Tobacco use disorder occurs when the use of tobacco harms a person’s health or social functioning, or when a person becomes dependent on tobacco. Tobacco may be consumed in the form of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products (eg, snuff, chewing tobacco), cigars, or pipes.

This condition can be treated. Talk to your doctor if you think you have tobacco use disorder.


Tobacco products contain nicotine, which is transported to the brain and causes pleasurable sensations. The effects of nicotine dissipate within a few minutes, however. This cause tobacco users to continue using tobacco to maintain the pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal. Other chemicals in tobacco products may also contribute to tobacco use disorder.

Risk Factors

The following factors increase your chance of developing tobacco use disorder. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:


If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to tobacco use disorder. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

Throat Cancer

Throat cancer
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

A study involving over 100,000 women found that smoking is associated with a shorter life span. After five years of quitting smoking, though, women had a reduced chance of dying compared to those who continued smoking.


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. He or she will ask you specific questions about your tobacco use, such as how long you have been using tobacco and how often you use it.

Your doctor can test your lung function and compare the results to those of a non-smoking person. The results can be given to you as your “lung age.” Knowing your “lung age” right after having the test done may help you to stop smoking. * 3


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), including nicotine gum, nasal sprays, patches, and inhalers, are used to relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms. They do not produce the pleasurable effects of tobacco products, so there is little chance NRT will be abused. Combining behaviorial therapy with NRT may be even more helpful.

According to studies, NRT may help you to:

  • Reduce the amount of tobacco you usually consume and quit altogether even if you are unable or unwilling to stop smoking
  • Quit and stay smoke-free if you use the product before your actual "quit day" * 4
  • Abstain from smoking * 5

Talk to you doctor about how to best use this therapy.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapies to help people quit using tobacco include:

  • Step-by-step manuals
  • Telephone quit lines
  • Self-help classes
  • Group behavior therapy—This may be more helpful than self-help programs. * 7
  • Counseling
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy —This teaches people to recognize high-risk tobacco use situations, develop alternate coping strategies, manage stress, improve problem-solving skills, and increase social support.

Other Medications

Research has shown that certain medications, including the antidepressant bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline tartrate (Chantix) may help people quit smoking. Varenicline tartrate helps ease symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and may block the effects of nicotine if people resume smoking.

A Note About the Effects of Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Even if you’re not a smoker, exposure to smoke from tobacco products on a regular basis is dangerous, sometimes even life-threatening.

Here are the US Surgeon General’s conclusions about effects from inhaling secondhand smoke:

  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma . Smoking by parents causes respiratory symptoms and slows lung growth in their children.
  • Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer.
  • The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke. But eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.


The best way to prevent tobacco use disorder is to never use tobacco products. Tobacco products are highly addictive. Also, avoid regular exposure to secondhand smoke.