Inhaling Nicotine Doesn’t Hurt, But It Could Make You Thinner Say Researchers!
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by: James Dunworth
  • research suggests long term nicotine inhalation causes you no harm
  • use of nicotine could help you lose weight
  • tobacco has been used throughout history to control appetite

One problem with electronic cigarettes is that while short term studies have been carried out, there haven’t been any very long term studies.

Scientists tell us that the problem with smoking is not the nicotine, it’s the smoke produced when you burn tobacco (or anything else for that matter). But it still helps if there are studies to back that up.

Which is why I was intrigued to run across a 1996 study on the long term effects of inhaling nicotine.

Long Term Effects of Inhaled Nicotine

A scientist dressed in a white lab coat holds up an electronic cigarette.

The study may give us clues into the long term effect of nicotine on vapers.

Waldum et al put rats in a chamber and pumped nicotine in for 20 hours a day, 5 days a week for two years.

They concluded that:

  • there was no increase in tumours
  • no increase in the death rate

However, the rats did lose weight.

The study lead the researchers to conclude:

our study does not indicate any harmful effect of nicotine when given in its pure form by inhalation.

How does it work? Researcher Marina Piccotio found that nicotine activates a path in the brain that suppresses appetite. His findings are now being used by scientists to try and develop new medicines to help people lose weight.

Rats and Humans

A rat on a white background.

Anti-nicotine activists will be keen to point out that rats are not humans. (Although they probably wouldn’t point this out if the results were negative!)

But there is a reason tests are carried out on rats.

Intriguingly, rats suffer from the same diseases as us, and have:

  • the same physiology
  • similar organs
  • similar body plans
  • body chemistry that work in similar ways
  • nervous systems that work in the same way
  • react in similar ways to injury and infection

As rats don’t live as long as us, we also don’t have to wait decades to see effects on their health.

While a scientist would probably prefer to see the results of tests carried out on humans, I can’t see countries outside North Korea placing a person in a chamber for 20 years and pumping in nicotine for 20 hours a day!

Nicotine and Hunger in History

Early smokers may have used nicotine to combat hunger.

It’s a habit of scientists that they like to tell us what we already know :)

And one of the findings of the study – that nicotine helps us lose weight – is nothing knew.

Although Christoper Columbus was angry when his crew started smoking tobacco, it took him just days to work out that tobacco could relieve hunger and aid relaxation.

And Monardes came to same conclusion in 1571 in his History of Medicinal Plants in the New World, arguing that tobacco had the ability to alleviate hunger pangs as well as thirst.

(Mind you, Monardes was rather fond of tobacco, writing that:

To seek to tell the virtues and greatness of this holy herb, the ailments which can be cured of it, the evils from which it has saved thousands would be to go on to infinity… this precious herb is so general a need not only for the sick but for the healthy)

But he’s not the only one to have noticed that tobacco suppressed hunger.  In his book Tobacco in History, The Culture of Dependence, Jordan Goodman notes:

The importance of suppressing hunger was one of tobacco’s main attributes, and was repeated frequently in the medical literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Much, much later cigarette companies played on smoker’s desires to be thin.

Cigarette advert: reads "It's better to be fit than fat."

This 1920’s advert for Kensitas cigarettes marketed cigarettes as an appetite suppressant, and recommended substituting cigarettes for snacks between meals.

In fact, one cigarette was even named Slim, and warned smokers that if they quit they would pile on the pounds:

Virginia slims advert.

 

While tobacco companies are not known for their honesty, in this case they were spot on the mark, as a 2011 study found that nicotine activates a pathway in the brain that supresses appetite.

Does nicotine make YOU less hungry? Let me know in the comments!

Notes: Historical data was drawn from the books Velvet Glove Iron Fist by Christopher Snowdon (2009) and Tobacco in History by Jordan Goodman (1993).

Also see:

 

 

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9 Responses to “Inhaling Nicotine Doesn’t Hurt, But It Could Make You Thinner Say Researchers!”

  1. christine marcant-hubbard May 17, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Yes i agree 100% but i dont see why anyone thinks that losing weight by inhaling nicotine is so new!! Doctors know that patients who stop smoking can put on weight. I suppose its because they didnt know which bit of stopping smoking put on the weight. So at least we all know now. Also i must remind everyone that stopping smoking reallies and taking up vaping also changes other things in their lives. Improvement in skin problems. Improvement in personal odour. A cleaner and less smelly homes, cars, clothes. UP TO VAPING. DOWN WITH SMOKING.

    • James Dunworth May 18, 2013 at 6:56 am #

      Probably should have mentioned that quitting smoking obviously outweighs the disadvantage of putting on a few pounds ( but everyone knows that already!)

  2. Scott McKirahan May 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Interesting find there, James. I guess all of those second hand vape alarmists will next cry that you are spreading anorexia!

    What I always find most interesting about all of these lab rat studies is the excessive exposure they subject the little creatures to. Why is it that scientists always have to go overboard in their lab experiments? Heck, pumped with enough of it, they’ve even found that water causes cancer in labs rats!

    • James Dunworth May 18, 2013 at 6:53 am #

      At least they were given a chemical they can enjoy for a change :)

  3. Rolf Koksvik May 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    Nutritionists have known for years that smoking costs you 100 calories per day. Thus, you gain weight if you stop smoking.

  4. Mandy May 23, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    When I stopped smoking 3 months ago I put on about a stone really quickly and I know why! Toffee and cake … I developed a sweet tooth and was hungry all of the time. I had an ecig but only used it very occasionally, the odd puff when I really needed it. I have now started dieting and the ecig is used a lot more, I don’t need to eat constantly and my sweet tooth is going away. Half a stone gone in the first week.

    • James Dunworth May 24, 2013 at 9:37 am #

      Hi Mandy, good to hear you have stopped smoking, although obviously we don’t advise using e-cigarettes to lose weight!

  5. Tenika Morsby June 3, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Just start my nico and it feels good so far hopefully I can keep up

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