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Memories of the 28th Century

Nicotine, Its Advantages

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I havenít had a cigarette in years (I canít remember exactly how many), but I havenít quit, nor have I lost my bias toward freedom, so I still defend the right for people to live their own lives. Today I got a laugh when I saw an article in the Hampshire Gazette about towns trying to ban those electronic cigarettes now. If this new example of nanny government is being ďjustifiedĒ by health claims, then there is a major problem. But, as with so many things, the press only presents information that is readily available and easy for the people reporting to find and understand; accuracy is not an issue.

Tobacco, cigarettes, and nicotine have gotten a bad rap. I will agree that nicotine is not the safest material around; it is a very powerful drug, and the lethal dose is not all that large, but there isnít much nicotine in a cigarette, and not all of it is absorbed when a cigarette is smoked. It is true that smoking can cause emphysema, but smoking tobacco does not cause lung cancer. Lung cancer is caused by genetic defect, but smoking may trigger the defective genes to misbehave. As a general matter, the people who are most addicted to nicotine are less likely to develop any major health problems from smoking, because they metabolize the smoke materials faster than people who do not become addicted.

The matter of who becomes addicted to nicotine is interesting. Trying to be cool has nothing to do with it, but the number of receptors for some neurotransmitters has a huge amount to do with it, as does whether someone produces adequate quantities of acetylcholine. In some people nicotine fills receptors meant for acetylcholine, and this leads to the release of dopamine and endorphins, both of which are involved with pleasure, and it also leads to release of glutamate, which helps set a memory of the pleasure from taking nicotine. People who receptors sites were already filled will not become addicted, because there is no pleasure in taking nicotine. The people who become addicted usually metabolize nicotine and related materials more quickly, so they will want more sooner. As it happens, such an increase of dopamine and endorphins is what anti-depressants do, but nicotine is more effective than the commercial drugs.

Generally, the people who enjoy smoking the most are most affected by nicotine, and their bodies metabolize nicotine quickly, so they want more; thus leading to the addiction. Most people who do not become addicted to nicotine are not affected by it, but there are some who enjoy it and do not become addicted. The physically damaging effects of nicotine are minor for most people, and people who metabolize it quickly usually repair the damage from smoking, and this is why only a small percentage of long term smokers have major health effects. Conversely, the people who do not become addicted do not repair the damage from smoking as quickly, and the damage can be cumulative, so the non-addicts are more likely to have major health effects.

The total effect is that for some people tobacco is a very strong anti-depressant and euphoriant that causes few, if any, problems, but for other people it is not an anti-depressant, and for these people it can lead to a number of nasty diseases. I have never seen figures on how many people fit into which class, but from my observations it seems that nicotine is an antidepressant for about fifty percent of people, and it has no effect on about twenty-five percent, while the remaining twenty-five percent are somewhere in the middle.

In addition, it has become clear in recent years that ďnicotine, a drug that stimulates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, may be of therapeutic value in Parkinson's disease.Ē(2) I do not have Parkinsonís, but I keep this information from the National Institute for Health (NIH) in mind, and I think that people who want to limit access to tobacco products should also remember this. They may not need tobacco now, but it might be very useful to them in the future. In addition to there being very strong evidence that nicotine can cure Parkinson's, there is strong evidence that nicotine slows the development of Alzheimer's Disease.

For a variety of reasons, I think that nicotine in some form should be available to whoever wants it. It might be nice to keep smoke out of the air, but other methods of absorbing nicotine, including electronic cigarettes should be readily available. By readily I mean that there should be few, or no, obstacles to obtaining and using nicotine, and that includes keeping taxes at a reasonable level.




Updated 12-11-2013 at 02:04 PM by PeterL



  1. Frostball's Avatar
    Very interesting and, as a casual smoker who won't let himself get fully addicted again, somewhat worrying.
  2. PeterL's Avatar
    Updated 12-08-2013 at 04:54 PM by PeterL
  3. PeterL's Avatar
    If you have been smoking for a significant amount of time, say more than six months, then you almost certainly are addicted, especially if you smoke every day, even if only a couple of cigarettes. If you only smoke every few days, then you probably are not addicted, and it might be that you can't become addicted. In either case, you shouldn't be worried.

    If you are worried, then you might try the Nicoderm patches that are being advertised on this page now.