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The Montana Tobacco Quit Line offers free and reduced-cost benefits to all Montana residents including free telephone service, a free personalized quit plan, free cessation coaching and free nicotine replacement therapy. NRT doubles your chances of quitting successfully and is available as gum, patches or lozenges. Chantix and Bupropion, oral medications used to reduce tobacco cravings, are also available for reduced monthly co-pays.

Cigarettes contain a cocktail of chemicals.

Some people mistakenly believe that cigarettes are just tobacco rolled in paper.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a cigarette burns, it releases a dangerous cocktail of chemicals. Many of them are toxic and even cancer-causing.

Cigarette smoke contains three main ingredients, the ones we commonly hear mentioned:

-- Nicotine, the addictive component, is absorbed into the blood and affects the brain within 10 seconds. It causes smokers to feel good, but when it wears off, a smoker feels worse than before. This reinforces the craving for another cigarette.

-- Tar, the thick, black substance, sticks to the tiny hairs on the lungs. When those hairs are covered, they can’t protect the lungs from infection and particles. Tar also narrows the tubes that transport air.

-- Carbon monoxide, a chemical found in car exhaust fumes, decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood, depriving the body’s organs of oxygen. Because there’s less oxygen in the blood, the blood becomes thicker and puts a strain on the heart, making it harder for the heart to pump blood.

While some ingredients are found naturally, others are added for flavor. But research has shown the key purpose of using additives is to improve tobacco’s potency, resulting in increased addictiveness.

Traces of other chemicals found in cigarettes include:

-- Benzene — a solvent used in fuel and chemical manufacturing.

-- Formaldehyde — a poisonous liquid used to preserve dead bodies.

-- Ammonia — a chemical found in cleaning fluids.

-- Hydrogen cyanide — a poison used as a fumigant to kill ants.

-- Cadmium — an extremely poisonous and radioactive metal found in batteries.

-- Acetone — a corrosive liquid solvent found in nail polish remover.

-- Arsenic — an ingredient in rat poison.

It’s chilling to think about what smokers put in their body. But it’s even more chilling when you realize that the smoke that burns off the end of a cigarette, or cigar, contains more harmful substances than the smoke inhaled by a smoker.

People who don’t smoke, but are regularly around smokers, are exposed to the same health risks. Even dogs and cats have been shown to be affected by secondhand smoke.

If you, or someone you love, needs an excuse to kick a tobacco habit, Friday is the 25th anniversary of World No Tobacco Day. Every year on May 31, the World Health Organization and its partners highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for policies to reduce its consumption.

Each year, more deaths are caused by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined.

Even though quitting is hard, the rewards are worth it. You will save money, improve your health and the health of those around you, and gain control over your addiction and your life. Most smokers regret the day they start smoking, not the day they quit.

No one wants to purposefully put these harmful chemicals in their systems. Learning about the chemicals cigarettes contain and the effects they can have on your body is a good way to make up your mind to quit smoking or decide to never start smoking.

Sara Rehmer is a prevention health specialist at RiverStone Health. She can be reached at 651-6466 or Sara.Reh@riverstonehealth.org. Visit www.tobaccofree.mt.gov for more information.

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