Is Nicotine Bad For You?

Is Nicotine Bad For You?

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Previously we showed the effects of nicotine with seven of the most popular benefits. But is nicotine really all that safe? What about long term effects on heart rate or blood pressure? Is there a certain point where nicotine may become bad for you?

Nicotine is an alkaloid found naturally in tobacco and tobacco products. While it is the molecule responsible for all the withdrawal and addiction effects related to smoking but is it really bad for your health? It is the primary psychoactive substance in e-cigarettes as well. Nicotine acts directly on the nervous system and causes a powerful addiction, sometimes more than that of cocaine or heroin. Like any addictive substance, nicotine use in young people especially during the years of brain development can lead to long term nicotine addiction. Although not impossible to overcome, subconscious addiction formed during brain development years is a layer of nicotine addiction that is a great challenge for anyone trying to quit. This is one of the reasons why anyone who is not an adult should never consider e-cigarettes or any addictive substance because of this sinister effect which brings many health risks. The subconscious mind is many times more powerful than your conscious mind and an article that breaks down the health risks of this type of addiction from early nicotine exposure in young people is this study from the people of UC San Diego in the United States: Early Life Exposure to Nicotine Alters Neurons, Predisposes Brain to Addiction Later in Life.

Once inhaled, nicotine takes only a few seconds to reach the brain. Whether you are smoking a cigarette or inhaling an aerosol with e-cigarettes, it has a rapid anxiolytic effect, a stimulating effect as well as a hunger suppression effect. It is generally understood from a health perspective that using e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking  or other tobacco products. Primarily because e-cigarettes do not contain the thousands of chemicals that cause long term health issues with blood pressure or heart disease or abnormal heart rate, etc…

Inhalation: The key factor in cigarette smoke and e-cigarettes

One of the main factors that create the addiction is the concentration of nicotine in the blood which delivers the nicotine to the brain.  Only inhalation allows this level of high concentration. This is also why e-cigarettes work so well. The vapor takes the same path as smoke although not as efficiently. The fine droplets of tar in cigarette smoke allow nicotine to circulate better in the body, which is different than the mixture of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin contained in e-cigarettes, which doesn’t carry the substance as well. A study found that an electronic cigarette user had to vape for more than 30 minutes to achieve the same level of nicotine in the blood as a smoker. This is why vapers more often have their e-cigarette on hand almost constantly; they vape more to feel the same effects. In “Differential Effects of E-Cigarette on Microvascular Endothelial Function, Arterial Stiffness and Oxidative Stress: A Randomized Crossover Trial” we can read:

Participants’ serum nicotine concentrations at 30 minutes after nicotine vaping were similar to those attained after tobacco cigarette smoking[…]

With substitutes such as patches, gums or lozenges, nicotine penetrates the body more slowly, whether through the skin or the oral mucosa. By chewing tobacco we have an intermediate situation; the tobacco contains a stronger nicotine concentration and has an easier absorption capacity. The nicotine molecule itself is harmless and not carcinogenic. When vaped, the vapors from the e-cigarette is very quickly diffused in the blood and the brain; taking all less than 30 seconds. This causes sensations of pleasure, thus re-enforcing the addiction. On the other hand, the nicotine contained in nicotine substitutes is specifically dosed and gradually diffused through the skin or the oral mucus to avoid providing the instant hit or the instant reward the brain is expecting from the dopamine release.

Whether you want to switch to e-cigarettes to quit smoking or have already taken the plunge, you have probably heard a lot of comments about the hypothetical dangers of e-cigarettes. There were several issues in the recent past that brought the entire e-cigarette industry under scrutiny. The first one was the British study that found 5-15 times more formaldehyde in e-cigarettes than regular cigarette smoke; some going so far as to claim this was the proof that an e-cigarette is more dangerous than a regular cigarette. However the study was quickly dismissed those conducting the study used a power output so high that almost no one ever vapes under those conditions; and if they were to try they would get instantly very sick due to the taste of the formaldehyde. The amount of formaldehyde released increases with the increase of the device output. When using a low voltage the amount of formaldehyde drops by over 90-95%, bringing it lower than a cigarette. The 2nd issue was found when young people started using herbal oils inside their vaporizers instead of nicotine e-juice. Needless to say that vapors containing any types of oils do not belong in the lung.

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When does nicotine affect your health and become toxic?

We all know that nicotine is not a lethal poison. However, past a certain quantity it can become a serious health hazard and also lethal. So what’s the number? To better understand quantities and to visualize the answer we’ll use a cigarette for the measuring unit of nicotine. In this study, “Differential Effects of E-Cigarette on Microvascular Endothelial Function, Arterial Stiffness and Oxidative Stress: A Randomized Crossover Trial“, we can read:

 […}the frequent warnings of potential fatalities caused by ingestion of small amounts of tobacco products or diluted nicotine-containing solutions are unjustified and need to be revised in light of overwhelming data indicating that more than 0.5 g of oral nicotine is required to kill an adult

According to Bernd Mayer, the lethal dose of nicotine would have to be more than 500mg nicotine absorbed in a session. That comes down to 250-333 cigarettes of 1.5-2mg nicotine consumed/cigarette, or 250 nicotine gums of 2mg each consumed at once. Other researchers estimate between 500mg-1000mg. This thus explains why you don’t hear or see anyone dying from a nicotine overdose although there is no doubt that if you search deep enough you can find a few cases in history. It is also important to note that these numbers refer to adults and not young people, whose health is more fragile; it also remains a fact that most of the young people that start smoking before the age of 15 use cigarettes. The reason is not so much of a mystery as they simply copy their parents; people don’t realize when they quit cigarettes they are not only saving their own lives but also making sure those who are still growing do not get tempted.

To be handled with care

Smoking tobacco is very complex, and while the addiction is mainly maintained by nicotine, there are other substances in the smoke that are involved. 

According to a study published in 2000 by the scientific journal Behavioral Brain Research, nicotine may be used for therapeutic health purposes to treat disorders caused by Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Too often, the dangers of tobacco have been associated with nicotine use, and nicotine has been associated with smoking-related illnesses. However, the most dangerous products are smoked products, those which come from the combustion of tobacco. It is known that tobacco products that do not undergo combustion, such as Snus in Sweden, are less dangerous. It is not the nicotine itself that is dangerous, it is the fact of inhaling the smoke, the combustion product of tobacco releasing carcinogenic compounds, carbon monoxide, and oxidizing gases among other things.

What are the benefits of vaping?

There are plenty of benefits using e-cigarettes. The e-cigarette considerably reduces the dangers of smoking tobacco products when it comes to heart disease and a host of health issues related to smoking. Vaping may not be the only way for people to gradually reduce their nicotine dosage little by little until zero and thus having the ability to wean off completely. Every doctor is aware that tobacco is a real problem and more and more people do not hesitate to recommend vaping as a solution to effectively weaning oneself in the United States.

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Is nicotine alone harmful to health?

Nicotine Patches Do Not Increase Risk for First Heart Attack

A research from PennMedicineNews from the United States showed that there was no health risk correlated to nicotine when it came to first heart attacks.

(Philadelphia, PA) – Despite earlier reports to the contrary, nicotine patches do not increase your risk for heart attack. Researchers at the University Of Pennsylvania Medical Center compared 2,990 control subjects and 635 recent first-time sufferers of heart attacks from 68 hospitals in the Philadelphia region to study the use of nicotine patches. Their report is published in the April edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“We do not find any evidence linking nicotine patches, when used as directed, to heart attacks” said Stephen Kimmel, MD, assistant professor of medicine in Penn’s Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology.

The lack of an association between patch use and heart attack was not due simply to the fact that patch users were not currently smoking. In particular, the researchers found that the risk of heart attack among patch users who did not smoke was not higher than people who were neither smoked nor used the patch. “These results go along with what we understand of the science behind the patch,” explained Kimmel.

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