Adverse effects of acetaldehyde in smokers
The acetaldehyde concentration in tobacco smoke is 1,000 times higher than that of any other carcinogen. According to a WHO expert working group, the reduction of acetaldehyde in tobacco smoke should be mandatory.
Smoking and alcohol consumption both increase the acetaldehyde concentrations in saliva. Acetaldehyde may also increase nicotine addiction. Read more
Acetaldehyde in a smoker's saliva
Acetaldehyde is formed in tobacco when the tobacco leaves, paper and the sugars added to tobacco (i.e. sorbitol and glycerol) burn. During smoking, acetaldehyde dissolves in saliva, which transports it into the mucous membranes of the oesophagus, throat and stomach. Therefore, smoking significantly increases the risk of cancer in these areas.
The more people smoke, the greater their acetaldehyde exposure and risk of cancer. Two million people are diagnosed with cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract every year worldwide.
Acetaldehyde increases addiction
Acetaldehyde may also indirectly enhance the addictiveness of cigarettes due to the effects of harman, one of its reaction products. Harman is believed to behave in a similar way to antidepressants as it improves a person's mood. Therefore, a person’s addiction to tobacco could be worsened by the mood-enhancing effects of harman in cigarettes.