Is Nicotine Bad for You?

Nicotine by itself is not harmful within reasonable limits of consumption. Nicotine consumption may increase the speed of sensory information processing, relieve stress, anxiety, and panic attacks, and more.

tobacco leaves

When we think of nicotine, we most often associate it with tobacco and smoking. This, however, alludes to the belief that nicotine is the harmful substance that makes cigarettes deadly. This is not true. Additionally, that nicotine is associated with the cancer-causing attributes of smoking, which is also untrue. Nicotine, in and of itself, is not a harmful substance unless taken in large quantities. Used in moderate levels, nicotine actually boasts some significant health benefits.

The little-known facts surrounding nicotine is also why, in some cases, NRTs, or nicotine replacement therapies, are slower to catch on. With the onset of e-cigarettes, gums, patches, inhalers, and other alternative nicotine solutions, the number of smokers turning to these products are learning the truth about nicotine. Yes, nicotine can be addictive. However, nicotine is no more addictive than caffeine and is no more dangerous in suggested doses.

What is Nicotine?

Nicotine is a parasympathomimetic alkaloid, and is a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) agonist. Nicotine is produced by plants in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. According to the Sol Genomics Network, nightshades are comprised of more than 3,000 species including Coffea arabica, which produces coffee beans – which contains caffeine. Caffeine and nicotine are very similar. They are both stimulants and are both in the same family of plants. They are closely related cousins. Below is a chart which describes the closeness of the two plants, Coffea arabica and Nicotiana tabacum:

Is Nicotine Only Found in Tobacco?

No. Nicotine is found in many plants of the nightshade family. Nicotine is most heavily found in the tobacco plant, Nicotiana tabacum. However, this is not the only plant which produces nicotine. According to Science Daily, nicotine is found in the leaves of plants such as tomato, green pepper, eggplant, potato, and more. In fact, some studies suggest that eating some of these foods that contain small amounts of edible nicotine, such as the amounts found in peppers, may reduce the risk of contracting Parkinson’s disease. “Vegetable consumption in general did not affect Parkinson’s disease risk, but as consumption of edible Solanaceae increased, Parkinson’s disease risk decreased, with peppers displaying the strongest association.”

Is Nicotine by Itself Harmful?

Nicotine by itself is not harmful within reasonable limits of consumption. A cigarette contains between 1 and 2mg of nicotine. A pack contains about 20-40mg of nicotine. Therefore, an individual that smokes two packs per day would be ingesting between 40-80mg of nicotine in a single day. On average, nicotine gum delivers approximately 2-4mg of nicotine per piece, at a rate of 1 piece every 1-2 hours. This can average out to be up to 64mg of nicotine ingested per day. These are safe levels of consumption. There is some debate as to the amount that is considered lethal. However, it is considered that possibly 60mg or greater in one dose in an undiluted, concentrated formula could be fatal.

Possible Benefits

According to Tobacco Harm Reduction and Scientific American, since nicotine is a stimulant, it is known to: increase the heart rate; increase the speed of sensory information processing; increase focus and productivity; relieve stress, anxiety, and panic attacks; reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease; reduces the symptoms od ADD – and more.