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Nicotine Poisoning and Vapes: The Truth Revealed

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danger sign, sign, poison and caution Photo by @Matthew_T_Rader on Unsplash Photo by @Matthew_T_Rader on Unsplash

Is it true you can get nicotine poisoning from vapes? We explore this clouded topic.

Often with vaping, the facts can become muddied and blurred and it can sometimes get to the unfortunate point where it's hard to know what's real and what's not. One day, for instance, we're told that vapes are as bad as cigarettes, and almost the next day comes a raft of new studies based on solid scientific research showing that e-cigarettes are almost harmless compared to deadly smoking. It's no wonder the public is confused, and, as pretty much usual, it's a hysterical media blowing things way out of proportion and wanting to attract readers with sensational headlines that have little to do with reality. That's why we're happy to run our popular blog, so we can cut through the great mounds of media nonsense and bring you the truth. We know that vaping is important to so many people who were former smokers and suffered all the many health risks as a result. Now, they're able to finally kick their unhealthy habit with the use of vapes and regain control over their lives. It would be a travesty if this wasn't allowed to happen. And in a way, it's understandable that there still exists a great deal of confusion about e-cigarettes, because it's one of the newest industries around and has only really ballooned here in the UK in the last few years — we are all still finding out about it, but finally, we're able to deliver a big slice of the truth. This includes the subject of nicotine poisoning and vapes, which is one that certainly has been blown up by the tabloids for their own monetary gain. If they dealt in the truth, instead of continual reams of fiction, they might get more reader respect.

What Is Nicotine, Actually?

Most of us know that cigarettes are packed full of nicotine; it's practically the only famous, if not infamous, substance cigarettes contain. Ask anyone what else is in smokes and you might get "tar" and that's about it. It turns out, however, that there are thousands of chemicals in cigarettes, and we now know that at least 70 of them cause various cancers in the human body. These are just some of the extremely harmful elements you inhale each time you smoke a cigarette:
  • Formaldehyde — used in the embalming process;
  • Hydrogen cyanide — deployed for executions in gas chambers;
  • Lead — a heavy element that leads to brain, kidney and other organ failures;
  • Nitric oxide — otherwise known as acid rain;
  • Quinoline — a substance known to cause genetic mutations and used as a solvent in resins;
  • Carbon monoxide — the stuff that comes out of your car exhaust; inhale enough of it and you'll quickly die.
The cocktail of chemicals found in burning tobacco is too exhaustive to reproduce here, but you get the idea, and no one in their right mind wants to be putting all that into their body — unless they had a severe death wish. So let’s look at nicotine. What’s all the fuss about? Nicotine gets a bad rap because its addictive nature is what keeps people smoking and makes it extremely difficult for them to quit, but the material is not all that harmful to health — something many people are unaware of. "Although nicotine is a very addictive substance, it's relatively harmless," says the NHS. "It's the carbon monoxide, tar and other toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke that will cause serious damage to your health. Clean forms of nicotine are licensed to help smokers quit. These are much safer than smoking as they're nicotine only, don't have other additives or toxic chemicals and are proven to be safe and effective." So how do you know if you’ve had too much of it?

Symptoms of Nicotine Poisoning

Many things can happen in the body when there's a nicotine overload, and it usually happens in two stages. The first occurs around 15 minutes to an hour after taking in too much nicotine, and you may start to notice it if you suddenly have way more saliva than normal and you start to feel nauseous and maybe also develop a stomach ache. Vomiting is another symptom of nicotine overuse, along with headache, dizziness and tremors. It can also lead to general restlessness and anxiety, as well as confusion, sweating and rapid breathing as the body struggles to cope with a glut of the substance. You may also have a cough and elevated blood pressure, and your heartbeat may rise. All of this can be incredibly disorienting and distressing, but unfortunately, there’s more to come. The second stage of nicotine poisoning develops within a few hours and those affected will start to feel weak and have general fatigue; they will also have shallow breathing and look pale, and their blood pressure and heart rate will drop. In extreme situations, there may be seizures, breathing difficulties, respiratory failure and the person may slip into a coma. It is rare, however, that nicotine poisoning leads to death.

How Much Nicotine Do You Need to Overdose?

Having too much nicotine in your system and becoming ill as a result is down to a number of factors, and no two cases are usually the same. Mostly, it depends on such things as the weight of a person and where they're getting their nicotine from, as in what kind of product and how much nicotine it contains. Scientists had long said that a lethal amount of nicotine could be in the 50-60 mg range, which is about the equivalent of just five cigarettes or 10 ml of a solution containing nicotine, such as the vape juice in e-cigarettes. This gave rise to a flurry of over-the-top health warnings, when common sense says that no one ever died from smoking a few cigarettes — they may eventually, if they keep up the habit, but they're not likely to drop dead on the spot. It's now believed that somewhere between 500mg and 1,000 mg of nicotine is sufficient to kill someone, although no one is likely to ingest that amount of the stuff in one go. We do know, though, that children feel the effects of nicotine more than adults, and if they're allowed to smoke — which happens in some countries, like Indonesia — they can become extremely ill. They can also become incapacitated if they come in contact with nicotine through their skin, which is why it's recommended that smokers not go near babies because the residual nicotine on smokers' hands can be transferred to the infant.

Help and Treatment for Nicotine Poisoning

If someone suspects they've taken in too much nicotine, either from cigarettes, vape juice, patches, gums, snorting tobacco or some other source, they need to get medical help right away. Don't try a DIY fix like forcing them to vomit or giving them something to eat or drink, as none of that is likely to help. Instead, call your doctor and see if you can get an emergency appointment, or just go straight to the accident and emergency department of your nearest hospital. If it's a case that nicotine was taken in through the skin, you can at least wash the area with some water to try to dilute the effect of any nicotine remaining in the area. At hospital, you may be given some activated charcoal, which binds with nicotine and helps to eliminate it from the body. If there are breathing difficulties as a result of a nicotine overdose, you may be put on a ventilator so that you'll get more oxygen. Doctors will prescribe medications if there are indications of seizure, a low heart rate or unstable blood pressure. With some rest, care and attention — and avoidance of any more nicotine — recovery is usually swift and there are no real or lasting after-effects.

Can You Get Nicotine Poisoning from Vapes?

As many people are still working out what e-cigarettes are, how they work and what's in them, it's not surprising that some may wonder if you can get nicotine poisoning from vapes. The answer is, it all depends. If you're going to chain smoke your way through endless packets of cigarettes, you're likely to become very ill indeed (this is sometimes used as a very crude, and cruel, form of cessation therapy), and the same goes for e-cigarettes or any other product containing nicotine — so take it easy and enjoy them, and don't overdo it. It can be all too easy, after all, to keep vaping away, because e-cigs are not harmful tobacco cigarettes, but moderation is key, so have long stretches between the periods you vape. As for the vape juice in e-cigarettes, it comes in varying strengths, and also none at all. Many people just vape for the great, fruity flavours alone, and there's no nicotine in their vapes. But for people trying to quit smoking and never go back to cigarettes, vapes with nicotine are a lifeline and, according to the NHS and other health authorities, one of the most successful smoking-cessation methods. "Thousands of people in England have already stopped smoking with the help of an e-cigarette," says the NHS' annual Stoptober stop-smoking campaign. "Plus, those who combine an e-cigarette with help from their local Stop Smoking Service have a high chance of success. In 2017-18, two-thirds of smokers who did so managed to stop smoking." But if you're new to vaping or thinking about starting, you need to be careful with the amount of nicotine in your refills, if that's what you're going for. Vape juice comes in low, medium and high strengths, and if you choose the latter while you're just a casual smoker, you may well be getting too much nicotine in your system and you could start to feel queasy. And if heavy smokers, who may get through several packs of cigarettes a day, don't choose vape juice with enough nicotine, like a low-strength one, they could end up feeling dissatisfied with vaping and return to smoking again. Above all, when trying to figure out if you can get nicotine poisoning from vapes, it's best to stop vaping if you don't feel well. Talk to your local vape shop and ask them for advice on the best nicotine strength for you. They’ll be happy to help — as will the friendly team here at the Electric Tobacconist! For all the best vape juice and vaping gear in the UK and around Europe today, visit our amazing online store and get the supplies you need at the prices you want and the speedy shipping you desire — get free delivery in the UK and mainland Europe on orders over certain amounts!