Nicotine is a stimulant that is in desperate need of a PR agent. Call it the lack of knowledge or the need for a buzzword by the media, nicotine has received an intense dose of bad press since the 1960s. At one point, it was thought to cause cancer, which, by the way, is 100% myth. It does not cause any cardiovascular diseases either. Yet, the negativity towards nicotine is real and it is deeply rooted in the public psyche. So, it’s no wonder that any product that contains nicotine in any concentration gets a bad rep too. So, is nicotine really so bad for you? Let’s get to know the infamous nicotine better and the effects it has on your body.
What is nicotine?
Nicotine is an alkaloid, and its chemical structure is similar to that of cocaine and caffeine. It is found abundantly in nature. In fact, trace amounts of nicotine are found even in eggplants, potatoes, and tomatoes.
Don’t be. While there is 20mg of nicotine in every gram of tobacco, there’s only 0.0001mg of this substance in every gram of eggplant.
When you smoke a cigarette, there is around 10mg of nicotine in every traditional cigarette stick. However, you consume way less nicotine than that via smoking. Since the cigarette burns away while you smoke it, you consume less than 1mg of nicotine with every smoke of a cigarette.
How quickly can the body absorb the nicotine?
It takes 10 or maybe 20 seconds for the body to absorb the nicotine. When you smoke, the nicotine is passed on to the lungs, then to the bloodstream, and finally, it makes its way to the brain. The quick absorption makes you feel the effects of nicotine almost immediately. Most cigarette companies also make their cigarettes more alkaline in order to accelerate the absorption rate of nicotine. So, the effects you feel may differ from cigarette to cigarette.
Is Nicotine Addictive?
When the nicotine reaches the brain from the lungs, it binds to its receptors there, and as a result, a variety of neurotransmitters are released. These include dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate, among others. They cause the body to feel relaxed, affect the mood, and cause excitement in a person. This is a simplified version of the entire process, because hormones are interconnected and result in a complex set of reactions that are still being studied. But, this is the predominant reason why smokers feel what they feel when they smoke a cigarette. As the body remembers smoking as a “good” experience, it is addictive.
However, smoking an e-cigarette is a little different.Vaping takes the nicotine to the throat and the mouth, and not the lungs. The nicotine reaches the bloodstream through a different and a slower route. Even lesser nicotine is absorbed this way when compared to smoking and hence, e-cigarettes are way less addictive.
Is Nicotine Harmful?
This is the most important question of all. Michael Russel, the most respected name in the field of tobacco research, once stated, “People smoke for nicotine, but die from the tar”. This surmises the truth. Nicotine may be addictive, but it is not really harmful. In fact, studies have shown that nicotine can improve focus and promote happiness in ADHD patients. It also enhances cognitive abilities and studies have shown that it may help patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Deaths caused by smoking can actually be prevented by alternative ways of nicotine ingestion like nicotine patches and vaporizers.
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