After all of the controversy instigated mainly by the media and all the ‘know-it-all’s’ out there, I have decided to take an in-depth look on the substance nicotine. We all know this chemical is most associated with smoking cigarettes, being most commonly found in tobacco, alongside 4000 other toxic materials and chemicals. Nicotine is held solely responsible for millions of people being highly addicted to this craze. But besides its addictive properties, is it really bad for our health? Let’s strip back all the added toxins found in a tobacco cigarette which are in fact proven to be harmful to us, and focus on just the nicotine. This chemical alone satisfies our cravings and makes us feel a sort of euphoria, a sense of relaxation and stress-free mentality, but will we ultimately end up with an extreme illness or worse dead if we continue using it?
So let’s begin with some background information on the addictive chemical, what is it and where does it come from? Nicotine is a Nitrogen based chemical made by plants and is present in tobacco. Nicotine can be absorbed into the body through smoking, chewing or sniffing tobacco, and also through the skin. Whichever way nicotine is consumed it enters the blood stream, circulates the body, travels to the brain and activates receptors through stimulation and leaving you feeling satisfied yet dependant on re-using it. It is found concentrated in leaves of plants which is used as an insecticide to repel insects from eating them. So being naturally produced by plants to repel their enemies, is nicotine essentially poisonous to us as it is for the hungry plant eating bugs out there? Let’s investigate further…
Nicotine, like other addictive substances such as alcohol, drugs and caffeine, proves to have a physical dependence which causes cravings and eventually addiction. It affects two main areas of the body and causes the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine that give us that feel good sensation. Tobacco smoking in particular contains several other substances that increase the speed in which your body breaks down these neurotransmitters, giving you that ‘kick’ in as little as 7 seconds. This sudden release to the body is one of the main reasons as to why people think nicotine is so addictive and cravings are so intense. Like caffeine, the consumption of nicotine will also result in a release of adrenaline to the body, increasing blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar levels. There’s no wonder why a decent cup of coffee and a good puff in the morning gives you the feeling of being on top of your game, ready to start the day! This feeling of being on top of the world slowly reduces after around 2 hours, at which point our body craves more, and urges the brain that we need to consume another dose. This process continues the more you use nicotine and suppresses your cravings with a dose. Eventually the body gets used to the consumption and therefore it starts craving more and more each time, each puff suppressing your cravings and giving you a sense of bliss and exhilaration. Why on earth would you not want more? Although the physical withdrawals to things like nicotine, caffeine and sugar are considered to be milder than those from drugs like heroin and alcohol, you can still face side effects like anxiety, drowsiness, restlessness and frustration. Psychological cravings can stay with you for forever.
A point to remember is it’s not the toxins such as tar, carbon monoxide, and tobacco in a cigarette (all the chemicals that are confirmed to be bad for your health) that keeps you craving more, it’s the nicotine. Personally, I feel that we have a lack of knowledge in general about cigarettes’ key substance: nicotine and which has let us down knowing all the facts we need to know.
As previously stated, nicotine is a chemical, which could be deemed as a poison. Its ability to naturally repel unwanted insects from plants gives it this ‘poisonous’ branding. The prime word here is natural. Nicotine is a natural substance. For sure when artificial chemicals are added to its state it becomes highly poisonous, such as tobacco cigarettes and even artificial insect repellent. But on its own is it poisonous? Nicotine itself has both positive and negative effects, very much like caffeine. Yes, nicotine is used as a natural pesticide, but caffeine is also! We need to remember when it comes to something being toxic, it’s not the substance it’s the dosage. For example, if you drink 40 litres of water in one hour, you will likely die. If you drink 50 cups of coffees a day, you may get heart problems or have a heart attack (that or not be able to sleep at night). If you down 3 litres of fizzy cola without stopping, you could drop dead. The same applies to nicotine. If it is consumed at a high level (50-60mg+) it can be fatal. But the reality is there is no way you would consume such a high amount of nicotine through smoking or vaping. At a 1-6mg nicotine level (usually found in cigarettes) nicotine is not a problem. It will give you that kick you crave for, and it works like a coffee does. However, if you consume very high quantities in a short amount of time it will cause nausea, vomiting, pains, headaches etc. The amazing thing with nicotine is that the tiniest of doses is perfectly ok and will make you want more. Over the period of a day you will increase the amount you consume, but when you intake too much your body tells you to stop. Anyone who smokes or used to smoke will know this, you usually smoke a similar amount of cigarettes each day, if you go over that amount by a considerable quantity you start to feel worse and therefore stop. Not to mention all of the other negative effects smoking has on your body without you realising, it is merely the nicotine that keeps you wanting more. The tobacco cigarette industry has been around for decades with millions of people consuming its product. It has been said that over the years suppliers have slowly increased the dosage of nicotine in cigarettes in order to keep people addicted, craving more, and subsequently buying more. Needless to say, the amounts of health problems these people face are unmeasurable. After all, you become addicted to a product that is proven to be bad for you and at worse result in life threatening illnesses. But it is not the nicotine substance that is held responsible for thousands of deaths.
If nicotine is used sensibly in appropriate doses it is not harmful to the body. The more nicotine you consume, the greater the chance of negative side effects (in the case of extremely high doses). Yes, the more you use it the more you become addicted, but there is always a point where your cravings are suppressed. Consuming nicotine has both pharmacologic and psychodynamic effects, and highly addictive properties, but as long as you are using it in moderation there is absolutely no harm. And thus, is it really any worse for you than a cup of coffee with a few spoons of sugar? Both caffeine and nicotine can cause alertness, raise the heart and release dopamine leaving you feeling upbeat and perky. However, why is it that people are so at ease when taking a morning stroll to a local coffee shop (or going out of their way to find one!) to order their double shot latte (and then again in the afternoon), but are thinking twice when vaping on an electronic cigarette? Like coffee, nicotine is not a deadly product. If it is sold and used responsibly, it is basically harmless. The product is used because of the way it makes you feel, yes it is highly addictive, but by using the correct dose it is innocent.
We have to understand that it is not the nicotine in cigarettes that is so harmful, it is the thousands of toxins such as tar and carbon monoxide that, when you strike up with a match, emits tons of dangerous, poisonous and malodourous chemicals. This is precisely what damages your lungs, stains your teeth, causes gum disease, leaves you short of breath, discolours your nails, triggers infertilities and can eventually lead to life threatening diseases like cancer or even worse, death. Yes, using nicotine increases your heart rate slightly, which may be harmful to those with weak hearts, but it is no more life threatening than drinking a cup of coffee. The only bad point when using nicotine is that it is highly addictive, especially when being inhaled. The reason for this is because it gets to the brain much faster and in higher quantities. When taken orally or via patches, the dose is usually a lot smaller and reaches the brain far more gradually so the pleasure response is minimal (I think this is probably why I found nicotine patches and gum). With nicotine, the withdrawals can be quite extreme. However if used in appropriate doses and in a safe product form, which for me is my e cig there would be no reason to ever stop satisfying your nicotine cravings.
Consequently, although there are tons of people raving about how bad nicotine is for you, it’s no worse for your body than a cup of coffee or a glass of fizzy cola. I agree nicotine is is an addictive chemical, but when used in a responsible dose and safe product, it is pretty much harmless. My favourite way of getting my nicotine fix is through vaping an electronic cigarette as you are able to choose the strength of nicotine you vape. As stated above, nicotine can be harmful to your body when consumed in large quantities, but let’s be real; it’s extremely unlikely for anyone to ever feel satisfaction by consuming too much of it because why would you ever want to intake so much of something when it makes you feel sick? I’m going to go one step further and suggest that because nicotine is a stimulant, like coffee, it affects your mood, memory and concentration and the brain from certain types of damage. With both positive and negatives points of consideration, I now ask the question: what is all the fuss? We all know that consuming anything in vast amounts can have damaging effects on our body even if it has been proved to be the healthiest thing out there, water being a prime example. Our bodies are designed to take everything in moderation and nicotine is no exception. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a vape on an electronic cigarette to get your nicotine fix, nothing wrong with a cup of coffee in the morning, nothing wrong with the odd pizza and glass of wine on a Friday night, it’s when people take things to the extreme that they become a real problem. Let’s stop scrutinizing everything that is said to be ‘bad’ for us, and start thinking of living. Nicotine containing products like electronic cigarettes (when consumed correctly) can be varied to include from 0 grams of nicotine upto 2.6mg. Just as much so a as a cup of coffee for someone who is being woken up at 6am preparing for the school run. Ultimately, it’s not nicotine that is deadly; it’s the way in which we use it!