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tobacco use- smoking and smokeless tobacco

Alternative Names
cigar smoking, cigarette smoking, smokeless snuff, chewing tobacco, second hand smoke, pipe smoking

The tobacco plant is grown for its leaves. The leaves are dried and used in a number of ways that allow the addictive drug nicotine to be inhaled or absorbed.

What is the information for this topic?
The leaves of the tobacco plant are specially prepared before smoking, chewing, or sniffing. Nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco. At least 19 of the more than 2,000 chemicals in the tobacco leaf can increase the risk for cancer, especially lung cancer.

In the 1960s, medical research began to show that cigarette smoking was quite bad for a person's health. Most of the research was on cigarette smoking, and not on smokeless tobacco. The number of cigarette smokers has remained the same or dropped slightly since that time. The number of smokeless tobacco users has steadily increased. It is not true that smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative to smoking. It still has nicotine and many of the same chemicals that are found in cigarettes.

In Australia, approximately 30% of men and 27% of women are regular smokers. Many of these people would like to quit smoking while others have never tried to quit. Some of them incorrectly believe that smoking is safe or that quitting has little benefit.

Nicotine has both stimulant and depressant effects on the central nervous system. It can cause tremors or convulsions, and can depress the muscles used in breathing. It can cause arousal, as well as relaxation from stressful situations. It increases the heart rate and blood pressure. It also increases sweating, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. It may lead to blood clotting problems. The effects of tobacco and the addictive effects of nicotine have been well documented. Tobacco is a substance that changes both mood and behaviour. It is believed to be as addictive as cocaine, morphine, or alcohol.

The health risks from the chemicals found in tobacco are enormous. Tobacco use can cause: Smokeless tobacco causes: Many of the diseases caused by tobacco in any form can lead to death.

There are a number of methods for quitting smoking. The most important requirement during an attempt to stop smoking is motivation. Gums or patches may help. Support groups can also help a person trying to quit. A past attempt to quit smoking should be viewed as a learning experience, not as a failure. Smoking is one of the most difficult addictions to break. Many people who have stopped using cocaine or heroin say that quitting smoking is more difficult.

Quitting has countless benefits. Blood pressure and pulse rates return to normal within minutes. Carbon monoxide levels in the blood drop within hours. The risk of heart attacks decreases. Nerve endings start regenerating. The sense of smell and taste begin to return. Within weeks, circulation improves. Walking becomes easier and lung function increases up to 30%. Within a year, overall energy increases. Coughing, nasal congestion, and fatigue decrease. Within 10 years, the risk of death from lung cancer is the same as that of non-smokers.

People who want to quit smoking should contact their doctor. There are many methods to help kick the habit and get through the stressful times during quitting. Quit Program can also provide resources. Telephone "Quit line" on 13 18 48.

For related information please see smoking cessation.

Author: James Broomfield, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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