Benefits of Nicotine

Regarding whether smoking has any benefits, I’ve always thought that the problem with nicotine wasn’t so much the drug as the delivery mechanism. I’m not a smoker (quit years ago), but I’ve toyed with the idea of starting with a small slice of a nicotine patch and gradually working my way UP to which ever patch represents a good solid two-pack a day habit. I’d get all the appetite-suppression and other benefits, without lung/throat/mouth cancer or smelling like an old chimney… Now that nicorette gum is available over the counter, I have even more options! Of course, it’s as expensive as the cigarettes are…

Submitted only partially tongue-in-cheek…

Thomas Payne
Lexington, KY

Having tried both the gum and the cigarettes, I find the cigarettes almost infinitely preferable to the gum. It was foul, made my tongue go numb, and made me sick, and tasted awful and made my mouth taste awful.

But I have a friend who loved it, but gave it up in favor of smoking.

I sold my soul to Satan for a dollar. I got it in the mail.

Oh, and let’s not forget that nicotine is addictive.

I sold my soul to Satan for a dollar. I got it in the mail.

Cecil’s column is Does smoking have any health benefits? (03-Feb-1995)

I’m not sure if nicotine has any inherent health drawbacks (it probably does), but seeing as how chewing tobacco causes mouth cancer, it would seem that even without smoking, tobacco has inherent health drawbacks (and nicotine is a prime suspect).

Unless you’re young, you probably won’t be able to tolerate starting (hot turkey?) on nicotine. While nicotine is addictive, for an older person starting it may be an unpleasant experience.

I started smoking about a year ago after my divorce because of all the stress (I am in my mid-forties and wasn’t a smoker before, go figure). I only do it intermittenly and then put on a patch to stop again. I find that the patches by themselves sometimes relieve the stress and I don’t even need the cigarettes. But sometimes they aren’t enough and I “backslide” and smoke again but then I wear patches for a few days and get off of them again.

My experience is that the patches are very effective and not unpleasant other than the patch itself bugs me because it is like wearing a bandaid so it pulls at my skin a little.

“The truth does not make a good story; that’s why we have art.”

There may be some truth to it being not so much the drug as the delivery mechanism, I don’t know; but nicotine is highly toxic, so I’d really be surprised if it didn’t have negative effects on health, even sans smoke.

On a related note, then: What is it in chewing tobacco that causes cancer? The nicotine itself, or some other component of tobacco?

American Indian medicine men used tobacco therapeutically as well as sacramentally. Presumably, venerating it as sacred and requiring religious ritual for its use helped prevent them from becoming nicotine-addicted and using it to the point of causing emphysema, lung cancer, and cardiovascular problems. A few sacramental puffs once in a while done in the right spirit, getting them high for shamanistic faith healing.

So when the English first came to Virginia, they picked up on this idea of tobacco as therapeutic. They actually believed it was healthy! Weird? Consider the context…

Once I was at a truckstop and had to take a crap. I did not like the stench of foul fecal miasma in that environment, so I tried not to breath through my nose. But the guy in the next stall was smoking a cigarette, and some of the smoke wafted directly into my nostrils. What a beautiful, sweet, smell it had!

So picture these unwashed Englishmen who had just come over the ocean in a small sailing vessel, cramped, filthy, lacking any good hygiene; conditions must have been quite foul. They catch a whiff of tobacco smoke, and it smells clean and pure by comparison, and they’re convinced it must be healthy.

In India they use the smoldering tip of an incense stick to annihilate foul air and purify it; burning tobacco could have served the same purpose for Sir Walter Raleigh.

There ARE benefits to nicotine. Recent research has indicated that nicotine may delay the onset of Alzheimers, for instance.
Nicotine is a stimulant, and may improve mental performance overall. A recent research study indicated that it may help ADD people with concentration and focus.

This doesn’t mean you should use it. There may be health risks that outweigh the benefits.

You don’t have to go back to the English settlers in Virginia to see someone who touted smoking to be therapeutic. I saw this commercial made by former president Ronald Reagan in the 50s for Chesterfield cigarattes where he was promoting how they helped breathing and cleared the lungs.

“The truth does not make a good story; that’s why we have art.”

In the Truman Capote short novel “Handcarved coffins”, the murderer kills one of his victims by injecting him with liquid nicotine, and the book says how liquid nicotine is a fast and extremely deadly poison.

Did Truman Capote make this up for the novel?

I don’t think so. Nicotine is listed as a pesticide and a toxic chemical.

I tried researching to pull up some data for comparison. After poking around through google search longer than I wanted, I came across a website that with some prodding gave up the following info.

Note: tox = toxicity measurement
meth = dosage method
sub = subject species
level = dosage level
units = units
LDLo = ? TDLo = ? LD50 = dosage where 50% of population exposed dies
unk = ? orl = oral rec = ? unr = ?
hmn = human ug = micrograms (.000001 grams)

tox meth sub level units

LDLo unk man 882 ug/kg
LD50 orl rat 50 mg/kg
TDLo rec hmn 1430 ug/kg

LDLo unr man 294 mg/kg
LD50 orl rat 200 mg/kg
TDLo orl man 1625 mg/kg

LD50 orl rat 1 mg/kg
sodium chloride
sodium chloride (salt)
LD50 orl rat 3000 mg/kg
TDLo orl hmn 12357 mg/kg/23D-C
sodium cyanide
sodium cyanide
LD50 orl rat 6440 ug/kg
LDLo unr man 2206 ug/kg
TDLo orl man 714 ug/kg

From this data by LD50 in rats, nicotine is less toxic that strychnine or sodium cyanide, but more so than aspirin and way more than salt. However, by TDLo in man, it is closer to sodium cyanide than to aspirin.

Hope that helps a little.

Anarchist’s Cookbook IV (of which I deleted my copy, should really get another) listed once upon a time a recipe for stealthy poison. It involved concentrating nicotine - I believe through soaking tobacco in water, then evaporating off much of the water to make a syrup. Apparently, the method of use, according to the cookbook, was to place it in coffee (to cover the bitter taste). The victim would get very buzzed, then die.

Found a link in my internet meanderings.
Jolly Roger’s additions to Cookbook IV.

Ed McBain’s mystery novel “Poison” is about
a dentist poisoning people with nicotine.
It gives graphic detail about how to
extract nicotine from tobacco (similar
to distilling).

According to the book, if you ate a pack
of cigarettes, you would die.