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(7) Quit Smoking

Is tobacco a drug?

There is no single, precise definition for a drug, but generally speaking, a drug is defined as a compound that, when ingested, alters bodily function in some manner. Surprisingly, it was not until 1996 that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared nicotine a drug and thus attempted unsuccessfully to bring it under its jurisdiction.

This unusual fact has to do with the differences that exist between various definitions of drug. There are definitions that are chemical, biological, medical, cultural, and legal. With respect to the legal definition, defining nicotine as a drug changes the laws that regulate its distribution and use. This is why, even though coffee and cocoa are technically drugs, they are not drugs under the legal definition. The role of the FDA is to ensure the “purity, safety, and effectiveness of drugs and the ‘devices’ used to deliver drugs.”

Nicotine is defined as a drug and the cigarette is defined as a delivery device. According to the FDA, nicotine is a drug because it stimulates the brain and enhances feelings of pleasure, thereby reinforcing its continued use by the individual. In other words, nicotine alters the functions of both the body and the brain, which meets the FDA definition of a drug.

Another effect is the damage cigarettes cause to the body, notably to the lungs and cardiovascular system, often causing cancer and death. This adds to the definition and furthers the need for control by the FDA. Consequently, the FDA attempted to place restrictions on tobacco advertising and sales to minors. However, this was overturned by the Supreme Court until 2008, when Congress finally passed a law granting the FDA authority.


 From my point of view, I feel that tobacco is a drug with one of the strongest levels of addiction. It keeps you in such place of denial because when I was smoking, I could not see that I was ruled by the tobacco. After quitting, I began to see that tobacco controlled every aspect of my life. Even after breaking the physical addiction, there was still more work to do on the mental addiction.



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