Tobacco Use & Health

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  • 0:01 Cigarettes
  • 0:43 Tobacco & Nicotine
  • 1:27 Chemicals
  • 2:12 Lungs & Heart
  • 3:15 Other Health Risks
  • 4:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Tobacco contains an addictive chemical called nicotine. Nicotine is why it is so hard to stop using tobacco once you start. Learn how smoking or chewing tobacco causes diseases, affects your breathing and even causes bad breath and yellow teeth.


cigarette vending machine

Do you know what this is? It's an old-time cigarette machine. When I was growing up, these machines could be found in the lobby of many restaurants or stores and anyone could put a few coins in the slot, push a handle, and get back a pack of cigarettes. It was basically a vending machine for cigarettes.

In today's world, where smoking is closely regulated and restricted, it might seem funny to think that cigarettes were so easy to buy not so long ago. Back then, we didn't know about the many health problems associated with cigarettes and related products. But now we do and in this lesson, you will learn about what smoking and tobacco products do to your body.

Tobacco & Nicotine

Tobacco is actually dried tobacco leaves that can be smoked or chewed. There are tobacco fields found in many areas of the United States and other countries. Depending on where you live, you might have seen tobacco growing on a farm, right next to other crops. Since tobacco is a plant, you might look at it as a natural product. But don't confuse 'natural' with healthy.

There's an addictive chemical found in tobacco called nicotine. When you start using an addictive substance, your body and mind get hooked on it and create cravings for the substance, so you keep using it. Nicotine is why smokers have such a hard time giving up the habit.


Unfortunately, the longer you smoke or chew tobacco products, the higher your risk of health problems. Besides nicotine, there are many other poisonous chemicals found in tobacco products and cigarette smoke, including a form of cyanide. Did you ever watch a movie thriller where a spy got captured, but before he would talk and give up his secrets, he swallowed a suicide pill? Well, those pills that cause instant death are also known as 'cyanide pills' because they contain the chemical cyanide.

While a smoker or someone breathing in secondhand smoke would not get near the lethal dose found in a suicide pill, it does make you think about whether you really want that stuff going in your body.

Lungs & Heart

Smoking or chewing tobacco has been directly linked to a lot of diseases that make it hard to breathe, like emphysema, which is a condition that damages the air sacs of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe air out of the lungs. If your lungs are healthy, it doesn't take you any effort to breathe out, but this is not the case for a person with emphysema. They have to force air out due to the damage from smoking.

Smokers are also susceptible to chronic bronchitis, which is a constant irritation and inflammation of the airways leading to the lungs. This irritation makes your body produce mucus, that builds up in your airways, making it hard to breathe. Also, that mucus has to come out, so people with chronic bronchitis develop a chronic cough, sometimes called Smoker's Cough.

Smoking also takes a toll on your heart and blood vessels. Long-term smoking makes it hard for blood to flow through your blood vessels and increases your risk for having a heart attack.

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