Many of us have probably at one time or another smoked a cigarette. Maybe it was just a couple of puffs as a rebellious teenager. Or perhaps as a tired college student looking for a mental boost to get through an all-night study session. Regardless, you probably noticed a few things even if you only smoked once or twice. You might recall the taste of the tobacco, the smell of the smoke, the feeling of it filling your lungs and that subsequent little buzz. That brain buzz you felt was from the nicotine in the tobacco.
Today, e-cigarettes spare the user from inhaling the thousands of chemicals found in burning tobacco. They also eliminate the smelly smoke that can fill a room and leave a strong odor on clothing, furniture and pretty much everything else. This means those who use e-cigs can still get the nicotine they want, without the smoke and tobacco.
The History of Nicotine
Nicotiana tabacum was discovered as early as 6000 B.C. and we humans immediately found it to be an appealing plant to smoke or chew because of the stimulating effects. Soon many people were growing it and it was believed to have value as a treatment for certain diseases, such as the Bubonic plague.
The tobacco plant, with its nicotine, is part of the plant family known as Nightshade. In addition to tobacco, small amounts of nicotine can be found in tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers, and eggplants. The leaves of a coca plant also contain nicotine.
Nicotine is considered an alkaloid, which is an organic compound made out of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and, at times, oxygen. It works similar to another popular alkaloid – caffeine. Nicotine can, like a cup of coffee or your favorite bottle of caffeinated soda, give you a temporary mental boost that makes you feel more alert, less tired and in a better mood. Users also report improved cognition and focus.
The Evolution of Tobacco Use
For years, the main way to derive the effects of nicotine was by smoking tobacco. In the early 20th century, many men preferred to smoke pipes and cigars and they considered cigarettes effeminate and better suited for use by women. However, when wartime hit and it was impractical to pack a pipe or savor a cigar in a foxhole, cigarettes took over as the choice of servicemen. In fact, unfiltered cigarettes in many cases became standard issue along with a rifle and canteen.
As a result, smoking continued to grow in popularity. Over the years, more and more medical studies suggested a link between smoking and ailments such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and more.
In the past 15 years, e-cigs have grown in popularity thanks to those who still want the boost of nicotine but not the many chemicals in tobacco and the smoke it puts off while burning. Like nicotine patches and gums, e-cigs allow users to get the effects of nicotine without tobacco. In e-cigs, a battery heats a liquid mixture know as “e-liquid.” This liquid contains nicotine and, in most cases, propylene glycol (a liquid the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found to be non-hazardous). During the heating of the e-liquid, a smoke-like vapor that mimics how a traditional tobacco cigarette works is produced.
The Effects of Nicotine
Nicotine does certainly affect our body. When you were a new smoker perhaps at one point you smoked too many cigarettes, too quickly. You might remember feeling dizzy, even nauseous. This is just one reason why nicotine should only be used by adults. Nicotine in high doses can be dangerous, especially for children. All nicotine products should be kept safely out of the reach of children, including nicotine gums, patches, e-cigs and the e-liquids.
While nicotine can be harmful, medical scientists also continue to look at ways it can be helpful. In recent years, studies have shown it might be useful in preventing and/or treating ailments such as ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
Nicotine and E-Cigs
One of the many benefits of switching to e-cigs from traditional tobacco cigarettes is that users can control the amount of nicotine they receive. E-cigs come with different levels of nicotine, such as 18 mg, 16mg, 12 mg and 6 mg.You can gradually cut your nicotine usage via e-cigs and even purchase ones without any nicotine at all. Tobacco and other flavorings – such as fruit, coffee and chocolate – can provide an enjoyable nicotine-free “smoke.”