Nicotine is the psychoactive chemical found in several plants, including tobacco. Nicotine in its purest form is an odourless, colourless liquid – a poison. It is one of the most addictive substances in the world which explains why it is so hard for people to give it up. Traditionally tobacco is smoked in a cigarette, cigar or a pipe. It is also produced synthetically and used for e-cigarette refills, vaping appears a safer option than cigarettes. In either form, it is ingested to stimulate the central nervous system and causes dependency. Smoking cigarettes regularly can cause lung cancer and heart disease – it increases blood pressure and heart rate.
Also known as: Cigs, straight, fags, vape
Most people smoke when they are stressed because nicotine has pharmacological effects that reduce tension, increase heart-rate, release dopamine and adrenaline. Nicotine wears off quickly so encouraging ‘re-dosing.’
Nicotine is a toxic chemical that is highly addictive – often withdrawal causes people to use nicotine replacement products like patches or gum. E-cigarettes are being used as an alternative to reduce people’s tobacco intake, however, this does mean it is not harmful. However, vape smokers do not consume the tar so avoid developing the same ‘smoker’s cough’. Exposure to cigarette smoke also causes premature ageing of the skin.
One in five over 18s smoke and one in twenty vape. While the number of people in the UK who smoke is decreasing tobacco, it remains the leading cause of premature deaths globally. A person who smokes cigarettes is at much higher risk of developing cancer especially among long-term heavy smokers. Cardiovascular disease is often found in dependent smokers: blocked arteries and heart-attacks can be a side-effect.
Nicotine containing products have some immediate health effects: bad breath, stained teeth, reduced fitness and it can cause bronchitis and asthma. People who smoke e-cigarettes might try to reduce the negative health effects, nonetheless, these devices can cause dizziness and dehydration after use.
Nicotine containing products are most harmful either directly or indirectly (second-hand smoke) to pregnant women, children, the elderly and those with cardiovascular problems. People who smoke are more likely to drug-take or drink excessively. People who have developed a dependency to nicotine wanting to give up tobacco should seek advice from a health professional.
The minimum age of ‘legal’ purchase and to consume nicotine containing products is 18 years for England and Wales.
The Health Act 2007 makes it a criminal offence to smoke tobacco products indoors and in the back of a vehicle that carries a child passenger (a person under 16), this legislation does not cover e-cigarettes as it does not burn tobacco so is not technically ‘smoking’. Instead policy around ‘vaping’ will vary according to company and workplace policies meaning in some indoor public spaces people can vape.