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Smoking Addiction Facts

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Although smoking cigarettes is legal for adults, it is actually one of the most addictive habits one can take up.

Once the body becomes physiologically dependent on the nicotine in cigarettes and psychologically accustomed to the habit, quitting is extremely challenging – though not impossible.

Nicotine is as addictive as cocaine or heroin

Cigarettes contain many toxic chemicals that are damaging to one's health. However, it is the intake of nicotine that makes smoking so addictive.

Although many people mistakenly believe that the nicotine in cigarettes helps them to relax, the drug is in fact a stimulant. Nicotine impacts dopamine receptors which are responsible for activating "pleasure centers" in the brain. Smokers quickly build a tolerance to nicotine, and require more in order to experience the same results. As the effects of nicotine wear off, a smoker will experience increasing discomfort, which is alleviated by smoking another cigarette.

Nicotine is as addictive as cocaine or heroin. Physiological changes take place in the brains of smokers in which more receptors become available in an attempt to restore normal neurotransmitter function. When a person stops smoking, they will experience withdrawal symptoms as their body tries to adapt to the sudden absence of nicotine.

Smoking addiction carries huge health risks

Smoking continues to be one of the leading causes of premature death from heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, and stroke. Other health risks include circulatory problems, osteoporosis, dental disease, and respiratory problems, as well as other cancers and reproductive problems.

Pregnant women who smoke risk affecting their baby's brain development and birth weight, and increase the probability of miscarriage and premature birth. Infants exposed to second hand smoke have a higher incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), and children of smokers are more likely to suffer from serious respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

Smoking addiction includes social and psychological factors

Smokers are also impacted socially and psychologically by their habit. It is not uncommon for smokers to become psychologically conditioned to having a cigarette at certain times of the day, or according to triggers such as following a meal, or with coffee.

A smoking addiction is financially costly as well, often eating up much needed funds to support a person's smoking habit. As more information becomes available on the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke, it is becoming less and less socially acceptable to smoke.

Photo by John Nyboer