Nicotine and the electronic cigarette could save millions of lives.
Bold statement isn’t it? It’s easy to forget tobacco is the single largest cause of preventable illness and death in the UK. 86% of lung cancer and 25% of all cancer deaths in the UK are attributed to smoking tobacco. Half of all regular smokers will die as a result of it. In the 20th century 100 million people died around the world as a result of smoking tobacco. If this trend continues 1 billion will die in the 21st century. Every single one of these deaths are preventable.
Despite all the evidence why do people still continue with their tobacco habit? There is no denying smoking cigarettes is extremely addictive. Any regular smoker will tell you it is one of the hardest addictions to break.
Nicotine without the Tobacco
Only 4% to 7% of people successfully quit smoking alone. NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) which includes patches, inhalers, medicines and gum have been shown to be no more effective in the long term than trying to quit cold turkey. Millions of smokers will never break their habit using current NRTs.
599 additives are approved for use in the production of cigarettes. When burnt these break down into over 4000 chemicals. At least 69 of these are known to cause cancer. But no smoker actually wants to consume any one of these chemicals.
Most smokers will tell you it is the nicotine that they want, the enjoyment of the physical process, the feeling and sensation, and the ritual of smoking.
“It’s time to be honest with the 50 million Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, who use tobacco,” Dr. Rodu writes. “The benefits they get from tobacco are very real, not imaginary or just the periodic elimination of withdrawal.”
Millions of people continue to smoke in part because nicotine is a drug with benefits. It has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, improve reaction time, lower weight, improve concentration, lower depression and heighten your mood. Nicotine has been proven to be beneficial for Alzheimer patients, to slow the progression of the disease, and to significantly lower the risk of developing it.
Nicotine is not without its dangers. Some evidence suggests nicotine use by pregnant women may harm their babies. It is a powerful stimulant and can cause heart disorders in people with existing heart problems. But the real dangers of smoking are from tobacco and not the nicotine itself. In 2007 the Royal College of Physicians said:
“Nicotine itself is not especially hazardous, If nicotine could be provided in a form that is acceptable and effective as a cigarette substitute, millions of lives could be saved.” 
Harm Reduction with Nicotine
Harm reduction is a fundamental component of many aspects of medicine yet for some reason effective harm reduction principles have not been applied to tobacco smoking. Abstinence is the safest option for any smoker but the facts show this is simply not realistic for the majority of people addicted to cigarettes.
As suggested by the Royal College of Physicians if a cigarette substitute could be used as an effective way of getting nicotine without tobacco the potential for harm reduction is massive. The electronic cigarette fits the bill and could be the answer to getting smokers off tobacco and saving millions of lives.
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