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Nicotine is the most widely used drug of abuse. It’s usually taken by smoking or chewing tobacco, which then releases the nicotine and is used by millions of people around the world.
Nicotine works by travelling rapidly from lungs to brain (in about seven seconds) where it stimulates the release of dopamine – an important brain neurotransmitter involved in mood, appetite and other brain functions.
Nicotine is generally recognised to be one of the most addictive of all drugs.
Smoking increases the risk of cancer in almost every organ and tissue of the body.
As well as nicotine, there are more than 4,000 other chemicals in cigarette smoke.
Nicotine - when tobacco smoke is inhaled, nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream and takes effect very quickly. Immediate physiological effects include increased heart rate and a rise in blood pressure.
Ammonia – also found in toilet cleaners.
Acetone - found in nail varnish remover.
Cadmium - a highly poisonous metal used in batteries.
Vinyl chloride - used to make PVC.
Napthtalene - used in moth balls.
Carbon monoxide – A poisonous gas that is commonly given off by exhausts and gas fires as well as cigarette smoke. In large amounts, such as from a faulty gas fire, it is rapidly fatal, while in small amounts, as when someone smokes a cigarette, it will cut down the efficiency of the smoker's breathing.
Addiction to nicotine is usually established in young smokers within about a year of first experimenting with cigarettes , in many cases before reaching the age at which it is legal to buy cigarettes (on average at 12-13 years of age).
It can take less than one pack of cigarettes – on average just six cigarettes – to suffer withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop – in other words to become addicted
Smoking causes permanent changes in brain receptors – once hooked most people will have cravings for nicotine which will never completely leave them
80 per cent of ex-smokers will return to a regular habit within one month of having just one cigarette even if they gave up years before.
Cigars, smokeless tobacco, clove cigarettes and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes all pose the risks that are usually associated only with cigarette smoking. Tobacco effects not only the smoker, but anyone in the smoker's environment.
There are three main risks associated with any tobacco use: Adverse Health Effects, Addiction, and Other Risky Behaviours.
Heart disease accounts for 34% of all deaths and Cancer accounts for 25% of all deaths. Tobacco use is the leading behavioral component in each of these causes of deaths and it is a habit that is usually established as an adolescent.
Tobacco causes more deaths than are caused from AIDS, alcohol or drug abuse, auto accidents, murders, suicides, and fires - combined.
Cigarette smoking causes heart disease; stroke, chronic lung disease, cancers of the lung, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, and bladder.
It causes cough, phlegm production, increase in number and severity of respiratory illnesses, decreased physical fitness, adverse changes in blood cholesterol levels, reduced rates of lung growth and function (resulting in less oxygen available for sports and increased shortness of breath on exertion).
Smokeless tobacco causes cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and esophagus; gum recession, increased risk for heart disease and stroke.
Cigar smoking increases the risk of oral, laryngeal, esophageal, and lung cancers.
Many factors influence a person's chances of developing heart disease [coronary artery disease]. The risk factors beyond individual control include family history, gender and age. However, individuals are able to modify the risk factors of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, sedentary lifestyle, fatty diet and obesity, as well as smoking. Compared to non-smokers, smokers have a 70 percent greater death rate from heart disease; they are also four times more likely to develop symptoms of heart disease. Every year that passes reduces the chance of heart disease for smokers who have quit.
Cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer. Risk for lung cancer increases with the amount of cigarettes smoked: one pack-a-day smokers may have a seven to ten times greater risk, while two pack-a-day smokers may have a fifteen to twenty-five times greater risk. Fewer than 10 percent of lung cancers occur among non-smokers, and new studies indicate that many of these persons were exposed to significant amounts of secondhand or sidestream smoke. Cancers of the lip, tongue, salivary glands and esophagus are five times more common in smokers. Kidney, bladder, pancreatic and larynx cancers are also more likely among those who smoke.
Emphysema is known as a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] or chronic obstructive lung disease [COLD]. Over time [only a few years for some], chemicals from smoking cause the tiny air sacs, alveoli, to weaken and sometimes rupture. The result is pronounced breathing impairment, particularly the ability to exhale. People with emphysema often are unable to blow out a single match. Emphysema is usually preceded by chronic bronchitis-another COPD. Quitting smoking will greatly slow the rate of decline; however, damaged lung tissue is unable to repair itself. Both lung cancer and emphysema result in the lungs losing their spongy, elastic properties, which enable them to function efficiently.
Tobacco is considered to be a "gateway drug", leading to the use of other serious drugs including alcohol. It is often the first drug used by young people who later use alcohol, marijuana and other drugs.
Youth who have as little as one alcoholic drink or one cigarette in a month are ten times more likely to use illicit drugs.
12-17 year olds who smoke cigarettes are 14 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 100 times more likely to smoke marijuana, and 32 times more likely to use cocaine than are their non-smoking peers.
This short video gives a good idea of what smoking does to your body: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn50mTEGnrU