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Nicotine: Just the Facts

Nicotine is usually smoked using the following:

  • Cigarettes/roll-ups
  • Pipes
  • Shisha
  • Cigars
  • Vapes

Sometimes people chew tobacco, but whether it’s smoked or chewed, the nicotine in tobacco can be highly addictive, and both chewing and smoking tobacco can cause serious harm.

It is an addictive drug that produces physical and mood-altering effects.

While these effects are pleasing for a little while, the trouble is that these feelings don’t last very long. This means you can feel very uncomfortable if you don’t keep topping your nicotine levels up because of the withdrawal symptoms.

Nicotine dependence stops people giving up smoking, even though they know it may be causing them harm.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can cause:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Discomfort
  • Stress (but many people believe the opposite)
  • Lack of concentration

These feelings can create changes in a smoker’s behaviour, leading to getting into trouble at school and at home, and can often make concentrating on lessons or staying involved with physical activity like football or dance difficult.

Smoking and stress

We all feel stressed at times. It might be worries about exams, because of an argument with friends or family, or any number of other things that are causing it. Smokers may feel calmer and less stressed when they smoke, but their body is having the opposite reaction:

  • Their blood pressure rises
  • Their heart rate increases
  • Their muscles tense
  • Their blood vessels constrict
  • Less oxygen is available to their brain to help cope with whatever is going on

Other reasons smoking might cause stress:

  • You can’t always have a cigarette when you want (or need) one
  • You might be getting into trouble for smoking
  • It’s expensive. How can you afford the next pouch of tobacco or pack of cigarettes?
  • How will you get them anyway when legally no-one should be sold tobacco products under the age of 18?
  • Will you be in the embarrassing situation of having to ask someone older or, worse still, a stranger to buy them?

Being dependent on nicotine can place young people in some very vulnerable situations. So the dangers of smoking don’t only come from smoking long term – it is a very controlling habit!

Most people find they’re less stressed when they stop, though initially stopping can be stressful. That’s why it’s important to get the right help.

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

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