Let’s get one thing out of the way: nicotine is not inherently dangerous. There have been no direct links from nicotine to cancer, or other serious diseases. In fact, there have even been studies linking mild nicotine intake to health benefits.

That said, nicotine has two major drawbacks. First, many users become dependent on it. Secondly, the majority of users are hooked on it in through the form of tobacco cigarettes, which we know lead to cancer, heart disease, and myriad other serious health concerns. But in and of itself, nicotine isn’t necessarily the problem.

Nicotine is a naturally occurring alkaloid that comes from the nightshade family of plants, such as tobacco leaves, but also eggplants and peppers. It can also be synthetically produced.

Though it is most commonly ingested through inhalation of cigarettes or vaping products, it can also be absorbed through the skin or the mouth via mucous membranes, as in a patch or gum. It’s all the same nic. Yet no matter how nicotine is consumed, it enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain. The reason scientists think that cigarette smoking is uniquely addictive is that the inahled smoke delivers the nicotine with a supercharged punch, which the brain craves again and again.

Once in the system, your brain wants it to stay. For many, the negative effects of tobacco are outweighed by the satisfaction of ingesting more nicotine.

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