What is tobacco?

Tobacco is a plant grown for its leaves, which are dried and fermented before being put in tobacco products. Tobacco contains nicotine, an ingredient that can lead to addiction, which is why so many people who use tobacco find it difficult to quit. There are also many other potentially harmful chemicals found in tobacco or created by burning it.

How do people use tobacco?

People can smoke, chew, or sniff tobacco. Smoked tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, bidis, and kreteks. Some people also smoke loose tobacco in a pipe or hookah (water pipe). Chewed tobacco products include chewing tobacco, snuff, dip, and snus; snuff can also be sniffed.

Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that deliver nicotine with flavorings and other chemicals to the lungs in vapor instead of smoke. E-cigarette companies often advertise them as safer than traditional cigarettes because they don’t burn tobacco. But researchers actually know little about the health risks of using these devices.

How does tobacco affect the brain?

The nicotine in any tobacco product readily absorbs into the blood when a person uses it. Upon entering the blood, nicotine immediately stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). Epinephrine stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. As with drugs such as cocaine and heroin, nicotine increases levels of the chemical messenger dopamine, which affects parts of the brain that control reward and pleasure. Studies suggest that other chemicals in tobacco smoke, such as acetaldehyde, may enhance nicotine’s effects on the brain.

What are other health effects of tobacco use?

Although nicotine is addictive, most of the severe health effects of tobacco use comes from other chemicals. Tobacco smoking can lead to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It increases the risk of heart disease, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. Smoking has also been linked to other cancers, leukemia, cataracts, and pneumonia. All of these risks apply to use of any smoked product, including hookah tobacco. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of cancer, especially mouth cancers.

Pregnant women who smoke cigarettes run an increased risk of miscarriage, stillborn or premature infants, or infants with low birth weight. Smoking while pregnant may also be associated with learning and behavioral problems in exposed children.

People who stand or sit near others who smoke are exposed to secondhand smoke, either coming from the burning end of the tobacco product or exhaled by the person who is smoking. Secondhand smoke exposure can also lead to lung cancer and heart disease. It can cause health problems in both adults and children, such as coughing, phlegm, reduced lung function, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of ear infections, severe asthma, lung infections, and death from sudden infant death syndrome.

How does tobacco use lead to addiction?

For many who use tobacco, long-term brain changes brought on by continued nicotine exposure result in addiction. When a person tries to quit, he or she may have withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • irritability
  • problems paying attention
  • trouble sleeping
  • increased appetite
  • powerful cravings for tobacco

*Source National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institute of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For the Full Article please go to: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cigarettes-other-tobacco-products


Get Help With Quitting Smoking…Your Way


Freedom From Smoking® Clinic                                                      www.lung.org or 1-800-LUNG-USA 

The Freedom From Smoking® group clinic includes eight sessions and features a step-by-step plan for quitting smoking. Each session is designed to help smokers gain control over their behavior. The clinic format encourages participants to work on the process and problems of quitting both individually and as part of a group. Visit www.lung.org or call 1-800-LUNG-USA to learn more or contact your local charter for a list of available classes.


Freedom From Smoking® Plus                                                        www.FreedomFromSmoking.org

The Freedom From Smoking® Plus is a highly-interactive online behavioral change program that addresses today’s mobile lifestyles. It works on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones and includes telephone, chat and email support from trained tobacco cessation counselors. To learn more about the Freedom From Smoking® Plus program, visit www.FreedomFromSmoking.org


Freedom From Smoking® Self-Help Manual                                (717) 541-5864 x 135

The Freedom From Smoking® self-help manual can be used by individuals interested in a self-guided method of quitting. This 56-page interactive self-help workbook is based on the American Lung Association’s proven-effective Freedom From Smoking® Clinic Program, and covers identifying triggers, removing roadblocks, addressing physical, mental and social aspects of addiction, preparing for quit day, handling social situations, preventing relapse and how to stay on track with lifestyle changes. The cost is $5.99 each and can be ordered through your local American Lung Association office. To place an order, call (717) 541-5864 ext 135.


Pennsylvania Quitline                                                            1 (800) QUIT-NOW (784-8669)

                                                                                                 Spanish-speaking: 1 (855) DEJELO-YA (335-3569) 

The Pennsylvania Quitline is a free local resource for quitting smoking. It provides over-the-phone counseling services with a certified quit coach, nicotine patches and lozenges (for qualified callers) and support for all Pennsylvania residents. Information and self-help materials are available.


Quitter’s Circle App                                                                               www.QuittersCircle.com 

This is a great addition to any of the options listed above. The American Lung Association and Pfizer have partnered to launch Quitter’s Circle, a mobile app and online community designed to help smokers face common obstacles associated with quitting through educational, social and financial support. Within a few clicks, users can personalize a quit plan, receive support from friends and family by starting their own quit team, and get encouragement to talk with a healthcare provider about quitting, including real-time, mobile access to doctors. This app is free for download at www.QuittersCircle.com


Local Cessation Programs in Pennsylvania

Northwestern PA

Erie County Department of Health

Phone (814) 451-7857

Southcentral PA

American Lung Association in Pennsylvania

Phone (717) 541-5864 ext. 126

Allegheny County, PA

Tobacco-Free Allegheny

Phone (412) 322-8321

Northeastern PA

American Lung Association in Pennsylvania

Phone (610) 253-5060 ext. 241

Southwestern PA

Adagio Health

Phone (412) 253-8166


Philadelphia Department of Public Health

Phone (215) 685-5693

Northcentral PA

American Lung Association in Pennsylvania

Phone (717) 541-5864 ext. 127

Southeastern PA

Health Promotion Council

Phone (215) 731-6154