One of the most addictive substances in the world

Nicotine is only one of the over 4,000 chemicals inside the smoke from tobacco products. It’s classified as a stimulant, but it has a number of different effects on the brain. It’s absorbed through the mucous lining in the mouth and nose and travels via the blood to the brain, where it activates particular mechanisms that release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which creates feelings of pleasure and calmness. It also raises blood pressure and increases heartrate.

Initially, using tobacco makes you feel good. These feelings cause nicotine to be highly addictive. Over time, however, the buzz associated with smoking disappears. The cravings don’t, though. Smokers continue to smoke in order to avoid the bad feelings caused by nicotine withdrawal.

Ten Things You Need to Know About Nicotine

  • You’re a target. Recent law changes have forced tobacco companies to shift their marketing focus from high school students to college students. The result has been a significant increase in the number of college students who smoke.
  • A lot of people smoke. In the past year, 46 percent of college students have used a tobacco product. The majority smoke cigarettes, but cigars and smokeless tobacco also account for a significant proportion of tobacco use. One third of students are classified as “current users” (having used a tobacco product in the last 30 days).
  • Males are more likely to use tobacco. This is because males are more likely to smoke cigars and chew tobacco.
  • Cigarette use is highest among binge drinkers. Many of these individuals consider their use of tobacco to be only casual and not a cause for concern.
  • You can’t escape it. All tobacco products are both physically and psychologically addictive.
  • It’s powerful stuff. Nicotine has been shown to be more addictive than cocaine or heroin.
  • It’s not just a phase. Most tobacco-using students believe they’ll quit after they graduate. The statistics indicate that this isn’t the case. Most won’t quit, and many will experience serious heath consequences down the road.
  • Quitting is hard. One-half (50 percent) of students who smoke have tried to quit in the past year. One-fifth (20 percent) have tried five or more times.
  • It could kill you. It’s estimated that nearly 9 percent of college students today will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness.
  • It’s linked to mental health problems. Heavy smokers are more likely to have a psychological disorder than nonsmokers or light smokers.

Why Do Students Smoke?

How is it that the most educated segment of the population is still making the decision to smoke despite all the evidence we have that smoking is detrimental to your health? There appear to be a few factors at play. One of the main reasons students continue to light up is that college is very stressful, and cigarettes and other tobacco products are a means for alleviating stress. Nicotine has even been shown to (temporarily) relieve the symptoms of depression.

Another reason is that, despite what public service commercials say, it’s still considered cool to smoke. Many students consider themselves to be “social smokers,” and use tobacco products only when they are drinking or hanging out with friends. Unfortunately, these students seem to have the illusion that social smoking is somehow safer than other patterns of smoking. The truth is that whether you have 10 cigarettes spaced out evenly throughout the day or all within a few hours when you’re out at night, your body is damaged to the same extent.

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