Strange as it may sound, the key substance used in many medical therapies aimed at helping wean people off smoking – is nicotine.
Why is this so if cigarettes – which are addictive because they contain nicotine – are widely acknowledged as harmful and also proven likely to cause cancer in the long run?
Such seemingly opposite stands were better explained by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos – a world-renowned cardiologist based in Greece, who is in Kuala Lumpur to present the results of a survey conducted among Malaysian vape device users.(see story below)
“Nicotine does not cause cancer,” he explained. “All medical experts around the world know this to be a true fact. And yet, many continue making the mistake of associating nicotine with cancer.”
And given the widespread perception many untrained – but self-proclaimed – ‘medical experts’ still spout about nicotine being carcinogenic, Dr Farsalinos pointed out that it is possible to consume nicotine without ever touching any tobacco.
“Cauliflower, eggplant, potato and tomato are among the common food people eat without realising these contain nicotine. Capsicum, pepper and tea also contain nicotine. Should we slap warning labels on these?”
So, if nicotine does not cause cancer, what does?
Dr Farsalinos explained that substances produced when a cigarette is lit – tar and chemicals in the smoke vapour – cause cancer.
“It’s the burning which cause the harm. Consuming nicotine without any burning is same like getting a caffeine rush from drinking hot coffee.”
It is due to this confusion that many – smokers and non-smokers alike – scoff at smoking cessation alternatives like nicotine patches, lozenges and sprays – having the misconception that these still have high cancer risks because of the nicotine content, he added.
“The same misconception applies to vaping because most people don’t understand it is simply evaporated nicotine. More importantly, there’s no tar produced because vaping has no burning involved.
“Besides, when the composition of vapour from an e-cigarette is analysed, nicotine accounts for at most 0.09% of the vapour total. Most people don’t understand that the vapour exhaled by an e-cigarette user contains nothing nastier than a tiny amount of evaporated nicotine.”
As such, Dr Farsalinos said vaping has become established as the most successful smoking cessation tool in many countries for psychological reasons as well as physiological.
“Many people switching to vaping also choose liquids that don’t contain nicotine. Hence, while it may look and feel the same, risk of harm is reduced considerably.
“Of all the smoking cessation therapies available today, vaping comes closest to providing this psychological aspect to mimic what smokers feel they need to kick the habit which they readily admit is filthy and harmful.
“As such, electronic cigarettes have proved to be, in all countries where they are available to adults, far more effective in enabling smokers to quit cigarettes and stay off them; other cessation therapies are markedly less successful.”
Since vaping also doesn’t lead to consumption of tar, Dr Farsalinos said it’s time to put aside the mistaken linking of cancer to nicotine-based alternatives and for regulations to be framed accordingly.
“Can you imagine how ridiculous it will be if regulations imposed against nicotine-based products, while aimed at helping you reduce the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes, also meant you have to see a doctor to buy potatoes and tomatoes?”
Biggest vaping study ever in Malaysia
Just a few months ago, what is probably largest ever cross-sectional survey of adult electronic cigarette users living in Malaysia was carried out – eliciting responses from more than 7,000 participants.
The response from vape users found that most used it rather than cigarettes because they wanted a less harmful way to continue nicotine consumption. Other major findings:
- 84.2% reported improved ability to exercise since switching to e-cigarettes
- 92.3% reported better breathing capability
- 75.4% had improved quality of sleep
- 90.3% had better sense of smell
- 89.1% could taste better.