Smoke Is Poison

Cancer Research UK, with the NHS, launched an advertising campaign in December highlighting the toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke. According to the web site promotion,, cigarette smoke contains 69 chemicals that are known to cause cancer. Five print advertisements, found in newspapers, bus stops and on the back of pub washroom doors, show sinister-looking cigarette smoke and explain more about the chemicals it contains. The campaign also includes a number of television commercials.

Arsenic found in cigarette smoke

Arsenic is one of the most dangerous chemicals in cigarettes. It can cause cancer as well as damaging the heart and its blood vessels. Small amounts of arsenic can accumulate in smokers’ bodies and build up to higher concentrations over months and years. As well as any direct effects, it can worsen the effect of other chemicals by interfering with our ability to repair our DNA. Fish and seafood can be major sources of arsenic, but in a form that is less toxic and more readily removed from the body. In contrast, tobacco smoke contains arsenic in a more dangerous form.

Benzene found in cigarette smoke

Benzene is a solvent used to manufacture other chemicals, including petrol. It is well-established that benzene can cause cancer, particularly leukaemia. It could account for between a tenth and a half of the deaths from leukaemia caused by smoking. Tobacco smoke contains large amounts of benzene and accounts for a big proportion of our exposure to this poison. The average smoker inhales about ten times more benzene than the average non-smoker. Some studies have estimated that the amount of benzene that a person inhales through second-hand smoke over their lifetime could increase their risk of cancer.

Formaldehyde found in cigarette smoke

Formaldehyde is a smelly chemical used to kill bacteria, preserve dead bodies and manufacture other chemicals. It is one of the substances in tobacco smoke most likely to cause diseases in our lungs and airways. Formaldehyde is also a known cause of cancer. It is believed that even the small amounts in second-hand smoke could increase our lifetime risk of cancer. Tobacco smoke is one of our major sources of formaldehyde exposure. Places where people smoke can have three times the normal levels of this poison.

Hydrogen cyanide found in cigarette smoke

Hydrogen cyanide is a poisonous gas. Of all the chemicals in tobacco smoke, it does the most damage to the heart and blood vessels. Hydrogen cyanide does not cause cancer, but it increases the risk of other chemicals causing cancer by damaging cilia. These are tiny hairs lining the airways that help to clear toxins away. By killing cilia, hydrogen cyanide causes other dangerous chemicals to be stuck in the lungs and airways.

A cocktail of benzene, arsenic and formaldehyde found in cigarette smoke

Click on the image below to play the Benzene video.

Click on the image below to play the Formaldehyde video.

Click on the image below to play the Poison Cocktail video.


The Smoke is Poison campaign was developed at OgilvyOne, London, by executive creative director Colin Nimick, art director Charlie Wilson and copywriter Emma De La Fosse.