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Nicotine Addiction and Quitting


The activities in this lesson will help students understand why tobacco is addictive and how and why people quit using tobacco.


Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Understand why tobacco is addictive.
  • Identify how and why people quit using tobacco.

Instructional Procedures

Lesson at a Glance

  1. Discuss the chemicals found in tobacco and distribute the chemical list handout.
  2. Discuss addiction.
  3. Complete and discuss the Jolly Rancher® activity .
  4. Discuss quitting tobacco use.
  5. Complete the "Quitting Tobacco Use" worksheet.

New Vocabulary

  • addiction
  • nicotine
  • withdrawal

Introduction (Setting Focus)

  1. Distribute the handout or display the poster, "Chemicals Found in Tobacco" and discuss the chemicals and compounds found in tobacco products.
    1. Tobacco has almost 800 other ingredients and more than 4,000 chemicals.
    2. Chemicals are added to the paper and filter to slow the burning process. Other chemicals, such as ammonia, are added which heighten the nicotine "kick."
    3. The same pigment used in white shoe polish, titanium dioxide, is used to make cigarette filters white.
  2. Reinforce that nicotine is one of many chemicals found in tobacco, and nicotine is what makes tobacco products so highly addictive.
  3. Discuss how cigarettes are a common source of pollution.

Body (Strategies/Activities)

  1. Discuss the following ideas about addiction:
    1. What is an addiction? (A standard definition for addiction is loss of control over the use of a substance or activity, and its continued use despite problems.)
    2. Why are tobacco products so addictive? (Nicotine in tobacco is the reason many smokers can't stop smoking. Many people also develop behavioral habits around tobacco that are very hard to break, like smoking a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or lighting a cigarette during times of stress.)
    3. How many cigarettes can a person smoke before getting addicted? (Nicotine is highly addictive and can have addictive effects after even one use. Addiction to a substance varies by person. For many teenagers, just a few cigarettes is all that are needed to get hooked.)
  2. Discuss facts about addiction:
    1. Nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine, and is more addictive than alcohol.
    2. When inhaled, it takes seven seconds for the nicotine in a cigarette to reach the brain. It takes about 30 seconds for the nicotine in spit tobacco to enter the bloodstream.
    3. One drop (70 mg) of nicotine has the potential to kill a 160-pound male within minutes. One cigarette contains about .2 mg to 2.2 mg of nicotine.
    4. Nicotine is an alkaloid used to kill bugs.
    5. Most smokers say they want to quit smoking and wish they had never started. The younger people start smoking cigarettes, the more likely they are to become addicted to nicotine.
  3. Jolly Rancher® activity
    1. Give each student a Jolly Rancher® or other flavorful hard candy.
    2. Instruct students that they may put the unwrapped candy in their mouth but may not swallow.
    3. During the next two minutes, say the following kinds of statements to the class:
      Move the candy around in your mouth.
      Taste the flavor. Doesn't it taste good?
      Enjoy the taste, but don't swallow.
      Oh, don't you wish you could swallow?
      Is the saliva building up in your mouth?
      Wouldn't it feel so good to take a big swallow?
      How many of you would like to swallow? Sorry, not yet.
      Keep rolling it around in your mouth.
      Enjoy the flavor. It tastes good, doesn't it?

      After two minutes say, "OK, you can swallow now."

    4. Discuss the activity using the following prompts:
      How strong was the desire to swallow?
      What did you think about during those two minutes?
      How is this similar to an addiction?
      How is this different from an addiction?
      If you were one who swallowed before time was called, what did you do to avoid detection?
      What problems does an addict face in trying to manage the addiction?
    5. Display and discuss the poster "When Smokers Quit."

Closure (Wrap-Up and Extension)

  1. Emphasize that even though tobacco use is addictive, many people quit using it and many more never even start.
  2. Explain that for all tobacco users, especially youth, the sooner they quit the better off they'll be, and the very best strategy is to never start.
  3. Explore various free resources such as TRUTH about Tobacco (1-888-567-TRUTH), QuitLine, etc.
  4. Students complete the "Quitting Tobacco Use" handout.
  5. Teachers in the Logan School District use "soil moist" or "Phantom Crystals" planting soils to demonstrate the feeling and consistency of lungs.
  6. Teachers in the Logan School District use a balloon that has a small pin-hole in the end opposite the nozzle to demonstrate how an avioli cannot function when attacked by nicotine. The balloon will not stay inflated and does not respond well when air is blown into it.

Created: 12/21/2009
Updated: 02/06/2020