What is Nicotine
When you use tobacco products, nicotine is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. Within 10 seconds of entering your body, the nicotine reaches your brain. It causes the brain to release adrenaline, creating a buzz of pleasure and energy. The buzz fades quickly though, and leaves you feeling tired, a little down, and wanting the buzz again. This feeling is what makes you light up the next cigarette. Since your body is able to build up a high tolerance to nicotine, you’ll need to smoke more and more cigarettes in order to get the nicotine’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal symptoms. This up and down cycle repeats over and over, leading to the development of the disease of addiction.
There are 4,000 chemical components found in cigarettes and at least 250 of them are harmful to human health. Here is the description of some of these chemical components:
- 1,3-Butadine is a chemical used to manufacture rubber. According to the CDC, “it may increase risk of cancer in the stomach, blood and lymphatic system.”
- Acrolein is a gas linked to lung cancer. It inhibits DNA repair and can destroy the lining in the lungs that protects you from lung disease.
- Arsenic is used to preserve wood. In humans, it can cause heart disease and cancer.
- Benzene is used to manufacture other chemicals. It can cause cancer, particularly leukemia, in humans.
- Cadmium is a metal used to make batteries. Cadmium can interfere with the repair of damaged DNA, as well as damage the kidneys and the lining of the arteries.
- Chromium VI is used to make alloy metals, paint and dyes. It has been proven to be linked to lung cancer.
- Formaldehyde is a chemical used to kill bacteria and preserve human and animal remains. It’s a known cause of cancer, one of the main substances linked to chronic lung disease and a very toxic ingredient in second hand smoke.
- Polonium-210 is a radioactive element inhaled directly into the airway. Some studies show that people who smoke a pack-and-a-half of cigarettes a day are receiving the same radiation they’d get from 300-plus X-rays per year!
- Tar is solid, inhaled chemicals linked with an increased risk for cancer. It also leaves a sticky, brown residue on your lungs, teeth and fingernails
- Carbon monoxide & nicotine are harmful combination of gases you inhale when you smoke. Once in your lungs, it’s transferred to your bloodstream. Carbon monoxide decreases the amount of oxygen that is carried in the red blood cells. It also increases the amount of cholesterol that is deposited into the inner lining of the arteries, which, over time, can cause the arteries to harden. This leads to heart disease, artery disease and possibly heart attack. Nicotine is a dangerous and highly addictive chemical. It can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, flow of blood to the heart and a narrowing of the arteries (vessels that carry blood). Nicotine may also contribute to the hardening of the arterial walls, which in turn, may lead to a heart attack. This chemical can stay in your body for six to eight hours depending on how often you smoke. Also, as with most addictive drugs, there are some side effects of withdrawal.
Effects & Risks of Nicotine
- Nicotine is highly addictive. When tobacco is consumed, nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream and, over time, will create tolerance and dependence. Nicotine acts on the brain’s reward pathways (feelings of pleasure) within ten seconds of inhaling tobacco smoke. However, the pleasurable feeling dissipates within a few minutes, causing the smoker to crave more ‘dosing’ to maintain the pleasurable feeling and prevent withdrawal symptoms. Despite the well-documented harmful effects to the body, many people find it hard to stop smoking because they have become addicted.
- Smoking is a risk factor for several autoimmune diseases, including Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. It may also play a role in periodic flare-ups of signs and symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Smoking doubles your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
- Recent studies show a direct relationship between tobacco use and decreased bone density. Smoking is one of many factors—including weight, alcohol consumption, and activity level—that increase your risk for osteoporosis, a condition in which bones weaken and become more likely to fracture.
- Significant bone loss has been found in older women and men who smoke. Quitting smoking appears to reduce the risk for low bone mass and fractures. However, it may take several years to lower a former smoker’s risk. In addition, smoking from an early age puts women at even higher risk for osteoporosis. Smoking lowers the level of the hormone oestrogen in your body, which can cause you to go through menopause earlier, boosting your risk for osteoporosis.
The chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your blood cells and damage the function of your heart. This damage increases your risk for:
- Atherosclerosis, a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up in your arteries
- Aneurysms, which are bulging blood vessels that can burst and cause death
- Coronary heart disease (CHD), which happens when plaque builds up in the arteries
- Heart attack and damage to your arteries
- Heart disease
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the head, organs, and limbs
- Stroke, which is sudden death of brain cells caused by blood clots or bleeding
- Breathing tobacco smoke can even change your blood chemistry and damage your blood vessels. As you inhale smoke, cells that line your body’s blood vessels react to its chemicals. Your heart rate and blood pressure go up and your blood vessels thicken and narrow.
Every cigarette you smoke damages your breathing and scars your lungs. Smoking causes:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease that gets worse over time and causes wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms
- Emphysema, a condition in which the walls between the air sacs in your lungs lose their ability to stretch and shrink back. Your lung tissue is destroyed, making it difficult or impossible to breathe.
- Chronic bronchitis, which causes swelling of the lining of your bronchial tubes. When this happens, less air flows to and from your lungs.
- Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.
- Smoking cigarettes is the number-one risk factor for lung cancer. But, smoking can affect your entire body, and is known to cause many types of cancers.
- Nicotine overdose is very rare because it is difficult to get enough of the chemical into a person’s system through smoking. However, nicotine is poisonous and if very large amounts are taken overdose is possible. Someone who has had too much nicotine will feel faint and confused, and will experience a rapid drop in blood pressure and breathing rate. This can escalate to convulsions and death from respiratory failure.