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Nicotine is Not the Root of All Evil? Here’s Why There’s More to it Than it Seems


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Source: Provided to WOB

Whenever one talks about smoking, people will immediately associate two thoughts – the harms that it brings to the table, especially lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and the addiction that makes it so hard to shake the habit off. Subsequently, one cannot help but add another name into the mix – nicotine – the most well-known component of tobacco and tobacco-containing products.

Most people assume that nicotine is the main culprit behind smoking-related diseases. While at least 84% of people understand that nicotine causes addiction, only 14% realises that it is not the major cause of health problems. The rest of the people believe that misconception and therefore put full blame on nicotine.

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Today, we’ll dive deeper into Nicotine to better understand where it came from and what role it plays when it comes to smoking. Known to exist in the Solanaceae (more commonly known as the ‘nightshade’ family), nicotine is a substance that is commonly found in plants. Daily ingredients such as tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants also contain nicotine albeit in small doses. Comparing between a single potato and a single cigarette, a potato contains around 675ng of nicotine whereas a cigarette contains around 12mg of nicotine, which is approximately 18 thousand times more!

Nicotine speeds up the messages travelling between our brain and our body. When it enters our body, it basically heightens our sense of well-being and relaxation. This kind of stimulation is what all smokers are trying to replicate each time they smoke, but unfortunately, the effects will grow weaker as their body begins to build up tolerance towards it, thus leading them to smoke more in order to get that stimulation. This is how addiction takes place and subsequently exposes them to the actual harms that come with smoking.

“People smoke for nicotine but they die from the TAR.” – Professor Michael Russell, 1976

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While nicotine is the leading cause of addiction, it is not the major cause of smoking-related diseases. It is the Total Aerosol Residue (“TAR”) residue that is found in cigarette smoke which leads to harm. In a letter to the WHO’s Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, stated that the vast majority of up to one billion tobacco-related deaths were caused by the inhalation of TAR particles and toxic gases that were drawn into the lungs, which happened during the burning of a cigarette. When a cigarette is lit up, it releases more than 6,000 different chemicals of which, at least 100 of it have been determined as harmful. It is when being exposed to and inhaling these chemicals that our bodies fall sick. To ensure that we maintain a healthy life, the best way would be to quit smoking entirely.

However, quitting smoking altogether is not easy and therefore, for those who are not able to quit or do not want to quit, switching to alternative smoke-free products would be the next best step!

“Smoke-free products do not burn tobacco and it is really important. Combustion and burning do result in smoke which is a toxic aerosol that contains solid particles, liquid droplets and high levels of chemistry. Developing a series of portfolio products that can reduce the amount of harmful and potentially harmful components really does result in a reduced exposure for adult smokers that would continue to smoke.” – Robbert Emmett, Head of Product Integration Oral Smokeless at Philip Morris International

There are plenty of smoke-free alternatives available in the market such as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products (HTP), snus, nicotine patches and more. These alternatives neither burn tobacco nor release smoke thus, have been proven to be able to reduce on average 95% of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals compared to continuous cigarette usage. While smoke-free alternatives are not completely risk-free, it is a better option for smokers and the people around them.


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