Tobacco and health

Tobacco and Health

Tobacco: Introduction

Tobacco is an agricultural crop, especially indigenous to the Americas but now grown across the world. It is most commonly used to make cigarettes. It has a billion-dollar industry all around the world. The psychoactive ingredient present in tobacco is nicotine which is a stimulant but more than 4000 other chemicals which also include many poisonous chemicals are present in cigarettes.  The leaves of tobacco may be smoked (in cigars, pipes, and cigarettes), applied to gums (as dipping and chewing tobacco), or inhaled as snuff.

Some of other preferred substances made out of tobacco are:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Bidi (thin, hand-rolled cigarettes imported from Southeast Asia)
  • Clove cigarettes
  • Kreteks (cigarettes imported from Indonesia that contain cloves and other additives)

Effect of tobacco use on health

The scope of the burden of disease and death that cigarette smoking imposes on the public’s health is extensive. The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second –hand smoke (WHO, May 2019).

Cigarette smoking causes chronic diseases that appear at older ages, such as lung cancer, as well as adverse health effects that occur in the short run. The short-term adverse health effects caused by cigarette smoking can be observed in smokers immediately or soon after they begin smoking. The health effects of cigarette smoking thus begin at or near the age of initiation of cigarette smoking, which is usually in adolescence.

Tobacco is a nervous system stimulant that triggers complex biochemical and neurotransmitter disruptions. 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.

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.


Preventive and control measures of Tobacco use

Tobacco use is a major cause of death in many countries and it is also the most preventable cause of disease, disability, and deaths.

  • Prevention can take the form of policy-level measures, such as increased taxation of tobacco products; stricter laws regulating who can purchase tobacco products.
  • Prevention can also take place at the school or community level. Education people about the social and health effect of tobacco.
  • Mass media campaigns also is a major strategy in efforts fo reduce smoking among youth and young adults.
  • The compulsion of printing fear appeal (images of mouth cancer, lung cancer) on the packets of tobacco products also are thought to reduce some amount of consumption.



  1. Tobacco Atlas
  3. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); 2012. 6, Efforts to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use Among Young People.
  7. Schinke SP, Gilchrist LD. Preventing tobacco use among young people. Health Soc Work. 1986;11(1):59–65. doi:10.1093/hsw/11.1.59
  9. Committee on the Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age for Purchasing Tobacco Products; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Institute of Medicine; Bonnie RJ, Stratton K, Kwan LY, editors. Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2015 Jul 23. 4, The Effects of Tobacco Use on Health.