tobacco and Nicotine Facts
Tobacco is a carrier for the highly addictive drug nicotine. Once your body gets a taste for nicotine, it can quickly become a life-long addiction, with fatal consequences.
Cigarettes, also known as: Smokes, cigs, or butts.
Smokeless tobacco, also known as: chew, dip, spit tobacco, snus, or snuff.
What is it?
Nicotine is the main drug in all forms of tobacco. Nicotine acts as both a stimulant and a sedative. It is one of the most heavily used addictive drugs in the U.S.
Whether smoked or chewed, nicotine is one of the most highly addictive drugs used in today's society. And once you're hooked, it's extremely hard to overcome this addiction. Surveys have shown that most adult smokers first tried cigarettes during their teen years, and there is a direct relationship between early smoking and adult addiction.
Smoking harms your immune system and can affect nearly every organ of your body. When you smoke, it's not only the nicotine that's dangerous, but also chemicals in tobacco like carbon monoxide, tar, formaldehyde, cyanide, and ammonia--many of which are known carcinogens (cancer-causing poisons). Carbon monoxide keeps red blood cells from getting the full load of oxygen needed for healthy cell growth. This encourages the carcinogens in tobacco to bind to the cells throughout your body and cause cell damage.
Chewing or sniffing tobacco is just as dangerous as smoking and also has a high risk of addiction. And prolonged use of smokeless tobacco leads to a high risk of cancers of the mouth. Bidis and hookahs have become popular alternatives to smoking cigarettes, and some people seem to think they are less harmful than regular cigarettes. The truth is that hookah smoke still delivers addictive nicotine, and bidis actually have more nicotine than cigarettes. So both are at least as toxic as cigarettes, with bidis having the potential to be even more harmful.
You probably already know that the greatest long-term risk of smoking is cancer and lung disease. Here are some numbers to consider: In the 40 years between 1964 and 2004, cigarette smoking caused an estimated 12 million deaths, including 4.1 million deaths from cancer, 5.5 million deaths from cardiovascular disease, 1.1 million deaths from respiratory disease, and 94,000 infant deaths related to mothers smoking during pregnancy.
Even after 30 years of warnings on packages, tobacco continues to impact our health. In 2010, more than 220,000 new cases of lung cancer were reported, and more than 150,000 Americans died as a direct result of the disease.
The Bottom Line
Smoked tobacco and smokeless tobacco are both carriers of the highly addictive drug nicotine. Once your body gets a taste for nicotine, it can easily become a life-long addiction, with highly fatal consequences. Although quitting can be difficult at any age, the good news is that by giving up tobacco for life, you can drastically improve your health and reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and other life-threatening diseases associated with tobacco use.
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