Nicotine is absorbed through the skin, and through the lining of the mouth and nose, the rate of absorption being enhanced in an alkaline environment and reduced in an acidic environment. Because of the large surface area of the lungs the mildly acidic smoke of cigarettes is absorbed almost immediately and completely on inhalation, giving rise to high concentration arterial nicotine boli which reach the brain in less than 10 s. (17) Nicotine has a distributional half-life of about 15 min and a terminal half-life in blood of about 2 h. (!9 This means that blood levels decline overnight to non-smoking levels, and regular cigarettes are required over the course of the day to maintain elevated blood nicotine concentrations. About 70 to 80 per cent of nicotine is metabolized to cotinine, which has a half-life of around 16 h.

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