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 advocates say the darndest things. 1: The Cancer Council Australia takes huge donations from cigarette retailers. WordPress  30 Jul, 2020

Vaping advocates say the darndest things 2: Tobacco control advocates help Big Tobacco. WordPress 12 Aug, 2020

Vaping advocates say the darndest things 3: Australia’s prescribed vaping model “privileges” Big Tobacco Feb 15, 2020

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

Vaping advocates say the dardnest things 5: I take money from China and Bloomberg to conduct bogus studies. WordPress 6 Mar, 2021