Nicotine is an alkaloid (a nitrogen-containing molecule), which naturally occurs in all varieties of tobacco plants, but can also be synthetically manufactured for use as an insecticide. It has been well-established that the pharmacological effects of nicotine are primary drivers behind people using tobacco products.
Tobacco plants were once believed to have been cultivated up to 6,000 years ago in the Americas. But, tobacco was first truly documented in 1493, when Christopher Columbus returned to Europe with plants and seeds (Nicotiana Tabacum).
Cigarettes, as we recognize them today, have changed very little since the late 1800s. This is particularly so after James Bonsack patented his cigarette-making machine in 1881, which was capable of producing 100,000 cigarettes per day, thus reducing manufacturing costs significantly and making machine-made cigarettes more accessible to the general population.
There were many early concerns relating to smoking tobacco products and health, but it probably wasn’t until the 1950s when Richard Doll and A. Bradford Hill published data linking smoking and lung cancer in the UK. Subsequently, the Royal College of Physicians published its first report on Smoking and Health in 1962, followed, in 1964, by the first US Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health announcing that smoking causes lung cancer in men.
In 1984, the FDA approved nicotine gum as a prescription medicine and later, in 1996, the first guidelines on smoking cessation were issued by the US Federal Public Health Service.
Whilst electronic cigarettes are a relatively new development compared to conventional tobacco products, there is an increasing view, amongst many in the area of Public Health, that the risks associated with their use, are significantly less than those associated with smoking traditional combustible tobacco products.
Whilst the risks associated with tobacco use have long been known, there is often misunderstanding relating to the role of nicotine in smoking-related diseases, even though nicotine has not been identified as a substance that causes cancer, as documented by the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC).
Having said that, there is a lack of long-term scientific research on electronic cigarettes and so we fully endorse the need for more research, in particular long-term epidemiological research. However, one thing that we do know is that there are far fewer toxicants in the vapor of electronic cigarettes, compared to the smoke from conventional tobacco products, which would imply that electronic cigarettes have the potential to provide smokers with a reduced-risk alternative to conventional tobacco products.
The UK Royal College of Physicians considers medicinal nicotine to be a very safe drug (2007 Harm reduction in nicotine addiction; Helping people who can’t quit), although it is well known that nicotine is addictive. It is also well documented that certain groups of people such as pregnant women, those suffering from unstable heart disease, severe hypertension, diabetes or those with an allergy or sensitivity to nicotine are best advised not to use products containing nicotine.
We recognize that nicotine use is not without its risks, for example, at high doses, nicotine has acute toxic effects. Symptoms such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting can be the result of accidental ingestion or absorption, which can prove fatal if a very high dose is ingested or absorbed in a relatively short space of time.
At White Cloud, we use excipients such as glycerol and propylene glycol to replace the role of tobacco smoke in delivering nicotine during inhalation. These are two products that are widely used in many industries, including the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries. Whilst the long-term impacts of inhalation of these chemicals needs further investigation and research, they are given a ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ designation by the US Food and Drug Administration.