Peer Health

Nicotine

Nicotine is a central nervous system stimulant. It is the ingredient in tobacco that gives smokers (and people who use chewing tobacco) the pleasant sensation which is the attraction behind tobacco use. Nicotine is believed to be responsible for most of the mood-altering effects and the addictive nature of smoking. It is believed that tobacco users quickly develop physical and psychological dependence. Psychological dependence on nicotine can be particularly strong because people associate smoking with specific activities, such as eating or the end of a long workday.

In the past twenty years, tobacco smoking has emerged as one of the deadliest drug habits in North America. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, smoking is responsible for about 320,000 deaths each year in the United States. (Smith & Smith, 1988).

Smokers experience effects which worsen with continued use, such as:

• Shortness of breath during exercise
• Yellowed teeth
• Ashtray-scented hair, breath, and clothes
• Lung cancer
• Emphysema
• Heart problems

Chewing tobacco, which is considered only somewhat less harmful than smoking (due to the fact that chewing minimizes the lung cancer risk), carries with it the same physiological effects of nicotine. In addition, smokeless tobacco is associated with jaw and mouth cancers and other gum and tooth problems.

Although nicotine is highly addictive, it is possible to quit smoking. Most people who try to quit relapse the first time but are more successful with every new attempt. Some of the damage from smoking begins to reverse itself within weeks after quitting.; even longtime smokers greatly improve their health by quitting. For help with quitting smoking, call the Health Center at x2206.