Get the low down on lighting up...

Tobacco smoke contains 1000s of chemicals

What is it?

Tobacco is the dried, shredded and processed leaves from the tobacco plant. It comes in ready made cigarettes, rolling tobacco and cigars. It is usually smoked. Some people chew tobacco leaves.

The main addictive ingredient in tobacco is nicotine. Tobacco smoke contains 1000s of chemicals and some are very poisonous. When you take a drag (inhale) on a fag, the nicotine kicks in about eight seconds later, leaving the smoker feeling slightly energised and also calmer than before.

What are the health effects?

The nicotine found in all tobacco contributes to it being one of the most addictive drugs around. Some research claims it is more addictive than heroin.

If you find you can't manage without a fag but want to give up, you can get help through your GP.

Set a date for stopping and stop with a friend if you can. You should quit totally on your set day. Giving up smoking may make you feel tired, irritable and a bit depressed - these feelings will pass.

If you don't succeed the first time, keep trying. Most people have more than one attempt at giving up before they manage it so try again. When you don't have a cigarette...

  • After 20 minutes your blood pressure and pulse return to normal.
  • After 24 hours your lungs start to clear.
  • After two days your body is nicotine-free and your sense of taste and smell improve.
  • After three days you can breathe more easily, and your energy increases.
  • After two to 12 weeks, your circulation improves.
  • After three to nine months coughs, wheezing and breathing improves.
  • After one year your heart attack risk is half that of a smoker.

Long term smoking can lead to lung and heart disease as well as cancer. If you are still struggling go to http://smokefree.nhs.uk/ or book in for an appointment with your GP.

The law

Tobacco is legal. Smoking has been banned in public places in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It's illegal to sell cigarettes, tobacco or cigarette papers to anyone under 18, but it is not a criminal offence for a person under 18 to smoke.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.