Anybody who has smoked, or known someone who smokes, is familiar with the word “nicotine”. But what is nicotine? And why does it seem to always be mentioned in a negative tone? Nicotine is a chemical compound found in tobacco, in relatively high concentrations and it constitutes something from 0.6 to 3.0 % of the weight of dry tobacco. It is highly addictive and it is a big reason why smoking has negative health effects for heavy smokers in the long run, since few find themselves able to quit it due to the influence of nicotine on their brain. Many alternatives have been proposed to give nicotine addicts an alternative outlet for their addiction but none of them offers an easy solution to break this addiction.
Ever since the Europeans entered into contact with tobacco, thanks to their contact with the Native Americans, they soon recognized the addictive and opiate-like effects on the body, that made them feel benumbed and almost immune to fatigue but at the same time they also felt the effects of their increasing dependency on tobacco, and their inability to quit it, even after serious reprimands from religious authorities who condemn this new found vice. It was this sedative quality mixed with the highly-addictive nature of nicotine which transformed it from being an unknown product of the Americas, to being consumed all over the world in just a little more than a century.
Modern cigarettes are even more powerful. This is not only to the fact that companies are able to refine the nicotine and make it purer and stronger, but also because they also mix it with other additives like ammonia and tar which makes nicotine reach your brain much faster. Cigarettes contain anywhere from 8 mg to up to 20 mg of nicotine – with most cigarettes containing around 12 mg – but that doesn’t mean that you take all of it into your body. In fact studies have established that in average you absorb around 1 mg of nicotine with every cigarette you smoke, but even thought this may seem like an insignificant amount keep in mind that every extra cigarette you smoke increases your addiction to nicotine and makes it harder for you to leave it.
But addiction in itself wouldn’t be a problem if tobacco was free from detrimental effects on your health. Smoking has long been known to be the cause of numerous respiratory diseases that go from cancer, to causing strokes, and even infertility among women; and it can damage different parts of your body, from your heart, to your lungs, throat, and even your brain. There are different chemical compounds responsible for this health problems, and tobacco defenders have argued that tobacco is not as harmful as the additives that cigarette companies add to them. Nevertheless, several different illnesses have been related to nicotine consumption, including heart diseases, cancer, risks of fetal underdevelopment, and even lethal overdose.
Nicotine when taken in large concentrations, can be deathly to humans with the fatal dose being in the range of 30-60 mg. Some investigations have found the dose required for nicotine poisoning to be higher and unlikely to be ingested simply by smoking alone. But the rise of the electronic cigarettes has created concern for the possibility of overdoses from the e-liquid – mainly on children who are unaware of the danger of taking a high amount of nicotine. Even so, death by a nicotine overdose, though possible, remains extremely uncommon but the dangers of worsening your addiction by taking such high amounts of nicotine remain very real.
An Alternative To Cigarettes
To provide smokers with an alternative free from nicotine there have been many different inventions, from herbal cigarettes that contain no tobacco – and therefore no nicotine – to electronic cigarettes, which allows the users to feel like they are smoking while in reality they are only inhaling a vapor that tastes like tobacco, and yet it is free from nicotine. Ever since their introduction in the market in 2004 e-cigarettes have gained increasing popularity amongst smokers. Though they are a popular method for reducing nicotine consumption, many vapers – as their consumers are called – also use them as an alternative way of ingesting nicotine by buying special e-liquids that contain its own dose of nicotine.
Studies are not conclusive in whether nicotine-charge e-cigarettes are more likely to cause addiction than regular cigarettes, although some studies have shown that dual using of e-cigarettes and tobacco can create an increased sense of dependence. Equally concerning is the fact that many young e-cigarette consumers have reported that they have never smoked tobacco cigarettes before, implying that what originally was created as a way to allow tobacco smokers to break off their addiction may in fact be drawing new vapers to become addicted to nicotine.
Even though e-cigarettes are known to be a healthier choice to tobacco, studies have shown that the vapor exhales by e-smokers contains toxic chromium, an element which is not found on traditional cigarettes and levels of nickel that are four times higher than those found in tobacco. In addition to this, e-liquids contain a substance called diacetyl, which is used to add butterscotch flavor to liquid tobacco. This substance is completely harmless when eated, but it is extremely dangerous to inhale because it causes a disease known as Popcorn Lung – Bronchiolitis Obliterans – which is an irreversible disease, most usually found in popcorn factory workers where this substance is highly used, that damages the lungs and eventually makes it impossible to breath properly.
There is no perfect solution to the problem of nicotine addiction. Although e-cigarettes represent a big improvement for smokers, giving a good alternative to replicate what it feels like smoking a cigarette without exposing you to the effects of nicotine and other harmful chemicals, they also create problems that are unique to them. But even though e-cigarettes can still have negative consequences for your health, when you take into consideration the fact that if you use nicotine-free e-liquids you can have a healthier outlet for your smoking addiction, you come to realize that the best advice you can take is to keep in mind that good old proverb: “Everything is good in moderation”.