Renowned international public health experts are denouncing the current misinformation circulating about nicotine.
Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Wolfson Institute of Public Health, Queen Mary University of London, Prof. Peter Hajek, said that while believing they are fighting the right cause, some anti-nicotine campaigners spread misinformation. They tend to exaggerate the dangers of nicotine with claims such as that nicotine is a brain poison.
Hayek highlighted that in fact there is no clear scientific evidence to support this claim. He added that on the contrary, “smoking-related cancer, heart disease and lung disease will eventually disappear as smoking is made obsolete by much less risky nicotine products that do not include combustion”.
Prof. Gerry Stimson, a social scientist and tobacco harm reduction advocate from Britain, the nation which remains a leader in tobacco harm reduction (THR), emphasised that while cigarettes are a harmful delivery mechanism for nicotine, nicotine itself doesn’t cause tobacco-related diseases. He added that in fact, the UK’s Royal College of Physicians concluded that vaping is “likely to be at least 95 percent less hazardous than smoking”.
It is the smoke, not the nicotine, that kills
In line with Stimson’s argument, chair of the advisory board at Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics in University of Ottawa, Prof. David T. Sweanor, highlighted that it is the smoke, and not nicotine, that kills smokers. “Let them know it is the smoke, not nicotine, that will kill them,” he said.
“We have known at least since the ground-breaking work of Professor Michael Russell in the 1970s that people smoke for the nicotine but die from the smoke. As seen with nicotine pharmaceutical products and through very long-term use of an oral tobacco product called ‘snus’ in Sweden, nicotine can be delivered with minimal risks once the smoke and ancillary toxins are removed,” he added.
While Dr. David Khayat, a French cancer expert, highlighted that sadly many people wrongly associate nicotine with cancer. “Smokers commonly misperceive that nicotine is a major carcinogen,” he said. “NRT is safe enough to be prescribed by doctors,” added the expert in referring to nicotine patches, gums, spray, oral inhalers and tablets.
Most physicians remain misinformed about the relative benefits of vapes
Meanwhile, a large US study recently discussed during the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) 2022, found that most physicians remain misinformed about the relative benefits of vaping products and in turn spread inaccurate information about the products.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open last April, the current study highlighted that while physicians tend to play a primary role in helping smokers quit, in most cases this opportunity is being lost. “Physicians play a primary role in patient smoking cessation, yet their communication regarding e-cigarettes is not well understood,” said the Rutgers researchers.
The research team analysed responses from 2,058 U.S. physicians from family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology, pulmonary and oncology in 2018 and 2019, regarding any communication with patients about e-cigarettes. The compiled data revealed that the majority remain uneducated about the relative benefits of the products.