Products such as cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and wet and dry snuff contain dried leaves from the tobacco plant.1
The main chemical in tobacco is nicotine, which is a stimulant drug that speeds up the messages travelling between the brain and body. It may be more addictive than heroin. Tar and carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) are also released when tobacco is burned, such as when it’s smoked.2
Electronic cigarettes (also known as E cigarettes) don’t contain dried tobacco leaves, but they may still contain nicotine.
Ciggies, darts, durries, rollies, smokes, fags, butts, cancer sticks
How is tobacco used?
Tobacco is usually smoked in cigarettes. It is also smoked in cigars and pipes.
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Tobacco affects everyone differently, based on:
The following effects may be experienced:
If a large amount of tobacco is taken the following effects may also be experienced:
Some people believe that smoking 'light' or 'low tar' cigarettes is less harmful than regular cigarettes. However, there is little difference between the amount of chemicals inhaled by people who smoke 'light' cigarettes and those who smoke regular ones.5
Regular use of tobacco may eventually cause:
Passive smoking is when someone breathes in smoke from other people smoking. Passive smoking can cause many of the health problems listed above, so it’s important not to smoke near other people, particularly babies, children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with chronic respiratory conditions.6
Using tobacco with other drugs
The effects of using tobacco with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
Giving up tobacco after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms usually start within 2–3 hours after you last use tobacco. The symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. These symptoms can include:
Reducing the risks
1. American Cancer Society. (2013). Other forms of tobacco favoured by young people.
2. Julien, R., Advokat, C., & Comaty, J. (eds.). (2011). A primer of drug action (12th ed.). New York: Worth Publishing.
3. Quit Victoria. (2014). Health risks of smoking.
4. Brands, B., Sproule, B., & Marshman, J. (Eds.). (1998). Drugs & drug abuse (3rd ed.). Ontario: Addiction Research Foundation.
5. Quit Victoria. (2005). 'Light' or 'low tar' cigarettes.
6. Cancer Council Victoria. (2005). Exposure to and perceptions of the dangers and illnesses of passive smoking among Victorians: 2004.
7. Lucas, C. & Martin, J. (2013). Smoking and drug interactions.
8. Quit Victoria. (2014). What are withdrawal symptoms?
Last updated: 17 December 2014