Behavioral and Emotional Wellness

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. Some people inhale nicotine through the nose.

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.

Users have an increased risk for lung diseases like lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. They may have bad breath and yellowed teeth, and are more likely to get cancers of the mouth and neck.

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

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: February 2015

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

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