World No Tobacco Day: Understanding Tobacco Addiction

Happy World No Tobacco Day

We all know that smoking is bad, but that hasn’t stopped millions from taking up the habit and millions more from continuing to smoke. World No Tobacco Day, this Sunday May 31st, raises awareness around the risk of tobacco use and addiction in all forms. The World Health Organization emphasizes World No Tobacco Day in order to protect the youth from manipulation by the tobacco industry and preventing them from using tobacco.

History of Tobacco

Early Use and Trade

The Tobacco plant is native to the Americas and part of the Nightshade family, of which some are edible (i.e. potatoes, peppers) and some are extremely poisonous (i.e. Deadly Nightshade). As early as 1 B.C., Native Americans began using tobacco for religious and medicinal purposes. When explorers from Europe encountered the Americas in the late 1400’s, they were given dried tobacco leaves as gifts by the natives, which were then brought back by sailors and traded. Over the next two centuries the popularity of tobacco among Europeans and settlers in the Americas would grow significantly. People believed Tobacco to be a cure-all with magic healing properties, which of course, we know today to be wildly inaccurate.

American Tobacco Companies Cash In

In 1760, America’s first Tobacco company, P. Lorillard, was established in New York City to process cigars and snuff. Today it is the oldest tobacco company in the U.S. Even in these times, scientists were learning about the chemicals in tobacco and the ill effects it can have on health. In 1826 the pure form of nicotine was found and scientists soon learned that it is a dangerous poison.

Fast forward to the 1900’s where dozens of brands are fighting for market share with misleading and manipulative advertising methods. Claims about the health benefits of smoking are rampant in advertisements despite numerous scientific studies on the adverse effects.

Health Effects Become Public Knowledge

It isn’t until 1964 that the U.S. Surgeon General reports on the dangers of smoking and triggers a cascade effect of regulation on how Tobacco companies can advertise their products. By the 1980’s smoking is considered “politically incorrect” and bans on smoking in public places begin to roll out. In 1987, the World Health Organization created World No Tobacco Day to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking, particularly for the youth.

Today, growing evidence shows that Tobacco companies have known about the ill effects of smoking all along. It is believed they knew very well how addictive nicotine was and chose to exploit it for monetary gain.

Facts About Tobacco Use and Addiction

  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death with more than 7 million deaths per year worldwide.
  • Smoking kills 480,000 people per year in the United States, 41,000 of which are from secondhand smoke.
  • On average, a smoker’s life expectancy is 10 years less than that of a non-smoker
  • Every day in the US, 2000 children and teens under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette. And every day 300 people under 18 years become daily smokers.

Health Effects of Tobacco Use

The detrimental health effects of tobacco use are far reaching and vary depending on the method of consumption:


Years of research on smoking-related diseases shows a myriad of harmful effects that can come from regular smoking. Currently, more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. Smoking causes cancer, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It also increases the risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and immune system problems like rheumatoid arthritis.


More nicotine is absorbed through chewing tobacco than smoking. Users of chewing tobacco are at a higher risk of oral cancers as well as cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, and stomach. It also leads to gum disease and gum recession (gums pulling away from the teeth). It also wears down and stains tooth enamel, causing tooth decay, tooth loss and yellow staining. Some studies have also found a link between increased cardiovascular disease like heart attacks and stroke, and chewing tobacco usage.


While vaping is a relatively new form of tobacco use, research is showing that is not necessarily safer. Vaping uses tobacco-derived Nicotine and is just as addictive as cigarettes. Besides that, e-cigarette cartridges contain harmful ingredients that are being inhaled into the lungs. Early research has found flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease, as well as volatile organic compounds and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead. These ultrafine particles are inhaled deep into the lungs.

The diacetyl found in e-cigarettes causes brochiolitis obliterans – also known as “popcorn lung” – which results in scarring of the air sacs in the lungs. This results in a thickening and narrowing of the airways, making it difficult to breathe and causing coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. It is similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Further, while many diseases from tobacco use progress slowly, it appears popcorn lung can happen much more quickly with regular e-cig usage.

Tobacco Usage in Addiction Recovery

Taking up tobacco use or increasing tobacco consumption is common among patients in treatment. Often someone who never smoked before will take up smoking in the recovery process. This is called Addiction Replacement, essentially swapping one addiction for another. It’s important to note that addiction replacement is occurring because a patient is chasing an emotional high. It is important to address any unconscious emotions a patient may be grappling with and working through them with a therapist in order to avoid projecting them on another substance or activity.

Methods for Quitting Tobacco

There are numerous tools and techniques out there to help your finally quit smoking for good:

Identify your reasons for quitting

Do you want to take back control of your life? Worried about the health effects? Quitting for your kids? Identify your reasons and keep them in a list on your phone or up on your fridge. Remind yourself why you are doing this. 

Make a Quitting Plan

Choose a quit date and stick to it. Make sure it is not a stressful or busy period or date.

Seek Free Resources

There are a number of resources available to help you quit tobacco. These include government websites like and apps like quitSTART. 

Use a Craving Cessation Tool

Products such as Nicotine patches, gums, or lozenges can help reduce cravings by providing the nicotine without the other substances. 

Use Placeholders

Keep your mouth busy with chewing gum, use a fidget spinner to keep your hands busy. Find ways to keep yourself active and avoid the usual triggers.

Celebrate the Wins

Maybe you made it through a tough day and didn’t cave, or you hit the 3 day mark or the one week mark. Every milestone, big or small, deserves a celebration.

We hope this helped you learn more about Tobacco Addiction this World No Tobacco Day. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction replacement or currently suffering from substance abuse disorder, contact us today at Harmony Recovery Group. We are here to help.


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