The Role of Chemistry in History

The Role of Chemistry in History header image 4

Entries Tagged as 'Nicotine'


May 8th, 2008 · 2 Comments


Bergman, C. (1989, July 28). Tobacco’s cloudy image on the silver screen.

Christian Science Monitor, p.19.

Borio, G. (n.d.) The tobacco timeline. Retrieved April 30, 2008, from

DeFord, S. (1997, May 14). Tobacco; The noxious weed that built a nation. The Washington Post, p.19.

Ginn, K. (2001, October 3). It used to be so cool. The Scotsman, p. 2.

Grunberg, N. E. (2007, November 7). A neurological basis for nicotine withdraw. PNAS, 104, 46.

Jackson, D. Z. (1997, July 4). Slavery’s roots in tobacco. Boston Globe, p. A15.h

Lamb, G. M. (2001, February 23). Despite ban, films flaunt cigarettes. Christian Science Monitor, p. 9.

Mancall, P. C. (2004). Tales tobacco told in sixteenth-century Europe. Environmental History, 9(4), 648-678.

NIDA for Teens (n.d). Tobacco. Retrieved April 1, 2008 from

Rifkind, H. (2006, July 29). Smoke it again, sam. The Courier Mail, pp. M08.

Perry, M. (2006, August 18). Understanding nicotine dependence. Practice Nurse, 39-43.


Introduction to Nicotine | A Brief History of Tobacco | Chemical Properties | Addiction | Toxicity | Tobacco and America | Tobacco and the Cinema | References

[

Categories: Nicotine

Tobacco and the Cinema

April 20th, 2008 · Comments Off on Tobacco and the Cinema

A Scene to Die For: The Endless Love Affair of Smoking and Film

         At the beginning of the 1900’s the powerful hold that the cinema and movie stars have always held over the American public was put to lucrative use in the promotion of cigarettes.  This was such an important marketing strategy for cigarette companies because of the integral part the cinema plays in not just American culture, but around the world.  The combination of the general public’s obsession with the cinema and their admiration for movie stars has resulted in a force that has had and will continue to have far-reaching and immeasurable effects on society. 

People want to be like the movie stars they idolize so much – these incredibly attractive and glamorous people that most average people can only hope to be.  Cigarette companies preyed on these dreams of the common people who, when searching for any means to be like these stars, finally came on the attainable method of smoking.  It was through these loved stars of Hollywood and the movies they starred in that cigarettes became a central part of American culture and have refused to let go.  When these two joined forces, neither cigarettes nor the cinema would ever be the same.


Among early movie stars, cigarette smoking was pervasive.  Although many cigarette companies have never confessed to directly funding movies – in return, of course, for some cigarette air time – some, such as Phillip Morris have attested to this fact.  However, even without this confession, it is clear from the prominence of cigarettes in movies that if other companies are not directly funding movies for these purposes, their products are finding indirect ways to make it to the big screen.  Movie heroes and heroines did not just succeed in their epic movie struggles; they succeeded in winning over the public in their habit of cigarette smoking.


For men, cigarettes symbolized strength; they were the epitome of masculinity.  James Dean was the first teen idol, a fact that proved quite useful to cigarette companies.  To teenage boys nation-wide, Dean was rebellious and stylish – and so were the cigarettes he was always smoking in the eyes of his adoring fans.  But Dean was far from alone in his distinguishing use of cigarettes.  For countless other Hollywood men, the image they gave off of toughness, sophistication, and even sexiness was soon associated with the cigarettes they all smoked.  Cigarettes for women, on the other hand, were sexy and glamorous.  Audrey Hepburn, among many others, helped to demonstrate that cigarettes are not just for men.


            The use of cigarettes actually proved to be quite useful in movies.  Smoking in movies helped to set the atmosphere and develop the personalities of characters.  In the present day, cigarettes can be an effective means to transport the audience back in time to a period when smoking was a more socially-desirable behavior.  And although it may have taken on new meanings as cigarettes started to be viewed less favorably by the public – perhaps now seen as “hedonistic” and “self-destructive” – it is these qualities as well as those traditional ones that people long to see in on the big screen.


            Promoting cigarettes through movies was such an effective strategy in part because people were not even aware that anything was even being advertised – instead they received the promotion of cigarettes through their desire to be just like their favorite movie stars.  Although the use of cigarettes in film greatly declined as awareness increased about their deadly health implications, they were never completely stubbed out.  In fact, in the present day, cigarettes have just as much of a presence as they did in the 50’s.  With what has shown to be such a compatible relationship, it is doubtful that cigarettes and the cinema will be parting ways any time soon.


Introduction to Nicotine | A Brief History of Tobacco | Chemical Properties | Addiction | Toxicity | Tobacco and America | Tobacco and the Cinema | References

[

Categories: Nicotine

Tobacco and America

April 20th, 2008 · 1 Comment

One Small Leaf, One Large Continent: Tobacco and the Establishment of America


            In 1607, America’s first permanent English settlement, Jamestown, was established.  However, the colony that began the nation of America as we know it today had an incredibly shaky start.  In fact, it was very close to failure when it was saved largely because of one factor – tobacco.


            When the colonists set out to form the colony of Jamestown, they certainly were not prepared for the miserable fate that they would encounter early on in America.  From the beginning, settlers faced diseases, hunger, and Indian attack.  Sadly, the combination of these factors proved to be so lethal that about eight months after their arrival, half of the colonists had died.  They were in need of something to help them turn their situation around – and fast – or they would never survive.


            The answer to their desperate pleas for help came in 1612 when John Rolfe, one of the English settlers attempted to plant tobacco seeds from the West Indies.  This tobacco was sweeter and easier to grow than that of the local Indians.  After sending a sample of this tobacco back to England, colonists soon discovered they had found a solution to their problems.


            At first, the Virginia Company and James I, king of England at the time, were at all pleased with the colonists’ choice of industry and urged them to find something else, something more marketable.  Nevertheless, England soon had a change of heart as tobacco proved to be incredibly lucrative for them – between 1618 and 1628 the amount of tobacco England imported increased from 20,000 pounds to 150,000 pounds.  This renewed English interest in the colony of Jamestown was so important, because without this lucrative market the Virginia Company would have deserted an unsuccessful Jamestown.  Instead, the success of tobacco initiated the arrival of more colonists to prosper from the ‘gold’ of America.  Also of historical importance was the fact that tobacco used up the fertility of the soil it was harvested in after only a few years.  However, when this land was eventually used up, settlers were forced into “westward expansion” in order to be able to continue growing tobacco.  Without the success of tobacco, America today could be a very different place.  Without tobacco, English colonists might have all died off, or England would have at least lost interest in the colony.  Such events would have permitted the potential settlements of any of the other powerful nation at the time, which, needless to say, would have produced a much different America than exists now.


Introduction to Nicotine | A Brief History of Tobacco | Chemical Properties | Addiction | Toxicity | Tobacco and America | Tobacco and the Cinema | References

[

Categories: Nicotine


April 20th, 2008 · Comments Off on Toxicity

  • Even a small drop of nicotine in its pure form would be enough to kill someone. This toxicity gives it the potential to be used as a pesticide.

  • Smoking cigarettes, which is the main method of nicotine use, is linked to various illnesses, such as: cancer of the upper and lower respiratory tract, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease


Introduction to Nicotine | A Brief History of Tobacco | Chemical Properties | Addiction | Toxicity | Tobacco and America | Tobacco and the Cinema | References

[

Categories: Nicotine


April 20th, 2008 · 1 Comment

“I Can Quit Whenever I Want To…”: Nicotine Addiction


 Addictive Nature

  • Nicotine is highly addictive and is actually comparable to other hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin in its addictiveness.   

  •   Due to nicotine’s ability to promote the release of dopamine, smokers become dependent on nicotine to help release dopamine, and must have increasingly more to produce the same effect.

  • Nicotine takes effect in the limbic system of the brain which contains the brain’s natural “reward system” which alerts a person that something is good and that they should continue doing it



  • Many smokers experience an increase in their stress level between each cigarette, which is relieved when they next smoke.

  • Symptoms experienced by abstaining from smoking: increased anxiety, irritability, poor concentration, restlessness, and trouble sleeping


Introduction to Nicotine | A Brief History of Tobacco | Chemical Properties | Addiction | Toxicity | Tobacco and America | Tobacco and the Cinema | References

[

Categories: Nicotine

Chemical Properties

April 20th, 2008 · Comments Off on Chemical Properties

Small Molecule, Big Impact: The Chemical Properties of Nicotine






How it Works 


1. The nicotine molecules attach to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on certain nerve cells. 

2. The nerve cells respond to the nicotine molecules by releasing the neurotransmitter glutamate.

3. The glutamate alerts neurons to release dopamine


Result: Pleasurable feelings, stress reduction, increased heart rate, heightened alertness, increased ability to process information, and improved cognitive abilities.



Introduction to Nicotine | A Brief History of Tobacco | Chemical Properties | Addiction | Toxicity | Tobacco and America | Tobacco and the Cinema | References

[

Categories: Nicotine

A Brief History of Tobacco

April 20th, 2008 · Comments Off on A Brief History of Tobacco

Tobacco: From Indigenous Ritual to World Culture


Ever since the beginning of its use, tobacco has been the center of a great amount of controversy.  Opinions have clashed as some have lauded its use as others vehemently condemn it.  Despite the passage of time and the increasing understanding of this plant and both its uses and abuses, this debate has yet to subside.


It is believed that the first experimentation with the use of tobacco came around 1 BCE by the early inhabitants of the Americas, where, at this point in time, it grew exclusively.  At this time, the treasure that was tobacco was not yet known to the word outside of America.  However, this would soon change with the age of the explorers and Columbus’ discovery of America.


In 1492, when Columbus arrived in America he was greeted by the natives who offered his crew gifts – one these being tobacco which, not knowing its exponential value at the time, he threw away.  A year later, however, Columbus and his crew learned of this weed and the uses that the natives had for it.  Of particular importance is one monk who had journeyed with Columbus – Ramon Pane.  Pane described in great detail this new plant and how the natives used it by inhaling its smoke, and is thought to have been the first person to give Europe an introduction to tobacco.  A few years later Pane put these descriptions in a report, which became the first of its kind in Europe.  About eighty years later, many books documenting the different ways to use tobacco leaves and the theorized effect this had would soon follow.


It was clear even as early as 1492 that the tobacco plant would be an object of controversy.  At first, people were skeptical and afraid of tobacco because they associated it with the “uncivilized” people native to America.  Some early descriptions of tobacco were of its use by American natives in various rituals, a fact many Europeans had a hard time separating from their concept of the plant.  An example of this initial skepticism can be seen in the reaction to the Spanish explorer Rodrigo de Jerez’s adopted use of tobacco.  De Jerez and Luis de Torres had discovered natives of Cuba smoking tobacco in 1942 where de Jerez soon picked up the habit.  Unfortunately, when de Jerez showed off this new habit to his fellow Spaniards, people became so scared that he was imprisoned for seven years.


However, despite the initial resistance of some people to this plant, a great number of others had embraced it.  As those who had experience with the plant described tobacco’s proposed properties in a voluminous amount of books, the theorized medicinal potential of tobacco became known, and soon it was considered to be a “panacea”.  Tobacco was recommended for all kinds of maladies, from small ailments like headaches and toothaches to more serious problems such as dysentery and cancer.  In the Spanish doctor Nicholas Monardes’ book “De Hierba Panacea”, the first to be written about tobacco, he presents 36 medicinal uses of tobacco.  For any illness a person contracted, chances are tobacco was thought to be able to cure it at one point.  But with this early appreciation for tobacco also came discomfort of its safety.


While many people were enjoying the use of tobacco, others were beginning to think that it might not be as healthful as had once been thought.  Although at this time people generally did not contest the medicinal value of tobacco, some began to suspect that tobacco produced negative effects as well.  Some physicians, such as Tobias Venner, took notice of the fact that people began to develop a habit of using tobacco and that it had the potential of being dangerous.  But it was not until a few hundred years later, during the 1900’s, when people would become aware of the incredible dangers that were involved in smoking tobacco.  Until then, they would not know that tobacco was far from a “panacea”, but rather actively contributed to deaths of its multitude of users worldwide.


Introduction to Nicotine | A Brief History of Tobacco | Chemical Properties | Addiction | Toxicity | Tobacco and America | Tobacco and the Cinema | References

[

Categories: Nicotine

Introduction to Nicotine

April 20th, 2008 · 10 Comments

  • Nicotine is obtained primarily from tobacco leaves.

  • All methods of ingesting nicotine – smoking, chewing, or sniffing tobacco – transports nicotine to the brain. 

  • An individual cigarette contains about 10 milligrams of nicotine, although a person ends up receiving only about 1 or 2 milligrams.  


Introduction to Nicotine | A Brief History of Tobacco | Chemical Properties | Addiction | Toxicity | Tobacco and America | Tobacco and the Cinema | References

[

Categories: Nicotine