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Nicotine Addiction and Your Health

Father talking to his son about why cigarettes are addictive. Learn more at www.BeTobaccoFree.gov.

Why is nicotine addictive?

When you use tobacco products, nicotine is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. Within 10 seconds of entering your body, the nicotine reaches your brain. It causes the brain to release adrenaline, creating a buzz of pleasure and energy.

The buzz fades quickly though, and leaves you feeling tired, a little down, and wanting the buzz again. This feeling is what makes you light up the next cigarette. Since your body is able to build up a high tolerance to nicotine, you’ll need to smoke more and more cigarettes in order to get the nicotine’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal symptoms.

This up and down cycle repeats over and over, leading to addiction. Addiction keeps people smoking even when they want to quit. Breaking addiction is harder for some people than others. Many people need more than one try in order to quit. Learn about quitting.

Research suggests that children and teens may be especially sensitive to nicotine, making it easier for them to become addicted. The younger smokers are when they start, the more likely they are to become addicted. In fact, about three out of four high school smokers will become adult smokers.

Why are cigarettes addictive?

Cigarette makers know that nicotine addiction helps sell their products. Cigarettes today deliver more nicotine more quickly than ever before. Tobacco companies also use additives and chemicals to make them more addictive.

Why are smokeless tobacco products addictive?

Nicotine, found in all tobacco products, is a highly addictive drug that acts in the brain and throughout the body. Dip and chew contain more nicotine than cigarettes.

  • Holding an average-sized dip in your mouth for 30 minutes can give you as much nicotine as smoking three cigarettes.
  • Using two cans of snuff a week gives you as much nicotine as someone who smokes one and a half packs of cigarettes a day.

Learn more about smokeless tobacco.

When happens when I quit?

Tobacco and nicotine are addictive like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. When you stop smoking or cutback your tobacco use, you experience withdrawal. When going through withdrawal you may experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Hunger
  • Cravings for cigarettes and other sources of nicotine

Nicotine withdrawal is short-lived and symptoms pass in time, usually less than a week. Withdrawal is the most uncomfortable part of quitting, but the real challenge is beating long-term cravings and staying away from tobacco. Learn more about quitting.

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