Addiction: Nicotine Without the Smoke
A recent study suggests an eyebrow-raising approach to fighting smoking. The government, the study says, should consider allowing smokers to buy inhalers that will give them pure shots of nicotine.
The inhalers might substantially reduce the damage to public health caused by smoking tobacco, says the study, which appears in the current issue of Tobacco Control.
The author of the report, Dr. Walton Sumner II of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, says most of the harm that smokers suffer comes from the thousands of chemicals, including toxins and carcinogens, that accompany the nicotine in cigarettes. None of those satisfy the smokers' addiction.
"Obviously, nicotine is a huge reason people use tobacco products," Dr. Sumner said. "That's what they're trying to get, the nicotine. Although nicotine is not harmless, it just doesn't have that much effect on people's health when you use pure formulations."
While other nicotine delivery methods are available for smokers who want to quit, including gum and patches, some have side effects, and smokers do not seem to find the alternatives as satisfying as cigarettes, the study added. An inhaler, it said, is more like a cigarette, quickly sending nicotine into the bloodstream from the lungs.
Although nicotine inhalers are not available to the public, they have been used in studies, Dr. Sumner said. He said he was not ready to recommend adopting the devices, but urged more study.