Tobacco is a plant grown for its leaves, which are dried and fermented before being put in tobacco products. Tobacco contains nicotine, an ingredient that can lead to addiction, which is why so many people who use tobacco find it difficult to quit. There are also many other potentially harmful chemicals found in tobacco or created by burning it.
How do people use tobacco?
People can smoke, chew, or sniff tobacco. Smoked tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, bidis, and kreteks. Some people also smoke loose tobacco in a pipe or hookah (water pipe). Chewed tobacco products include chewing tobacco, snuff, dip, and snus; snuff can also be sniffed.
Key Points About Tobacco & VAPING
- Tobacco contains nicotine, the ingredient that can lead to addiction.
- People can smoke, chew, vape or sniff tobacco.
- Nicotine acts in the brain by stimulating the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) and by increasing levels of the chemical messenger dopamine.
- Tobacco use can lead to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It increases the risk of heart disease, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. Tobacco use has also been linked to other cancers, leukemia, cataracts, and pneumonia. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of cancer, especially mouth cancers.
- Secondhand smoke can lead to lung cancer and heart disease as well as other health effects in adults and children.
- Both behavioral treatments and medication can help people quit smoking, but the combination of medication with counseling is more effective than either alone.
- Nicotine overdose is possible, though it usually occurs in young children who accidentally chew on nicotine gum or patches or swallow e-cigarette liquid.
- Anyone concerned that a child or adult might be experiencing a nicotine overdose should seek immediate medical help.
How does tobacco affect the brain?
Nicotine in tobacco products readily absorb into the blood when a person uses it. Upon entering the blood, nicotine immediately stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). Epinephrine stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. As with drugs such as cocaine and heroin, nicotine activates the brain’s reward circuits and also increases levels of the chemical messenger dopamine, which reinforces rewarding behaviors. Studies suggest that other chemicals in tobacco smoke, such as acetaldehyde, may enhance nicotine’s effects on the brain.
Health Effects of Tobacco
Although nicotine is addictive, most of the severe health effects of tobacco use comes from other chemicals. Tobacco smoking can lead to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It increases the risk of heart disease, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. Smoking has also been linked to other cancers, leukemia, cataracts, Type 2 Diabetes, and pneumonia. All of these risks apply to use of any smoked product, including hookah tobacco. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of cancer, especially mouth cancers.
Pregnant women who smoke cigarettes run an increased risk of miscarriage, stillborn or premature infants, or infants with low birth weight. Smoking while pregnant may also be associated with learning and behavioral problems in exposed children.
People who stand or sit near others who smoke are exposed to secondhand smoke, either coming from the burning end of the tobacco product or exhaled by the person who is smoking. Secondhand smoke exposure can also lead to lung cancer and heart disease. It can cause health problems in both adults and children, such as coughing, phlegm, reduced lung function, pneumonia, and bronchitis.
Facts courtesy of National Institute on Drug Abuse-NIDA. Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cigarettes-other-tobacco-products. April 6, 2021
VAPING & E-CIGARETTES
Vaping devices are popular among teens and are now the most commonly used form of nicotine among youth in the United States. Some research shows that many teens do not even realize that vaping cartridges contain nicotine, and assume the pods contain only flavoring. The easy availability of these devices, alluring advertisements, various e-liquid flavors, and the belief that they’re safer than cigarettes have helped make them appealing to this age group. In addition, they are easy to hide from teachers and parents because they do not leave behind the stench of tobacco cigarettes, and are often disguised as flash drives.
In addition to the unknown health effects, early evidence suggests that vaping might serve as an introductory product for preteens and teens who then go on to use other nicotine products, including cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and premature death.
Please click on the infographic to view a a full-size version.
Facts courtesy of National Institute on Drug Abuse-NIDA. Vaping Devices (Electronic Cigarettes) DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/vaping-devices-electronic-cigarettes. January 8, 2020 Accessed July 25, 2021.