All About Nicotine

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Posted at 5:00 • 09 Dec • Nicotine


If you’re a smoker, you’ll recognise nicotine. It’s called breakfast. If you keep your ciggies on your nightstand, nicotine is breakfast in bed. Yawn, roll over, fumble for the lighter and knock another 11 minutes off your life. But not in the way you might think. As smokers continue to feed their bodies nicotine (and many vapers join in), the majority of them have one thing in common: not having a damn clue what the stuff even is.

We’ll be breaking it all down. What nicotine is, how it affects you, if it’s bad for you, the safest way to handle it and whether or not it should be slapped with the “evil” label.

“Nicotine patches are great. Stick one over each eye and you can’t find your fags”. - Bill Hicks, comedian, heavy smoker, dead at 32 from cancer.


Much like Champagne, Brie, Louis Vuitton and pasteurised milk, nicotine is named after something French. Well, someone French. The Nicotiana tabacum term is named after a 16th century French diplomat, Jean Nicot. He traded tobacco seeds, probably did a bunch of other stuff, then died. It was the 16th century. No-one cares.

  • Nicotine is the most well-known chemical found in tobacco- it’s chemically classed as an alkaloid. By containing nitrogen, it’s chemically similar to substances like caffeine and cocaine.

  • Nicotine can be found in vegetables- alongside the tobacco plant, nicotine can be found in tiny amounts in potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines. For comparison, the 20mg of nicotine found in 1g of tobacco whittles down to 0.0001mg per 1g of aubergine. Fun stuff.

Nicotine is more addictive than heroin- A study back in the 1980’s showed nicotine to be one of the most addictive substances on earth. Nicotine concentration in the blood peaks around the time a smoker extinguishes their cigarette. The effects wear off quickly. Not surprisingly, within 30 minutes, the human body is saying: “More, please”.


Up until e-cigarettes came along, the most common form of nicotine ingestion was cigarettes. When you smoke a cigarette, nicotine traverses the lung’s membranes into the bloodstream before making a beeline for your heart. The arteries there help in getting nicotine to your brain. The whole process takes 10-20 seconds.


It isn’t a sugar-frosted, deep-fried, Haribo-covered doughnut, so why does the human body get hooked? Nicotine is classed as “physically addictive”- we experience a degree of relief and pleasure getting it. When we stop, we’re not happy. The addiction process is a complicated chemical hoopla of acetylcholine processing (that’s one of the brain’s main neurochemicals). You’ll be more familiar with dopamine, the desire and goal-pursuit neurochemical that’s often coined the “reward” chemical. The human brain has nicotine receptors already in place. As soon as nicotine arrives, a giant domino effect of joy zooms through the brain.

“That 12-step process that addicts go through to get clean? There are way more than 12 steps in getting the brain itself hooked on nicotine.”


Weirdly, nicotine is both a sedative and a stimulant. From a straight-up medical perspective, nicotine:

  • Gives you a “kick” that comes with reasons. Nicotine causes an adrenaline release. That leads to a glucose release.

  • Increases heart rate. That is accompanied by a rise in breathing activity and, to a limited extent, blood pressure.

  • Rickrolls the pancreas into producing less insulin.

  • Puts the brain in a more “alert” state. That accompanies psychodynamic effects of euphoria and feeling relaxed.

  • Improves memory and concentration, as well as reducing anxiety by increasing beta-endorphin levels (what, you think we don’t do our research?).

  • Reduces clinical ADHD symptoms, improves Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Tourettes, plus inflammation.

  • Has various gastrointestinal effects that can cause heartburn or indigestion. In larger amounts, nicotine starts to affect muscles and can cause tremors.

Nicotine is broken down in the liver, filtered by the kidneys and eventually excreted in the urine.


Most smokers continue to believe that nicotine causes cancer. It does not. The combusted tobacco, tar and 7000+ chemicals in a cigarette (hundreds of which are known to cause cancer) are what kill smokers.

Nicotine is simply what’s keeping them addicted.

“65% of smokers believe that nicotine causes cancer. That’s 65 out of 100 smokers who are completely wrong”.

There is zero conclusive evidence linking nicotine to cancer. This study linked smoking to cancer (duh), but it proved that nicotine replacement therapies do not cause cancer. There is likewise no evidence linking nicotine to cardiovascular disease, although ingesting nicotine will cause small and temporary spikes in both heart rate and blood pressure.

That said, combined with other factors, taking in nicotine has its negatives. Nicotine can promote the growth of existing tumours. Studies in mice showed a 40% rate of tumour recurrences after initial tumour removals. Basically, nicotine won’t do any favours to a cancerous body.

The message couldn’t be clearer. Nicotine isn’t something to “start avoiding once I’ve got cancer”. Come on. Use that loaf. Avoid the cancer in the first place.

As The NHS, Public Health England and Dr Christian Jessen add on to the overwhelming support from health bodies endorsing vaping, smokers are getting something new. For the first time ever, the belittling, condescending comments that make them want to punch people into the middle of next week have shut shop. Meanwhile, we’ve opened our seventh. Why? Because the alternative to smoking that’s 95% safer, tastier, cheaper and way more fun is available for as little as £20.


We put headlines in bold. Why? You’re only human. We won’t hold it against you for skimming. This, however, is where you read the paragraph just above this headline. It might well save your life. Alongside the world of e-cigarettes (or vaping), the nicotine alternatives available include:

  • Nicotine patches- Old-school, but still around. Patches generally last 16-25 hours. You pick a strength and the slow release through the skin into the bloodstream helps fight cravings.
  • Nicotine gum- Available over-the-counter, gum offers immediate relief with one warning: no more than 24 per day.

  • Lozenges, nasal sprays and inhalers- These vary in terms of prescription requirement. Inhalers should only be used for a maximum of six months. All three will deliver some form of relief.

Vaping- From starter kits and stealth-friendly vape pens to larger box mods, vaping comes with endless flavours, customisations, plus the option to include a specific strength of nicotine.


Many vapers continue to choose the “with nicotine” option. Virtually every quitting smoker does. This is an industry that caters to individuals, though (and it didn’t copy Big Tobacco- “catering” doesn’t equal killing). There are two types of nicotine in the vaping world:

Freebase nicotine is the conventional type that was actually formulated by Philip Morris in the 1960’s to make cigarettes more addictive. All tobacco and most e-liquids use it. In e-liquids, freebase nicotine works on buildup basis. It literally builds up in the bloodstream. It is considered the most optimal version of nicotine and is more effectively absorbed in vapour form. (So why all the buzz about nic salts?)

Nicotine salts are a relatively new phenomenon that’s become huge. Still coming from the naturally occurring nicotine salt found in tobacco, this form delivers nicotine at the approximate speed of a cigarette, giving a more instant rush (versus the buildup in freebase). It’s also loved for giving a smoother throat hit. Dinner Lady recently released a nic salt version of their Lemon Tart best-seller. Element also has an entire nic salt line.


Most vapers wanting nicotine choose 3mg or 6mg strengths, although up to 20mg is available. Most cigarettes fall in the 8-20mg range. A quick way to choose your nicotine level is on the left-hand side of this page.

“Short Fill bottles are the money saving option that lets you choose your nicotine strength with the free included nic shot”.

One nic shot mixed into a 60ml Shortfill (filled to 50 ml) gives a 3mg strength. Double it, half it, ditch it, do as you please.

If you’re quitting smoking and still want your nicotine, we recommend starting at a higher strength (whack on tobacco flavour for a closer experience), then working your way down. You can do this at your own rate. If you’re a smoker, you can just quit. No one is forcing you to take up vaping. What we don’t like seeing though, is the inevitable. Returning to the cigarettes.

“Continuing to smoke is continuing to die. Make the switch today.”

There’s a “try before you buy” aspect to vaping. Here is why doing it in-store is your best bet- especially if you’re a complete beginner. We’ve got seven of them with staff who know their vaping as much as they know their smokers (and their nicotine strengths). For anything else and to get exclusive savings, follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter or check out our other blog posts. contains general information about vaping and vapour products. The information provided is not medical advice, and should not be relied upon unless explicity cited. We do not make any warranties surrounding the health benefits, reliability and accuracy of written copy across all pages on our website, including blog content and content posted on social media.

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