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Killer Substance: Nicotine

By: Tiger Liu and Valentin Paeckert


Credit: Wix

When you walk on the streets and see people smoking, vaping, and using other products that involve nicotine, do you immediately think of the damage it initiates? Nicotine is found almost everywhere in our daily life, and causes much harm to us. According to, nicotine is responsible for over 480,000 preventable deaths in the US. Nicotine is in cigarettes, vapes, cigars, hookahs, and a plethora of others. The basic function of nicotine is to release a happiness hormone called dopamine. One cigarette might look harmless, but continuous consumption is fatal. Not only does it affect one’s physical and mental health, but it also increases the vulnerability to Covid-19.

First of all, nicotine has already been proven to be a deadly substance to your physical body. It can harm nearly every organ in your body, including the heart, lung, kidney, brain, and many more. Every organ in your body plays a vital role in maintaining your survival and health. If a major organ, like the heart, is failing to function efficiently, then you would die within a few minutes. Nicotine can cause failure in these organs. In a study by the CDC published on website, they stated that if smoking continues among the US youth at this rate, 1 in every 13 Americans is expected to die prematurely at the age of 17 or younger due to smoking-related illnesses. In interviews done by the CDC journalists on former smokers and tips to quit, they found that Kristy G., a former addict, said that she could “finally breath” after she quit her smoking addiction. Her smoking addiction has led to a variety of problems, including her smoker’s cough, failure in her right lung, and early signs of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease). All of this shows that nicotine can provoke many health problems and bring many diseases to the body. Nicotine is a very deadly substance, as described on both medical websites and also personal stories, addiction to products that include this substance often leads to an undesirable result.

Subsequently, although nicotine can release dopamine to make a person happy, there are also severe long-term effects that nicotine can cause on someone’s mental health. People say that on top of nicotine being able to make you happier, it can also help cause stress. What isn’t usually brought up though, is that these effects are, only for the time being. You see, when nicotine is consumed regularly, it can reactivate and even increase the numbers of nicotinic acetylcholine, which are receptors that react to stress. If you consume nicotine habitually, nicotinic acetylcholine adapts to the regular number taken in. So, when these receptors aren’t getting enough nicotine compared to the habitual amount, they can make you feel stressed. This, makes your addiction to nicotine harder to get rid of. This substance is so highly addictive that only 5mg a day can lead you down the wrong path, making it more addictive than alcohol, opioids, and cocaine. On top of that, nicotine can also give you other mental health problems including depression and anxiety, both common problems in the world today.

In a study by JAMA, 30,000 frequent e-cigarette(vape)users above 18 have about 2.4 times higher diagnoses of depression than non-smokers. This study furthermore proves how nicotine is such a dangerous substance to your mental health. In another interview by CDC journalists, Rebecca M., another former smoker had originally started smoking because of the influence of her family. When she was 16, she tried her first cigarette, and when she was 33, she was diagnosed with depression. She thought that smoking could help her depression, so she smoked even more, which did the opposite job of making her even more depressed. She later developed physical problems but had stopped for her grandson to grow up in a better environment. She said that “It’s about taking control and knowing where you want to be in life.” Like Rebecca, some students in Concordia have also been affected by their family’s habit of smoking. For example, Angie Rickett, Christina Liang, and Lynn Kim all said that they felt “nervous” when someone around them was smoking. Although this may be a different situation from what was mentioned before, it is shown that mental health can be affected when consumers are exposing themself and others to products containing nicotine.

Last but not least, studies have also shown that nicotine increases the probability of getting Covid, and also the chances of dying from the virus. Covid is a lung disease, and when combined with the lung problems that smokers frequently develop, like smoker’s cough or COPD, the effects of the virus will be more evident than those who don’t smoke. In a study by Ashley Cliff from the University of Oxford, out of the 421,469 participants in the study, they found out that, compared to those who had never smoked, current smokers were 80% more likely to be admitted to a hospital and also more likely to die from Covid-19 if infected as well. All of these survey participants have had their genetic makeup analyzed, to furthermore prove that such results were, indeed, from the effects of smoking. Smoking products containing nicotine is like luring Covid-19 to infect an individual, and the combination of both also heightens the threat brought to their lives.

In summary, nicotine has clearly been demonstrated to be harmful in almost every single way, bringing more negative impacts than benefits. In a stressful time period like the Covid outbreak, it is vital to know that consuming nicotine in any form is not the solution to solve problems, such as stress and anxiety. The results the substance brings are only the inverse of solving such issues, harming you mentally, physically, and above that, even increasing the risk of being infected by Covid-19. The next time you look at a “harmless cigarette”, just think of what that single breath could cost you in the long run.



Smokers much more likely to be admitted to the hospital with covid 10 study suggests :

People who smoke ‘significantly more likely to die’ from COVID:

It’s a breath of stress air :

3 ways vaping affects mental health :

Rebecca M.’s story :

Kristy G.’s story :

Nicotine fast facts :

Tobacco, nicotine, & vaping (E-cigarettes) :

Interviewees: Angie Rickett, Christina Liang, Lynn Kim

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