The Problem(s) With Nicotine

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How do people use tobacco and nicotine? People can smoke, sniff, chew, or inhale the vapors of tobacco and nicotine products. Some products that you smoke: cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes hookahs. Smokeless products: chewing tobacco, snuff (ground tobacco that can be sniffed or put between your check and gums), dip (wet snuff that is chewed), snus (small pouch of wet snuff).

Image by NIDA

Tobacco products, and vaping products like JUUL (also known as e-cigarettes), contain a powerful drug called nicotine. The most important thing to know about nicotine is that it’s very addictive.

When a person smokes, sniffs, chews, or inhales the vapor of tobacco and other nicotine products, it produces an adrenaline rush. The rush gives a person a lot of good feelings all at once. But it also increases a person’s blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate.

Is nicotine connected to other health problems?

Yes. Because nicotine is addictive, many people keep using tobacco products—even though:

  • Using tobacco harms every organ in your body. Smoking tobacco products can cause lung, mouth, stomach, kidney, and bladder cancers. It can also cause lung problems, like coughing, and lead to heart disease, eye problems, and yellow teeth.
  • Smokeless tobacco products are dangerous, too. They can cause oral cancer, and heart and gum disease.
  • Just breathing other people’s smoke can lead to lung cancer and heart disease.
  • Nicotine can also make other drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamine, more pleasurable to a teen’s developing brain. In other words, it primes the brain for some very dangerous drugs.

How does a person become addicted to nicotine?

Over time, the nicotine in tobacco can change the way a person’s brain works. If they stop using nicotine, they can have withdrawal symptoms. This can lead to addiction. That's why it’s hard to stop using tobacco products even though a person knows that the products have bad effects on health.

Do all vaping products have nicotine?

The most popular e-cigarette (vaping) liquid contains nicotine, even though some teens think they're simply inhaling a flavored liquid. So, when a person inhales the vapor from an e-cig, they're usually inhaling nicotine. Vaping affects the development of the brain’s reward system, so it can still lead to addiction over time.

No matter what product it’s in, nicotine is bad news.

Read about the latest trends in teen smoking and vaping.

How do people use tobacco and nicotine? People can smoke, sniff, chew, or inhale the vapors of tobacco and nicotine products. Some products that you smoke: cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes hookahs. Smokeless products: chewing tobacco, snuff (ground tobacco that can be sniffed or put between your check and gums), dip (wet snuff that is chewed), snus (small pouch of wet snuff).

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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