An article from Ananova about a smokeless cigarette says:
The smokeless and tobacco-free cigarette uses a rechargeable heating coil in a plastic cigarette-sized stick to dispense nicotine without smoke.
The company promises that dragging on it releases “a similar taste” to cigarettes without the health issues from tar, arsenic, cadmium and formaldehyde that a normal cigarette contains.
The question raised at the end of the article is, “Which aspect of cigarette smoking is bad?” Is it the addiction to nicotine, or is it the harmful chemicals that go along with that? If it’s the life-threatening effects of tobacco – the carcinogens in the smoke and so on, then if smokers will accept the substitute (and it is affordable) then there is every reason to use a substitute.
The obvious way to reduce smoking related disease is to reduce the number of people who smoke. However, despite plenty of effort from the government, among others, stop-smoking campaigns are not working. We are creatures of habit, and while we dislike change, we are even more hostile to change that’s imposed upon us. This may be borne out by research that shows that approximately 40%-60% of patients with a smoking-related disease still smoke after being told they have a chronic disease1.
If nicotine is harmful, then this would make it a candidate for proscription. In concentrated form, nicotine is used as an insecticide. It affects the autonomic nervous system and, in small doses, causes the heart rate to rise, causes blood vessels to constrict and increases the feeling of alertness2. Nicotine is physiologically addictive. An overdose (i.e. smoking while using nicotine patches or an inhaler) can cause nausea and palpitations. Long term use of nicotine replacements like inhalers and patches may cause cell damage in blood vessels and lungs. Clearly, addiction to nicotine can in itself be harmful.
From the evidence I’ve seen, I think that nicotine replacement therapy is the least-worst option for smokers. Patches and inhalers3 offer significantly reduced health risks compared to smoking, and allow nicotine dependence to be reduced gradually, which is a more effective method of quitting than stopping immediately (cold turkey) but offers health benefits over ramping down cigarette use4.
In the end, the effectiveness of any method of quitting must be linked to the determination of the smoker to quit, but encouraging these supportive medicines and technologies must be a Good Thing.
1 Adjusted smoking prevalence among adults with a smoking-related disease: The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III), United States, 1988-1994
3 Use of Nicotine Inhalers Could Reduce Rates of Smoking-Related Illnesses ; 2003; Darrell E. Ward
Beyond ‘Smoking Kills’