Tobacco is a plant that contains nicotine, a drug that speeds up activity in our central nervous system but has relaxing effects too. Tobacco is available in many forms, including cigarettes, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and snuff or snus (a powder that is sniffed or put between the lower lip or cheek and gums). Nicotine also is available in non-tobacco products, including gum, patches and other smoking cessation aids.
Humans have been using tobacco for many years for a variety of reasons. For some, tobacco has played an important role in ceremonies and served to mark special occasions such as the birth of a baby. For others, it has been used to increase alertness or to relax and connect with friends and acquaintances at social gatherings. But like other psychoactive substances, tobacco can be harmful.
Tobacco use is prevalent among people with mental illness or addictions, and the effects of tobacco use are more widespread in this population than in the general population.
“I have kicked alcohol and crack (cocaine), but I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that stopping smoking is the hardest thing I have ever done!”