Harvard Mental Health Letter

Breaking free from nicotine dependence

A combination of strategies boosts the odds of success.

More than 46 million adults in the United States smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, and a few million use snuff or chewing tobacco. Although 70% of smokers say they'd like to stop, nicotine is so addictive that only 3% successfully quit each year.

Smoking sends nicotine straight to the lungs, where it is absorbed by oxygenated blood, delivered to the heart, and pumped into the arteries and to the brain. The nicotine in snuff and chewing tobacco, which is absorbed mainly through the mucous membranes of the mouth, reaches the brain more slowly, but constant use maintains a steady level in the blood and brain.

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