Chain-smoking is when you constantly or continually smoke cigarettes. You might finish one cigarette and then instantly light up another or be a frequent smoker with short breaks between each cigarette.

If you smoke, you might wonder what chain-smoking means or have questions about it.

How many cigarettes do you need to smoke to be chain-smoking, for example, or does chain-smoking come with its side effects?

Chain-smoking doesn’t necessarily mean you smoke cigarettes one after the other all day. In fact, there’s no set definition of what constitutes chain-smoking.

So, it can be difficult to know whether you’re chain-smoking. But, as a general rule, chain-smoking is roughly synonymous with very frequent smoking.

While people tend to associate chain-smoking with cigarettes, you could theoretically chain-smoke other tobacco products like cigars. But generally, people chain-smoke cigarettes.

You might be chain-smoking if you find yourself smoking continually, finishing one cigarette, and lighting another right away — or somebody else has told you that you’re doing so.

However, chain-smoking is also used to describe the act of smoking cigarettes frequently, but not necessarily one after the other.

Sometimes, people chain-smoke while drinking alcohol. This can be partly because alcohol increases the effects of nicotine receptors, making people more sensitive to nicotine and bringing on cravings. For this reason, even if you don’t smoke frequently, you might find yourself chain-smoking when drinking.

Chain-smoking is often a sign of addiction to nicotine. If you find yourself craving cigarettes and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you go without smoking, it might be a sign of dependence or addiction.

Smoking can impact your ability to handle stress. If you chain-smoke, you might not be able to think as clearly in the short term.

Smoking, and in turn chain-smoking, can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue. It can also dull your senses.

When smoking, the body gets a rush of adrenaline. This causes your blood pressure, breathing rate, and heart rate to increase. These effects are more pronounced when chain-smoking.

Smoking is the world’s leading cause of preventable death. Secondhand smoke and smoking are responsible for over 480,000 deaths yearly in the United States.

Chain-smoking can increase your risk of short-term side effects and chronic health conditions.

If you’re chain-smoking and you’d like to slow down or quit, smoking cessation may help you. Visit our smoking cessation resource center for information and tips, or speak with a healthcare professional.

Adam England lives in the UK, and his work has appeared in a number of national and international publications. When he’s not working, he’s probably listening to live music.