Freedom From Smoking
Nicotine Addiction & Smokeless Tobacco
What causes nicotine addiction?
Nicotine is an addictive drug. This means that the use of nicotine causes changes in the brain that make people want to use more and more of the drug. In addition, addictive drugs cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. The combination of good feelings caused by the presence of an addictive drug and the bad feelings when the drug is not present make breaking any addiction very difficult. The addiction to nicotine has historically been one of the most difficult to break. The 1988 Surgeon General's Report, "Nicotine Addiction," concluded that
- Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addicting.
- Nicotine is the drug that causes addiction.
- Pharmacological and behavioral characteristics that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
What else does nicotine do to the body?
When a person smokes a cigarette, the body responds immediately to the chemical nicotine in the smoke. Nicotine causes a short-term increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and the flow of blood from the heart. It also causes the arteries to narrow. Carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry. This, combined with the effects produced by nicotine, creates an imbalance in the demand for oxygen by the cells and the amount of oxygen the blood is able to supply. Smoking further increases the amount of fatty acids, glucose, and various hormones in the blood.
How does nicotine in cigarettes increase the risk of heart attack?
There are several ways that cigarette smoking may increase the risk of developing hardening of the arteries and heart attacks. First, carbon monoxide may damage the inner walls of the arteries that encourages the buildup of fat on these walls. Over time, this causes the vessels to narrow and harden. Nicotine may also contribute to this process. Smoking also causes several changes in the blood. They include increased adhesiveness and clustering of platelets in the blood, shortened platelet survival, faster clotting time, and increased thickness of the blood. These effects can lead to a heart attack.
What are the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal?
- Depressed mood
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased heart rate
- Increased appetite or weight gain
How long does nicotine remain in the body?
Nicotine is rapidly eliminated by the kidney, and remains in the body for about two hours.
Current law requires smokeless tobacco to carry warning labels and bans all smokeless tobacco advertising on radio and television. The new warning labels, to be rotated quarterly, are required for packages and advertisements. The labels read:
- WARNING: THIS PRODUCT MAY CAUSE MOUTH CANCER
- WARNING: THIS PRODUCT MAY CAUSE GUM DISEASE AND TOOTH LOSS
- WARNING: THIS PRODUCT IS NOT A SAFE ALTERNATIVE TO CIGARETTES
Smokeless tobacco has been directly linked to oral, pharyngeal and laryngeal cancer as well as cancer of the esophagus, gum disease and tooth loss. The use of smokeless tobacco has been increasing, especially among America's youth. Nicotine addiction is achieved by the use of smokeless tobacco and can lead to serious health consequences. Nicotine Cessation programs can assist individuals in stopping the use of nicotine based products.
© 1999 American Heart Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited. The information contained in this American Heart Association (AHA) Web site is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and the AHA recommends consultation with your doctor or health care professional.
The information contained in The MetroHealth System website is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and The MetroHealth System recommends consultation with your doctor or health care provider.