Tobacco also contains nicotine, an additive chemical that changes the way your brain works. When you smoke a cigarette, nicotine travels to your brain within 7 seconds and causes the release of various chemicals that may affect your mood. Nicotine is a stimulant and can temporarily improve concentration and alertness, as well as induce a temporary feeling of relaxation. Since nicotine changes how your brain works, it can actually affect brain development in youth and young adults, harming the parts of the brain responsible for memory and concentration.
Over time, your brain gets used to receiving nicotine from cigarettes and starts to crave it, eventually making you dependent, meaning you need more and more nicotine to feel ‘good’. As soon as you stop smoking, and your nicotine levels drop, you go into withdrawal, and can experience various unpleasant symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. The only thing that will relieve these symptoms are either more nicotine, or time (quitting). This is what makes it so hard to quit.
Health Risks of Tobacco
Tobacco use harms nearly every part of the body.
Short term health risks
- Coughing, shortness of breath, more prone to chest infections,
- Weaker immune system, makes it harder to fight off infections.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
Longer term health risks
- Cancers, including lung, throat, bladder, kidney, and oral cancer.
- Lung diseases, like asthma, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Heart disease and stroke
- Fertility issues for both men and women
- Increased risk of mortality
Smoking and other tobacco use also affects the health of others. Secondhand smoke exposure can lead to heart and lung disease in adults and to developmental issues and to respiratory issues like asthma among children even if they never smoke themselves.
Quitting smoking and/or other tobacco use lowers your risk of tobacco-related diseases and can add years to your life.
The most commonly used tobacco product is cigarettes, but there are also alternative forms of tobacco that carry similar risks to cigarettes.
Includes products such as chewing tobacco, snuff, or snus. Tobacco is kept in the mouth or inhaled through the nose. These products can increase risk of mouth cancers, stomach cancer, gum disease, tooth decay, and other dental issues.
Cigars and Pipes
A cigar is a roll of tobacco that is wrapped in a tobacco leaf. Cigars can come in many flavours and are often slightly sweetened with sugar. Pipe smoking involves loose tobacco put into a pipe.
One large cigar or pipe, typically smoked over the course of an hour, can have as much tobacco as a pack of cigarettes.
Even if you don’t inhale when using a pipe or cigar, you’re still exposed to the toxic chemicals released by burning tobacco.
Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs)
HTPs are a relatively new form of tobacco, also called heat-not-burn products (e.g. IQOS).
Electronic devices that heat up tobacco, either in stick or capsule form, to create a nicotine emission that can be inhaled without creating smoke. They don’t burn tobacco so they don’t produce carbon monoxide, but they release many of the same chemicals as cigarettes. While these chemicals are released at lower levels than when using cigarettes, they still put you at risk for the same lung, heart, and other health problems as cigarettes. HTPs have not been proven to be safer than smoking.
Hookahs are water pipes that are used to smoke specially made tobacco that comes in different flavours by heating it up over charcoal. Some people believe that hookah is safe because they believe that the water that the smoke passes through filters out toxins, but this is not true. Hookah smoke contains the same or even higher concentrations of chemicals as cigarette smoke - one hookah session can be the equivalent of smoking 100 cigarettes.
Non-tobacco based or herbal shisha also produces carbon monoxide and can increase your risk of certain cancers.