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Tobacco addiction, or nicotine dependence, is one of the biggest global health issues worldwide. With over 8 million tobacco-related deaths worldwide every year, smoking also accounts for other comorbidities. Without a doubt, smoking-associated health risks are a huge burden on the public health system as well as the economy.


Nicotine, the substance that causes addiction, is found in all tobacco products. Cigarettes are the most common form of tobacco, but other products include cigars, pipes or hookahs, chewing tobacco, and snuff.


Smoking-associated health complications


Those who smoke are at higher risks of developing the following:


  • Lung cancer

  • Respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis

  • Chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure

  • Stroke

  • Cancers of the cervix, bladder, throat, mouth, pancreas

  • Miscarriages and other pregnancy-related complications such as facial deformities, preterm deliveries or stillbirths

  • Osteoporosis


Additionally, smoking puts the people around you at risk of second-hand smoking, which is just as dangerous. Studies have shown that non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke are also at risk of developing the abovementioned conditions and die younger.


Symptoms of nicotine dependence


  • Strong cravings for tobacco

  • Going through more than a pack of cigarettes daily

  • Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, mood disturbances, difficulty in concentration and tremors


Treatment for nicotine dependence


Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) are shown to be effective in reducing the cravings for nicotine. They come in the form of patches, gum, and inhalers etc. Studies have found those who have been on NRT are less likely to relapse. Other medications include varenicline and buproprion. Psychosocial and behavioural therapy may also help to support those who are suffering from tobacco use disorder and prevent them from relapsing.


How to prevent tobacco addiction


There are many ways to prevent smoking and nicotine dependence. Much more needs to be done from the highest level of government to the individual level. These include increasing health campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking, better education programmes in schools, higher taxes on cigarettes, and tighter regulations on advertisements on smoking.


If you have a friend or family who has been smoking more than a pack of cigarettes daily, you should encourage him/her/them to stop smoking and seek treatment. Nicotine can be a very addictive substance especially to a teenager and in particular when the brains are still developing.


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