Tobacco is found in cigarettes which are smoked and shisha which is smoked through a waterpipe (hookah). Tobacco contains the addictive substance nicotine.
What does it look like?
The leaves of the tobacco plant are picked, dried and then rubbed to produce a brown, flaky mixture.
It is sold as factory-made cigarettes or as rolling tobacco, which is used to make hand-rolled cigarettes (roll-ups). It is also sold as shisha, which is smoked using a waterpipe (hookah).
In the UK tobacco is sold in standard packs with no corporate branding and large picture health warnings.
Tobacco has a strong and distinctive taste and smell. As well as the tobacco smoke that is inhaled into a smoker's lungs, there is secondhand smoke which is made up of the smoke exhaled by the smoker and the 'sidestream' smoke from the tip of the cigarette. More than 80 per cent of secondhand smoke is invisible and odourless.
Most people smoke tobacco in a cigarette. Cigarettes can be manufactured or hand-rolled using rolling tobacco.
Shisha is flavoured tobacco that is smoked using a water pipe (hookah). The tobacco is burned in a bowl containing charcoal and the smoke is sucked through the water pipe, which cools the smoke down allowing it to be breathed in by the smoker.
Shisha is part of Middle Eastern and Indian culture, but it is also used in the UK among non-Middle Eastern and Indian groups.
Other types of tobacco include cigars, cigarillos and chewing tobacco.
How does it make you feel?
How does it make you feel? Smoking gives you a hit of nicotine, which is the addictive substance in tobacco. Nicotine is a stimulant which raises your heart rate and blood pressure. First time smokers often feel sick and dizzy when they inhale nicotine for the first time.
Many smokeres believe that smoking tobacco helps them to relax and handle stress. But smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Smoking interferes with certain chemicals in the brain. When a smoker hasn't had a cigarette for a while, the craving for another one makes them feel irritable and anxious. These feelings can be temporarily relieved when they light up a cigarette which is why smokers associate their improved mood with smoking.
In fact, it's the effects of smoking itself that has more likely to have caused the anxiety in the first place. Cutting out smoking not only improves your mood but also reduces anxiety and stress.
Physical health risks
Physical health risks
Tobacco smoke contains over 5,000 chemicals, many of which are poisonous including more than 70 which can cause cancer. There is no 'safer' type of smoked tobacco - roll-up cigarette are just as harmful as manufactured cigarettes and smoking shisha through a waterpipe or hookah doesn't remove the toxic chemicals. These include:
- Tar - a mixture of dangerous chemicals
- Arsenic - used in wood preservatives/ rat poison
- Benzene - an industrial solvent, refined from crude oil
- Cadmium - used in batteries
- Ethanol - used in anti-freeze
- Formaldehyde - used in mortuaries to embalm dead bodies
- Polonium-210 - a highly radioactive element
- Chromium - used to manufacture dye, paints and alloys
- Acrolein - formerly used as a chemical weapon
- Hydrogen cyanide - used as an industrial pesticide
- Carbon Monoxide - contained in exhaust fumes
- Ammonia - used to make fertilisers and explosives
Smoking damages nearly every organ of the body. It causes:
- lung disease including emphysema and chronic bronchitis
- heart and circulatory disease including heart attack, stroke and narrowing of the arteries
- at least 15 types of cancer including lung, mouth, throat, stomach, liver, kidney, bowel, bladder and cervix
- Reduced fertility in both men and women
Smoking can cause bones to become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of osteoporosis in women. It also increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, eye disease and dementia.
Smoking during pregnancy can harm the baby in the womb from conception onwards. Every cigarette smoked causes damage to both the mother-to-be and her baby. Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome. It makes it more likely that a woman will have life-threatening complications during pregnancy and labour, and that the baby will be too sick to go straight home after birth.
Smoking also harms other people around you. Being exposed to secondhand smoke can cause lung disease, heart disease and even cancer. Children are particularly at risk because they have less developed airways, lungs and immune systems.
Some people think shisha smoking is safer than cigarette smoking, but that isn’t the case. People smoke shisha for much longer periods of time than they smoke a cigarette, and in one shisha session you can be exposed to very high levels of toxic chemicals. There is also the added risk of picking up diseases such as herpes, hepatitis C or tuberculosis from sharing waterpipes.
Mental health risks
Smoking increases anxiety and tension. Smokers are also more likely than non-smokers to develop depression over time.
Other effects from smoking:
Smoking tobacco has lots of immediate effects, such as making your breath, hair and clothes smell.
Smoking stops oxygen getting to the skin, making you more prone to spots and a dull complexion. Over time it can lead to premature aging, meaning more wrinkles and a so-called ‘cat’s bum’ mouth.
The tar in tobacco smoke can lead to yellowed teeth and nails.
Can you get addicted?
Yes. Tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive drug. Smoking any drug gets it to the brain very quickly. It takes just 8 to 10 seconds for the nicotine to reach the brain after tobacco smoke is inhaled. Smokers can get hooked very quickly and it can take years and a huge effort to kick the habit. Many people people who smoke wish they hadn't started in the first place.
Worried about tobacco use?
If you are worried about your use, you can call FRANK on 0300 1236600 for friendly, confidential advice.
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