By: Nicholas King.
Amid all of the official feigned dismay over the potential hazards posed by electronic cigarettes, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that there is little scientific evidence suggesting any real harm. When interviewed, opponents of these products often begin with non-specific assertions about dangerous chemicals that users can be exposed to when using these products. On those rare occasions when interviewers actually press those opponents to get more specific, however, they typically tend to focus on one chemical: nicotine. That, of course, might cause some to ask: is nicotine bad for you?
The Historical Assumption
For some time now, there has been a general tendency to lump nicotine in with all of the other chemicals present in tobacco products. For most people, it was a foregone conclusion that everything in cigarettes was bad for their health – including nicotine. Too many people assumed that when tobacco opponents railed against tar, toxic compounds, and other harmful substances that end up in the body as a result of burning tobacco that nicotine must be just as harmful.
The problem is that there was never any real argument to be made that nicotine posed that sort of threat to human health as we explored in a previous article. Like other chemicals, it does have an impact on the human body, of course. That impact tends to be focused on its properties as a mild stimulant. Like many other stimulants of its type, however, nicotine’s primary effects seem to be either negligible or outright beneficial.
Nicotine’s Real Effects
For example, studies have demonstrated its capacity for improving mental processing, increasing alertness, sharpening memory, and helping to focus concentration. It also has an impact on the body’s receptors and tends to counter extreme moods. Thus, nervous or stressed smokers are calmed by nicotine, while sluggish smokers can enjoy an increase in energy levels.
Nicotine also releases dopamine, which has shown some promise in relieving the effects of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Those potential benefits are often overlooked by a media that is eager to report sensationalized dangers and political responses to those risks. As a result, we consistently see agencies like the FDA talk about nicotine as though it is as dangerous as tar and other carcinogens that actually do pose a serious threat to human health, despite a lack of evidence to support that view.
But is it actually Bad for You?
It is important to be clear here: there is no actual scientific evidence to suggest that nicotine is, in and of itself, bad for human health. As noted above, the reverse is actually true. In various studies, nicotine has been shown to have a number of positive benefits for humans. Of course, these studies are all premised upon consumption that involves ingesting nicotine in a vapor form. Liquid nicotine is another matter entirely.
Contact with and consumption of liquid nicotine does pose a threat to your health – so much so that some tobacco opponents seeking expanded control over e-cigarettes have now started to turn their attention toward these dangers. The problem with that line of reasoning, of course, is that they use this argument to bolster their claims that vaping is dangerous. Obviously, the science has yet to validate such claims.
Here is what we know about nicotine when it is used properly during vaping: it is not the evil and dangerous substance that it is often portrayed as being. Nicotine is not the substance responsible for causing cancer, lung ailments, and heart complications. Those medical conditions are caused by the burning of tobacco and the release of tar and toxins into the body. Nicotine does not cause cancer, harm your heart, or destroy your respiratory system.
Nicotine’s most dangerous threat is that it is the addictive substance that causes people to become hooked on tobacco cigarettes. In a bit of unintended irony, smokers who begin to smoke to get their nicotine fix often end up finding that the nicotine they crave ends up being the very thing that forces them to continue to smoke!
What Does This Tell Us?
There is a lesson here for those who are willing to learn it. If nicotine’s biggest threat comes in the form of its addictive property, then the real danger is that people become addicted to nicotine-containing products that are harmful to them. That includes products like tobacco cigarettes that can cause heart disease and cancer. That does not include electronic cigarettes, which have yet to be proven harmful.
The bottom line is that nicotine is harmful in its liquid form, so users should oral consumption of that juice and strive to avoid skin contact. As far as vaping goes, however, the science simply does not in any way seem to support the current risk assessments being offered by those who wish the industry ill.