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Cigarette Smoke

Nicotine—addiction Or Habit?

In 1992, the Surgeon General of the United States declared nicotine to be as addictive as cocaine. An article published in the December 17, 1997 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute stated nicotine addiction rates are higher than for alcohol or cocaine—that of all people trying only one cigarette, 33-50% will ultimately become addicted. The article concluded that simply knowing the harmful effects of tobacco is insufficient to help people kick the addiction and that behavioral intervention and support methods similar to those applied in alcohol and drug addictions appear to be most helpful.

The physical effects of cigarette smoke include several neurological responses which, in turn, stimulate emotional responses. When serotonin, a neurotransmitter (substances in the brain used by cells to transmit nerve impulses) is released, a person feels more alert. Nicotine stimulates serotonin release. Soon, however, serotonin release becomes sluggish without the boost from nicotine and the smoker becomes dependent on nicotine to prompt the release of serotonin. Other neurotransmitters released in response to nicotine include dopamine, opioids (naturally-occurring pain-killing substances), and various hormones, all of which have powerful effects on the brain where addiction occurs.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Chimaeras to ClusterCigarette Smoke - Environmental Tobacco Smoke, The Health Consequences Of Tobacco Use, Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Lung Disease - Components of cigarette smoke