Experts fear ‘safer’ vapes’ nicotine is more harmful than thought

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By Creative Media News

  • Vaping and health risks
  • Nicotine safety questioned
  • Concerns for youth exposure

Although nicotine is addictive, it was previously believed to be the least hazardous component in tobacco. However, this perception has since changed.

Presently, there is a growing body of expert opinion that raises doubts about the perceived safety of nicotine, questioning whether its harmful effects have been obscured by the significantly more severe toxicity of other contaminants found in cigarettes.

Furthermore, this raises concerns regarding vapes, which are often marketed as a “safer” substitute for cigarettes but nonetheless contain nicotine.

Scientists have initiated investigations into nicotine due to the concurrent increase in vaporizers and the lowest smoking rates since historical records began in the 1940s.

More than 270 UK smokers die daily from cancer, heart attack, and lung disease.

The majority of this toll is attributable to the hazardous compounds that comprise cigarettes.

Among these are chromium VI, which is utilised in the production of pigments and dyes, 1,3-butadiene (which is employed in the manufacturing of rubber and has been linked to specific blood cancers), and cadmium (which is present in batteries and has been associated with lung cancer).

From Harmless Perception to Vaping Controversies

Tobacco cigarettes, in fact, contain thousands of hazardous chemicals, some of which are naturally present in the tobacco plant and others of which are added during production to improve flavour or smoke absorption in the lungs (so that more smoke enters the circulation and then the brain for a more potent “hit”).

However, the blameless party in tobacco’s detrimental impact on human health has always been nicotine — the addictive component responsible for the euphoric sensation that smokers seek but which has historically been regarded as relatively harmless.

Nevertheless, it has garnered attention due to the increasing prevalence of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), which provide the same nicotine “high” as traditional tobacco but shield users from hazardous chemicals — although there are distinct apprehensions regarding the potentially carcinogenic impacts of volatile organic compound (VOC) gases found in vapes.

More than four million people in the United Kingdom currently vaporise. E-cigarette users are projected to surpass smokers within the next couple of years, according to the most recent estimates.

Charities including the British Heart Foundation and Action on Smoking and Health support vaping as a method of ceasing tobacco. The NHS website claims that vaping has twice the quitting rate of nicotine gum or patches.

Nicotine, in minute amounts, is found in numerous plants, including aubergines, potatoes, and tomatoes. In tobacco plants, however, concentrations are greatest because it functions as an insecticide.

Nicotine’s Physiological Impact

Its effect on the brain is well known; it induces the release of chemical messengers associated with reward and pleasure. Such as dopamine, within twenty seconds of inhalation. Although it causes an increase in pulse rate and blood pressure, it also constricts blood vessels. Nicotine induces the secretion of the hormone adrenaline, which explains this. The crucial inquiry is whether or not there are enduring consequences.

Former chairman of the Royal College of Physicians’ Tobacco Advisory Group and professor of epidemiology at Nottingham University John Britton asserts, “Nicotine does have physiological effects on the body.” It alters heart rate and blood pressure and has comparable impacts to caffeine.

The issue has been the dearth of evidence concerning nicotine in isolation.

According to Professor Britton, scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden led one of the few large-scale studies. To separate nicotine’s effects, they analysed data from over 130,000 frequent snus users in men.

This tea bag tobacco product allows nicotine to enter the bloodstream by being placed under the upper lip. It does so via the minute blood vessels located on the interior surface of the mouth. Snus, a popular Scandinavian product, is legal to sell and use in the UK.

Nicotine’s Arterial Impact: Recent Studies Raise Concerns

Regular snus consumers did not have a significantly increased risk of heart attack. This is according to study findings published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in 2012.

Later research by a different group of Karolinska Institute experts questions similar conclusions.

The effect of snus on the arteries of otherwise healthy males was investigated by the researchers. This was accomplished by temporarily severing blood flow to the forearm following snus, measuring the amount by which the arm “shrank,” and then resuming blood flow to determine how fast the arm regained its original diameter. The more rapidly this occurs, the more elastic the arteries become.

Researchers discovered that the nicotine in snus significantly stiffened the arteries, thereby decreasing blood flow and possibly increasing the risk of heart disease in the future, according to findings published in the journal PloS One in June of last year.

Comparable rates of peripheral arterial disease have been attributed to nicotine exposure via snus and cigarette smoking. This is according to other studies.

Prominent football players have purportedly been observed consuming snus, prompting the Professional Footballers’ Association of the United Kingdom to declare an investigation into the matter in September. The association issued a warning that snus has been associated with cardiovascular issues and diminished physical performance.

In a distinct study, research that was showcased at the American Heart Association conference in October of last year revealed that individuals who made regular use of e-cigarettes were consistently unable to outperform non-vapers on treadmill tests specifically designed to assess the risk of heart disease. The detrimental impacts of e-cigarette use were comparable to those observed in cigarettes.

Additionally, laboratory research has indicated a potential association with certain forms of malignancy.

Neurocognitive Concerns and Cancer Links

For example, research has demonstrated that nicotine stimulates the proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells in mice. Similarly, a 2021 investigation conducted at Wake Forest School of Medicine in the United States identified nicotine as a facilitator of breast cancer cell metastasis to the lungs, thereby creating a tumor-promoting environment in the airway, as reported in Nature Communications.

Yale University neuroscientist Dr. Marina Picciotto has been investigating the effects of nicotine on the brains of young adults. During their formative years of neurocognitive development, young vaporizers’ exposure is of particular concern.

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“We know from pre-clinical and human studies that nicotine disrupts normal brain activity,” she told Good Health, “specifically in regions associated with memory, learning, attention, and arousal.”

An estimated one in every six elder adolescents and nearly one in every twenty children aged 11 to 15 who vape regularly do so in the United Kingdom, according to Action on Smoking and Health.

Campaigners are concerned that a new generation is being exposed to nicotine. This exposure is through the use of flavors such as blackberry sour that are intended to appeal to youthful palates.

Dr. Picciotto argues that while nicotine may be less hazardous than other contaminants in tobacco, “my concern is that we won’t learn more about the consequences of nicotine vaping for years to come, just as it can take decades for the negative effects of smoking to manifest.”

However, according to Professor Britton, the dangers are mild.

A lifelong nicotine addiction is likely comparable to consuming coffee on a daily basis. The evidence linking it to severe illnesses is scant. In humans, it continues to be exacerbated by tobacco and the various substances present in smoke.

“The real danger is in the additives that must be consumed in order to achieve the desired effect: the toxins in tobacco and the other chemicals in e-cigarettes.”

“I would say ‘no, over my dead body’ if one of my children announced that they were going to start vaping; why become addicted to something needlessly?” Nonetheless, I would enthusiastically support their decision to vaporise rather than smoke. It would be an obvious choice.

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