Health Experts Cite Nicotine’s Role in Solving the Smoking Epidemic
Nicotine, a food-grade substance that has been shown to have both stimulating and sedative effects, plays an important role in helping smokers quit, according to public health experts.
Experts said the introduction of innovative products such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products that deliver nicotine without combustion offers smokers the opportunity to significantly reduce the harm caused by cigarettes by switching to these alternatives. .
Professor David Sweanor, chair of the advisory board of the Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, said that just like the nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) prescribed by doctors, Smokeless products can help smokers quit.
Unlike combustible cigarettes which involve combustion or combustion that releases thousands of harmful chemicals, these innovative products deliver nicotine at significantly reduced risk, he said.
Professor Gerry Stimson, a British social scientist and tobacco harm reduction advocate, explained that cigarettes are a harmful release mechanism for nicotine, but nicotine itself does not cause tobacco-related diseases. .
Nicotine is the main ingredient in various forms of NRT prescribed by doctors to help patients quit smoking.
Stimson said the innovation has also spawned smoke-free alternatives that deliver nicotine at significantly reduced risk, including Swedish snus and e-cigarettes or vapes. The UK’s Royal College of Physicians has concluded that vaping is “likely to be at least 95% less dangerous than smoking“.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 6,000 chemicals and ultrafine particles, 80 of which are carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic.
Dr David Khayat, a French cancer specialist, said nicotine is not among the substances that cause cancer. “Smokers often have the impression that nicotine is a major carcinogen,” he said.
He quoted Cancer Research UK as saying that nicotine does not cause cancer, as people have been using nicotine replacement therapy safely for many years. “NRT is safe enough to be prescribed by doctors,” the research center said, referring to nicotine patches, gummies, sprays, oral inhalers and tablets.
Sweanor said it is the smoke, not the nicotine, that kills smokers. “Let them know that it’s the smoke, not the nicotine, that will kill them,” he said.
He said this means nicotine plays an important role in curbing the tobacco epidemic that causes 8 million annual deaths worldwide. He said that NRT is an integral part of smoking cessation policy, which proves that nicotine is not the cause of smoking-related diseases.
“We know at least from the groundbreaking work of Professor Michael Russell in the 1970s that people smoke for the nicotine but die from the smoke. As seen with pharmaceutical nicotine products and with the very long-term use of an oral tobacco product called ‘snus’ in Sweden, nicotine can be administered with minimal risk once smoked and helper toxins removed,” Sweanor said.
The United States Food and Drugs Administration has stated that “the toxic mix of chemicals – not nicotine – causes serious health effects in tobacco users, including life-threatening lung diseases, such as chronic pulmonary disease. obstruction and cancer”.
Toxic substances such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic and DDT are produced by burning dried tobacco leaves and are then inhaled by the smoker.
Professor Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Addiction Research Unit at the Wolfson Institute of Public Health at Queen Mary University of London, said unfortunately some anti-nicotine campaigners are spreading misinformation or exaggerating that nicotine is brain poison because they feel they are fighting the law. cause. He said there was no clear scientific evidence for such a claim.
Hajek predicted that “smoking-related cancer, heart disease and lung disease will eventually disappear as smoking is made obsolete by much less risky nicotine products that don’t include combustion.”
According to Public Health England, the UK’s highest medical authority, these smokeless products are also significantly more effective than NRTs in getting smokers to quit.
The use of these smokeless products such as vapes and HTPs is a form of tobacco harm reduction, a public health strategy that aims to provide less harmful alternatives to reduce the harms of smoking and provide nicotine to people who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking. smoke by themselves or with currently approved methods.
A survey commissioned by consumer advocacy group Vapers PH from August 3-15, 2021 found that 88% or nearly nine in 10 adult Filipino smokers would consider switching to smokeless alternatives such as e-cigarettes and tobacco products. heated. The survey included 2,000 legal-age smokers (over 18) and vapers (over 21) nationwide.
This is expected to help over 16 million Filipino adult smokers, most of whom are likely to continue smoking as part of traditional smoking cessation strategies.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2015) showed that the Philippines had a meager smoking cessation rate of 4%, reflecting the ineffectiveness of currently approved smoking cessation strategies, such as the ‘Cold Turkey Quit’ and NRT.
According to consumer groups, more than one million Filipino adult smokers have already switched to smokeless products such as vapes and HTPs.
Sweanor said tobacco companies aware of the problem should embrace processing and replace combustible cigarettes with less harmful smokeless nicotine products.