Cigarettes, Hookahs, E-Cigarettes

What's In a Cigarette?

Tobacco companies put chemicals in cigarettes to make them taste better and to keep people smoking. Of the 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 250 are known to be harmful.  

Among the 250 known harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, more than 50 have been found to cause cancer.


irritates mucous membranes

Acetic Acid

toxic acid

household cleaning products


from coal tar and in
motor fuel and varnishes

cigarette lighter fluid

used in paint

Carbon Disulfide
car exhaust in a closed garage

Carbon Monoxide
car exhaust fumes

embalming fluid

Hydrogen Cyanide
gas chamber poison

a poison
causes brain damage

swamp gas

rocket fuel


insecticide/addictive drug

gasoline additive

Nitrous Oxide Phenols

industrial solvent

Vinyl Chloride
makes PVC



Menthol was first added to cigarettes in the 1920s and 1930s, and became widespread in the 1950s and 1960s. Although most cigarettes contain some menthol, certain brands use menthol in greater quantities as a characterizing flavor additive, and market and advertise those brands as “menthol.”

Menthol is a chemical compound extracted from the peppermint or corn mint plant or created synthetically. It reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke due to its characteristic cooling effects on the mouth and throat.

Find out more about mentholated tobacco products.



A hookah is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco through cooled water. The tobacco is heated in the bowl at the top of the hookah and the smoke is filtered through the water in the  base of the hookah.

Shisha is the tobacco smoked in a hookah. It is a very moist and sticky tobacco that has been soaked in honey or molasses. There are a variety of shisha flavors including apple, plum, coconut, mango, mint, and strawberry.

Recently, there has been an increase in hookah use around the world, most notably among young adults. While many hookah smokers may consider this practice less harmful than smoking cigarettes, hookah smoking carries many of the same health risks as cigarettes.

Find out more about hookahs:

Hookah Fact Sheet (American Cancer Society) 

Top Facts:Hookah (The Bacchus Network) 

Hookah Fact Sheet (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)


Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a type of electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) resembling cigarettes. ENDS can also look like pipes, pens, or USB memory sticks. 

The availability, marketing, and use of electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) are growing, as big tobacco companies are beginning to invest  more heavily in these products.

Because e-cigarettes are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), limited information is available on their contents, health effects, and their use for quitting or reducing smoking. This leaves the public, health agencies, and retailers with many unanswered questions. To make a fully informed decision about e-cigarettes, more scientific research and federal regulation are needed.

Find out more about e-cigarettes:

E-cigarette Fact Sheet

Information for Merchants


Get Healthy Philly is a project of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and is made possible, in part, by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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