Nicotine is an alkaloid found in common food plants. Many vegetable plants, belonging to the Solanaceae or nightshade family, contain low amounts of nicotine, including potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants. Another member of the nightshade family, Nicotiana Tabacum, the tobacco plant, contains higher levels of nicotine.
Nicotine is traditionally used as a stimulant, which raises the feeling of well-being, the speed of sensory information processing, easing tension and sharpening the mind.
More than a billion people worldwide consume nicotine daily of which the vast majority are cigarette smokers. The UK’s first introduction to nicotine was in 1586 when tobacco was brought into England by Sir Walter Raleigh. Since then, the UK has predominantly enjoyed nicotine through smoking, but also lately vaping.
Minors, pregnant or breast-feeding women or persons with an history of unstable heart condition, severe hypertension or diabetes are advised to abstain from nicotine use in any form. Swedish Match applies and adheres to “not for sale to persons under legal tobacco age”.
In this article, we will explore what nicotine is, the effects it has on users and how long nicotine stays in your system.
What are the effects of nicotine?
Nicotine acts as both a stimulant and a sedative, relaxing and energising the user. Nicotine first works to release adrenaline and then satisfies your craving, which people wrongly equate with alleviating feelings of anxiety. These two effects combine to make nicotine highly addictive.
It’s important to remember, however, that the stimulating and sedative effects of nicotine will affect people in different ways and may pose a health risk to some. As such, nicotine should never be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, or those with a history of cardiovascular disease.
The side effects of nicotine can vary depending on how it’s taken. The health issues that arise with smoking tobacco are widely known, as it can massively increase a person’s chances of suffering from heart disease or lung cancer.
Vaping, which has grown in popularity over the last 10 years, and while the long-term effects are currently not known, it is estimated that they are 95% less harmful than smoking (according to Public Health England).
Why is nicotine addictive?
Addiction is a complex mixture of pharmacological, psychological and social origin. In tobacco nicotine is the main addictive agent. Nicotine initiates release of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that presents a feeling of pleasure and well-being. This leads to the fundament of addiction: positive reinforcements and avoidance of withdrawal symptoms. The main components of nicotine addiction are speed and dose. Both larger doses and fast delivery to the brain of nicotine increases the addictiveness. These factors depend on both the consumed product and individual rates of metabolism. Products intended to be inhaled i.e., cigarettes and e-cigarettes are generally faster in delivering nicotine than non-inhaled products i.e., snus and nicotine pouches. Few products are as addictive as smoking since this is the fastest delivery of nicotine to the brain.
Is nicotine bad for you?
A substantial body of scientific evidence demonstrate that cigarette smoking increases the risk of developing serious diseases and cause premature death. On the other hand, nicotine, the compound in cigarettes (and other nicotine-containing products) responsible for its addictive properties, has been shown to have other properties, when studied separately from smoked cigarettes. In diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s there is science suggesting that nicotine might have some beneficial potential. Nicotine treatment have also been shown to improve cognitive function including attention, concentration, executive function, and learning and memory.
Nicotine alone does not cause cancer and is consequently not a carcinogenic compound defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Still nicotine is a toxic compound but due to its short half-life it is practically impossible to over-dose by normal use of nicotine-containing consumer products i.e., cigarettes, snus, nicotine pouches etc. High doses of nicotine can give rise to similar reactions that high doses of caffeine can cause i.e., palpitations, tremors, and nausea. Main effects of nicotine in the body are increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and increased metabolism.
During pregnancy, breast-feeding and for persons with known cardiovascular disease, use of nicotine is strongly disadvised. In most countries, there is an 18-year age limit for buying nicotine-containing products as children and youth is a vulnerable group particular sensitive to nicotine. The British Heart Foundation summarises the link between nicotine and harm with the following:
“Nicotine, while highly addictive, is not a significant health hazard for people without heart conditions. It does not cause acute cardiac events or coronary heart disease and is not carcinogenic.”
If you’re looking for a less harmful, non-combustible way to enjoy nicotine, we believe ZYN pouches are the best smoke-free alternative there is.
ZYN nicotine pouches are a convenient, smoke-free way of enjoying nicotine, that can be taken without having to go to a designated smoking area and don’t leaving you smelling of smoke.