When looking into the many options for smoking cessation, it can be difficult to know if a product is truly safe, how it works, and if it will work for you.
In order to fully understand the differences between cessation tools and replacement therapies, and to have all the information necessary to make a decision about quitting, you need to understand what nicotine is, where it comes from, and how it interacts with your body
What is Nicotine?
Nicotine is an organic alkaloid, meaning it is derived from a plant source, in this case, tobacco, and has at least one nitrogen atom. While it is naturally occurring, nicotine can also be chemically altered, as is the case with freebase nicotine and nicotine salts, or synthetically produced.
When nicotine reaches the brain, which happens within 20 seconds when inhaling cigarette smoke, it triggers receptors to release dopamine, also known as the feel-good chemical. Because of the almost instantaneous nature of this release, any product containing nicotine is going to be extremely addictive.
While nicotine isn’t the part that will give you the worst of the long-term health effects associated with combustible cigarette use, it is a naturally occurring element of tobacco, and therefore, all combustible cigarette products contain nicotine, making all combustible cigarette products addictive. It is this addictiveness that causes the most concern with regard to nicotine.
Where Does Nicotine Come From?
Nicotine can either be produced naturally by extracting it from tobacco plants or manufactured synthetically in a lab.
Naturally-derived nicotine comes from tobacco plants of the Nicotiana species. These plants are members of the nightshade family and originally developed in South America before spreading to North America, Africa, and Australia.
Where nicotine acts as an addictive stimulant for us, it has a distinct repellent effect on certain animals, meaning that the plant is rarely jeopardised by herbivores. However, like all things, there are specific insects that have evolved especially to eat tobacco plants like the flea beetle and tobacco hornworm.
Without going into the nitty-gritty aspects of the exact chemistry, in general terms, nicotine is extracted from tobacco leaves by triggering a reaction that allows the alkaloid nicotine to be released from the salts that stabilize and bind it to the plant. When nicotine is extracted in this way it is most often stabilized for absorption by adding ammonia which makes it into freebase nicotine.
Freebase nicotine can then be further altered through the application of certain acids to create nicotine salts. For more on the differences between these two, check out our article An Introduction to Vape Juices: Nic Salts vs Freebase.
Synthetically derived nicotine is chemically identical to nicotine that is extracted from tobacco. However, the claim is that the synthetic process results in purer nicotine since the synthetic chemicals would mean there are no impurities left over from the tobacco. In practical application, it would be next to impossible to be able to tell the difference between a synthetically derived nicotine and a naturally extracted one.
How Does Nicotine Impact the Body?
Generally, when we talk about the health impacts of smoking combustible cigarettes, we focus on the largest health risks like cancer, COPD, emphysema, heart attack, stroke, and so on. While these conditions are undoubtedly linked to cigarette and other tobacco use, the main contributor to these ailments isn’t so much the nicotine as a combination of other elements in the tobacco which result in tar and other toxins collecting in the body.
However, just because it isn’t directly contributing to lung disease or other health problems doesn’t mean that nicotine isn’t a part of the problem. The powerful nature of its connection to dopamine receptors and its subsequent addictive properties make it one of the most difficult substances on earth to break away from.
There is also the added psychological dependence that comes from repeated self-soothing through smoking. Because of this, it is often recommended to work on breaking away from the more harmful practice of smoking cigarettes by replacing the source of nicotine with nicotine replacement therapies like vapes, gums, lozenges, patches, etc.
In addition to releasing dopamine, nicotine also acts as a stimulant, releasing endorphins, increasing your heart rate, and boosting the amount of oxygen your heart uses. Because of this, nicotine has been shown to temporarily improve memory and concentration, but long-term tobacco use is linked to cognitive decline and even an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
Short-term side effects of nicotine will be more pronounced in someone that is not used to using products with nicotine and can include dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, headaches, dry mouth, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, sleep disturbances, changes in blood flow, increased blood pressure, changes in heart rhythm and rate, joint pain, and even tremors.
Since nicotine has such dramatic effects on your body and especially on your brain chemistry, long-term use can alter the way your brain works impacting things like self-control, learning, and your ability to deal with stress.
Nicotine can also have unwanted interactions with other medications, especially benzodiazepines, which can be made less effective, and contraceptive pills that compoundly increase the risk of forming blood clots.
Break Your Nicotine Addiction with STLTH
Our mission at STLTH is to help people stop smoking cigarettes and break away from nicotine addiction for good. Studies have shown that individuals who use vaping devices to help them quit had increased chances of success.
This is because vaping allows you to continue the behavioural cessation of drawing and inhaling while working to wean yourself off of the chemical addiction with lower and lower nicotine dosage levels until you aren’t using any nicotine at all.
Once you get to a point where you are no longer using nicotine, you can start to work on the behavioural addiction by vaping less often and/or intensely, until, again, you no longer vape at all.
That is our mission at STLTH, and we have crafted our products to make this transition as easy as possible. Our devices are discrete, easy to use, and work with any USB-C charger.
The STLTH pod system gives you the convenience of a disposable system with less waste and a better value. And with 32 flavours in 4 nicotine varieties, including a nicotine free 0 mg/mL option, there’s sure to be one that fits your taste.
For longtime and heavy smokers, our STLTH Original line provides a more realistic smoke feel and is a good place to start if you’re just making the switch from cigarettes at the maximum nicotine concentration of 20 mg/mL. STLTH Original pods also come in our BOLD 35 and BOLD 50 formulations which give the sensation of a higher concentration while still within the regulations for the maximum dose of nicotine.