Lauren A. Colby

Chapter 11, Is Nicotine Addictive?

© 1996, Lauren A. Colby. Version 2.0
HTML-version by Kees van der Griendt

Much of the rhetoric of the anti-smoking movement seeks to demonize tobacco smokers as "nicotine addicts". In the past, of course, the term "addict" has been generally applied only to mind-altering drugs, e.g., heroin and cocaine. Even alcohol, which is mind-altering, is not generally referred hocolate candies, pies and cakes, etc. Indeed, if "addiction" is defined as dependence upon some chemical, everyone is addicted, to air!

I am not going to engage in a philosophical debate over the definition of "addiction". There is a questionke.

Nicotine is a chemical, C10H 14N 2, which is found in the tobacco plant. Anti-smokers are quick to point out that pure nicotine is a poison, used as a pesticide. And it's true that pure nicotine (a colorless, odorous liquid), is poisonous. According to the mens that to kill a 180 lb man, he'd have to drink about 80 mg of the stuff. Many other common substances, however, also have minimum lethal doses. According to the same source, ingesting a gram of caffeine is fatal.

In fact, many substances which are beneficial in small quantities are toxic in large quantities. My mother suffered a stroke some years ago. Her life was saved, and she recovered, by taking a blood ll, so he doubled it. My mother began hemorrhaging, and almost died from loss of blood. The blood thinner, which is life saving in small quantities, proved toxic in large quantities.

Of course, most of the nicotine in tobacco is lost in the process of smoking. Only a little finds its way into the smoker's bloodstream. That small quantity may account for some of the beneficial effects of smoking, e.g., impr Strangely, fine Havana cigars, when they were available, contained only 2% nicotine. If, in fact, nicotine is the reason why people smoke, it seems strange that people would pay enormous amounts of money for Havana cigars, which contain so little nicotine.

I question, however, whether nicotine is the active ingredient in tobacco. If it were, nicotine patches should satisfy a smoker's craving for trbidden, the inmates take to smoking corn silk, paper, string, etc., none of which contain any nicotine.

When I was a young man, there was a chain of tobacco stores which sold cheap cigars. They were made almost entirely from brown paper, with only one outside wrapper made from tobacco. I doubt they contained any significant amoces have suggested taking the nicotine out of cigarettes, to discourage smoking. This assumes, of course, that smokers smoke to get nicotine. In their book, "Life Extension", health writers Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, take a different approach. Believing that smoke is bad for health but that nicotine is s will consume fewer cigarettes.

It is not universally accepted, however, that nicotine is the active ingredient in tobacco smoke. The authors of the widely respected "Merck Manual" say only that it is "probably" the active ingredient. If, in fact, the anti-smokers nally find out the truth. My own bet is that a cigarette without nicotine will probably be almost as satisfying as one with nicotine. The active ingredient in smoke is smoke.

Next Chapter (12): Smoking and Heart Attacks


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