Tobacco is the most important cash crop in American farming as it was the first crop grown for money and is native to the North and South American continents. It has played a long history in the American country because aside from cultivating the plant, it is also smoked in pipes for medicinal and ceremonial purposes.

In early history, Christopher Columbus brought a few tobacco leaves and seeds with him in Europe, but during the early times, most Europeans didn’t seem to be that interested in its taste. Only in the mid 15th and 16th century, when European explorer, Jean Nicot de Villemain, for whom nicotine was coined sent tobacco and seeds to Paris from Brazil and was able to popularize medicinal uses.

Nicot sent powdered tobacco to Queen Catherine de Medici of France saying that it can treat her migraines, the queen tried it and said that it was effective. Later on, tobacco was made known to Portugal, Spain, England. (1)

Until in 1828, German Doctor Wilhelm Heinrich Posselt and Chemist Karl Ludwig Reinman made the first isolation of nicotine from tobacco plant and stated that it was poisonous. Several studies have been made after that and in 1964, the Surgeon General of US, which is the chief doctor of the country, made a report about the dangers of cigarette smoking to human’s health.

Reports tackled on how nicotine and tar, which is the main component of tobacco, can cause lung cancer. That’s why in 1965, Cigarette Labelling Advertising Act has been passed by the US Congress. Each cigarette must have a warning on each pack stating that cigarette smoking may be hazardous to one’s health. (2)

Why is Tobacco Addictive?

Tobacco contains nicotine, a nitrogen-containing chemical. Nicotiana tabacum, the type of nicotine found in tobacco plants. Nicotine is a very addictive substance that can change the way you think and act. Nicotine molecule is shaped like acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which is responsible for a lot of functions in the brain such as muscle movement, breathing, heart rate, learning, and memory.

Also, acetylcholine caused the release of hormones in the body that can affect one’s mood, appetite, memory, and more. When nicotine gets into the brain it attaches to acetylcholine receptors and imitates the actions of acetylcholine.

Furthermore, scientists found out that nicotine boosts the levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in some parts of the brain that induce the feeling of pleasure and reward in the body. Dopamine is the same neurotransmitter that is involved with other drugs addiction like cocaine and heroin. To that, this explains why some people find it hard to quit smoking. (3)

Read here to see the Top 10 Common Addictions like tobacco.

Effects of tobacco in the body

No matter how you use it, tobacco is dangerous to human’s health. There are no safe components in any tobacco products, from acetone and tar to nicotine and carbon monoxide, the substances you inhale can harmfully affect your whole body.

Central Nervous System

Nicotine reaches your brain in just a split second and will make you feel more revitalized for a while. But as that effect fades away, you will eventually feel tired and crave more. Nicotine is eminently habit-forming. Physical withdrawal from nicotine can compromise your cognitive functions and can make you feel anxious, irritated, and depressed.

Respiratory System

When you inhale smoke from tobacco, you’re also taking in substances that can damage your lungs. Over time, this damage will lead to different kinds of problem respiratory problems such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer.

In the contrary, withdrawal from tobacco can cause temporary congestion and respiratory discomfort as your lungs and airways begin to heal the damages that tobacco has incurred.

Cardiovascular System

Smoking damages your whole cardiovascular system as it causes blood vessels to tighten, which restricts the easy flow of blood in your system. During the course of time, the ongoing narrowing, along with deterioration of the blood vessels, raises blood pressure, weakens blood vessel walls, increased blood clots, and increases your risk of stroke.

Integumentary System

Chemicals in tobacco smoke can change the structure of your skin. A recent study has shown that smoking tobacco dramatically increases the risk of skin cancer.

Also, your fingernails and toenails aren’t immune from the effects of smoking. Smoking increases the development of fungal nail infections. Lastly, you hair air is also affected by nicotine as it increases hair loss, balding, and graying.

Digestive System

Smoking increases the risk of developing mouth, throat, larynx, and esophagus cancer. Smokers also have higher rates of pancreatic cancer.

Sexuality and Reproductive System

Nicotine has bad effects on the blood flow in the genital areas of both men and women. For men, this can lower down sexual performance. While for women, this can result in sexual dissatisfaction by weakening the lubrication and the ability to achieve orgasm. In addition, smoking may also lower sex hormone levels in both men and women. This can possibly lead to decreased sexual arousal. (4)

Quitting Tobacco

The use of any tobacco product has both short-term and long-term effects on your health and overall well-being. So here’s how you can quit your tobacco habits. (5)

Cold Turkey and Gradual Withdrawal

A lot of people quit cold turkey – they stop totally, all of a sudden, with no other remedy or nicotine replacement.

While some start by using less tobacco for a few weeks before they quit as a means of gradual withdrawal. In this way, one slowly decrease the volume of nicotine in their body to reduce the risk of having withdrawal symptoms.

Other Nicotine Approved Products

The FDA has approved some nicotine-containing products. Some manufacturers have added it to drinks, lollipops, straws, and lip balms and marketed as quit tools. However, only a few of them have actually helped people quit smoking. They also pose a possible risk for children if these products are not properly labeled, carefully stored, and safely disposed of.

Home Remedies and Non-Tobacco Options

Professionals have recommended natural products like tea, cloves, and min to help people quit using tobacco. Some people are also advised to consume cayenne pepper or coffee ground pouches. Other addiction experts also suggest the use of herbs or dietary supplements to help quit tobacco addiction. The FDA has allowed the sale of herbs used as dietary supplements to be sold without their prior approval. This means that the manufacturers don’t have to prove or claim that they work, or even that they’re safe.

While you are quitting, you may experience longing for smokeless tobacco every once and awhile. Many people are having withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit smoking or chewing tobacco. These symptoms are usually worst and strongest the first week after you finally decided to quit. Quitting is very difficult and takes a lot of effort but whatever you do, DON’T GIVE UP! You are still working on becoming a smokeless tobacco non-user. It can in many cases take few attempts before you can fully quit, but it is definitely worth it.