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Using tobacco does not reduce stress, researchers report

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Many service men and women report that stress is a major reason they smoke or chew tobacco, since military life produces unique pressures and challenges.

But a recent article published on the Department of Defense's tobacco cessation website, http://www.ucanquit2.org, explains how tobacco actually increases stress and why stress levels go down after people kick the nicotine habit.

According to the article, tobacco users feel normal after using nicotine, but stress levels rise in between smoke or chew breaks. Thus, tobacco users are kept constantly bouncing back and forth between feeling normal immediately after using and feeling increasingly stressed as the hours since their last intake of nicotine go by.

"Nicotine gives the impression of reducing stress because, for those addicted to nicotine, the experience of not having nicotine in their body is extremely stressful," said Cmdr. (Dr.) Aileen Buckler, a U.S. Public Health Service officer and chairman of the DOD Alcohol and Tobacco Advisory Committee.

Many tobacco users may fear quitting because they imagine that the discomfort of nicotine deprivation, and the accompanying anxiety and irritability, will go on indefinitely, she said.

But studies show the tide quickly turns. Although stress levels rise in the initial days of the quit process, after 14 days of abstinence, the former user is no more stressed than he would be if he were smoking. From there, it only gets better. Six months out, the former tobacco user can expect to experience significantly less stress than he did as a tobacco user.

To learn more about achieving a less stressful, tobacco-free life, go to www.ucanquit2.org for stress management techniques and a variety of helpful tools.