Cigarettes and addiction

Cigarette smoke contains a strongly addictive drug called nicotine.

  • Nicotine is as addictive as Heroin and Cocaine, both are Class A drugs.
  • Nicotine starts to affect the brain within 10 seconds of inhaling cigarette smoke.

Nicotine is a drug, which enters the body via cigarette smoke.

When a smoker inhales cigarette smoke, nicotine triggers the release of dopamine, making them think they’re more relaxed (although actually they’re not because their heart is beating even faster). These feelings don’t last long and over time, a person needs to smoke more and more cigarettes to get these feelings back. It is this addiction to the nicotine in cigarettes that makes it so hard for smokers to quit.

Nicotine addiction develops very quickly in children. Children aged between 11 and 16 who smoke one or more cigarettes a week have similar levels of nicotine dependence as adults.

A person who stops smoking will experience withdrawal symptoms as their body adjusts to life without nicotine. These can include strong cravings, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness; disturbed sleep and decreased heart rate. However the longer-term health and lifestyle benefits far outweigh these short-term effects.