01 Jan 2022
As you know, cigarettes and other forms of tobacco contain a powerful, addictive drug – nicotine. This nicotine releases a chemical called dopamine in the same regions of the brain as other addictive drugs. It causes mood-altering changes that make the person temporarily feel good. Inhaled smoke delivers nicotine to the brain within 20 seconds, which makes it very addictive—comparable to opioids, alcohol and cocaine. This "rush" is a major part of the addictive process.
When the person stops using tobacco, nicotine levels in the brain drop. This drop triggers the cycle of cravings and urges that maintains addiction and makes it difficult to quit. Long-term changes in the brain caused by continued nicotine exposure result in nicotine dependence, and attempts to stop cause withdrawal symptoms that are relieved with renewed tobacco use.
Quitting is a process, not an event. It takes most smokers many attempts, so it is important to keep trying.
To many people’s surprise, nicotine does not cause cancer, lung damage or cardiovascular (heart) disease. Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in a cigarette. The harm from smoking comes from the thousands of chemicals contained in cigarette smoke.
Cigarette smoke contains over 5,000 dangerous chemicals. The following are examples of cancer causing chemicals contained in cigarettes:
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons