Volcanoes are very strong sources of sulphur, acids and other gases, as well as particles, that are of atmospheric relevance. Some gases only behave as passive tracers, others affect the formation, growth or chemical characteristics of aerosol particles and many lead to adverse effects on vegetation and human health when deposited in the vicinity of volcanoes. In this article the main effects of volcanic emissions on atmospheric chemistry are discussed, with a focus on sulphur and halogen compounds, and to a smaller extent on climate. We primarily focus on quiescent degassing but the main effects of explosive eruptions on the troposphere and stratosphere are covered as well. The key distinction between chemistry in magmatic and hydrothermal settings and the atmosphere is that the atmosphere is oxidising whereas the chemistry is typically reducing in the former cases due to very low oxygen concentrations. Rapid catalytic cycles involving radicals are a further characteristic of atmospheric chemistry. Most reaction cycles involve the photolysis of molecules as a key part of the reaction chains. Recent measurements of halogen radicals in volcanic plumes showed that volcanic plumes are chemically very active. We explain the formation mechanism of halogen oxides in plumes as well as their relevance for the atmosphere.