Understanding Nicotine Overdose

Understanding Nicotine Overdose

March 30, 2017

We’ve established that controlled quantities of nicotine can have therapeutic potential, but we also know that too much of a good thing can often be a bad thing. Fortunately, nicotine overdoses are rare and almost always accidental in nature. Nonetheless, you should still understand the symptoms of nicotine poisoning just in case.

How Much Nicotine is Too Much?

How Much Nicotine is Too Much?

In most countries, nicotine is classified as a stimulant on par with caffeine; however, a few places, including Australia, legally categorize nicotine as a poison. In other nations, any smoking cessation product containing nicotine is classified as a pharmaceutical and requires a prescription. Nicotine can indeed be dangerous if consumed in high doses all at once, but the exact amount it takes to overdose remains disputed.

An often-cited lethal dose of nicotine is 30-60mg, but that estimate comes from a 1906 textbook on the subject and has become debatable under newer research. German scientist Bernd Mayer published a paper in 2013 that cites many cases of individuals surviving the consumption of much larger amounts of nicotine. His research suggests that an average adult would actually have to consume 500-1000mg to result in fatal nicotine poisoning.

What are the Symptoms of Too Much Nicotine?

The symptoms of nicotine overdose come in two phases. A mild overdose and nicotine poisoning are not necessarily the same thing. In the situation of a mere overdose, the individual can experience minor side effects like dizziness, headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, shaking, sweating, hypertension, rapid heart rate and poor coordination.

What are the Symptoms of Nicotine Poisoning?

What are the Symptoms of Too Much Nicotine?

The more serious consequences of too much nicotine include reduced heart rate, hypotension and central nervous system depression. Individuals can even slip into a coma or experience respiratory failure. Seizures have also been reported.

Fortunately, it is practically impossible to experience nicotine poisoning from smoking tobacco cigarettes, but smokers sometimes feel the mild side effects associated with the first phase of overdose after a nicotine binge. Non-smokers who try cigarettes often have nausea or headaches since their bodies are not used to nicotine. Anyone who tries smoking while wearing a nicotine patch at the same time will likely feel sick. Such symptoms alone are not dangerous although the act of smoking remains very dangerous due to the tobacco and other chemicals in traditional cigarettes.

Nicotine Overdose from Smoking

How Much Nicotine Does a Cigarette Have?

The human body metabolizes nicotine rather quickly; most of it is out of your system within 30 minutes to two hours. Furthermore, even though individual cigarettes pack up to 10mg of nicotine, only 1mg is absorbed into the smoker’s body. Therefore, taking into account the more conservative estimate for how much nicotine is too much, you’d have to somehow smoke three packs of cigarettes all at once to truly overdose.

Overdose from Nicotine Replacement Therapies

How Much Nicotine is in Nicotine Replacement Products?

Although nicotine poisoning is extremely rare, it does happen. Given the high quantities needed to overdose, how do people consume that much nicotine? Virtually all serious cases can be attributed to improper use of nicotine replacement therapies like patches, gums, lozenges and inhalers. Since these substances are absorbed via the skin or mucous membranes rather than the lungs, in combination with the ability to use too much or more than one nicotine delivery method at the same time, the potential for overdose is higher. Farmers who work with tobacco directly are also at risk of nicotine poisoning because their skin can absorb the chemical from the plant’s leaves.

Nicotine Overdose from Vaping

In recent studies, e-cigarettes have proven to be a less efficient delivery method for nicotine than tobacco cigarettes. In other words, vapers suck up less nicotine than smokers per puff. Overdosing on nicotine by vaping alone would be difficult, but it is theoretically possible. Some vape enthusiastic have done the math and determined that it would take 100 puffs per minute for an hour to even come close to a dangerous dose.

However, overdoses can also happen via skin exposure to e-liquids, so always be careful when handling them. The majority of nicotine poisonings occur in children younger than six years old, and most cases involve the child swallowing e-liquid. Symptoms often set in immediately, so there is no time to spare. If you suspect a child has ingested e-liquid, seek emergency treatment as soon as possible.

How to Treat Nicotine Overdose

If someone swallows e-liquid or is otherwise exposed to large doses of nicotine, they should be taken to the hospital immediately, even if they are not having symptoms. Call emergency services and your local poison control center to ask for guidance. In cases of ingestion, the first line of treatment for nicotine poisoning is activated charcoal, which slows gastrointestinal absorption. Charcoal may need to be administered more than once. Additional care may be necessary for specific symptoms like seizure management or respiratory support.

Instances of nicotine overdoses have unsurprisingly led to more bad press for e-cigs. Sadly, nicotine poisoning does happen, and e-liquids are usually involved. Of course, all vapers shouldn’t be punished for a few people’s mistakes, but we do have a responsibility to encourage other vapers to keep their e-liquids out of reach from kids. Industry leaders should also prioritize making better childproof packaging for bottled e-liquids. We all have to do our part to keep e-cigs safe and legal!

What Does Nicotine Do to the Body?

What Does Nicotine Do to the Body?

March 23, 2017

Nicotine has long been stigmatized due to its association with smoking; however, as discussed in earlier installments of this series, nicotine can be consumed in many ways. Now that you have an understanding of what it is and where it comes from, it’s time to move on to more important matters: What does nicotine do to the body and the brain?

The Effects of Nicotine on the Body

The Effects of Nicotine on the Body

The frequency of nicotine use and the type of delivery system has an impact on how much nicotine is absorbed into the body. Regardless of the amount, nicotine only remains detectable for about 2-11 hours after absorption. A metabolite of nicotine called cotinine, however, can linger in the blood, saliva, hair and urine for longer. Genetics, age and diet play a role in how fast these chemicals are metabolized.

In some jurisdictions, employers can require employees to abstain from tobacco use even outside of work. So how do employers monitor tobacco use outside of the job? They use a nicotine or cotinine test, which obviously presents complications since some non-tobacco products contain nicotine. While nicotine testing for employment to promote smoke-free workplaces is highly controversial, it is nonetheless legal.

The Short-Term Effects of Nicotine

The Short-Term Effects of Nicotine

Nicotine’s immediate short-term effects are comparable to caffeine. Both substances cause a brief rise in blood pressure and heart rate. If chronic, these symptoms are linked to cardiovascular issues, yet research on nicotine patches has demonstrated no association between nicotine use alone and health problems like cancers or heart disease. Smoking or chewing tobacco is certainly dangerous, but consumption of nicotine by itself appears to be as harmless as drinking coffee.

Related: The Similarities Between Nicotine and Caffeine

The consumption of nicotine also increases blood glucose levels. This is generally thought to be the result of the increase in adrenalin levels, which stimulate the liver to release glucose. This is why nicotine intake is often associated with weight loss, as the rise in blood glucose levels increases the metabolic rate, which in turn leads to reduced appetite.

The Effects of Nicotine on the Brain

The Effects of Nicotine on the Brain

It only takes about 10 to 20 seconds after inhalation for nicotine to start stimulating neural receptors to release dopamine. Dopamine supplies a sense of relaxation despite the stimulative effects of nicotine on the brain. Some exciting new research has even uncovered some therapeutic uses for nicotine. Controlled doses of the substance have been used to successfully treat Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Tourette’s and schizophrenia. When used as treatment in research studies on Alzheimer’s, nicotine has shown to significantly improve attention, memory and psychomotor speed. Nicotine receptors also facilitate the entry of calcium into cells, so nicotine is believed to increase intracellular calcium, which in turn supports cell survival.

Interestingly, studies on nicotine have not resulted in participants becoming addicted to nicotine patches, nor did patients experience withdrawal. This fact gives further support to the theory that the other chemicals in tobacco products play a larger role in addiction. Since most effects of nicotine on the body are temporary, it remains to be seen whether or not medicinal nicotine would work in the long term.

The More You Know About Nicotine…

Knowledge is your greatest asset for protecting your health. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths about the effects of nicotine on the body, but hopefully this series helps clear up most of them. In Part 4, we’ll take a look at nicotine overdose and the symptoms of nicotine poisoning.

How Much Nicotine is in Cigarettes?

How Much Nicotine is in Cigarettes?

March 16, 2017

In Part 1 titled “Where Does Nicotine Come From”, we looked into the history of nicotine and how it has evolved over the years. Now we’ll take a look at the nicotine content in the various forms of nicotine delivery systems, from tobacco cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapies to electronic cigarettes.

From Smoking to Vaping: Understanding Nicotine Content

Picking the right nicotine strength is crucial if you hope to give up smoking for vaping. Fortunately, the nicotine contents of e-liquids are usually listed right on the label, but how much nicotine is in cigarettes? The answer technically varies by brand, but more importantly, you need to understand how nicotine intake via smoking differs from nicotine consumption via vaping.

How Much Nicotine Does a Cigarette Have?

How Much Nicotine Does a Cigarette Have?

A better question than “how much nicotine does a cigarette have?” is “how much nicotine do smokers absorb into their bodies?” A typical cigarette contains between 10-20mg of nicotine, yet only about 1mg is actually absorbed into the body. The amount of nicotine in a smoker’s bloodstream has more to do with how often they smoke rather than which brand they prefer. The additional chemicals added to cigarettes act as fuel to deliver nicotine as quickly as possible.

Nicotine can seep into your bloodstream through your skin, lungs or mucous membranes located in your nose and mouth. People have been using nicotine replacement therapies, or NRTs, such as patches and lozenges for decades to ease the symptoms of tobacco withdrawal. E-cigarettes, which the FDA are now calling electronic nicotine delivery systems, are designed to closely mimic the act of smoking, yet the delivery method of nicotine has a significant impact on how it is absorbed into the body.

How Much Nicotine is in Nicotine Replacement Products?

How Much Nicotine is in Nicotine Replacement Products?

Nicotine patches, on the other hand, work through skin contact and deliver nicotine in controlled quantities over a 24-hour period. They typically come in doses of 5-22mg. Nicotine gums and lozenges usually come in 2-4mg doses and have a more immediate effect as they are absorbed through the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth. Nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays come in various doses, yet similar to cigarettes, only about 1-2mg is absorbed into the blood.

How Much Nicotine is in E-Cigarettes?

About White Cloud E-Liquid Flavors

Now that we know how much nicotine is in cigarettes, let’s talk about their electronic counterparts. E-cigs and e-liquids come in different nicotine levels, which are measured in either milligrams or nicotine by volume (NBV). White Cloud products use NBV, and we have an extensive article about nicotine content to help explain why this is the more honest way to label e-liquids. The article also gives guidance for choosing the right nicotine strength based on your smoking habits.

Over the past few years, studies have emerged suggesting that vaping is a less effective nicotine delivery method than smoking, so vapers, on the whole, consume less nicotine per puff.

How Does Nicotine Affect the Body?

Every smoker knows that nicotine can calm them down; however, paradoxically, it actually stimulates the central nervous system. How is this possible? In the next installment of this series, Part 3, we’ll find out by exploring the effects of nicotine on the body.

Nicotine

Where Does Nicotine Come From?

March 10, 2017

Most people associate nicotine with tobacco cigarettes, which is why the substance has such a negative reputation. Everyone knows that cigarettes are bad for you, but does that mean nicotine itself is dangerous? Exactly how much nicotine is in cigarettes? Furthermore, is nicotine naturally in tobacco, or is it something that tobacco companies add to cigarettes? Where does nicotine come from in e-liquids?

What is Nicotine and Where Did it Come From?

What is Nicotine and Where Did it Come From?

Let’s start with the easiest question: Is nicotine naturally in tobacco? Nicotine is indeed an alkaloid that is found in tobacco and other members of the nightshade family, including eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. It’s safe to say that humans have been consuming nicotine for thousands of years because tobacco cultivation began in the Americans around 6,000 B.C. People were most likely smoking or chewing it. Even Christopher Columbus received a gift of dried tobacco leaves upon his arrival in the Bahamas. He even brought tobacco leaves and seeds back to Europe.

How Has Nicotine Evolved?

How Has Nicotine Evolved?

Nicotine was named in honor of Jean Nicot de Villemain, the French diplomat responsible for introducing tobacco to the Queen of France, who used it to treat her headaches. Believe it or not, tobacco was once thought to have medicinal qualities; however, as far back as the 17th century, doctors discovered correlations between tobacco use and maladies such as cancer. Around the same time, over 25,000,000 pounds of tobacco was being cultivated annually in the Jamestown colony alone, making it the number one export of the American colonies.

It is important to note that consumption of nicotine alone is not thought to be the cause of smoking-related health problems. There are other chemicals in tobacco and even more in cigarettes that are known carcinogens. Nicotine was once thought to be the chief driver of tobacco dependency, yet new evidence suggests that those other chemicals play a larger role in cigarette addiction.

In an interesting twist, recent studies have discovered that nicotine by itself may actually have medicinal benefits. Researchers around the world are experimenting successfully with using nicotine to treat depression, Parkinson’s disease and even Alzheimer’s.

How is Nicotine Used Today?

How is Nicotine Used Today?

Most people still consume nicotine from tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars or chewing tobacco. Of course, nicotine is also found in nicotine patches and some e-liquids. So where does nicotine come from in nicotine replacement therapies? It is usually extracted from tobacco, but it can also be manufactured synthetically. The theory behind nicotine replacement is that it mitigates the withdrawal effects of tobacco. We now know that cigarette addiction has multiple facets, which is why e-cigarettes were developed in the first place: to closely mimic the process of smoking without the same health risks.

If you’re considering taking up vaping to replace smoking, you first need to decide whether or not you want an e-liquid that contains nicotine. Some smokers find that they don’t need the nicotine because the act of vaping itself satisfies their urges. If you do decide to go the nicotine route, you must choose a nicotine strength, which should depend on how many cigarettes you smoke every day.

It is important to note that the effects of nicotine differ depending on the delivery method. For example, research suggests that vapers take in less nicotine than smokers per puff. In part 2 of this series, we’ll take a look at how much nicotine is in cigarettes to find out how much nicotine smokers are consuming.

The Vape News of 2016: Year in Review Part 3

March 3, 2017

In Parts 1 and 2, we took a look at the biggest news of the vaping industry from January to August of 2016. Now we’ll take a look at what happened during the remainder of the year.

A Review of the Vaping Industry in 2016: Part 3

The implementation of the FDA’s Deeming Regulations for vaping products didn’t serve as the only downer for 2016. A couple of states jumped on the overregulation bus with massive tax hikes, while a new surgeon general’s report condemned vaping.

Vape News from September 2016

Vape News from September 2016

In the wake of the FDA’s Deeming Regulations taking effect in August, and with proposed and/or passed state tax hikes for vapor products on the horizon, four vaping organizations joined forces to create a campaign to spread awareness about the potential health benefits of e-cigs. Created by the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), Americans for Tax Reform, Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) and the American Vaping Association (AVA), The Right to Vape Campaign set out on a bus tour across 15 states to urge congress to make more sensible e-cig regulations. With overwhelming support from the vaping community, the tour also received surprise visits from politicians in support of vaping. One such visit was from Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who is known for sending several letters to the FDA to determine whether or not the organization thought through any unintended consequences resulting from the deeming regulations.

For an inside look at the campaign, check out the Right to Vape Tour video series on YouTube.

Vape News from October 2016

Vape News from October 2016

October 1, 2016, marked another blow to the vaping industry in the state of Pennsylvania: the implementation of a 40 percent sales tax on all e-cig purchases. This includes all purchases made online and within Pennsylvania vape shops. Any attempt to avoid the 40 percent sales is punishable by a $5,000 fine and possible prison time – even possessing a vapor product sold outside of the state is illegal. As if that wasn’t enough, the legislation also included a “floor tax” which required vape shop owners to pay a 40 percent tax on the wholesale value of their full inventory. As a result, the massive tax has forced more than 100 Pennsylvania vape shops out of business.

Vape News from November 2016

Vape News from November 2016

California has become well known for its anti-vaping campaigns and overregulation. From increasing the smoking/vaping age from 18 to 21 to proposing a ban on smoking and vaping in public parks and beaches, it was no surprise when Proposition 56 made its way to the ballot in November. The ballot measure called for an increase in cigarette tax from $0.87 to $2.00 per pack and included an “equivalent tax” for other tobacco products, including nicotine-containing vapor products. Supporters of Prop. 56 argued that the measure was an attempt to prevent smoking-related deaths and illnesses and to reduce teen smoking, despite the fact that the smoking rate in California is one of the lowest in the country. On November 8, 2016, Prop. 56 passed by a 62.4% to 37.6% vote and is set to take effect on April 1, 2017.

Vape News from December 2016

Vape News from December 2016

The year ended in more vaping controversy with the release of the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report on e-cigarette use among youth, The surgeon general stated that the primary purpose of the report was to “detail the clear risks of e-cigarettes to youth and give parents, teachers and other adults guidance on how to prevent young people from using them”. The report states that vaping is now the leading form of tobacco use among the nation’s youth and goes on to state that the same strategies used to reduce youth smoking must also be applied to e-cigarettes, including higher excise taxes.

Despite the fact that both adult and youth smoking rates have hit an all-time low, the report claims there is still no evidence to support vaping as a proven method for smoking cessation. And, of course, the unproven “youth vaping leads to smoking” gateway theory reared its ugly head in the report, both on the list of “harms” in the comparative risk assessment and in the Foreword with the statement, “Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and many of today’s youth who are using e-cigarettes could become tomorrow’s cigarette smokers.”

The report received an uproar of criticism from tobacco harm reduction experts, including Dr. Michael Siegel who labeled the report as being “scientifically dishonest”.

What’s to Come for the Vaping Industry in 2017?

What’s to Come for the Vaping Industry in 2017?

Despite strict regulations, tax hikes and seemingly never-ending controversies, the vaping industry continues to move forward in 2017. In fact, lawmakers in support of vaping are continuing the fight against the FDA’s vaping regulations with the introduction of the FDA Deeming Authority Clarification Act of 2017 to “amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for a certain effective date with respect to deemed tobacco products, to provide for the establishment of product standards for vapor product batteries, to provide for regulation of vapor products, and for other purposes.” In other words, the bill is intended to amend the FDA’s grandfather date and push for more sensible regulations for vapor products.