Brief Description

Through the use of tobacco, nicotine is one of the most heavily used addictive drugs and the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the U.S. Cigarette smoking accounts for 90% of lung cancer cases in the U.S., and about 38,000 deaths per year can be attributed to secondhand smoke. Cigarettes and chew tobacco are illegal substances in most U.S. states for those under 18; a handful of states have raised the age to 19.

Smokeless Tobacco

Many of us link tobacco use with smoking, but tobacco can be consumed in smokeless form as well. Long before people smoked cigarettes, they chewed, dipped and spit tobacco. Today smokeless tobacco comes in two forms– chewing tobacco and snuff. Chewing tobacco may be shredded, pressed into cakes, or twisted into strands. Snuff comes in loose leaf form or pouches that look like tea bags. Smokeless tobacco is packaged for easy use. Addicted users can keep a “quid” of snuff or chewing tobacco in their mouths around the clock. Smokeless tobacco still poses some risks, such as the risk of oral cancer, including cancer of the tongue and mouth, the cardiovascular risks of higher blood pressure and vascular disease. Smokeless users tend to have higher levels of nicotine than those found in smokers. In the pure form, tobacco has a bitter taste. To enhance the flavor of their product, makers of smokeless tobacco added sugar and salt . Also in the mix are cancer causing nitrosamines and abrasives. Considering all these factors, the Surgeon General reported in 1986 that there is “no safe use” of smokeless tobacco. Therefore it can be concluded that choosing between smokeless tobacco and smoking cigarettes is like choosing between a rock and a hard place. There is no alternative but to quit.

What’s in a Puff?

SmokingWhen burning cigarettes, solid particles, gases, and liquids are emitted from the tobacco. Solid particles are the only visible particles; however, you can only 5-8% of it. There are 4000 different chemical compounds in cigarettes, 50 are known carcinogens, and the others are suspected mutagens. (Mutagens are capable of causing permanent, often harmful changes in genetic material of living cells.) Where do the chemicals come from? About half the compounds are found naturally in the green tobacco leaf and half are created by the chemical reaction when the tobacco is burned. Some chemicals are introduced during the curing process; other chemicals are added by manufacturers to impart a distinctive flavor or quality to their product.

Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (DrugFacts)

Revised Dec 2014.
Provides an overview of the effects of cigarette and other tobacco products, including their effect on their brain, other health effects, approaches to smoking or nicotine cessation, and overall use among youth.En Español

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Tobacco Addiction (Research Reports)

Published Jul 1998. Revised Jul 2012.
Discusses the harmful effects of tobacco use, risks associated with pregnancy and adolescents, as well as best practices for the prevention and treatment of tobacco addiction.En Español

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Tobacco Addiction (Mind Over Matter)

Published Jan 1998.
Describes how nicotine acts on the heart to change heart rate and blood pressure, and discusses dependency, treatment, and effects of long-term nicotine use.En Español


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