One fact frequently used by proponents of e-cigarettes is that regulating their favorite product because it contains nicotine means we should also regulate foods that contain nicotine. Yes, many foods we eat produce measurable levels of nicotine. Tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, and green peppers are known to contain small amounts, and black tea is sometimes suggested to contain some, although recent tests don’t confirm this.
Does this nicotine affect us? Are we, like Homer Simpson, creating addictive tomato-tobacco hybrids (Tomacco)? The short answer is no. The dose makes the poison, and in this case the dose of nicotine you receive from a cup of these vegetables barely registers when compared on the same graph with the nicotine content of a single cigarette. The figure below uses figures produced in a letter to the editor of the NEJM. Cooked vegetables, especially boiled, will probably have lower values, but the amount is only really significant in relation to the specificity of clinical tests designed to detect nicotine (and cotinine, its metabolite) levels in the blood.
What this figure also highlights is the potential harm from the abundant nicotine found in e-cigarette juice. The cartridges are intended to be used many, many times so that the delivered dose is not much different than a single smoking session with a real cigarette, but it would be a simple thing to forget and over-consume from the cartridge, resulting in increased total nicotine intake.
I’ve covered it before, and frankly I have more important topics to deal with, but I personally think there’s not enough evidence to conclude that e-cigarettes are as safe as the FDA regulated nicotine replacement therapies designed to help people quit. As always, I recommend anyone with questions about their health consult an actual physician. I’m just some guy on the Internet.