What is the Difference Between Tobacco and Nicotine?

differences between tobacco and nicotine

differences between tobacco and nicotine

Tobacco and nicotine are often used interchangeably in the media, which causes confusion, especially as smokers are searching for less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes. Understanding the differences between tobacco and nicotine is crucial in the fight against the vilification of e-cigarettes.

What is tobacco?

In its purest form, tobacco refers to the cured leaves of the tobacco plant. Traditionally grown and used both socially and ceremonially since time immemorial in the Americas, tobacco increased in popularity with the colonization of those regions.

Today, tobacco is consumed in various forms, most of which contain a myriad of chemicals that are added to increase their palatability, shelf-life, and appeal. Cigarettes, both pre-rolled and roll-your-own, cigars, and loose pipe tobacco are popular combustible choices. There also exist smokeless tobacco options such as chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco, and snuff.

Are you surprised that e-cigarettes don’t feature on the list of options above? That’s because even if they are categorized as tobacco products by the FDA, e-cigs do not contain any tobacco.

What is nicotine?

Nicotine is a stimulant and an alkaloid, or nitrogenous organic compound, that can be found primarily in the leaves of the tobacco plant and also in trace amounts in “edible plants, such as those in the Solanaceae family, which include eggplants, potatoes, and tomatoes.”

Since nicotine is naturally-present in the leaves of the plant, tobacco products, including combustible cigarettes, contain the substance. Manufacturers of nicotine gums, dermal patches, lozenges, as well as e-cigarette flavor cartridges and vapor juice also add controlled-levels of extracted nicotine to provide users with a less harmful method of consuming nicotine when compared to smoking, chewing, or snorting tobacco.

Why is it important to understand the differences between tobacco and nicotine?

There is no doubt that nicotine is an addictive substance. However, the risks associated with its consumption is often conflated with the dangers of tobacco use, such as lung and mouth cancer. The World Health Organization, in 2008, named tobacco, not nicotine, the world’s leading cause of preventable death and The Oxford Medical Companion went as far as to say that “tobacco is the only legally available consumer product which kills people when it is used entirely as intended.”

Failure to understand the differences between tobacco and nicotine can lead to misconceptions regarding the relative harms of nicotine delivery alternatives that could help smokers quit their deadly habit.

Are you a smoker who has quit combustible cigarettes? Tell us what nicotine replacement alternative you switched to.


One thought on “What is the Difference Between Tobacco and Nicotine?

  1. My husband & I switched to Prime Vapor ecigarettes in Nov. of 2017 – we have never gone back to original cigarettes. Our bodies and our checkbooks thank you….

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