Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Tobacco Use in Teens
Nicotine is only one of the thousands of chemicals in tobacco, but it
is the major component that acts on the brain. The lungs readily absorb
nicotine from the smoke of cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. The tissues of the mouth can also
absorb nicotine when a person smokes cigars or pipes or chews tobacco.
Nicotine reaches the brain in seconds and has a direct effect on
the body for up to 30 minutes. When a person uses tobacco regularly, the levels
of nicotine accumulate in the body during the day and persist overnight,
exposing the person to the effects of nicotine for 24 hours.
In the body, nicotine acts as both a
central nervous system stimulant and sedative. The
person immediately feels the stimulant effect and pleasurable sensation. It
increases alertness, relaxes muscles, improves memory and attention, and
decreases irritability. The stimulant effect causes a sudden increase in blood
pressure, breathing rate, and heart rate. The central nervous system
stimulation is followed by depression and fatigue, causing the person to want
Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances. Some teens show
early signs of addiction within days to weeks after starting to smoke. Repeated
tobacco use causes a need for increasingly large amounts of nicotine to feel
the same effect (tolerance). And repeated use causes
withdrawal symptoms if the person tries to quit.
Smoking affects a person's appearance by causing bad breath, yellow
teeth and fingernails, and wrinkles. Tobacco also leads to serious health
Other Works Consulted
American Cancer Society (2010). Child and teen tobacco use. Available online: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/TobaccoCancer/ChildandTeenTobaccoUse/index.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerPatrice Burgess, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerMichael F. Bierer, MD - Internal Medicine,
Current as ofMay 26, 2016
Current as of:
May 26, 2016
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine & Michael F. Bierer, MD - Internal Medicine,
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.