Stop Smoking Glossary

A definition of smoking related jargon.


Addiction - A physical and/or mental state in which you are dependant on a substance or activity, and have no control over that state.

Ammonia -A colourless substance with a very sharp smell that is present in cigarette smoke. Boosts nicotine intake.

Anxiety - An emotional state which is characterised by feelings of nervousness and apprehension. Often caused by stress. Symptoms of anxiety include: heart palpitations, excessive sweating, dizziness, sweating and light-headiness.

Arteriosclerosis - Often confused with atherosclerosis: the name given to a number of conditions in which fatty deposits are able build up in the arteries, thereby causing them to thicken and narrow over time. This obstructs normal blood flow which leads to a heart attack or stroke.

It is caused by high blood pressure and damage to the walls of the arteries, usually as a result of cigarette smoke.

Asthma - An upper respiratory condition in which the bronchial tubes become inflamed, as a result of cigarette smoke, which causes them to narrow and affects the breathing.

Atherosclerosis - Often interchanged with arteriosclerosis: this is where fatty deposits or plaque build up in an artery over time which leads to ‘furring’ (hardening) of that artery and restricted blood flow.

Smoking increases the heart rate and blood pressure which causes increased clotting, raised cholesterol and the risk of an arterial blockage.


Benzene - A substance found in cigarette smoke which is categorised as a carcinogen. It is cited as a cause of leukaemia and other blood related cancers.

Breathing -A function of the human body in which air is inhaled into the lungs through the nose or mouth and exhaled in the same way.

Bronchitis - An inflammation of the two small airways from the windpipe to the

lungs (bronchi).

Bupropion - More commonly known by its brand name Zyban. A prescription only drug which is used to treat nicotine withdrawal symptoms, caused by stopping smoking.


Cancer - Often referred to in the singular but there are many different forms of cancer. It is caused by uncontrollable cell growth which leads to a tumour and can spread to other areas of the body. Many types of cancer are caused by smoking such as lung, throat, stomach, kidney, oesophagus and stomach.

Carbon monoxide - A colourless, odourless, toxic gas which is commonly found in cigarette smoke.

Carcinogen - A substance which can cause cancer. Carcinogens vary in strength and as a result of this have been assigned severity ratings.

For example, rating 4 is least likely to cause cancer in humans whereas rating 1 will cause cancer in humans. (Source: International Agency for Research on Cancer)

Champix - The brand name of the anti-smoking drug Varenicline. Available on prescription only it works by reducing nicotine cravings as well as easing withdrawal symptoms.

Cholesterol - A wax-like, fatty substance, produced by the liver which is essential for hormone production and fat absorption. There are two types of cholesterol: bad ‘LDL’ and good ‘HDL’. Smoking raises bad ‘LDL’ levels which increase the risk of heart disease or stroke. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) A progressive disease system which is characterised by bronchitis and emphysema. It is caused by the inhalation of cigarette smoke which inflames the airways and reduces oxygen flow. This leads to wheezing, coughing and breathlessness which worsens over time.

Cilia - Fine, hair-like structures in the lungs which help them to remove fluid and other substances. But tar in cigarette smoke causes them to become rigid which prevents them from doing their normal function. This leads to the development of bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer.

Cold turkey - A slang term used to describe the process of using willpower only to stop smoking.

Craving - A need or urge for something, for example a cigarette.


Dopamine - A hormone present in certain parts of the brain which causes a whole range of pleasurable effects. Nicotine causes levels of this to rise which is why smokers experience a high when they have a cigarette.


Emphysema - A progressive chest disease which comes under the umbrella term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

It is caused by cigarette smoke which damages air sacs in the lungs leading to shortness of breath, wheezing and difficulty with breathing.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) - A combination of mainstream cigarette smoke (smoke inhaled by the puffing of a cigarette) and modified sidestream smoke (smoke from the burning tip of a cigarette).


Filler - The name given to tobacco which has been prepared for cigarette smoking.

Filter - A substance attached to the end of a cigarette which mixes air with cigarette smoke, thereby reducing the amount of smoke (and tar and nicotine) inhaled.

Formaldehyde - This substance is more commonly found in mortuaries but is also present in cigarette smoke. It causes a variety of lung disease and is also a known carcinogen.


Green leaf - A type of tobacco leaf which is harvested before it is ripe.


Haemoglobin - A protein in red blood cells which combines with oxygen in the lungs before transporting it around the body. This protein also gives blood its red colour.

High blood pressure (hypertension) - A condition where the blood pressure rises above normal levels. This forces the heart to work harder which puts a strain on it as well as damaging the walls of the arteries.

Smoking doesn’t cause high blood pressure but it is a major contributory factor.


Impotence The inability to sustain an erection. Smoking disrupts the blood supply to the penis which prevents it from functioning normally.


None at present.


Kidney cancer - A form of cancer which develops in the tissues of the kidneys. There are several causes of kidney cancer which include smoking.


Larynx cancer Cancer of the voice box which can develop as a result of smoking.

Low birth weight - A baby whose weight is below the average. If a woman continues to smoke during pregnancy then she is at increased risk of a smaller then normal baby. This can lead to problems in the earlier years and later on in life.

Lung cancer - A cancer where there is abnormal cell division in the lungs. This is the most lethal form of cancer for both men and women and the vast majority of cases are caused by smoking.


Mainstream smoke - A type of smoke which is inhaled by the smoker as they puff on a cigarette.

Menopause - A stage in a woman’s life which marks the end of her reproductive capabilities. Often known as ‘the change of life’.

Metabolism - The name given to the series of processes in the body which convert food into energy. The speed of these processes is referred to as the metabolic rate. Nicotine in cigarette smoke increases metabolic rate.

Mouth cancer - A type of cancer which can develop in any part of the mouth.


Neurotransmitter - The medical term for a chemical messenger that enables cells to interact with each other. Nicotine increases dopamine levels in the brain – a neurotransmitter which is responsible for feelings of pleasure and elation experienced by the smoker.

Nicotine - A highly powerful drug contained in cigarette smoke. It is highly addictive and stimulates both the brain and the body. It causes a wide range of effects on the body which include increased heart rate, raised blood pressure and reduced oxygen intake.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) - A collective name for anti-smoking treatments which contain a set nicotine dosage. These are designed to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms caused by stopping smoking.

Examples of this include nicotine sprays, patches and gum.


Oesophagus - The medical term for the long tube which runs from the throat to the stomach.

Oral cancer - A cancer which develops in any area of the mouth, for example, the tongue or the lip.


Passive smoking - Also known as second hand smoke: the inhalation of another person’s smoke.

Peripheral vascular disease A condition which affects the arteries supplying the arms (occasionally) and legs. Smoking is one cause of this disease which restricts blood supply to these arteries leading to cramps, numbness and skin rashes.

Pneumonia - An inflammation of the lungs, often caused by bacteria or a virus. Symptoms include chest pain, fever, chills and difficulty breathing.

Smokers are particularly prone to this disease as their lungs function less well than those of a non-smoker.

Pulmonary embolism - The blockage of a blood vessel, usually in the lung, which results in shortness of breath, fever and chest pain.


None at present.


Respiratory lung failure - Failure of the lungs to perform normal respiration –the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This can occur as a result of lung disease or damage to the airways caused by smoking.

Roll up - A type of cigarette which is prepared at home. The smoker rolls a portion of tobacco in a cigarette paper and moistens one side to seal it.


Second hand smoke - Another name for passive smoking: this is smoke breathed out into the environment which is inhaled by a non-smoker. There is evidence to show that it leads to a range of disease such as heart disease and cancer.

Sidestream smoke - A type of smoke which travels up into the air from the burning end of a cigarette.

Snuff - A form of tobacco powder which is inhaled through the nose rather than smoked.

Stomach cancer - Cancer that develops in the stomach, and may spread to other internal organs.


Tar - A black, sticky substance found in cigarettes.

Throat cancer - Cancer which forms in the throat.

Thrombosis - The medical term for the formation of a blood clot in a vessel. Smoking restricts blood flow, reduces oxygen supply and increases clotting which all contributory factors.

Tobacco - Herb in which the leaves are cured and then prepared, ready for chewing or smoking. It contains a wide range of substances which includes nicotine.


None at present.


Varenicline - Also known as Champix. A drug designed to help with stopping smoking. It reduces both the symptoms and cravings caused by nicotine withdrawal.


Wheezing - A whistling like sound caused by the constriction of the airways.

Whole tar - A collective term for tar, nicotine and water.

Withdrawal - An umbrella term used to describe a range of symptoms that are experienced as a result of the cessation of an addictive drug. For example, nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, headaches and irritability caused by stopping smoking.

World No Tobacco Day - First introduced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) back in 1987. It aims to raise awareness of the negative impact of tobacco in all corners of the globe.


None at present.


None at present.


Zyban - The brand name of the anti-smoking drug Buproprion. This the second of two prescription drugs which are designed to help with stopping smoking. Zyban acts on neurotransmitters in the brain by reducing both nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

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