When post people hear the word “nicotine”, there is almost an immediately tie-in to tobacco cigarettes, which gives the substance a bad name. It’s no secret that cigarettes are bad for you, but is nicotine just as dangerous? How do they get so much nicotine in cigarettes? Does nicotine naturally occur in tobacco, or is it added by cigarette manufacturers? How does nicotine get into e-liquid form?
What is Nicotine? Where Did it Come From?
First and foremost: Is nicotine naturally in tobacco? Nicotine is an alkaloid that is found in tobacco and other members of the nightshade family, including eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. Humans have been consuming nicotine for thousands of years. Tobacco cultivation began in the Americas 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 brought tobacco leaves and seeds back to Europe.
How Has Nicotine Changed?
Nicotine was named for Jean Nicot de Villemain, the French diplomat responsible for introducing tobacco to the Queen of France. The Queen used it to treat her headaches! Tobacco was once thought to have medicinal qualities; however, as far back as the 17th century, doctors discovered correlations between tobacco use and diseases, like 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.
Consuming 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. Using nicotine in cigarettes was once thought to be the chief driver of tobacco dependency, yet new evidence suggests that those other chemicals play a larger role in addiction.
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?
Most people still get their nicotine in cigarettes, cigars or chewing tobacco. 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 is also manufactured synthetically. The idea behind nicotine replacement is that it helps with the withdrawal effects of tobacco. We 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 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. 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.