Adolescents, Mental Health, and Cigarette Smoking Essay

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I began this research interested in looking at mental health and its relationship to cigarette smoking. By searching the Internet, I found myself being drawn into the discourse surrounding cigarette smoking, mental health and adolescents/adolescence. By seeing nicotine as addictive, and therefore an abuseable substance, and understanding the neurological effects nicotine has on the brain, we can see how cigarette smoking is connected to mental health. In adolescents the effect is even more pronounced because their relationships to peers and parents create situations where their mental health is compromised.

Nicotine is one of the many chemicals found in cigarettes, and is the "primary component in tobacco that acts on the brain." (1).
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Smoking increases dopamine, which in turn increases pleasurable feelings. The enjoyable effects of nicotine are even more enhanced by the subsequent feelings of craving and withdrawal. This positive reinforcement from needing to sustain increased dopamine levels by smoking, while coping with the addictive qualities of smoking, make this a hard habit to quit. Generally speaking, a smoker will take about 10 puffs on a cigarette in a five-minute period. If one smoked 30 cigarettes a day (1.5 packs), that person would get 300 hits of nicotine a day. "These factors contribute considerably to nicotine's highly addictive nature." (1).

Even though most smokers would "identify tobacco as harmful and express a desire to reduce or stop using it," most smokers, who try, fail to quit. "Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use, even in the face of negative health consequences, and tobacco use certainly fits the description." (1). This makes it all the more significant when you learn that "three-quarters of the adults who currently smoke started their habit before the age of 21." (2). If adults are already addicted by age 21, when did they start? It turns out that "teenage years are critical ones in the habituation of cigarette smokers." (2). Cigarette companies know that if they can hook a young consumer in their early years, they
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