Bargains: that cigarette gives you a lot more than just tobacco

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Wired should get an award for one of its latest articles, which offers a fascinating look at what ingredients can be found in your typical cigarette. If anyone thinking of smoking reads this article first, it seems like a sure-thing that they'd never light up. Seriously, do someone a favor and forward this post or the Wired article to an impressionable teenager who you think is at risk of smoking.

For instance, one important ingredient in cigarettes is called castoreum. As writer Patrick Di Justo notes, it's "commonly found in the secretions of a beaver's castor glands (located near the animal's genitals)." Castorem gives the cigarette a sweet odor and smoky flavor.

Other wonderful ingredients in a cigarette include copaiba oil, which is "so flammable it can practically fuel a diesel engine without any refining at all" and phenyl methyl ketone, a "major component of tear gas." Copaiba oil is in cigarettes, Di Justo theorizes, because "ammonium hydroxide, another ingredient, decreases combustibility, so manufacturers have to counteract it with a nontoxic accelerant." He then adds that copaiba oil is also used as a folk remedy for prostate tumors and gonorrhea.

The Wired story has a very entertaining summary of the ingredients in cigarettes, though the article doesn't mention all of them, and how could it? According to information given to the Department of Health and Human Services in April of 1994, there are 599 different additives that can be found in various cigarettes, including as its often been reported, carbon monoxide. It's a testament to just how addicting these tobacco products are (oh, yes, I forgot to mention that tobacco is also in cigarettes) because you know that most smokers who have read stories like the Wired one continue smoking, anyway. But it should be enough to make smoke come out of enraged cigarette users' ears.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).





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