Nicotine is a stimulant that is naturally produced by several types of plants from the nightshade family. Tomatoes, potatoes, red peppers are some examples that also come from the nightshade family. Some research suggests that the amounts of nicotine obtained from these foods is substantial in comparison to the inhalation of second-hand smoke. Others consider nicotine from food as trivial unless consumed in extremely high amounts.

Nicotine is very addictive and exposes people to harmful effects. During the 19th century, we began to realize the harmful effects of nicotine, with new laws being created to ban stores from selling nicotine to minors. But it wasn’t until 1994 that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) published a study that linked smoking with heart disease and lung cancer, making it official that nicotine was a drug that produced dependency.

Nicotine and Pregnancy

Most people know that smoking causes cancer and other health problems. However, not many people are aware of the risks of the use of nicotine during pregnancy. Research has shown that being exposed to nicotine during pregnancy can increase the risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It can also negatively affect the baby’s central nervous system which would affect the baby’s cardiorespiratory response. 

Using electronic cigarettes or nicotine patches is not recommended during pregnancy, as it can be harmful to the baby. Furthermore, nicotine exposure has shown to have effects on the developing human brain, particularly during certain periods when the brain is most sensitive (prenatal, early postnatal and adolescent brains). Studies show that nicotine products have long-term deficits in developing systems in the human body, including lung development. 

Nicotine and Adolescence

The use of electronic cigarettes has also been recognized as a substantial threat during adolescence. During this time, the developing brain is more vulnerable to taking risks and experimenting with nicotine products. While it is a controversial topic, nicotine use during adolescence can also increase the risk of other drug use such as cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines.

How the Body Processes Nicotine

After inhaling the tobacco smoke, nicotine enters the bloodstream and it reaches the brain within 8 to 15 seconds and at about 2 hours after, half of that nicotine is gone. The amount of 

nicotine that can enter the body depends on different factors: 

  • Type of filter used (if at all)
  • The type of tobacco being used
  • Whether it was  inhaled or chewed

Chewing tobacco usually release higher amounts of nicotine into the body than regular cigarettes. As stated before, nicotine is highly addictive and people usually experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop the use of nicotine. In fact, the American Heart Association says that “nicotine consumed from smoking tobacco is one of the hardest substances to quit”. It’s considered to be as hard as quitting heroin. Other side effects of nicotine consumption are:

  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Irregular sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Dry mouth
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Increase levels of insulin and risk of diabetes

On a final note, nicotine is addictive and while nicotine itself doesn’t cause cancer, it affects nearly every organ in the body. Some of the e-cigarette products may contain dangerous concentrations of nicotine and may even contribute to cancer. If you have a nicotine dependency and you want to quit, there are various types of medications that can help and you should talk to your doctor about the options.