The most common mistake is making nicotine out to be the sole bad guy in the massive equation that leads from cigarette smoking to death. Nicotine is not a perfect substance. it does cause some heart problems with excessive use, it can lead to pregnancy complications, and is highly addictive. But then, the same can be said about caffeine, which increases blood pressure, impacts fetal development, and is also highly addictive.
But the level of harm caused by these two substances is actually quite small when taken by themselves. This is why we don’t see (as much) national efforts to keep kids away from caffeine, campaigns to demonize the products that contain it and the companies that push it, and people don’t think twice about a lifetime addicted to the stuff. Want to learn more? Just check out this video on the stuff.
Nicotine isn’t that much different. The problem is that the majority of people get their nicotine from smoking cigarettes. So when, say, Dr. Aw of the National Post writes about his concern that electronic cigarettes make indulging a nicotine addiction that much easier, it hard for most people to see the problem with the argument. In their minds, nicotine and smoking are one and the same. But Dr. Aw is using a flawed argument. If nicotine can be obtained without the smoke, that saves an individual from the 10,000 to 100,000 constituents they’d be getting with cigarette smoke.
Dr. Aw also worries that electronic cigarettes will complement smoking rather than supplement it. By that, he means the 76% of e-cig users that also smoke are getting the harm of both. But any level of smoking reduction is a good thing — and research is showing that very few (some say around 2%) of e-cig users maintain duel use. Those that do usually cut their smoking by 50 to 100%.
Most researchers and experts agree that e-cigs only really pose 1% of the risk that conventional cigarettes do. So if a smoker replaces half their smoking with electronic cigarette use, it looks like they’d be cutting the harm done to them by about 49.5%.
The point to be made here is that the terminology needs to be clear. Smoking cessation without nicotine cessation is far more likely for most smokers and still cuts out 99% of the damage. That should be a far more immediate concern for the general public than trying to cut out use of nicotine entirely — a much more difficult fight and far less worth the effort.