Tobacco has been used as medicine and stimulant for at least 2,000 years. Although it is not known how tobacco reached Europe, it is said that Christopher Columbus often discovered tobacco while exploring the Americas. Throughout the 1600s, the smoking of pipes and cigars quickly spread, but its spread divided opinion when it was first introduced to Europe. While one group thought of tobacco as medicinal, the other group saw it as toxic and habit-forming.
As years went by, and machines to mass-produce paper cigarettes were patented, it became much easier to produce tobacco. By the end of the 19th century, lawmakers began to realize nicotine’s harmful effects and even went as far as to ban stores from selling nicotine to minors in 26 states.
It was not until 1994 that FDA officially recognized nicotine that produced dependency. Breaking down the process from the moment nicotine kicks into your body, and after effects, so let’s start from the very beginning. Nicotine is both a sedative and a stimulant. Nicotine found in tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, bidis, and krekets, can either be smoked, chewed or sniffed.
As nicotine enters the body, the individual experience a ‘kick’. This kick happens because nicotine stimulates the adrenal glands, which results in the release of adrenaline. When adrenaline kicks in, the body stimulates. Along with adrenaline being released, there is also an immediate release of glucose and an increase in heart rate, breathing activity, and blood pressure.
When nicotine enters the body, it also results in the release of dopamine in the pleasure and motivation areas in the brain. Therefore, the user experiences a pleasurable sensation. Dopamine affects our emotions, movements, and sensations of pleasure and pain. The higher the dopamine in the brain, the higher the feeling of contentment. However, as smokers become more tolerant to nicotine, they require higher doses to enjoy the same effects.
How does nicotine enter the body?
After someone inhales tobacco, nicotine quickly enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain within 8 to 20 seconds. Approximately, after 2 hours that nicotine has entered the body, half of it is already gone from the system. The amount of nicotine entering a person’s body depends on the type of tobacco, the type of filter, and whether the user inhales the smoke or not. However, it also depends on the way tobacco enters the body, as tobacco products that are chewed or snorted, tend to release a larger amount of nicotine, than smoking. After that, nicotine is broken down in the liver.
Although nicotine releases feelings of relaxation, it actually contributes to an increased level of physical stress. That is because when you smoke nicotine, aside from dopamine, your body also releases a hormone called epinephrine, which is responsible to activate the ‘fight or flight’ mode in the body’s system. As this hormone is released, your breathing will become more rapid and shallow, your heart rate will increase, as well as your blood pressure, meaning, you are alert.
Why is it so addicting?
In fact, some studies suggest that the calming effect that comes from smoking that people enjoy comes from the ritual of smoking itself since nicotine is actually considered a stimulant rather than a depressant. If a smoker tries to quit the habit of smoking, they most likely will face physical reactions such as strong cravings for the substance, increased appetite, sleep disturbances, anxiety, feelings of depression, and other mood-related complaints. The effects of craving nicotine may come just 2 hours after your last smoke. Thus, a smoker will need to smoke more to get the same effect, which oftentimes leads to a pack-a-day dependence.
What are the health risks?
Using tobacco comes with numerous health risks. It is estimated that tobacco smoke contains at least 250 chemicals that are known to be toxic or cancer-causing. Smoking just one to four cigarettes a day will increase your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. In fact, to really understand the health risks of it, let us compare some statistics. Studies indicate that the number of deaths that are caused by smoking each year is greater than those of HIV, illegal drug and alcohol abuse, vehicle accidents, and violent deaths combined. Along with life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, and other serious illnesses, tobacco use is also linked to infertility, poorer overall health, greater absenteeism from work and greater health care costs, obviously. Any form of nicotine is highly addictive, including e-cigarettes and vaporizers. Nicotine itself will not cause cancer, however, it is responsible for getting you hooked on cigarettes and smoking that contain carcinogen chemicals. As Michael Russell, the father of tobacco harm reduction theory said:
People smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar.
Aside nicotine, other components found in cigarettes, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and other gaseous constituents of cigarette smoke have been shown to reduce oxygen transport to cells, promote the growth of atherosclerotic plaques in blood vessels, and make blood platelets sticky so that they clump together and form clots.
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