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Nicotine features in a number of recent papers published in scientific journals. The upshot is that there is still mixed feelings about its use as a recreational substance.

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“People smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar,” once said Michael Russell in 1976, the father of tobacco harm reduction. Frequently conflating tobacco and nicotine, people opposed to harm reduction and vaping often seek to portray nicotine as being a demonic chemical. Others cite it as being no worse for humans than drinking a cup of coffee.

Kristin Ashford, an associate professor at the Kentucky College of Nursing, falls into the category of those strongly opposed to nicotine use. Although she is in charge of a four-year $2.3-million study, one year down, charged with looking at the impact of vaping during pregnancy, it seems as though she has already made her mind up about the outcome.

Writing for the University’s website, Ashford states that electronic cigarettes are “not safe during pregnancy”. In her piece she categorically claims that:

  • E-cigs don't help you quit smoking
  • E-cigs contain other harmful chemicals, and
  • Secondhand exposure e-cigs is also dangerous during pregnancy

All told, it doesn’t look to be an impartial piece of research like the one recently announced by Linda Bauld. While it may not be safe, it will be beneficial to know if it is safer for those women who struggle to quit smoking while pregnant.

On a slightly more positive note, a researcher in Texas said that nicotine can provide a number of benefits when taken through delivery systems other than smoking:

  • Nicotine protects the brain from ageing by suppressing the desire to eat
  • It allows people to consume less food and not put on as much weight
  • Brain shrinks naturally with age - but being obese makes it decline faster
  • Experts say smoking should still be avoided as it results in health problems

“I want to make it very clear that we're not encouraging people to smoke,” said Dr Ursula Winzer-Serhan. “'However, smoking is only one possible route of administration of the drug, and our work shows that we shouldn't write-off nicotine completely.” Her statement follows on from a study her team released in 2015, looking at the oral administration of nicotine and its effect on food consumption in mice.

In Sweden, researchers concerned about the prevalence of COPD in long-term smokers have managed to find a strong link between nicotine and the release of neutrophil extracellular traps from the body’s immune cells. The findings were released in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology by researchers at the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden at Umea University.

What their work doesn’t explain is how ex-smokers switching to vaping report an improvement in their symptoms from tobacco-related inflammatory conditions, but the team say: “our findings could hopefully lead to novel anti-inflammatory therapies of tobacco usage related diseases.”

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Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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