Understanding and Addressing Nicotine Addiction: A Science-Based Approach to Policy and Practice | The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

Understanding and Addressing Nicotine Addiction: A Science-Based Approach to Policy and Practice

Understanding and Addressing Nicotine Addiction: A Science-Based Approach to Policy and Practice

Published: October 2015

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Background

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that not only perpetuates tobacco use, the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States, but also has its own adverse effects. Nicotine addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease and the prevalence of nicotine addiction is higher than that of alcohol and other drug addiction. The use of nicotine-containing products not only is associated with developing nicotine addiction, but also with using and becoming addicted to alcohol and other drugs.

Despite the decline in recent years in the use of cigarettes, the use of alternative, non-cigarette nicotine products has been rising dramatically. While the overall harm of these products appears to be considerably lower than the harms associated with cigarette use, all nicotine-containing products carry the risk of addiction and other adverse health effects and, therefore, are a threat to the public health. 

Methods

In this guide, we have reviewed the available research on nicotine and a variety of nicotine products to determine the risks, correlates and consequences of nicotine use. We also conducted secondary analysis of national data to determine the prevalence of nicotine addiction in the total population and among key demographic sub-groups, as well as its relationship to other substance use and addiction.

Recommendations and Conclusions

A science-based approach to the regulation of all nicotine-containing products is required. Adequate attention must be paid to preventing the use of all addictive substances, including nicotine, and providing effective treatments that reduce or eliminate harm to those with addiction. This paper provides specific recommendations for policy and practice that can help to:

  • Strengthen tobacco control regulations and policies and apply them to all nicotine-containing products
  • Improve prevention, early intervention and treatment practice
  • Generate quality research

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