What is it?
First Aid

What is nicotine?

Nicotine is a highly addictive drug derived from tobacco plants. It can be found in:

  • Tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco
  • Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vaporizers
  • Nicotine replacement products, used to help people quit smoking, which include gum, lozenges, patches and nasal sprays

View a rough comparison of how much nicotine is found in some common products.

Nicotine can be harmful if you use too much. In addition, small amounts of some nicotine products, especially the liquid from electronic cigarettes, can be very dangerous for children.

Learn more about electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine.

What are the effects of nicotine?

Nicotine has both stimulating and relaxing effects. Users may at first feel more awake and alert. This can be followed by feelings of calm and relaxation.

Nicotine can have a number of side effects. Someone who uses too much nicotine may:

  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Throw up or feel sick to their stomach
  • Get a headache
  • Feel dizzy
  • Feel anxious
  • Sweat and have tremors

In more severe cases with adults, or if a child gets some nicotine, they may:

  • Have a fast, irregular heart beat and chest pain
  • Be hyperactive (have trouble sitting still; fidget or squirm)
  • Have a seizure
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Pass out

How much nicotine is too much depends on the person’s age, size and how much experience they have using nicotine.

What should I do about nicotine poisoning?

Call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511 if:

  • A child has swallowed liquid nicotine, a cigarette or another nicotine product
  • Someone has used too much of a nicotine product and is feeling sick
  • Someone has spilled liquid nicotine in their eyes or on their skin
If someone has passed out or is not breathing, call 911 right away.

How can I prevent nicotine poisoning?

To prevent nicotine poisonings among children and pets, keep all nicotine and tobacco products up high, out of reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.

If you use a nicotine replacement product, follow the instructions provided on the package or by your health care provider to avoid getting too much nicotine.

Further reading

The NNEPC has a number of additional resources on e-cigarettes and nicotine:

Last Updated: Monday May 16th 2016