Perhaps no commonly used drug is more misunderstood than nicotine. Because of its presence in tobacco, it’s effects are frequently confused with the effects and dangers of smoking. But the truth is that nicotine by itself, assuming a reasonable dose, is a largely benign — and even beneficial — substance. New nicotine studies are coming up with exciting applications for the oft-maligned drug.

If it weren’t typically being delivered in the unhealthiest way possible — in smoke produced by burning dead plant matter — it’s questionable whether anyone would pay much attention to such a lightweight stimulant. But because the most popular way of consuming it is in cigarettes, it will be forever tied to the damage they cause.

Confession time. Before I got involved with vaping, I honestly didn’t realize that nicotine was a mostly harmless drug. Like many (maybe even most) people, I thought nicotine bore some of the blame for the millions of premature deaths caused annually by cigarettes.

Nicotine has little to do with the cancers and respiratory damage seen in smokers, and it’s unlikely that nicotine by itself contributes to heart disease, though one known side effect is a temporary constriction of the blood vessels. The fact is, it’s the thousands of chemicals produced by lighting tobacco that are the guilty parties here, not the modest drug with the bad reputation.