Behavioral Effects – Tobacco

At some point you (whether it was personally or as a bystander), have seen someone smoke tobacco, but have you ever noticed a change in the smoker’s behavior afterwards? Just as all other types of drugs, tobacco also causes slight behavioral changes from calming effects to extreme finger tapping. This is mainly due to the level of nicotine that one is consuming at a particular time. Nicotine is the main reinforcing substance in tobacco, causing so many people to become addicted and rely on the effects felt from smoking or chewing. However, the effects felt also depend on the intent for smoking tobacco in the first place.

Some behavioral effects one may experience after smoking tobacco are (Hart and Ksir 2013; Heishman 1999):

  • Finger tapping
  • Focused attention
  • Recognition and memory
  • Reasoning
  • Increase in respiration rate, heart rate and/or blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Induced coughing or dryness of mouth/throat
  • Hunger inhibition for about an hour
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness/general weakness

Nicotine acts as a mild stimulant, which allows one to stay awake longer and have a stronger focused attention, while also creating a calming sensation (Hart and Ksir 2013). Smoking tobacco has been associated for having therapeutic effects, and according to Araki et al. 2002, clinical studies have demonstrated a positive association between smoking and psychiatric disorders. Cognitive deficiencies, such as ones associated with anxiety, depression and schizophrenia patients, have displayed mediated behaviors after receiving nicotine (Araki et al. 2002). Studies have also observed a selective and specific suppression in aggressive behavior, after smoking nicotine, ranging in species from insect to man (Cherek 1984). However, others have argued that patients treated for mental illness with nicotine would create vulnerability to smoking addiction, which leads to a spiral of other health issues (“Behavioral Health” 2016).

Cigarette smoking is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, emphysema, and stroke (Hart and Ksir 2013). Aside from the health issues, the main behavioral changes in a smoker once he or she begins are addiction and withdrawal. Nicotine is very addictive, and once someone starts to smoke it becomes extremely difficult to stop.

Behavioral characteristics associated with nicotine addiction are (Krasnegor 1979):

  • Increased puff frequency and duration
  • Depth of inhalation
  • Amount of nicotine drawn from each cigarette
  • Amount of cigarettes smoked
  • Restlessness or drowsiness

These behaviors may alter from person to person, with some cases being very mild, and other representing addictions as strong as heroin and cocaine (Hart and Ksir 2013).

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Withdrawal symptoms, on the other hand, range from a whole other set of defining characteristics. Some tobacco withdrawal symptoms include (Hart and Ksir 2013; Krasnegor 1979):

    • Cravings
    • Irritability
    • Restlessness
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Anxiety
    • Impairment in concentration and/or judgment
    • Jaw clenching
    • Increase in hunger/weight gain

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Written and Research Conducted by: Rosa Bartoletti