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A-Z of Drugs

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A-Z of drugs

 of Drugs

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Tobacco

Also known as:

Cigarettes, fags, ciggies, cancer sticks, rollies, smokes

Tobacco and the law

It is not an offence to have or use tobacco based products, however, it is prohibited to sell tobacco products to children under the age of 16.

What is tobacco?

Tobacco is the dried leaves of the tobacco plant which include the highly addictive stimulant nicotine.    

What does it look like?

Tobacco can be found in the form of cigarettes, cigars and packets of loose tobacco which can be used in pipes or rolling cigarettes.  

How is it used?

Tobacco can be smoked in pipes or cigarettes or snorted in a snuff (powdered tobacco).   Tobacco is often used when making cannabis joints or cigarettes.

What are the effects?

The main ingredient of tobacco is nicotine which is a mild, fast acting stimulant.   It hits the brain within a few seconds and increases the users pulse rate and blood pressure.   First time users may often feel sick or dizzy but the general effects differ from person to person.   Regular smokers find it combats anxiety, stress, alleviates boredom, helps concentration and can suppress the appetite.   Some doctors argue that a vicious circle is created as cigarettes only take away the craving for nicotine which is the cause of the stress and anxiety in the first place.  

Yellow teeth and fingers and ageing and drying skin are all common effects of smoking.

When do the effects start and how long do they last?

The effects of tobacco appear within a few seconds.   Nicotine is an extremely addictive chemical, and users soon build up a tolerance and run the risk of becoming chain smokers.  

What are the risks?

Smoking tobacco involves inhaling tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide amongst other addictives such as acetone, used to make paint stripper ; ammonia, contained in toilet cleaners; butane, a form of lighter fuel; and beta-naphthyl methylether, more commonly known as mothballs .

Regular smokers increase their chances of developing serious illnesses such as bronchitis, blood clots, heart disease, lung and other cancers, bad circulation and ulcers.   It can also cause sperm defects in men.   Smoking during pregnancy can lead to smaller babies, birth defects and even miscarriage.   Women who smoke whilst taking oral contraceptives increase the risk of heart and circulatory problems.

As well as damaging the health of users, tobacco fumes can damage non smokers.   Through passive smoking people can find they have respiratory irritations, infections, asthma (especially in children) and even cancer.   The use of tobacco accounts for at least 100,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.

Is it addictive?

It is very easy to become addictive to nicotine and it is one of the hardest drugs to quit.   Tolerance develops quickly to the effects of nicotine so more and more is needed to get an effect.   Nicotine is rated more addictive than heroin and cocaine.

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Stoke-on-Trent Drug and Alcohol Action Team, First Floor, Civic Centre, Glebe St, Stoke on Trent, ST4 1WR
Tel: 01782 235708 . Fax: 01782 235003 . E-mail: drugactionteam@stoke.gov.uk