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Nicotine: What Parents Need to Know

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
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What It Is:

Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant found in tobacco and vaping devices. Nicotine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

How It's Used:

Nicotine is typically smoked in cigarettes or cigars, or inhaled using vaping devices. Some people put a pinch of tobacco (called chewing or smokeless tobacco) into their mouths and absorb nicotine through the lining of their mouths. Some people inhale nicotine through the nose.

What It Does:

Nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine, which makes it extremely difficult to quit. Those who start smoking or vaping before age 21 have the hardest time breaking the habit.

Physical effects of nicotine use include rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, shortness of breath, and a greater likelihood of colds and flu.

Users have an increased risk for lung diseases, heart disease, and stroke. Brain development can be affected, even in older teens.

Withdrawal symptoms of nicotine include anxiety, anger, restlessness, and insomnia.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: May 2022