Scientific Evidence for the Addictiveness of Tobacco and Smoking Cessation in Tobacco Litigation

  • Roh, Sungwon (Department of Psychiatry, Hanyang University College of Medicine)
  • Received : 2016.09.20
  • Accepted : 2017.11.29
  • Published : 2018.01.31


Smokers keep smoking despite knowing that tobacco claims many lives, including their own and others'. What makes it hard for them to quit smoking nonetheless? Tobacco companies insist that smokers choose to smoke, according to their right to self-determination. Moreover, they insist that with motivation and willpower to quit smoking, smokers can easily stop smoking. Against this backdrop, this paper aims to discuss the addictive disease called tobacco use disorder, with an assessment of the addictiveness of tobacco and the reasons why smoking cessation is challenging, based on neuroscientific research. Nicotine that enters the body via smoking is rapidly transmitted to the central nervous system and causes various effects, including an arousal response. The changes in the nicotine receptors in the brain due to continuous smoking lead to addiction symptoms such as tolerance, craving, and withdrawal. Compared with other addictive substances, including alcohol and opioids, tobacco is more likely to cause dependence in smokers, and smokers are less likely to recover from their dependence. Moreover, the thinning of the cerebral cortex and the decrease in cognitive functions that occur with aging accelerate with smoking. Such changes occur in the structure and functions of the brain in proportion to the amount and period of smoking. In particular, abnormalities in the neural circuits that control cognition and decision-making cause loss of the ability to exert self-control and autonomy. This initiates nicotine dependence and the continuation of addictive behaviors. Therefore, smoking is considered to be a behavior that is repeated due to dependence on an addictive substance, nicotine, instead of one's choice by free will.


Supported by : Hanyang University


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