As a former athlete and runner, I am certainly no one who would ever be a spokesperson for a tobacco company. I value my lungs and their ability to produce oxygen for my body, I don’t want anything to happen to them, nor do I want anyone else’s lungs to fail, or fall to cancer. Still, tobacco is an edible plant for humans, and for many other mammals on this planet. It isn’t a very edible plant for insects, and perhaps that’s why it has evolved the way it has, and remains a hearty and fast-growing species.
Now then, I’d like to take this conversation to a different level, and talk about something that has nothing to do with the industry, the marketing, or the tobacco companies themselves. I’d like to speak to a scientific issue, and pose a question or a specific speculation that I have.
You see, there was an interesting article in Discover Magazine in the Summer of 2012 which caught my eye, the article was titled; “Why Do Tobacco Plants Produce Nicotine” and the answer was fascinating, it turns out that nicotine, which is a strong neurotoxin, helps the plants from being eaten alive by insects. So, it’s a self-generating alkaloid pesticide. Other plants according to the article also produce some nicotine, albeit in much smaller quantities; tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and coca plants.
Okay so, what if the mammals that eat these plants uptake this nicotine, which yes, is a neurotoxin, but what if their bodies are then carried it in the bloodstream? If nicotine bypasses the blood brain barrier, it also means it would be throughout their bodies. When I say other mammals I’m speaking to animals such as;
Now then, if these animals ate that plant and had nicotine in their system it might also help them from insect infestation, and prevent them from getting the diseases where insects are the virus vectors. This would help those animals, which don’t have shelter in the way humans do from the insects in the environment. If humans were to also chew tobacco leaf for instance, and forget the smoking of tobacco products for now then they too would have some nicotine in their system.
If our ancestors, were to chew tobacco leaf they might prevent themselves from getting diseases from stinging or biting insects. Perhaps it is a trade-off between putting a neurotoxin in your body, and having that built-in pesticide to prevent insects from doing worse damage? It’s just a thought based on that article, and a little bit of research into this topic.
The reality is I don’t know, and there is not a lot of scientific research to prove me right or wrong. Therefore I pose the question for someone out on the Internet who might like to seek the answer. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.