Published on: 20/07/2022
Cigarette smoking and cancer risk: is nicotine the culprit?
If you smoke or vape, you know you take nicotine daily. You probably already know that this substance is not entirely harmless, but you may not be aware of all the effects it can have on your health.
One day, you might have heard an acquaintance say that nicotine is carcinogenic, or you might have read about it on the web: after all, you can find articles claiming this.
Could it be the truth? Is nicotine intake putting you at risk of getting cancer, or is it a hoax?
We will answer these questions in the following article, in which we will also explain the differences between blondes and e-cigarettes in terms of harmfulness.
Nicotine is not a direct cause of increased cancer risk.
The belief that nicotine is a carcinogenic molecule is widespread, but scientific research shows that this chemical compound does not increase the risk of cancer.
However, this does not mean that it is a harmless substance: constant nicotine intake can harm the circulatory system.
This molecule acts on the nervous system’s receptors, causing the heart rate to increase and the blood vessels to constrict: in the long run, the heart weakens, and the arteries become thinner and lose elasticity. For this reason, regular nicotine intake increases the risk of numerous cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, hypertension and aortic aneurysm,
Moreover, this substance can be highly toxic if taken in excessively high quantities. The lethal dose of nicotine is about 40 mg, but it is usually practically impossible to reach through cigarette smoking or vaping. However, ingesting tobacco or liquids containing a high percentage of it can lead to acute intoxication, manifesting with the following symptoms:
- muscular paralysis;
- cessation of breathing;
Read also: Nicotine and dopamine: what these two substances are and how they interact with each other
What is the cause of the carcinogenicity of cigarettes?
So, nicotine is not carcinogenic. Yet, we know that cigarette smoking can significantly increase cancer risk. But, then, who is responsible for the carcinogenicity of cigarettes?
You have to know that there are hundreds of toxic molecules in cigarette smoke, and dozens of them possess mutagenic and oxidising effects that favour the development of cancer cells. Among these, the best known are:
- formaldehyde: a chemical compound used in the production of disinfectants. It increases the risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, leukaemia and throat cancer;
- benzene, a flammable liquid contained in petroleum. It can damage DNA and promote numerous neoplasms, such as lung cancer and liver cancer;
- acetaldehyde, another flammable liquid used to sweeten the taste of cigarettes. Like benzene, this compound also has mutagenic effects and increases the risk of developing cancer cells;
- arsenic, a highly toxic semi-metal that in the past was often used as a poison to commit murder. It can cause severe damage to the cardiovascular system, digestive organs and lungs and inhibits DNA repair mechanisms;
- cadmium, a metal used in the production of batteries and plasters. If taken in high doses, it can impair the function of the kidneys, reproductive system, nervous system and blood vessels.
Vaping vs tobacco smoking: which is the less harmful alternative?
As we have explained, nicotine does not increase cancer risk, but it is still a health hazard. The carcinogenicity of cigarettes, therefore, is not caused by this molecule but by dozens of other chemical compounds present in cigarette smoke and produced by tobacco combustion.
As is known, liquids for e-cigarettes contain nicotine but are consumed without combustion: thus, e-cig vapour does not contain all the toxins present in traditional cigarettes. All this would suggest that vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco. Yet, many are still suspicious of e-cigs and consider them as harmful as blondes, if not more so.
What is the truth?
Scientific research does not yet have enough information to assess the long-term effects of e-cigarettes accurately. Still, studies seem to agree that e-cigs are far less harmful than blondes, as stated by the Italian Association for Cancer Research.
Just think that in 2015, Public Health England, an agency of the British Department of Health, compared the results of numerous research studies on the harmful effects of vaping and smoking. The results of the sifting were quite clear: from the data of the studies taken into account. The risks of e-cigarettes are 95% lower than those of smoking blondes!
Please note: vaping is not a harmless activity, just a less harmful alternative to tobacco. If you do not smoke, do not use e-cigarettes.
Read also: Quitting smoking: 10 (instant) benefits for your health and your wallet
Now you know nicotine is not a carcinogenic substance, but this does not mean it is harmless. On the contrary, it can adversely affect the circulatory system and lead to heart and blood vessel diseases.
The cause of the carcinogenicity of traditional cigarettes is the presence of dozens of tobacco combustion products in cigarette smoke.
The vapour of e-cigs, on the other hand, does not contain all these toxins that can promote cancer development. According to several authoritative health bodies, e-cigarettes are less harmful than blondes. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that vaping is not an activity without health risks; it should only be considered a less harmful alternative to smoking.
If you are a vaper, we invite you to look at our vaping shop: at Terpy.shop, you can buy excellent electronic cigarette liquids, nicotine bases, concentrated flavours and many other quality products.
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