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Safe and Drug-Free Schools: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs
Facts about alcoho, tobacco, and other drugs / Matrix of commonly abused drugs


Tobacco use is the #1 preventable death in the United States. More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. Of the 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, 60 of them are carcinogens (known to cause cancer). These chemicals include formaldehyde, benzene, acetone, and cyanide. Smoking causes about 90% of lung cancer deaths in women and almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in men. It causes cancers of the bladder, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, cervix, kidney, lung, pancreas, and stomach, and causes acute myeloid leukemia. Cigarette smoking has many negative reproductive and early childhood effects, including an increased risk for infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (2007), 4,000 kids in the U.S. try their first cigarette each day and another 1,000 kids under the age of 18 become new daily smokers. The nicotine in tobacco is more addictive than marijuana, alcohol, and cocaine. Tobacco is considered a "gateway drug" and young people who use tobacco are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs.

Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke is a mixture of gases and particles that includes smoke from the burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe tip (sidestream smoke) and exhaled mainstream smoke. Secondhand smoke causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks in children. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure and even brief exposure can be dangerous. Most people are exposed to secondhand smoke in the home and workplace.

Smokeless Tobacco
The two main types of smokeless tobacco in the United States are chewing tobacco and snuff. Chewing tobacco comes in the form of loose leaf, plug, or twist. Snuff is finely ground tobacco that can be dry, moist, or in sachets (tea bag-like pouches). Although some forms of snuff can be used by sniffing or inhaling into the nose, most smokeless tobacco users place the product in their cheek or between their gum and cheek. Users then suck on the tobacco and spit out the tobacco juices, which is why smokeless tobacco is often referred to as spit or spitting tobacco. Smokeless tobacco use is a major health risk and is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes.

Clove Cigarettes
Clove cigarettes, also called kreteks, are imported mainly from Indonesia and contain 60% to 70% tobacco and 30% to 40% ground cloves, clove oil, and other additives. The chemicals in cloves have been linked to asthma and other lung diseases.

Bidis or "beedies" are flavored cigarettes imported mainly from India. They are hand-rolled in an unprocessed tobacco leaf and tied with colorful strings on the ends. Their popularity has grown in recent years in part because they come in many candy-like flavors such as strawberry, vanilla, and grape, they usually cost less than regular cigarettes, and they often give the smoker an immediate buzz.

Hookah (or narghile) smoking started in the Middle East. Flavored tobacco (called shisha) is burned in a water pipe and the smoke is inhaled through a long hose. This form of tobacco has recently become popular among young people, especially around college campuses, and seen as a social event. Hookah smoke contains more toxins such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, tar, and other hazardous substances than cigarette smoke. Several types of cancer have been linked to hookah smoking.

Prevalence of Use

Additional Information

Tips for School Tobacco Policy Enforcement

Are You Helping the Tobacco Industry?


Tobacco Free Nebraska

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids

American Cancer Society

American Lung Association

Americans for Nonsmokers Rights

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