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Europeans learned about tabacco smoking from Native Americans, when the europeans settlers arrived in North America. Since then, the tobacco industry has undergone global popularization, creating a multi-billion dollar cash/ drug crop industry. Lets now take a look at why people smoke tobacco; nicotine.
Nicotine (the psychedelic pesticide)
Nicotine is an interesting substance. In very low doses it acts as psycho-stimulant like caffeine or amphetamine, boosting mental performance, vigor and energy. At very slightly higher doses nicotine behaves like a narcotic pain killing relaxing sedative. Alcohol, another widely abused legal drug also exhibits this bipolar effect profile, where low doses excite whilst larger doses sedate the user. While humans can tolerate the effects of small amount of nicotine, most insects cannot, so nicotine is used as a pesticide.
As nicotine enters the body, it is distributed quickly through the bloodstream and crosses the blood brain barrier reaching the brain within 10–20 seconds after inhalation. By binding to nicotine-acetylcholine receptors , nicotine increases the levels of several neurotransmitters – acting as mood brightening anti-depressant, increasing the amount of dopamine and serotonin floating around in the synapses, whilst also activating the acetylcholine receptors. Nicotines manipulation of these neurotransmitter systems is responsible for the mood enhancement and stress relief associated with smoking.
More than just Nicotine
Smoked tobacco contains psychoactive compounds other than nicotine which enhance and augment the mind altering effects of tobacco smoking. Tobacco smoke contains anabasine , anatabine, and nornicotine, as well as the MAO inhibitors harman and norharman. These compounds significantly reduce the break down of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin: creating feelings of excitement and enhanced mood within the user. Tobacco smoke also contains the psychoactive gas carbon-monoxide.
The stimulating effect of tobacco is related to its ability to release adrenaline and the other major stimulating neurotransmitter norepinephrine. When the average cigarette is smoked, the user absorbs about 1mg of nicotine, and some fractions of a milligram worth of the other psychoactive compounds in the smoke. The chemicals in tobacco smoke have major subjectively observable effects on the human body for a few hour after the user smokes a cigarette.
Smoking a cigarette is literally like taking a handful of different psychoactive antidepressant drugs all at the same time, each in tiny doses. Effectively, tobacco smoke is abused by self medicating users because it behaves like a stimulating mood brightening pain killing antidepressant. The addictive properties of smoke tobacco are heavily related to the synergistic effect that all of these drugs have on the user. Tobacco is not one drug, it is a powerful mixture of mind altering drugs.
Brightened My Mood
I can say with absolute certainty that I felt better after smoking each of those two cigarettes recently. My lungs are not used to smoke inhalation, so I had to take small puffs and blend them with lots of air. I know that this was unhealthy, but I cannot objectively talk about why people use tobacco without giving it a whirl for myself. Sadly, I fully understand that the undesirable chemicals in the smoke continue to have a negative impact on my body long after the pleasure chemicals in the smoke have worn off.
Nasty Side Effects
The harmful effects of tobacco derive from the thousands of different compounds generated in the smoke, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (such as benzpyrene), formaldehyde, cadmium, nickel, arsenic, radioactive polonium-210, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), phenols, and many others. Some of these toxic chemicals in the tobacco smoke are related to how the tobacco was grown (what kind of soil is was grown in). The tobacco plant is exceedingly efficient at extracting toxic metals from soil (cadmium, nickel, arsenic, radioactive polonium-210).
Tobacco use is associated with smelling terrible, yellow teeth, yellow dry wrinkly heavy skin, cancer and heart disease. A lot of the negative health impacts of tobacco are related to the combustion products in the smoke. If someone put the active parts of tobacco into a supplement, tobacco users could take those instead of inhaling burning tobacco smoke to get the mood brightening stimulating stress relieving effects of tobacco without all of the toxic side effect associated with tobacco smoke inhalation.
The SafeCig Solution
I already wrote a posting about this much safer smoking alternative, so please have a look.
10 Good Reasons to Stop Smoking
20 minutes after quitting, your blood pressure drops to a level close to that before the last cigarette. The temperature of your hands and feet increases to normal.
8 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood drops to normal.
24 hours after quitting, your chance of a heart attack decreases.
2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your circulation improves and your lungs perform up to 30% better.
1 to 9 months after quitting, coughing, sinus, congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease. Lung function improves and your ability to tollerate respiratory virus's and bacteria increases to normal.
1 year after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker.
5 to 15 years after quitting, your risk of a stroke is reduced to that of a non-smoker.
10 years after quitting, your lung cancer risks are 50 lower then those the smoker faces.
Your appearance will not degrade as rapidly due to aging.
You will save a lot of money!
Citations / Links
I would like to thank Wikipedia for access to much of this information. I would also like to thank the Washington State Department of Health for addition information in my posting.