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Leaves from the tobacco plant contain nicotine, which is the active chemical in cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff or snus. Tobacco is most commonly used in cigarette form in New Zealand as ‘roll-your-owns’ or as pre-made cigarettes.
Using nicotine creates feelings of pleasure and relaxation within ten seconds. Smoking tobacco also has social or personal aspects that smokers enjoy, such as being in a group or taking time for themselves.
The pleasurable feelings associated with tobacco usually die away within a few minutes, causing the smoker to crave more to maintain the pleasurable feeling and prevent withdrawal.
Someone who has had too much nicotine will feel faint and confused and will experience a rapid drop in blood pressure and breathing rate.
Tobacco is linked to many serious long-term health issues. It is best to never start smoking. Second-hand smoke can also harm people around you. If you must smoke, smoke outside. Don't smoke where other people gather or walk.
There is very little research on the long-term health effects of smoking e-cigarettes (vaping). However, recent research suggested the health risks associated with vaping are about 5 percent of the risks from smoking tobacco. This is because vaping releases steam into the lungs which is much less harmful than smoking which releases carbon monoxide and other chemicals when tobacco is burned.
Some people use e-cigarettes as a replacement for smoking and some people use them to quit by slowly reducing the amount of nicotine in their vaping liquid (e-juice).
E-cigarettes are legal to use in New Zealand but it is not legal for retailers to sell e-juice that contains nicotine. However, it is legal to purchase e-juice containing nicotine from overseas retailers for personal use.
Many people who start using tobacco use it for a long time, because nicotine is very addictive and smoking is easily integrated into everyday life. Most people who have used tobacco for a long time find it difficult to stop. Nicotine patches and gum can assist with cutting down or quitting, as can using non-nicotine based e-cigarettes. Quitline provides free advice and resources to help you quit.
New Zealanders can legally buy seeds and grow their own tobacco. Although it is legal to sell tobacco seeds, it is illegal to sell home-grown tobacco plant material or to give it as a gift. Tobacco which is grown must be for personal use only.