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Last updated : May 9, 2019
Products such as cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and wet and dry snuff and the dried leaves from the tobacco plant all contain nicotine.1
Nicotine 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 Nicotine, as it occurs in tobacco has no therapeutic or medical use but small doses have been used to treat nicotine dependence.
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
Tobacco which contains nicotine 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.
Nicotine affects everyone differently, based on:
The following effects may be experienced:
If a large amount of nicotine 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 nicotine 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
The effects of using nicotine with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and could cause:
It’s important to check with a medical professional about whether nicotine might affect any medications you are taking.
Giving up nicotine 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:
You may still crave a cigarette for months and years after giving up. It’s important to ask for help if you need it. Call Quitline on 13 QUIT (13 7848).
bad breath, coughing, dizziness, faintness, fast heart rate, feeling alert, feeling happy, feeling relaxed, headache, reduced appetite, stomach cramps, tingling and numbness in fingers and toes, vomiting.