Nicotine is an active chemical substance present in tobacco that contributes to the negative reputation of tobacco. This chemical, when abused (through smoking or chewing) has harmful effects on the human body and it is also found to be as addictive as illegal drugs. The below are a few harmful and addictive effects of nicotine on humans, later followed by long and short-term effects.
Harmful effects: Tobacco harms every organ of the body. It affects lungs, heart, kidneys, digestive system, liver, eyes and many other vital organs in the body. Further, people who smoke tobacco get their sense of smell and taste weakened.
Also 'passive smoking' or 'secondhand smoking' harms non-smokers. The tobacco smoke contains harmful chemicals. When inhaled by non-smokers in the smoker's proximity, it causes coughing, phlegm and decline in the functionality of the lungs. Studies show that it can cause heart diseases even among non-smokers who are subjected to secondhand smoking.
Addictive effects: Nicotine is absorbed into the body when an individual smokes or chews tobacco. Nicotine causes elevation of mood. This is the principal reason for nicotine causing addiction. The nicotine absorbed by a smoker reaches the brain via blood. This leads to numerous chemical reactions in the brain and causes feeling of high. It lasts for a short span. Once the nicotine level declines, there is no longer the high-feeling. To have a similar feeling again, the smoker has to smoke again, thus it causes addiction.
Short-term effects of tobacco: In the short-term, nicotine is found to cause high blood pressure, increased pulse rate and cough. The abuse of nicotine also has immediate effects on oral cavity which causes bad breath and staining of teeth. In severe cases, it may also lead to oral cancer.
•Bad breath: Smoking tobacco or chewing tobacco causes severe bad breath in the individual. Bad breath is because the nicotine, tar and other chemicals in tobacco get deposited in your oral cavity. The chemicals in tobacco drastically reduce the formation of saliva in your mouth, causing dry mouth, thus leading to the growth of odor causing bacteria.
•Stained teeth: When you smoke or chew tobacco, the chemicals like tar, nicotine and others burn and undergo chemical reaction producing sticky substances. When you take the smoke in by inhaling, the sticky substances in the smoke get deposited on your teeth and thus cause stains.
•Smoker's cough: Coughing is a protective physiological mechanism in order to remove irritants from the body, especially from the respiratory tract. Smoking damages cilia, the protective structure in the respiratory tract. When Cilia becomes defunct, harmful particles like dust, the chemicals from tobacco, etc. are deposited in the respiratory tract. Over a period of time, the body removes the accumulation of these foreign substances by coughing. Thus, the smoker suffers from heavy cough.
•Increased heart rate and blood pressure: Nicotine causes increased heart rate and blood pressure. This is because nicotine reduces oxygen supply to the heart and thus makes it less functional. Further, it makes blood vessels narrow because of the formation of blood clots. It thus, causes increased workload on the heart; hence, there is increased heart rate. All these factors cause increased blood pressure.
Long-term effects: Long-term effects of nicotine include addiction, increased risk of heart diseases, and decline in insulin levels, cancer and premature aging. Long-term effects of nicotine are very harmful and may also lead to fatalities in many cases.
Addiction and dependence: As the effect of nicotine on the body is temporary, to enhance the feeling the smoker gets addicted and dependent on the drug in the long-term. Further, the body develops tolerance to the chemical, and thus needs increased amount subsequently and thus perpetuates the intake causing addiction and dependence in the long-term.
Increased risk of heart diseases: There is increased risk of heart diseases in the long-term due to nicotine addiction. Nicotine causes narrowing down of the blood canals. It is because nicotine gets attached to its receptor proteins in the blood vessel and stays there and thus causes constriction of blood canals.
Also, in the long-term, nicotine damages the lining of blood vessels that leads to deposition of cholesterol in the blood vessels. This may ultimately lead to a heart attack.
Inhibits the release of insulin: Nicotine leads to reduction in the secretion of insulin that is essential in absorption of carbohydrates in the body. Normally, when the glucose level rises because of food intake, insulin comes to the rescue by reducing the glucose levels. In smokers, this is not the case; insulin is released in less quantity. When glucose levels are present in higher levels than required in blood, it may cause harm to the heart and kidneys.
May lead to cancer: Nicotine as a causative substance of cancer is debatable. The other chemicals in tobacco like tar containing cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, etc. are said to cause cancer. These chemicals are released in the body when tar enters because of smoking, over a long period.
Premature aging: Smokers look older than they actually are. This is because of the effect of nicotine on the production and functioning of antioxidants in the body - responsible for fighting free radicals in the body formed due to environmental pollution, stress, etc. Antioxidants make the skin and other soft tissues look young.
By all accounts, nicotine has destructive effects on every part of your body - be in the short or long-term. Hence, a strict warning indeed to non-smokers is to never experiment with it!