Nicotine, a naturally occurring drug found in all forms of tobacco is highly addictive—as addictive as heroin and cocaine.
Types of Tobacco
Nicotine is a naturally occurring drug found in ALL forms of tobacco. It’s as addictive as heroin or cocaine, and is absorbed rapidly by the body—either in the lungs (tobacco smoke) or the nose and mouth (smokeless tobacco). Once absorbed, it quickly spreads throughout the body.
Store bought cigarettes are usually made up of a blend of tobacco, paper, and a filter. While this may seem like a simple recipe, each ingredient contains additives to make the tobacco taste better and keep people addicted. The tobacco in cigarettes contains almost 600 additives, including moisturizers to prolong shelf life; sugars to make the smoke easier to inhale; and flavorings such as chocolate and menthol. When they’re burned, these additives produce over 4000 chemicals that are absorbed into the body of anyone who inhales the smoke.
Ammonia compounds are often used by the tobacco industry in the United States to speed nicotine delivery to the brain. Sweetened or flavored cigarettes allow smokers to inhale more smoke more easily, which means they get more nicotine more quickly. Smokers of menthol cigarettes tend to inhale more deeply because menthol has a numbing and cooling effect. Additives may also be used to dilate (widen) the airways—which allows inhaled smoke to pass more deeply into the lungs and exposes the smoker’s body to more nicotine and tar.
A list of all the additives in cigarettes, as reported by big tobacco, can be found online at tobaccofreekids.org.
Light Cigarettes: Fewer Health Risks or Big Fat Myth?
Lots of smokers choose “low-tar,” or “light” cigarettes because they think that light cigarettes are less harmful and less addictive than regular cigarettes. Unfortunately, it’s not true. Light cigarettes are just as dangerous as “regular” ones.
Smokers who switch to low-tar or light cigarettes tend to make up for the lower nicotine levels by inhaling more deeply; taking more frequent puffs; or increasing the number of cigarettes they smoke. All of which cancels any benefit from smoking light cigarettes.
People who switch to low-tar or light cigarettes usually inhale the same amount of toxins, and they remain at high risk for developing smoking-related cancers and other diseases.
In 2008, Big Tobacco spent over $547.9 million smokeless tobacco advertising, which is more than double what they spent in 2005 ($250.8 million). Smokeless tobacco is sold in several forms:
• Chewing Tobacco (loose leaf, plug, or twist) is stripped and processed cigar-type
tobacco leaves or oblolocks of semi-ng bsoft chewing tobacco.
• Snuff (moist) is a finely cut, processed tobacco, which is placed between the cheek
and gum that releases nicotine.
• Snus is a tea-bag like packet of moist snuff tobacco and flavorings, placed between the
upper gum and lip. These products don’t require the user to spit.
• Dissolvable tobacco products are made of ground tobacco and flavorings, shaped into
pellets, strips, or other forms, that the user ingests orally. These products do not require spitting.
In response to the declines in smoking rates, cigarette companies have released their own smokeless tobacco products, drawing on the power on their cigarette brand names to attract new users.
Fact: Smokeless tobacco users are at a heightened risk for oral cancer compared to non-users and these cancers can form within five years of regular use.
As early as 1986 the Surgeon General warned that smokeless tobacco represents a major health risk and is not a safe substitute for cigarettes. Many teens, however, still haven’t gotten the message: smokeless tobacco use has been increasing among youth and young adults.
So just what, exactly, is in spit tobacco that makes it so dangerous to your health?
• Nitrosamines—powerful cancer-causing agents
• Polonium 210—radioactive particles that turn into radon
• Formaldehyde—embalming fluid (used at the morgue)
• Cadmium—a metallic element; its salts are poisonous
• Arsenic—a metallic element which forms poisonous compounds
Not surprisingly, spit tobacco poses serious health risks for regular users, including:
• 80% higher risk of developing oral cancer and a 60% higher risk of developing
pancreatic and esophageal cancer.
• Receding gums, tooth loss, leukoplakia (white lesions in the mouth that are
often precancerous) and other dental problems
• Adolescents who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to become cigarette smokers
Cigars are made of fermented tobacco tightly rolled in dried tobacco leaves. Cigar smokers usually don’t inhale the smoke from their cigars, but instead hold it in their mouths to enjoy the flavors of the tobacco. Cigars come in many shapes and sizes:
Cigarillos are short, narrow cigars that are wrapped in whole leaf tobacco. They can be purchased alone or in packs, and are sometimes made without filters. Just like larger cigars, they are not meant to be inhaled. Popular brands include Phillies Cigarillos and Swisher Sweets Cigarillos.
Little Cigars weigh less than cigars and cigarillos, and resemble cigarettes in size, shape, packaging, and filters. Popular brands include Black & Mild and Swisher Sweets.
In the last few years, the popularity of cigars in the US has been increasing. This is partly due to the fact that cigars are taxed at much lower rates than cigarettes (only 15% of wholesale price vs. $2.00 per pack of cigarettes in Maryland) and can be sold individually.
Cigars are not a safe alternative to cigarettes. In fact, regular cigar smoking is associated with an increased risk for cancers of the lung, oral cavity, throat and bladder. Whether it is a cigar, cigarillo or a little cigar, they all contain the same toxic and carcinogenic compounds found in cigarettes. Frequent cigar smokers and those who inhale deeply may be at increased risk for developing coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Facts on cigar use
• In 2005, an estimated 13.6 million Americans, 12 years or older, were cigar smokers.
• 14.0% of high school students in the U. S. are current cigar smokers.
• 5.3% of middle school students are current cigar smokers.
• Black & Mild is the preferred brand for African–American (55%), Hispanic (24%) and white cigar smokers (16%).
How is the Tobacco Industry Marketing Cigars?
• As a normal part of a luxurious and successful lifestyle
• Celebrity endorsements
• Development of cigar-friendly magazines
• Product placement in movies
• As a status symbol in Hip-Hop culture
Etter JF, Kozlowski LT, Perneger TV. What smokers believe about light and ultralight cigarettes. Prev Med. 2003 Jan;36(1):92-8.
Shiffman S, Pillitteri JL, Burton SL, Rohay JM, Gitchell JG. Smokers’ beliefs about “Light” and “Ultra Light” cigarettes. Tob Control. 2001;10 Suppl 1:i17-23.
Smoking and Tobacco Control Monographs, Monograph 13: Risks Associated with Smoking Cigarettes with Low Tar Machine-Measured Yields of Tar and Nicotine. U.S. department of health and human services Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute, 2001.
Hyland A, Hughes JR, Farrelly M, Cummings KM. Switching to lower tar cigarettes does not increase or decrease the likelihood of future quit attempts or cessation. Nicotine Tob Res. 2003 Oct;5(5):665-71.
The Truth About “Light” Cigarettes: Questions and Answers, National Caner Research Institute, Retrieved December 15, 2004 from http://cis.nci.nih.gov/fact/3_74.htm.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fact Sheet, Tobacco Brand Preferences. Retrieved October 31, 2007 from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/Factsheets/tobacco_brand_pref.htm.
National Association of African Americans For Positive Imagery. Fact Sheet, Methnol in Cigarettes. Retrieved October 31, 2007 from http://www.naaapi.org/documents/menthol_factsht.asp.