CDC publishes more evidence that nicotine is dangerous all by itself

March 23, 2015

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Lucy England and colleagues at the CDC Office on Smoking and Health recently published an important paper, "Nicotine and the Developing Human: A Neglected Element in the Electronic Cigarette Debate," in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  This paper makes the important point that, contrary to glib assertions e-cigarette enthusiasts make that "it is the tar not the nicotine in cigarettes that kills people" they add to case that nicotine, while not the only dangerous thing in cigarettes, is nonetheless dangerous.
 
Here is the abstract of their paper:
 
The elimination of cigarettes and other combusted tobacco products in the U.S. would prevent tens of millions of tobacco-related deaths. It has been suggested that the introduction of less harmful nicotine delivery devices, such as electronic cigarettes or other electronic nicotine delivery systems, will accelerate progress toward ending combustible cigarette use. However, careful consideration of the potential adverse health effects from nicotine itself is often absent from public health debates. Human and animal data support that nicotine exposure during periods of developmental vulnerability (fetal through adolescent stages) has multiple adverse health consequences, including impaired fetal brain and lung development, and altered development of cerebral cortex and hippocampus in adolescents. Measures to protect the health of pregnant women and children are needed and could include (1) strong prohibitions on marketing that increase youth uptake; (2) youth access laws similar to those in effect for other tobacco products; (3) appropriate health warnings for vulnerable populations; (4) packaging to prevent accidental poisonings; (5) protection of non-users from exposure to secondhand electronic cigarette aerosol; (6) pricing that helps minimize youth initiation and use; (7) regulations to reduce product addiction potential and appeal for youth; and (8) the age of legal sale.  [emphasis added]
 
This new work is in addition to the extensive discussion of the adverse health effects of nicotine in Chapter 5 of the 2014 Surgeon General's report.

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