This post is a short follow up to last week's post on tobacco. I just wanted to note one quick misnomer that I often see floating around about cigarettes. It is one that is usually promoted by tobacco control advocates as a way to scare folks away from using and to gross them out.
It is common for anti-tobacco folks to stress that harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and arsenic are sometimes used as preservatives in commonly sold cigarettes. While this is true, these things have in fact been used, it is also a red herring — it largely misses the point.
The reason that tobacco products are unhealthy is because tobacco is unhealthy. It is not the additives, although they don’t help. But tobacco is a carcinogen, and tobacco promotes heart disease. Certain cigarette makers like to promote themselves as “additive-free” or "natural" in the hopes that the public thinks that means "healthier." They cannot legally call them healthier, they can only imply it- because it is not true. Tobacco is a uniquely unhealthy plant, even if it is pure, unrefined, organically grown tobacco.
Incidentally, nicotine is the active drug within tobacco. While it is highly addictive, it is not a particularly dangerous component of the compound. That is why "nicotine replacement therapy" products such as nicotine gum or the patch are relatively safe.