Nicotine is a drug that is a major component in cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco (chaw) and snuff. Nicotine even appears in many vaping products (electronic cigarettes). Like other drugs, nicotine can alter the way people feel physically and mentally. If people ingest enough nicotine often enough, they could become addicted to nicotine. They could continue to use products with nicotine because they feel withdrawal symptoms when they don’t.
This pattern of dependence and addiction is similar to the way drugs and alcohol affect people’s brains and bodies. In fact, researchers have found that nicotine use could help create conditions in the brain that contribute to cocaine abuse. Other researchers discovered that more than 90% of cocaine abusers admitted that they had once smoked cigarettes.
Because of the link between the nicotine in tobacco products and other drugs, some people consider nicotine a gateway drug, a drug whose use can lead to the eventual use of other drugs. Other studies have found a strong link between tobacco use and alcohol abuse. One study found that people who smoke are 2.7 times more likely to become dependent on alcohol.
It’s clear that quitting smoking can help your health and possibly prevent other complications, such as addiction. But since nicotine is so notoriously addictive, it can be extremely difficult to quit.
Wouldn’t it be better, then, not to smoke cigarettes or use other nicotine-based products in the first place? It seems efforts to prevent smoking (or prevent the development of long-term smoking habits) are well underway. The Truth Initiative (or truth) produces arresting websites, commercials, and other documentation to give people information about tobacco. Interestingly enough, the Truth Initiative sprang from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), a legal settlement between large tobacco companies and the governments of U.S. states and territories.
This organization and others hope to encourage young people to stop using tobacco. It’s a difficult goal, but given the dangers of nicotine and tobacco, certainly a worthy one.