Nicotine is a chemical found in tobacco and many other plants. It is a stimulant, and is consumed by millions of people across the world in different forms. Studies have long revealed that nicotine products are not as safe as commonly thought. The United States Surgeon General has warned that nicotine poses a risk to adolescents whose brains are still developing.
In this post, we’ll look at 5 reasons why nicotine is bad for your health and general well being. These are also some of the common vaping side effects since nicotine is a key ingredient in e-cigarette products.
- Nicotine Addiction
Nicotine is one of the most addictive agents commonly used. According to health experts, nicotine is just as addictive as heroin or cocaine. But why is nicotine so addictive?
Nicotine interacts with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and also stimulates dopaminergic transmission. These receptors, which are located in the somatic nervous system, respond to stimulants such as nicotine. Nicotine is addictive; it activates the reward centers responsible for mood elevation and improvement in cognitive functions. Typically, nicotine over stimulates these receptors, which results in their desensitization. This inhibits the ability of these receptors to control dopamine release. The result of this is that the body slowly becomes more dependent on nicotine. And the craving for nicotine leads to a dependence that can be transmitted genetically. Studies show that parents can transmit nicotine addiction to their children.
Cancer is one of the adverse effects of nicotine. The smoking of cigarettes is one of the most popular ways people ingest nicotine. Smoking has long been linked with lung cancer. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 9 out of every 10 lung cancer deaths are caused by cigarette smoking or secondhand exposure to cigarette smoke. Health experts have also expressed concern about the use of vaping products containing nicotine.
According to research, nicotine can cause cancer in a number of ways. There are poisons in cigarette smoke that affects the immune system, weakening it gradually. This makes it harder for the body to kill cancerous cells. As a result, cancerous cells in the body can grow and spread without being checked by the weakened immune system.
Studies also indicate that poisons in tobacco smoke can damage the DNA structure of a cell. DNA can be described as the brain of the cell, where it gets its control information. And when DNA is compromised by tobacco smoke, cells begin to grow without control. This leads to tumors and cancers.
Long-term use of nicotine products, especially cigarettes, can cause cancer in almost any part of the body. Smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco can also result in cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus, and pancreas.
- Gastrointestinal System
Another negative effect of consuming nicotine is GastroEsophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD) and peptic ulcer disease. This is one of the major consequences of nicotine. The symptoms of GERD are painful and unpleasant. If untreated, it can result in several complications. Nicotine relaxes the valve between the esophagus and stomach. This allows the acid produced in the stomach to break down food to move back up (reflux) into the esophagus. This reflux causes heartburn and other uncomfortable effects. It is also the reason why smokers tend to have a higher infection of Helicobacter pylori.
- Heart Disease and Stroke
Heart disease and stroke are among the adverse effects of nicotine. Cigarette smoking thickens, narrows and causes blockages to the arteries. This results in less blood and oxygen flowing to your heart. Nicotine consumption via cigarettes can result in chest pain or even heart attacks. Nicotine can also contain heart failure, arrhythmia, among others.
Nicotine raises triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood), which can have adverse effects. It also lowers (HDL) or good cholesterol in the body. Nicotine from smoking also makes the blood sticky and can block flow to the brain and heart. This increases the chances of strokes or heart attacks.
- Reproductive Health
Nicotine also has a negative effect on the reproductive system. Cigarette smoking lowers sperm production and quality, and can even cause infertility in men. Nicotine can also have detrimental effects on pregnant women.
Researchers have found a link between cigarette smoking, lower sperm count and an increased number of defective spermatozoa. Men who smoke cigarettes frequently have lower levels of semen count than men who did not smoke cigarettes. Studies show that men who smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day experience a reduction in sperm concentration compared to non-smokers. Studies on oral consumption of nicotine (such as chew tobacco) shows that it is equally detrimental to reproductive health.
Nicotine can also have adverse effects on the male semen quality. Researchers have found that it reduces the success of assisted reproduction. The success rates of assisted reproduction techniques like vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are lower among nicotine users.
Smoking causes ectopic pregnancy in women. When this occurs, fertilized eggs become implanted somewhere other than the uterus. Consequently, the egg cannot survive and this results in life-threatening conditions for the mother. Nicotine makes it more difficult for women to become pregnant. And even when they become pregnant, there is a risk that the baby could be born prematurely. Babies of women who are nicotine users tend to have low-birth-weight, and there are increased health risks associated with babies born too early or too small.
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