Saturday, February 15, 2014

On Coffee and (e)Cigarettes

I believe that there are benefits to smoke-free nicotine use for a lot of people and nicotine itself isn't any more "addictive" than caffeine. That shocks a lot of people to hear, because it goes against everything we've been taught over the past few decades. However, a lot of more recent research backs me up in this. (See Of course, if you would tell people to not start using caffeinated products, then the same advice would obviously apply to smoke-free nicotine products. But if you have no objection to people using caffeinated products, that pretty much makes any arguments against smoke-free nicotine products moot.

Is one of these things really not like the other?
You often hear people joke about their coffee/caffeine "addictions" all of the time, but many don't even recognize that they actually do have a dependency. People will drink a large latte in the morning and then suck down energy drinks or caffeinated sodas the rest of the day. Not a sign of dependency, right? However, if they are used to that daily routine, they'll suffer symptoms similar to those of nicotine "withdrawal" if they quit, such as headaches, irritability, depression, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Yet, because their dependency is not as visible as smoking or vaping, people don't seem to notice it as much. Consequently, people believe that smokers/vapers need to "feed an addiction" in a way that caffeine users apparently don't, so the caffeine users aren't "really addicted."

But there is a reason why nicotine users seem to need a "fix" more often than caffeine users. Consider the fact that a Starbucks latte in the morning and a 5-hour Energy drink after lunch equals about 350 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day. The half-life of caffeine in the human body is 6 hours (meaning that after 6 hours, only half of the caffeine consumed has left the system), so the effects of caffeine last a fairly long time. Just two strongly caffeinated drinks can last a caffeine junkie all day long!

Now consider that smokers consume about 200 mg of nicotine a day, but scientists estimate that only about 10% of that (20 mg) is actually delivered/absorbed by the body. (Personally, I use my e-cigarette all day long, but still use only about 3 ml of 12 mg strength liquid which, using the same 10% delivery/absorption rate, would be only 3.6 mg absorbed per day.) The half-life of nicotine is only about 2 hours, so unlike caffeine users, nicotine users have to use it far more frequently to keep getting its benefits. That makes it look like they "can't live without it," but caffeine users just are fortunate that the effects of their "drug of choice" last longer!

If you consider these facts, smoke-free nicotine users aren't anymore "addicts" than caffeine users. The only differentiating factor is how the nicotine is consumed. When the nicotine is consumed by smoking, that can have serious health consequences for the smoker and negatively impact their life. But it is the inhalation of smoke that is creating the problem, not the nicotine dependency itself.

So why aren't people who depend on caffeine to get through their day considered "addicts?" Mainly because using it generally doesn't have a negative impact on the user's health and quality of life and people feel they derive a benefit from its effects.

How is that any different than a smoke-free nicotine dependency? If you know the facts, you know it isn't different at all.


  1. Thank You Kristin Noll-Marsh I really got a kick (pardon the pun) on this factual information, that will be useful since so many are ill informed.

  2. Very well put. I think the Anti Smoking Industry knows all this too; and that's why they realise ecigs present such a problem to them. Something harmless and enjoyable which helps you concentrate and you are irritable when you don't have it. Like caffeine without the headaches.

    On nicotine amounts: The delivered amount of nicotine per cigarette is around 1mg, which is consistent with your figure, assuming a twenty a day smoker. I smoked around 24 cigs a day. I now consume 72 mg of nicotine a day via eliquid. This suggests one third of the eliquid nicotine available is delivered to the body, which is the rule of thumb generally accepted on the UKVapers blog.

    1. I've actually been discussing the nicotine absorption on the CASAA Facebook group page with some members and Dr. Farsalinos. It seems the 10% rate for cigarettes comes from the fact that 90% of the nicotine in a cigarette doesn't make it into the smoke, so consumption is actually 10%. For vaping, it really is going to come down to how long you hold the vapor in the mouth and/or lungs. The absorption rate can vary wildly for a 12 mg liquid between consumers. For example, I typically have a shallow, quick inhale and exhale lasting less than 3 seconds. Consequently, the vast majority of the nicotine I inhale is quickly exhaled. (I smoked the same way.) Other people may inhale and hold it until no vapor comes out on the exhale, which would mean nearly all of the nicotine inhaled is being delivered. so, technique is a huge variable. Either way, even at the most common "high" nicotine of 36 mg/ml and a high consumption of 6 ml per day with a technique holding in the vapor until it is 100% absorbed would still equal only 210 mg of nicotine a day. That's still less than the 350 mg of the drug caffeine that many "I'm not addicted" caffeine users consume per day!

  3. I believe that nicotine is no more addictive than caffeine. Big tobacco has known this for years and laced tobacco/cigarettes with a chemical cocktail to enhance the effects of nicotine on the human brain and nervous system to cause their products to become addictive.

    1. Actually, it's the natural chemicals in tobacco smoke that work with the nicotine that possibly make them addictive and why nicotine alone isn't all that addictive.

      The myth that tobacco companies add a "chemical cocktail" to make cigarettes "more addictive" was pretty much made up by the same people who are now trying to get the public to believe that e-cigarettes cause cancer and contain anti freeze. The facts just do not support the allegation. Some of the additives added to cigarettes may enhance nicotine delivery, improve flavor and reduce harshness, but it has never been proven that any of those things actually makes cigarettes "more addictive." In fact, public health groups state that studies show that additive-free cigarettes are not any less addictive than those with additives. American Spirits (additive-free cigarettes) have been shown to contain more free base nicotine than cigarettes that supposedly have the chemicals to make them "more addictive" - over 3 times that found in a Marlboro and 13 times more than in a Camel. Check out this article:

      So, even if Big Tobacco was trying to make their cigarettes "more addictive" by adding a "chemical cocktail," it apparently failed. ;)

    2. Kristin, I can tell you this from personal experience. I started Smoking 30 years ago because when i initially started smoking and for the 1st few weeks, I got "High" off of the smoking of cigs. After that i no longer experienced the High and found myself addicted, I havn't had that High again until a few months ago and this is how it happened.

      Back in Dec of 2013 I made a complete switch to e-cigs from the get go. after about 3 weeks due to inexperience i did not have access to my or any e-cigs so i ran to the store to get some "Analogs" to hold me over until the local B&M store opened. I opened the pack and lit up, what happened next was a very educational experience, you see, I got high as a kite from that cigarette, a feeling i hadn't felt in 30 years. I can tell you this much, That High that allured me to smoking so many years ago was definately not the Nicotine.


  4. Great article! Thanks for writing this!

  5. Thanks for those facts, Kristin! It’s important to have a clearer definition of addiction between coffee lovers and smokers. I’ve been reading studies that showed second hand smoke is more dangerous, and I think I can relate that to your statement on the fifth paragraph. The inhalation of smoke is, indeed, the one who’s creating the problem. I hope more people can get clarifications from your post. Thanks again! :)

    Paul Iarter

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Your blog seems very informative, Thanks for sharing this kind of information. Your blog is very helpful for me. So Keep further posting.

    Thank you

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. maggie.danhakl@healthline.comDecember 11, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Hi Kristin,

    I thought you might find this interesting. Healthline has compiled a list of the Effects of Caffeine on the Body in a visual graphic and I thought you and your readers would be interested in seeing the information.

    You can check out the information at We’ve had good feedback about the article and we think it will benefit your readers by giving them med-reviewed information in a visual way.

    If you think this information is a good fit for your audience would you share it on your site, , or social media?

    Let me know what you think and have a great week.

    All the best,
    Maggie Danhakl • Assistant Marketing Manager
    p: 415-281-3100 f: 415-281-3199

    Healthline • The Power of Intelligent Health
    660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 | @Healthline | @HealthlineCorp

  10. We all know a person who wants to desperately quit smoking, but can't quite kick the habit. Fortunately, there are alternatives that they can use these days to make it somehow easier for them to overcome smoking. And it’s good to know that you found yours through e-cigs. And with your five-year achievement, there’s no doubt that it was very effective for you. Cheers!

    Tracy Hardy @ The Fix Vapor Cafe

  11. Your post is really informative. It's true that it's hard to step away from something that has already been a big part of your life, which in your case was tobacco. However, there are so many substitutes for that to be eliminated out. Well, at least e-cigarette is less harmful to our bodies, and less expensive too. Hahaha! Thanks for sharing that, Kristin! All the best to you!

    Lucia Malone @ Carolina Vapor Mill


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