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Nicotine is only one of more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco, but it is the major component that acts on the brain. The lungs readily absorb nicotine from the smoke of cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. The tissues of the mouth can also absorb nicotine when a person smokes cigars or pipes, or chews tobacco.
Nicotine reaches the brain within seconds and has a direct effect on the body for up to 30 minutes. When a person uses tobacco regularly, the levels of nicotine accumulate in the body during the day and persist overnight, exposing the person to the effects of nicotine for 24 hours.
In the body, nicotine acts as both a central nervous system stimulant and sedative. The person immediately feels the stimulant effect and pleasurable sensation. It increases alertness, relaxes muscles, improves memory and attention, and decreases irritability. The stimulant effect causes a sudden increase in blood pressure, breathing rate, and heart rate. The central nervous system stimulation is followed by depression and fatigue, causing the person to want another cigarette.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances. Some teenagers show early signs of addiction within days to weeks after starting to smoke. Repeated tobacco use causes a need for increasingly large amounts of nicotine to feel the same effect (tolerance) and withdrawal symptoms if the person tries to quit.
Smoking affects a person's appearance by causing bad breath, yellow teeth and fingernails, and wrinkles. It also affects a person's fitness and stamina level. Tobacco also leads to serious health problems, including:
Other Works ConsultedAmerican Cancer Society (2010). Child and teen tobacco use. Available online: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/TobaccoCancer/ChildandTeenTobaccoUse/index.
Current as ofSeptember 26, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Patrice Burgess, MD, FAAFP - Family MedicineBrian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicinePeter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and AddictionMichael F. Bierer, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as of: September 26, 2018
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Patrice Burgess, MD, FAAFP - Family Medicine & Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction & Michael F. Bierer, MD - Internal Medicine
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