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Drug Information



What is tobacco?

Tobacco comes from the dried leaves of the tobacco plant, which grows in many parts of the world. It contains the drug nicotine, which is a mild stimulant and is only found in tobacco leaves.

How is it used?

Tobacco is usually smoked in cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Powdered tobacco (snuff) can be sniffed/snorted. Tobacco can also be chewed.

What are the effects?

Cigarette smoke contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and over 400 other chemicals. Nicotine is absorbed into the lungs and has an almost immediate effect on the brain. Nicotine levels build up while smoking a cigarette and then quickly decline until the next cigarette is smoked.

One or two cigarettes increase pulse rate and blood pressure; reduce appetite and lower skin temperature. Regular users will often experience satisfaction when they first inhale cigarette smoke. First time users often experience a nicotine rush and often cough, feel sick, dizzy and light-headed. A tolerance rapidly develops to the effects of nicotine.

A smoker is more likely to suffer from heart disease, blood clots, heart attacks, lung infections, strokes, bronchitis, bad circulation, and cancer of the mouth, throat and lungs. Tobacco contributes to at least 120,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. Half of all teenage smokers will die prematurely if they continue to smoke throughout their adult life.

If no irreversible damage has occurred the lungs can clear themselves once smoking has stopped. The former smoker can then regain normal health and life expectancy.

Even those people who do not smoke can be affected by other people’s smoke. Passive smoking can result in respiratory problems, asthma and lung cancer.

Legal status

Selling tobacco products to people under 18 years of age is illegal. It is not however, illegal for people under 18 to possess and smoke tobacco. Shopkeepers can be fined for selling tobacco to those under 18 and all retailers who sell tobacco must display a notice about not selling tobacco to people under the age of 18.


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