“Study finds nicotine safe, helps in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s,” reports the Tampa Bay Times:
Smoking … contributes to an array of health problems, but nicotine — the calming chemical that cigarettes deliver — might actually be good for the aging brain. Smokers, for example, are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease — a phenomenon that has long puzzled scientists because smoking contributes to cardiovascular disease, which strongly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. But closer investigation revealed that smoking doesn’t confer the protection; nicotine does.
A study of Alzheimer’s patients showed that those who wore nicotine patches were better able to remember and pay attention than those who didn’t. Another study showed that nicotine boosted cognitive function in older people who didn’t have Alzheimer’s, but were showing signs of age-related mental decline.
Nicotine also seems to protect against Parkinson’s disease, in which the death of cells in a small area of the brain results in tremors, impairing movement and as well as cognitive difficulties.
So what’s going on? How does the dreaded addictive component of cigarettes produce health benefits?
For starters, nicotine by itself isn’t very addictive at all, according to Dr. Paul Newhouse, the director of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Cognitive Medicine. Nicotine seems to require assistance from other substances found in tobacco to get people hooked….What makes nicotine especially attractive as a treatment is the fact it causes virtually no side effects, according to Newhouse. “It seems very safe even in nonsmokers,” he said. “In our studies we find it actually reduces blood pressure chronically. And there were no addiction or withdrawal problems, and nobody started smoking cigarettes. The risk of addiction to nicotine alone is virtually nil.”
If this study holds up, it is an additional reason to fight restrictions on nicotine delivery devices such as e-cigarettes, which, unlike cigarettes, do not emit smoke (which causes cancer). E-cigarettes emit vapor containing nicotine, not smoke. FDA bureaucrats have made it difficult to sell e-cigarettes, by failing to timely approve most applications to sell them by manufacturers.
“E-cigarettes could replace much or most of cigarette consumption in the U.S.,” said William T. Godshall, Smokefree Pennsylvania’s executive director. His group had campaigned in the past for smoke-free public vicinities, higher cigarette taxes, and cigarette pack graphic warnings. “There is no evidence that e-cigarettes have ever harmed anyone,” Godshall said.
As Jacob Grier points out, “the best available evidence suggests that vaping is far safer than smoking cigarettes, that it is more effective than nicotine patches or gums at helping smokers quit, and that the health benefits of encouraging smokers to switch outweigh the harms of vaping.” Research shows that “widespread switching from smoking to vaping would prevent between 1.6 million and 6.6 million premature deaths by 2100.”