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Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana.

In consumption it most commonly appears in the forms of smoking, chewing, snuffing, or dipping tobacco, or snus.

Because of the addictive properties of nicotine, tolerance and dependence develop. Absorption quantity, frequency, and speed of tobacco consumption are believed to be directly related to biological strength of nicotine dependence, addiction, and tolerance.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports it to be the leading preventable cause of death worldwide and estimates that it currently causes 5.4 million deaths per year.


  • Nicotine produces effects in the user that are considered desirable to the user. These effects are caused by the nicotine and not simply by the vehicle of delivery (tobacco or tobacco smoke). Nicotine is psychoactive, producing transient dose-related changes in mood and feeling.
  • It is a euphoriant that produces dose-related increases in scores on standard measures of euphoria. In the brain, nicotine activates the same reward system as do other drugs of abuse such as cocaine or amphetamine, although to a lesser degree
  • It is a reinforcer (or reward, in both human and animal intravenous self-administration paradigms, functioning as do other hags of abuse.
  • It causes neuroadaptation leading to tolerance and physiologic dependence; the role of nicotine in the compulsive use of tobacco is the same as the role of morphine in the compulsive use of opium derivatives or of cocaine.
  • The drug stimulates the release of the hormone epinephrine, which further stimulates the nervous system and is responsible for part of the "kick" from nicotine. It also promotes the release of the hormone beta-endorphin, which inhibits pain.
  • Nicotine produces a variety of individual-specific therapeutic actions such as mood and performance enhancement.
  • Smoking causes death.
    • The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States.
    • More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.
    • Smoking causes 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women.
    • An estimated 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease are caused by smoking.
  • Compared with nonsmokers, smoking is estimated to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease; respiratory disease; cancer; infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Postmenopausal women who smoke have lower bone density than women who never smoked.
  • Women who smoke have an increased risk for hip fracture than women who never smoked.
  • Smokeless Tobacco Dangers: tooth abrasion; gum recession; increased tooth decay; tooth discoloration and bad breath; nicotine dependence; unhealthy eating habits; oral cancer; other cancers.
  • Teens are especially affected:
    • Tobacco can affect youth activities and athletic performance. Tobacco narrows blood vessels and puts a strain on the heart, it also leads to lack of oxygen and shortness of breath. Smokers run slower and can't run as far as nonsmokers.
    • Girls who smoke are more likely to grow excess facial hair.
    • Smoking as few as 5 cigarettes a day can reduce teens' lung function growth, with teenage girls being especially vulnerable.
    • Teens who smoke break out more.
    • Zits last longer for teens who smoke.
    • Kids who smoke 2 or 3 cigarettes a day can get hooked in as short as two weeks.
    • Teens who smoke are more likely to catch a cold than people who don't - and their symptoms will probably be worse and last longer.
    • Teenagers who smoke have significantly more trouble sleeping than those who do not smoke.
    • 1 out of every 3 young people who become regular smokers will die of a smoking related disease.


  • The number and intensity of effects noticed or felt varies from person to person, and even between each person's own cessation experiences.
  • Withdrawal involves symptoms such as irritation; anger; hunger/weight gain; concentration problems; depression; headaches; fatigue; constipation; restlessness; insomnia; dizziness; anxiety and craving for nicotine. Most of these symptoms subside within 3 to 4 weeks, except for the craving and hunger, which may persist for months.
  • It normally takes at least 8-12 weeks before a person starts to feel comfortable with their new lifestyle change of being an ex-smoker.


  • Like addiction to heroin or cocaine, addiction to nicotine is a chronic, relapsing disorder. A cigarette smoker may require several attempts over many years before that person is able to permanently give up smoking. Less than 10 percent of unaided quit attempts lead to successful long-term abstinence. However, studies have shown significantly greater cessation rates for smokers receiving interventions compared to control groups who do not receive the interventions. Interventions that involve both medications and behavioral treatments appear to show the most promise.
  • The primary medication therapy currently used to treat nicotine addiction is nicotine replacement therapy, which supplies enough nicotine to the body to prevent withdrawal symptoms but not enough to provide the quick jolt caused by inhaling a cigarette. Four types of nicotine replacement products are currently available. Nicotine gum and nicotine skin patches are available over the counter. Nicotine nasal spray and nicotine inhalers are available by prescription. On average, all types of nicotine replacement products are about equally effective, roughly doubling the chances of successfully quitting.
  • Another medication recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration as an aid for quitting smoking is the antidepressant bupropion, or Zyban.¨ The association between nicotine addiction and depression is not yet understood, but nicotine appears to have an antidepressant effect in some smokers. Paradoxically, though, buproprion is more effective for treating nicotine addiction in nondepressed smokers than in smokers who are depressed. 
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