How addictive is nicotine in e-liquid?


People are prone to repeating actions that bring them some kind of pleasure or reward. There are all kinds of things that people do, that are not 100% necessary to survival, but that we enjoy doing and so form a habit of doing it repeatedly. So at what point does an activity stop being an acceptable repetitive activity and become an addiction that requires some for of medical intervention?

Most people drink tea or coffee, have the occasional alcoholic drink and like a bit of chocolate. These activities are generally accepted as the normal and medical intervention to break such habits, is not considered, because there is no major harm being done by consuming these substances in moderation. However when an activity becomes evidently harmful to a person’s well-being, but they feel a need to continue to perform the activity, despite the harm it is causing them, at that point the activity may be classed as an addiction and medical intervention sought.

In the case of people smoking tobacco cigarettes, the harm being done by this activity has become very clear. Yet despite the overwhelming evidence, many people still struggle to stop smoking. Most people assume that this is because tobacco contains nicotine and that it is the nicotine that people find it difficult to stop consuming.

The team at ESR conducted studies on rats. The rats were offered two saline solutions, one containing tobacco smoke extracts and one containing only nicotine. The rats were seen to go to much greater lengths to obtain the solution containing tobacco smoke, than the plain nicotine solution. This suggests that nicotine is not the sole cause of the addictive properties of tobacco smoke. There must be something else in tobacco smoke, that made the rats prefer it. Something other than the nicotine that they could have got from the other solution.

It is already known that tobacco contains various substances that are highly likely to increase dependence and make withdrawal difficult. One of these substances is the MAOI antidepressant harmine, that is a naturally occurring substance in tobacco.

So it seems clear that tobacco smoke is more addictive than nicotine alone, due to various other elements it contains.

It is true that people enjoy consuming nicotine in moderate quantities and that this is due to certain neurochemical rewards that people get from such. However usually consuming a substance repetitively to obtain a reward, is only considered an addiction requiring medical intervention, if that consumption is causing some kind of harm to health and well-being.

With regards to the nicotine in e-liquid, it is not currently considered to be harmful to use electronic cigarettes in moderation. In fact, recent research done by Dr. K Farsalinos on living cells found that the nicotine in e-liquid, did not cause any harm to living cells, in fact, it even had some protective properties, extending cell life somewhat. Likewise, the propylene glycol and glycerol in e-liquid were also found to be harmless, as were the majority of flavor concentrates, of the 20 that he tested.

So although using an electronic cigarette is likely to be habit forming if it contains nicotine, it can not be seen in the same light as an addiction requiring medical intervention, like tobacco smoking. As the harm caused by this activity is degrees of magnitude less than that caused by tobacco smoking. Generally considered by experts to be 99% safer than tobacco smoking, it also now appears to be a lot less addictive also.

For those people who have switched from smoking tobacco to using an electronic cigarette, the concerns and stigma associated with tobacco smoking and addiction, need no longer apply to them. Nicotine alone is not the sole addictive element in tobacco smoke and in such small quantities, it is certainly not the destructive, harmful element that many assume it to be.

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