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Nicotine – What are the Health Effects?

8th October 2014

Increasingly, as Vapers become more common, we have seen the debate shift from the toxicity of cigarette smoke, based on non nicotine components of the fumes, to that of the supposed harms of nicotine itself. This switch in concern appears to be motivated by a desire to demonise the e-cigarette, because it has so much lower levels of the other toxicants found in cigarette smoke. It is therefore suspiciously convenient that now the toxicity of smoking is being framed as primarily related to the nicotine itself, whereas it was barely registered before.

But is nicotine bad for you? What are all the health effects, and can we say that nicotine, as inhaled by adult vapers, is "toxic" as some people have claimed?

Actually the evidence seems to show that many risks associated with nicotine, such as on blood pressure and the heart, are not as dangerous as was thought. Yes, nicotine, like other stimulants, can create some additional stress on the heart. But the effects are temporary, and other effects may even be interpreted as beneficial. For example, as the role of inflamation in chronic illness including heart disease is now solidly established, nicotine may reduce the inflammation as it does have general anti-inflammatory effects, like many other plant compounds. The jury is out of course, but the data, thoroughly interpreted, does not seem to be alarming in this regard.

The toxicity of nicotine has also been claimed from the point of view of cancer. Nicotine may trigger already cancerous cells in the lung to multiply faster, but this is very cursory cell-study research. But, if you are already smoking, and switch to vaping, the toxic load and carcinogenicity of smoking will undoubtably be reduced. If you already have, or have had lung cancer, then its probably wise not to inhale any form of nicotine. Vapers still concerned about nicotine in this regard can of course taper down their nicotine levels easily, which is another advantage of e-cigarettes.

The major claims against Nicotine as a toxin however, have been extensively rebutted by By Dr Farsalinos

These possible risks are on the other hand, contradicted by the equally theoretical indications of health benefits by nicotine, which may translate to reduced risk of Parkinsons, Alzheimers, depression and more, including inflammation in the gastro-intestinal system. NOTE, this doesn't imply that nicotine should be used for these conditions, but the researchers have identified that drugs based on nicotine, that may be designed to avoid the addictive effects, may be a good avenue for the development of a number of new therapies;

Nicotine as an anti-inflammatory;

Nicotine as an antidepressant;

Nicotine and anxiety

Nicotine for cognitive abilities in the elderly