Nicotine-the main ingredient in tobacco products-remains one of the most addictive drugs ever used. Still, nearly 72 million people have used nicotine in the United States, according to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Why do many people become addicted to nicotine? Scientists have discovered that nicotine provides an almost immediate "kick" to those who use it by causing the central nervous system to be stimulated. However, these initial good feelings are followed by fatigue and depression, not to mention a host of more serious health problems that cost Americans more than $75 billion each year in medical costs. (See www.cdc.gov/tobacco/issue.htm)
The use of nicotine, especially through smoking cigarettes, remains the number one preventable cause of death in the United States; resulting in more than 440,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarette smoke contains harmful gases and tar that expose smokers-and those around them-to an increased risk of lung cancer, emphysema, and bronchial disorders.
Pregnant women who smoke increase the possibility of premature labor, low-birthweight babies, and fetal and infant deaths. Additionally, smoking near babies and young children places them at greater risk for health problems, including bronchitis and pneumonia.
In addition to the serious health consequences associated with smoking or chewing tobacco and snuff, there are a number of other physically unpleasant symptoms, including:
- Bad breath
- Stained teeth and fingers
- Constant coughing
- Clothes that smell like stale cigarettes
- Trouble keeping up with sports or other athletic activities.
For more information about the harmful effects of nicotine and tobacco products, contact SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information by calling (800) 729-6689; writing to P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20857-2345; or visiting www.ncadi.samhsa.gov.
Additionally, the Coalition for World No Tobacco Day [link to: www.wntd.com] is gearing up to observe World No Tobacco Day on May 31. The coalition believes a spirit of worldwide cooperation is the best chance for stamping out tobacco-related death and disease. It provides a free kit with activities and ideas communities can adopt to begin their own campaigns or supplement current World No Tobacco Day activities. For more information, write to P.O. Box 209, Shiloh, NJ 08353, or call (212) 601-8245.