The real danger in nicotine is in the effects it has on your health, especially in large amounts and over time. You also need to take your personal health history into consideration when evaluating the risks of nicotine. If you are already diabetic or have a family history of diabetes, smoking is an especially dangerous habit to take up. Nicotine raises your blood sugar, which can make it much harder to control your diabetes if you’re already diabetic, or it can be the factor that tips the balance between being pre-diabetic and developing full blown diabetes. When you’re diabetic, poor blood sugar control significantly increases your other risks from the disease, including heart attacks and stroke.
Nicotine also raises your blood pressure, which further increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The stimulant effect that nicotine gives you is responsible for that slight “buzz” feeling, which can be pleasurable in the sense of boosting your energy, but it also causes your heart to beat harder and faster. When your heart beats harder and faster on an everyday basis, eventually it causes your blood pressure to go up. High blood pressure isn’t just a harmless state, either: it’s a sign that your heart has to work too hard just to perform the daily functions it needs to do to keep you alive.
In this case, it’s not the smoking that causes the changes to your blood sugar and blood pressure, it’s the nicotine itself. If you were to switch to using a nicotine patch or smokeless tobacco (also called chew or dip) instead, for example, you would still have the same harmful effects from the nicotine.
Nicotine has bad effects on the health of your lungs, too, although most of this risk comes from the act of smoking rather than from nicotine itself. Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your lungs, especially if you have health conditions like asthma or allergies that already compromise your lung health.
Smoking causes your airways to swell up and tighten, which makes it harder for air to get through your lungs. Cold weather has a similar effect on your lungs, which you may have noticed if you go outside to have a cigarette during the winter. The double effects of nicotine and cold weather can make you feel like you can’t breathe or get enough air.
Over time, these risks to your lungs can add up to developing serious chronic lung diseases, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, and even lung cancer.