Nicotine does not cause cancer, heart attacks or lung disease. Surprised? One of the biggest misconceptions about smoking and cigarettes is that nicotine is the cancer-causing culprit in cigarettes. The truth, however, is that smoking exposes a smoker to nearly 7000 chemicals, out of which 60-70 are cancer-causing. So what is the real truth behind the much-maligned and misunderstood nicotine? We decided to speak to our experts to bring you the real truth behind nicotine- what it is and what it isn’t.
What is nicotine exactly?
What is nicotine really?
Nicotine is an addictive substance found in all tobacco products. It is a chemical that contains nitrogen, made from several types of plants, including the tobacco plant. It is also produced synthetically. Nicotine does not cause cancer and is not excessively harmful on its own, but it is heavily addictive and exposes people to the extremely harmful effects of tobacco dependency.
“People smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar.” Michael Russell, developer of nicotine gum.
Why are there so many misconceptions about nicotine?
Nicotine is often misunderstood and vilified
Let’s take a step back in time to understand why nicotine is vilified and often misunderstood. In the 1960s and 1970s when early studies of tobacco first took place, scientists discovered the link between cancer, and cigarettes and other tobacco products. When anti-smoking campaigns began, nicotine was clubbed with tobacco smoke in a manner that caused people to believe that nicotine itself was a health menace. The fact that nicotine was not separated from tobacco smoke and the harmful use of tobacco products but instead clubbed together with them, over a period of the time painted a misleading picture of nicotine.
Is nicotine safe?
Is nicotine safe?
The detrimental health effects of nicotine alone are negligible, compared to smoking. Though nicotine is very addictive, it is the way it gets into your body that can be dangerous. How quickly nicotine gets people addicted, is closely linked to the speed at which it is delivered to the brain. One of the reasons that smoking is so addictive is because it is a highly efficient nicotine delivery system. Smoking a cigarette is one of the fastest ways of getting nicotine to the brain. Tobacco smoke is made up of more than 7000 chemicals which include 60-70 chemicals that can cause cancer. It is these chemicals, not nicotine, that are responsible for heart attacks, cancer, and lung disease.
Are there any positives linked with nicotine?
Nicotine may hold potential benefits
It comes as a surprise to many people but at the opposite end of the spectrum of nicotine’s addictive properties, there are potential benefits that nicotine may hold. Studies have shown that nicotine could improve the mood and focus on people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Other research has discovered that nicotine may act as a cognitive enhancer and could improve memory. It has also shown some promise in helping those with Parkinson’s Disease, and with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
So what does all of this mean for someone who wants to quit smoking?
You need to understand the difference between nicotine and smoking
Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the world. Current studies suggest that over one billion people will die as a result of tobacco smoking or using other tobacco-related products over the next century. Nicotine delivered through cigarettes causes dependence. However, nicotine delivered through medicinal nicotine replacement products is a regulated amount of nicotine, delivered very slowly, and with a much lower risk of addiction as compared to cigarettes.
For people who do smoke and who are considering quitting, it is important to understand the difference between nicotine and smoking.
“Smoking is the killer, not nicotine.” Leading psychologists and tobacco addiction specialists
People who don’t understand this difference may hesitate to consider nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or restrain their intake of NRT, which can make it harder to quit. When people link nicotine to cancer, they tend to avoid using various types of nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine gum, nicotine lozenges or nicotine patches.
The relative safety of nicotine by itself is clear from animal studies and long term observations of people who have used NRT therapy to quit smoking. As a result, researchers can definitively conclude that nicotine replacement therapy aids like nicotine gum, lozenges, and patches, all of which contain nicotine, are safe for use, and can assist a smoker quit smoking. One of the key tenets to be able to quit successfully is by increasing your knowledge about the ways to quit smoking. Learning about nicotine shows that it doesn’t deserve all of the bad press it routinely gets and that our understanding of nicotine merits a more nuanced approach.