In 1989, the now long defunct  Tobacco Institute of Australia’s West Australian spokesman Ron Berryman advised us all to relax and simmer down on nicotine, saying:

Ron’s excitement was all about the fact that the tobacco plant is related to other members of the solanaceae (nightshade) family. These include tomatoes, aubergines (eggplants) and potatoes. Nicotine alkaloids occur naturally in all of these, but in … shall we say … rather different concentrations.

Thirty two years on, this week Alex Wodak, the gift who keeps on giving to my series on Vaping advocates say the darndest things (see here and here), did not disappoint, posting this reprise of an old tobacco industry meme.

And boy, did he show us how profoundly ignorant and inconsistent all those health agencies and experts are who are expressing caution about nicotine being not quite the almost vitamin-like wonder chemical that many vapers claim it to be. As we’ll see, it’s blindingly “obvious” that with nicotine being in both vape and solanceous vegetables, policy toward both demands to be aligned.

So let’s run through how nicotine in cigarettes and e-cigarettes compare to that in vegetables.

Both cigarettes and e-cigarettes contain a wide range of nicotine, depending on the brand and concentration of nicotine found in different vaping delivery systems. But when you smoke 20 cigarettes, you’ll inhale somewhere between 22-36mg of nicotine, so a midpoint of say 30mg a day. This study found that across different e-cigarettes, 15 puffs delivered between 0.5 to 15.4 mg of nicotine. The average vaper pulls on their e-cig 172 times a day, meaning that across a day they inhale between 5.7 to 176.6mg of nicotine. Let’s take the midpoint of that range (85.5mg) as an average.

Now let’s look at what sort of dose you get from eating vegetables containing nicotine alkaloids. Let’s first pause to emphasise that nicotine in cigarettes and e-cigarettes is measured in milligrams (mg), but in vegetables nicotine alkaloids are much, much less concentrated and are measured in nanograms (ng).

Now let’s work this through for the potato option to see how many potatoes a 172 puff-a-day vaper would need to eat to consume the same amount of nicotine from vaping.

Remember what we learned in first year high school science?

1000 nanograms (ng) = 1 microgram (mcg or µg)

1000 mcg = 1 milligram (mg) or 1,000,000ng

1000 mg = 1 gram (g) or 1 billion ng

1000g – 1 kilogram (kg) or 1000 billion ng

1000kg = 1 tonne

A typical potato weighs 150g and therefore contains 2,250 nanograms or 2.25 micrograms of nicotine. So if your daily potato-sourced nicotine target  equivalent is the 85.5 milligrams a vaper inhales each day, a ballpark of a mere 13,000 potatoes per day will get you there. So your Hello Fresh daily delivery order will be for a paltry 2,000 kg, every day. Two tonnes.

Keep ‘em coming Alex!

See also in this series:

Vaping theology: 1 The Cancer Council Australia takes huge donations from cigarette retailers. WordPress  30 Jul, 2020

Vaping theology: 2 Tobacco control advocates help Big Tobacco. WordPress 12 Aug, 2020

Vaping theology: 3 Australia’s prescribed vaping model “privileges” Big Tobacco Feb 15, 2020

Vaping theology: 4 Many in tobacco control do not support open access to vapes because they are just protecting their jobs. WordPress 27 Feb 2021

Vaping theology: 5 I take money from China and Bloomberg to conduct bogus studies. WordPress 6 Mar, 2021

Vaping theology: 6 There’s nicotine in potatoes and tomatoes so should we restrict or ban them too? WordPress 9 Mar, 2021

Vaping theology: 7 Vaping prohibitionists have been punished, hurt, suffered and damaged by Big Tobacco WordPress 2 Jun, 2021

Vaping theology: 8 I hide behind troll account. WordPress 29 Jun, 2021

Vaping theology: 9 “Won’t somebody please think of the children”. WordPress 6 Sep, 2021

Vaping theology: 10: Almost all young people who vape regularly are already smokers before they tried vaping. WordPress 10 Sep, 2021

Vaping theology: 11 The sky is about to fall in as nicotine vaping starts to require a prescription in Australia. WordPress 28 Sep, 2021

Vaping theology: 12 Nicotine is not very addictive. WordPress 2 Jan, 2022