Tobacco leaves can be shredded and smoked in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. They can also be ground up into a brown powder called snuff. The shredded leaves and snuff can be chewed or held in the mouth between the cheek and the gums. The snuff also can be sniffed up the nose.

It might surprise you to learn that cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are drugs. It's legal to use tobacco once you're 18 or 19 years old, depending on where you live. But it's not healthy for you at any age.

Tobacco contains nicotine, a substance that excites the parts of the brain that make you feel good. You can get addicted to nicotine just like other drugs.

When you use tobacco, the nicotine quickly gives you a mild rush of pleasure and energy. But it soon wears off, which makes you want to use it some more. Sometimes, the rush of energy that comes with nicotine can make you nervous and edgy.

Some slang names for cigarettes are:

  • Smokes
  • Cancer sticks
  • Coffin nails

Some slang names for chewing tobacco and snuff are:

  • Chew
  • Wad
  • Dip

Learn About Electronic Cigarettes

Read NIDA's DrugFacts: Electronic Cigarettes (e-Cigarettes) for information about electronic cigarettes, including how safe they are compared to tobacco cigarettes.