What is Tobacco?
- Tobacco comes from one of seventy different commercially grown plants of the nightshade family and contains nicotine, which can be a stimulant or a depressant depending on the amount ingested.
- Tobacco is native to the Americas, and was not introduced to Europe until the 1500s, although its use among pre-Columbian cultures dates back thousands of years.
How is tobacco used?
- Tobacco leaf is usually smoked in cigarettes, cigars and pipes, but is also found in a powdered form called snuff (to be sniffed up the nose) and as dip and chewing tobacco.
- A type of “wet” tobacco leaf is smoked in water pipes called “shisha” or “hookah.”
- Nicotine isolate is also available in liquids of various concentrations and is inhaled using portable vaporizers.
What are the effects of nicotine?
- Nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure.
- The effects can usually be felt immediately, and can last up to 30 minutes depending on the dose.
- First time users often feel dizzy or nauseous, even after just a few puffs or “drags” from a cigarette.
- Regular users often report that smoking reduces their anxiety and helps them relax.
- Some smokers say nicotine reduces their appetite, so they eat less.
- The average amount of nicotine in a single cigarette varies greatly.
- Tobacco is highly carcinogenic. Regular smokers have a much greater risk of developing lung cancer and other forms of cancer.
- Non-smoking spouses of indoor smokers have the same lung cancer rate as their smoking spouses. Indoor smoking also increase the cancer rate of pets living in the home.
- Smoking tobacco increases the risk of heart disease, circulatory problems, bronchitis and emphysema.
- Coughing, as well as other chest and breathing problems, afflict many regular smokers.
- Nicotine in any form is highly rewarding and reinforcing, especially if used socially. Regular use can also result in physical dependency with long-lasting withdrawal symptoms.
- Depression, irritability, restlessness and anxiety are some of the symptoms experienced by nicotine users in withdrawal.
- Smoking tobacco can cause bad breath and discolored teeth.
- Smoking during pregnancy can harm an unborn child, resulting in low birth weight and other complications. If you are the partner of someone who is expecting a child and has quit smoking, it is helpful (and way cool) if you support them by also quitting during the pregnancy period.
- Using snuff and chew can also result in cancers of the mouth, nose and throat.
- Be self aware! If you choose to use nicotine, being mindful of your intentions and boundaries/limits is important for reducing risks and increasing potential benefits.
What about vaping?
- Although available evidence indicates that vaping is far less risky than smoking, much is still unknown about the health effects.
- Vape juice is largely unregulated. The ingredients can vary between manufacturers, and some contain carcinogenic chemicals.
- Always store vape juice far away from children. The labels and sweet flavors can attract them, and children have died after drinking the contents of the bottle.
- Although vaping has helped many people quit smoking, it can also result in dependency and addiction.
If you use nicotine and want to quit
- Try to stay away from places where lots of people smoke.
- Tell all your friends and family that you are trying to quit, and get their support.
- Prepare yourself for the potential social pull of returning to nicotine even after fully tapering off, which can be the most difficult part of quitting.