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There are over a billion people who smoke tobacco around the world, which makes it one of the most popular psychoactive substances used in society.
Given the popularity of tobacco as well as its negative health consequences, it’s considered one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease worldwide.
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 toxic chemicals.
These toxins cause endothelial cell damage which creates inflammation along the inner lining of arteries.
The toxins in cigarette smoke can also cause pulmonary problems when they’re deposited into the lungs, as they damage the lung tissue and increase the likelihood of developing a lung infection.
Finally, cigarette smoke contains many different carcinogens including ammonia, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide, all of which are associated with cancers of the mouth, throat, lung, bladder, pancreas, and uterus.
Combining these effects, a heavy smoker who smokes two packs of cigarettes each day for 20 years loses about 14 years of life.
Despite the negative consequences of smoking, most people continue to smoke because tobacco contains nicotine, a tiny, fat-soluble molecule that creates pleasurable psychoactive effects and is extremely addictive.
Nicotine is considered “responsible” for the high rates of tobacco dependence and addiction, while the 4,000 other chemicals and compounds are “responsible” for the negative health effects associated with smoking.
Tobacco dependence, also known as nicotine dependence, is a chronic addiction to nicotine, a substance found in tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco. Nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, which creates a pleasurable sensation and reinforces the behavior of smoking, leading to dependence.
Symptoms of tobacco dependence may include strong cravings for nicotine, difficulty quitting, withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating, and a continued use of tobacco despite negative consequences on health, social life, or finances.
Tobacco dependence is a serious health concern and increases the risk for heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and cancer (particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer). Treatment for tobacco dependence includes nicotine replacement therapy, medications such as bupropion or varenicline, and counseling or support groups.
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