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Nicotine: What Parents Need to Know

What It Is:

Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant found in tobacco that is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream when smoked.

How It's Used: Nicotine is typically smoked in cigarettes or cigars. Some people put a pinch of tobacco (called chewing or smokeless tobacco) into their mouths and absorb nicotine through the lining of their mouths.

What It Does:

Nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine, which makes it extremely difficult to quit. Those who start smoking before the age of 21 have the hardest time breaking the habit.

Physical effects of nicotine use include rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, shortness of breath, and a greater likelihood of colds and flu. Smokers also have bad breath and yellowed teeth.

Users have an increased risk for lung diseases like lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Chewing tobacco users also may suffer from cancers of the mouth and neck.

Withdrawal symptoms of nicotine include anxiety, anger, restlessness, and insomnia.

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: January 2012