Home » Blog » Differences Between Cigarette Tar and Nicotine

Differences Between Cigarette Tar and Nicotine

We know that cigarettes are harmful to health. Cigarettes release a large number of harmful chemicals after combustion. And those toxic chemicals are the main sources of smokers’ medical conditions. Among them, carbon monoxide, cigarette tar and nicotine are most familiar to us.   

As for carbon monoxide, we learn that it is a poisonous gas. It may cause heart disease and stroke because it stops the cells and tissues from getting oxygen.

But what about cigarette tar and nicotine? How do they harm our health? What are the differences between them? This article is about to discuss the above questions and help people have a more precise idea about cigarette tar and nicotine.

What are cigarette tar and nicotine?

7000 sorts of chemical compounds are found in combustible cigarettes. Among them, about 250 toxins are released, and 69 kinds of carcinogens are delivered[1].

Cigarette tar is proved to be the biggest source of most health problems[2]. It contains a tremendous amount of cancer-causing substances. While nicotine makes people get addicted by changing the way the brain works. It is of high toxin for its harm to the nervous system but without carcinogens.

So this is what makes them most different from each other. They harm people’s health in a different way. Next, we will figure out their effects on health respectively.  

Health effects caused by cigarette tar

The cancer-causing cigarette tar contributes to most of our health issues. Smokers always have a higher risk of developing cancers of the lung, mouth, skin, oesophagus, pharynx and larynx than people who do not smoke or those using cigarette alternatives like heated tobacco products or e-cigarettes.

And the most common situation is that cigarette tar harms our lungs, skin and mouth. Over time, it worsens our health conditions as more cigarettes we smoke. 

Damage to lung

Cigarette tar is sticky and builds up in smokers’ lungs as more and more cigarettes they smoke. Not only does it change the healthy pink lung tissue into the gray one, but it damages the cilia in your lung.

The tiny cilia, which can sense the extracellular environment and remove the mucus from our lungs, play an important role in stopping the dirt and harmful substances from getting into our lungs[3].

As cilia are damaged and even killed by the cigarette tar, our lungs are exposed to respiratory infection and diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. 

Impacts on the skin and oral health

When toxic components of cigarette tar enter the dermis of the skin, reactive oxygen and free radicals are produced. These restrict the production of elastin and collagen, which causes a series of skin problems.

For example, sagging skin and premature wrinkles can be seen on your skin, especially on the face. You’ll look older and the skin around your eyes or cheek will be more wrinkled than ever.

What’s more, cigarette tar will discolor your teeth and lead to gum health issues, periodontal diseases and so on. And the skin of your nails and fingers can be stained. If you find your skin less elastic or your teeth yellow, you’re advised to cease to smoke in case your skin and oral health worsen.

Besides, your immune response to harmful bacteria in the mouth will be lowered. You’re more likely to develop skin and oral cancer. 

Health risks induced by nicotine

Most people may worry that nicotine is directly connected to cancer. In fact, it doesn’t directly cause cancer. The biggest problem that nicotine induces is its addictiveness[4].

Nicotine also harms our brain and diminishes our overall health. It leads to some health problems like headache, nervousness, fast heartbeat, etc.

Consuming nicotine at a low level will influence the heart and respiratory system, while a high-level nicotine exposure will cause paralysis and death.

Harm to the brain and nervous system

Nicotine damages the nervous system and causes vasoconstriction and central nervous system excitation. As a result, it led to atherosclerosis and increased blood pressure and heart rate[4].

Cigarette smoking leads to strong nicotine cravings. When nicotine enters the bloodstream, it stimulates the adrenal glands to release the adrenalin[5]. Then the adrenalin excites the central nervous system, which makes your heart beat fast and gives rise to high blood pressure.

Besides, when consuming nicotine, the endorphin level in the brain will increase. And people will get a slight and brief high after getting the nicotine fix. They love the joy and happiness brought by nicotine and then become addicted to it. So, nicotine is the main reason that smokers can’t quit smoking.

Withdrawal symptoms

Nicotine will come to your brain in ten seconds after you consume it. It stimulates the brain to release chemicals like adrenalin and dopamine, which make you happy and excited. After dopamine is produced, the body feels excited. However, this happy feeling will disappear after a while. Over time, you need higher and higher nicotine fixes to meet your craving demand.

Once you stop consuming nicotine, some withdrawal symptoms will show up. For example, you may find yourself easily distracted. You find it hard to concentrate on the work or study. You will easily get angry, frustrated, and irritable. And you will suffer from insomnia, headache and so on[6].

Effects on skin and overall health  

It may concern females how nicotine will harm their skin. Nicotine would lower female hormones, constrict blood vessels and slow down the metabolism by lowering skin temperature. Thus, the skin will be aging because the dermis of the skin can not support the epidermis.

Furthermore, nicotine is found in saliva, blood, urine and breast milk. Nursing mothers can pass on nicotine to their babies[7]. So nicotine can also harm babies’ health. And the higher level of nicotine may even cause poisoning and death. 

Three ways to get rid of cigarette tar and nicotine

As discussed in the above paragraph, cigarette tar and nicotine contribute to health problems. You may worry about the influences of cigarette tar and nicotine. So here we’re going to share three ways to help you get rid of their harm.

The best way to get away from the harm of cigarette tar and nicotine is to quit smoking. Without tobacco combustion, there will be no harmful chemicals released. So, you certainly can get out of touch with them.

Switching to cigarette alternatives is another good method. Heated tobacco products, e-cigarettes, or any other new types of cigarette alternatives are feasible ways to help you less be exposed to cigarette tar and nicotine. They are produced to lessen the harm of tobacco. Some of them lower the average amount of cigarette tar. Others, like Unicco and Ccobato, are made from non-tobacco plants. Neither of them produces cigarette tar. Unicco decreases the nicotine level, and Ccobato is nicotine-free. It is feasible to try Unicco first and then switch to Ccobato. So, why not choose a healthier product to help you quit the addiction to nicotine. 

Stay away from second-hand smoke. If you are a non-smoker, the best way to avoid the harm of cigarette tar and nicotine is to keep away from smokers. Second-hand smoke also contains cigarette tar and nicotine which can harm your health.


[1] https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/ cessation-fact-sheet

[2] Lee PN. Tar level of cigarettes smoked and risk of smoking-related diseasesInhal Toxicol. 2018;30(1):5-18. 

[3] Tilley AE, Walters MS, Shaykhiev R, Crystal RG. Cilia dysfunction in lung diseaseAnnu Rev Physiol. 2015(77):379-406. 

[4] Aseem MishraPankaj Chaturvedi, etc. Harmful effects of nicotine. Indian J Med Paediatr Oncol. 2015 Jan-Mar; 36(1): 24–31.

[5] https://teens.drugabuse.gov/teachers/mind-matters/nicotine

[6] https://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/understanding-nicotine-withdrawal-symptoms

[7] Chen M, Wang T, etc. Nicotine-induced prenatal overexposure to maternal glucocorticoid and intrauterine growth retardation in rat. Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2007(59):245–51.

Leave a Comment