Tobacco Basics

Definition: Tobacco is a green, leafy plant that is grown in warm climates. It can be smoked in a cigarette, pipe, or cigar. It can be chewed (called smokeless tobacco or chewing tobacco) or sniffed through the nose (called snuff).

Chemicals in a cigarrette: There are over 4,000 chemicals in a cigarette

Number of people who start smoking a day: Thousands of young people begin smoking every day.  Each day, more than 3,800 persons younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette. ·         Each day, about 1,000 persons younger than 18 years of age begin smoking on a daily basis.

Carcinogens: Carcinogens are agents that can cause cancer. A cigarette contains at least 43 carcinogens.

Effects of Smoking

  • Can make a person’s asthma worse
  • Reduced physical fitness
  • Vision problems like cataracts
  • Loss of sense of smell and taste
  • Increased risk for cancers like lung cancer, esophagus, pancreas, etc.
  • More likely to use alcohol and illegal drugs
  • More likely to show acts of aggression (like fighting, carrying weapons, etc.)


Diseases Resulting from Smoking

  • COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It’s used to describe damage resulting in airflow restriction. It consists of two conditions: Chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Chronic bronchitis: a chronic inflammatory condition in the lungs that causes the respiratory passages to be swollen and irritated, increases the mucus production and damages the lungs.
  • Emphysema: The walls between the tiny grape-shaped air sacs or alveoli are damaged and break down. They then form into much larger airspaces and there is less surface for gas exchange, so oxygen intake is less and the person feels breathless.


Second Hand Smoke

Definition: Environmental tobacco smoke that is inhaled involuntarily or passively by someone who is not smoking.

Sidestream Smoke: smoke not inhaled: smoke from a cigarette or cigar that the smoker does not inhale.

Mainstream Smoke: Vaporous byproduct of burning tobacco products that is purposely taken into the lungs through the mouth. Read more:

Impact on Children: Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke because they are still developing physically, have higher breathing rates than adults, and have little control over their indoor environments. Children exposed to high doses of secondhand smoke, such as those whose mothers smoke, run the greatest relative risk of experiencing damaging health effects.

Statistics: Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds. More than 250 of these chemicals are known to be harmful, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer. SHS has been linked to lung cancer. There is also some evidence suggesting it may be linked with childhood leukemia and cancers of the larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), brain, bladder, rectum, stomach, and breast. IARC reported in 2009 that parents who smoked before and during pregnancy were more likely to have a child with hepatoblastoma. Compared with non-smoking parents, the risk was about twice as high if only one parent smoked, but nearly 5 times higher when both parents smoked.

The Addictive Potential of Nicotine

Chemical in tobacco that makes it addictive: Nicotine.  

What Nicotine does to the body/brain: Cigarettes have nicotine which increases the heart rate by flooding the bloodstream with carbon monoxide. The addictive quality of nicotine causes the body to crave the continued adrenaline rush. A state of heightened awareness results from the activation of the brain's pleasure center. Stimulation and relaxation occur as a person's heart rate increases and her lungs fill with carbon monoxide. Eventually, smokers require the addicting effects of nicotine to wake, fall asleep, concentrate, manage stress, socialize and regulate the digestive system.
Read more: What Are the Most Addictive Chemicals in Cigarettes? |

Signs of nicotine withdrawal: Symptoms can include headaches, irritability, nausea, decreasing heart rate and blood pressure, depression, anxiety and, as expected, cravings for tobacco.

Approximately 69% of smokers want to quit completely.

extra Credit

Ecigarettes don’t have as many toxic ingredients as tobacco based cigarettes, because  they simply break down nicotine in a chamber in the battery powered “cigarette”. But it still gets people addicted. Some views by experts:                                                                                                                1) Since they come in different flavors, and anyone can buy them, younger people may be tempted to try them. They may be safer, but it will still get the teenagers addicted to nicotine.                             2) Most cartridges leaked onto people’s hands and all were defective in some way. Unsubstantiated health claims were found on many of the company websites and print materials. One says they put vitamins in their e-cigarettes.                                                                                                         3) The researchers also found evidence that vaping reduces cravings among smokers, not just for nicotine but also for the need to hold something in their hands and put something in their mouths -- making the devices more appealing to them than patches or gum.

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