Tobacco Addiction

by Morgan Morris

What is Tobacco Addiction?

When people are addicted, they have a compulsive need to seek out and use a substance, even when they understand the harm it can cause. Tobacco products—cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco—can all be addictive. Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, and most people that do it want to quit. In fact, nearly 35 million people make a serious attempt to quit each year. Unfortunately, most who try to quit on their own relapse—often within a week.


Is Nicotine Addictive?

Yes. It is actually the nicotine in tobacco that is addictive. Each cigarette contains about 10 milligrams of nicotine. Because the smoker inhales only some of the smoke from a cigarette, and not all of each puff is absorbed in the lungs, a smoker gets about 1 to 2 milligrams of the drug from each cigarette. Although that may not seem like much, it is enough to make someone addicted.


Is Nicotine the Only Harmful Part of Tobacco?

No. Nicotine is only one of more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are poisonous, found in the smoke from tobacco products. Smokeless tobacco products also contain many toxins, as well as high levels of nicotine. Many of these other ingredients are things we would never consider putting in our bodies, like tar, carbon monoxide, acetaldehyde, and nitrosamines. Tar causes lung cancer, emphysema, and bronchial diseases. Carbon monoxide causes heart problems, which is one reason why smokers are at high risk for heart disease.


How is Tobacco Used?

Tobacco can be smoked in cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. It can be chewed or, if powdered, sniffed. “Bidis” are an alternative cigarette. They originally came from India and were hand-rolled. In the United States, bidis were popular with teens because they come in colorful packages with flavor choices. Some teens think that bidis are less harmful than regular cigarettes, but in fact they have more nicotine, which may make people smoke more, giving bidis the potential to be even more harmful than cigarettes. Hookah—or water pipe smoking—practiced for centuries in other countries, has recently become popular among teens in the United States as well. Hookah tobacco comes in many flavors, and the pipe is typically passed around in groups. Although many hookah smokers think it is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, water pipe smoking still delivers the addictive drug nicotine and is at least as toxic as cigarette smoking.


What are Common Street Names for Tobacco?

You might hear cigarettes referred to as “smokes,” “cigs,” or “butts.” Smokeless tobacco is often called “chew,” “dip,” “spit tobacco,” “snus,” or “snuff.” People may refer to hookah smoking as “narghile,” “argileh,” “shisha,” “hubble-bubble,” or “goza.”


Tobacco is terrible for you and is highly addictive.