vape. Nicotine will never become less harmful even if you vape it instead of smoking it, but cannabinoids might reach peak liberation when divested of the crude plant matter of their origins.