Whale Poop To Rat Poison – What Is Your Cigarette Made Of?

The cigarette is probably the greatest success story of advertisement. In the earlier 20th century, the print was the primary medium for adverts. Then it was introduced to films and stories. Haven’t we all been impressed by that handsome male lead smoking fumes making him all the more attractive? And that’s how a tobacco roll pierced our psyche as an ‘epitome’ of intelligence and coolness.

Young Ronald Reagan in cigarette ad

What Is Cigarette Made Of?

No, cigarette is not just tobacco rolled in paper. That is more closer to what Indians would call a ‘bidi’. So what exactly is your cigarette made of?

In fact your cigarette has about six hundred – yes you read it right – ingredients. The ingredients of a cigarette are broadly like this – the paper to be rolled into, the blend of tobacco, with a cigarette tube, filter and butt. With that additives are added.

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Some of these ingredients of a cigarette are commonly found in a home. Acetone is an ingredient to it and it is a component in nail polish removers. Ammonia is also there which is a chemical used in cleaners. Lead as we all know is a must in batteries is also a must in cigarettes.
Naphthalene which is common household item to get rid of insects is also added to it. Nicotine, which makes tobacco so popular is a very effective insecticide and pesticide. Tar is also added to cigarette. We usually know tar as a road paving material. Arsenic or rat poison is unfortunately used so that your cigarette gives you a good smoking experience.

Apart from these, cigarettes also have some weirdly interesting ingredients in it.


Ambergris is a strange cigarette composition

Cigarette are surely made of weird stuff right from lead to arsenic. But some stuff get weirder. Most smokers do not know that some of the cigarette ingredients are derived from animal manure, like horse, cat and whales.

It is true that out of the hundreds of ingredients that you enjoy in one puff, one of those is whale poop, better known as ambergris.

Ambergris is a very valuable commodity. In 2016, an 80-kg block of ambergris was found by some fishermen in Oman. It was sold for USD 3 million. Ambergris is highly sought after by perfume makers.

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Ambergris tincture is also needed to make cigarettes. Some would prefer to call it whale vomit, debating from which side the whale has got rid of it. Ambergris is actually the excretion, and/or vomit of the huge sperm whale.

These huge mammals eat up a lot of food but only a fraction of it is released as ambergris. Ambergris is produced in their intestines. It smells foul and is blackish in colour. It usually washes up on the surface or in the shores. With the loss of water it becomes whitish and gives a pleasant smell. The item is then used in musky scents and very expensive perfumes.

Ambergris is used in cigarette because its scent stays for a long time. It helps to ward off the smells of the chemicals that are released during its burning.

More weird cigarette compositions

In August 2014 in UK, an illegal cigarette trader was arrested. He had been selling in the black market. Since it came without tax, it was cheaper and hence quite in demand. The mirror.co.uk reported that upon inspection by the authorities, human excrement and rat droppings were found among the cigarettes’ components.  Other samples have also shown the use of dead flies and asbestos. Can you say if your cigarette does not have any? Think again.


A survey showed that a lot of cigarette that you buy may actually be counterfeit and sans any quality control. A Switzerland based organization, MS Intelligence found out that at least 30.9% of cigarette packets in the market were not genuine. That means one third of the cigarettes contain horrible components like human waste. Studies have shown that these bogus cigarettes also have plastic and even blood, of animals and of humans.

13,000 packets of counterfeit cigarettes were busted in Birmingham, UK in one month. Scotland Yard has warned that criminals are shifting from hard drugs to counterfeit cigarettes because detection rate is difficult and punishment is less severe.

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Why are there so many chemicals in cigarettes?

Ask a smoker and he will tell you a lot about a good smoke and flavour of the cigarettes. Each brand is supposed to give the smoker something ‘different’.

Cigarette manufacturers have to use more than 600 ingredients to make one roll of it. They have to add all the additives, then items for the blending and more to make a cigarette. Some of these ingredients are safe whereas some are absolutely not. That is why the brands have to put warning labels.

When all these 600 ingredients burn, chemicals are released due to reaction. sounds unbelievable but the fact is that one burning cigarette creates more than 7,000 chemicals. According to www.lung.org, at least 69 are carcinogenic, that is these cause cancer. Many more of these are harmful to health.


What most people also do not know that radioactive materials like Uranium are present in your tobacco.  As you smoke, these radioactive materials are released in the atmosphere and in your lungs. This is the most dangerous component and this is why smokers are prone to lung cancer. Some components are also are fungicides and pesticides. Stuff like nickel, cadmium and formaldehyde are enemies of the lungs.

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Interestingly the first doctors to recognize the ill effects of smoking were the Germans during the Nazi regime. They were the first to acknowledge the link of cancer to tobacco and the anti tobacco steps happened.

Doctors also found out how nicotine addicts like heroin. After nicotine smoke is inhaled, it takes 6 seconds for it to reach our brain. At first, nicotine acts as a stimulant in the brain. It makes us feel good. In regular and more doses, this same nicotine starts acting as a depressant. The function of the nerve cells go down. The tar in the cigarette forms a sticky mass in the lungs. The carbon mono oxide makes it hard for the red blood cells to do their job.

In fact as addicts say, nicotine addiction is more difficult to let go of than heroin addiction.

Credits: www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/illegal-cigarettes-contain-human-excrement-4093711, www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/counterfeit-cigarettes-made-of-human-poo-231423, www.quitsmokingsupport.com/whatsinit.htm