How many of you experienced your head hitting your desks after reading the latest headlines about e cigarettes?

You know the one, put out by the American Heart Association, about e-cigs with nicotine giving your heart an adrenaline shot?

After we lifted our heads back up, it got us thinking about research into nicotine.

Such as, how much has there been, how long ago was it done, and what do we already know about nicotine BEFORE a scientist decides to do some research using an e-cig?

After all, NRT now has a licence which means people can and do chew/use it for months, if not years.

NRT is basically nicotine, delivered either by the patch, the gum or the crappy little inhalator thing. But the clue is in the name – Nicotine.

So surely, by now scientists must know the effects that nicotine has on the heart, otherwise why would NRT be licensed?

A quick Google of ‘nicotine research’ and we find tobacco/nicotine use goes back eons. “The tobacco plant is native to the Americas and its use as a medicine and stimulant goes back at least 2000 years and most likely many millennia before that.”

In 1736 tobacco was being used as an insecticide. (That link is for the nerds among us).  So, even back then, they knew it had uses other than for smoking.

Nicotine was isolated from tobacco in 1828.

There were over 26 million results for the search.

But back to this new tiny study that hit the global newspapers, (it studied 33 people) but its reach was far larger. The research questioned the safety of e cigarettes. Only it was really questioning the safety of nicotine, using the vehicle of e cigarettes, because that grabs attention. 

It’s important to note this distinction, because the researchers findings had been found over 20 years ago.

The only difference this time round, was the time it took for inhaled nicotine to get into the blood stream versus oral or dermal (skin) administration.

Inhaled is quicker.

We already know this from smoking.

The Press Release from the American Heart Association reads:

One e-cigarette may lead to adrenaline changes in non-smokers’ hearts.

It states, “researchers studied 33 healthy adults who were not current e-cigarette or tobacco cigarette smokers.

They found:

·         Exposure to e-cigarettes with nicotine, but not e-cigarettes without nicotine, led to increased adrenaline levels to the heart, as indicated by abnormal heart rate variability.

·         Oxidative stress, which increases risks for atherosclerosis (clogged veins/ arteries,) and heart attack, showed no changes after exposure to e-cigarettes with and without nicotine. The number of markers they studied for oxidative stress were minimal, however and more studies are warranted, according to Middlekauff.

(Heart rate variability is where they hook you up to a heart rate monitor and record how well your heart is pumping).

For entertainment, or groan factor, here are a few headlines generated from this study:
New study warns of e-cig dangers!

Are e cigarettes bad for the heart?

So, let’s now look at the nicotine findings from 20 years ago, before e-cigarettes and vaping were invented.

“Nicotine may contribute to cardiovascular disease, presumably by hemodynamic consequences of sympathetic neural stimulation and systemic catecholamine release.

Nicotine binds to nicotinic cholinergic receptors, which are located in the brain, autonomic ganglia, the adrenals and neuromuscular junction ([59]). The main cardiovascular effect of nicotine is sympathetic neural stimulation.

What does sympathetic neural stimulation mean?

It means, “In response to this stimulus, postganglionic neurons principally release noradrenaline (norepinephrine). Prolonged activation can elicit the release of adrenaline from the adrenal medulla.

Once released, noradrenaline and adrenaline bind adrenergic receptors on peripheral tissues.

Binding to adrenergic receptors causes the effects seen during the fight-or-flight response.

These include pupil dilation, increased sweating, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure.”

This is the reaction you experience from too much nicotine, or if you remember that far back, your first cigarette.

Back to the research from 20 years ago:

“The hemodynamic effects of cigarette smoking appear to be mediated (brought about)  by nicotine. Intravenous nicotine, nicotine nasal spray and nicotine chewing gum all acutely increase heart rate up to 10 to 15 beats/min and increase blood pressure up to 5 to 10 mm Hg, responses similar to the effects of cigarette smoking ([62–64]). Transdermal nicotine appears to cause lesser acute hemodynamic changes than smoking ([32]).

This research from 20 years ago concluded with:

“Clinical trials of NRT in patients with underlying, stable coronary disease suggest that nicotine does not increase cardiovascular risk.”

Say that again?

“The risks of NRT for smokers, even for those with underlying cardiovascular disease, are small and are substantially outweighed by the potential benefits of smoking cessation.”

Now this may have changed, a lot changes in 20 years, but what this illustrates is that they know nicotine causes the body to release adrenaline.

But let’s not rely upon just one research paper from 20 years ago. Is this knowledge, about nicotine and adrenaline used today?

Here is an NRT advice sheet, updated in August of this year, 2017, regarding NRT, and it clearly states,

“Nicotine enters the body and brain very quickly and causes the body to release adrenaline”.

The advice then continues,

“Adrenaline constricts the blood vessels, speeds up the heart rate and raises blood pressure. Nicotine gum exposes the body to much lower levels of nicotine than cigarettes; however, the National Institutes of Health suggests that after three months of use, it is important to try to slowly discontinue using nicotine gum. Those with known heart conditions should not use nicotine gum unless under a doctor’s supervision. For those without heart disease, long-term use of nicotine gum may contribute to arrhythmias, or irregular heart rhythms, which can lead to a heart attack.”

Nicotine is a stimulant.

Doctors and Scientists have known this for a long time.

Smokers have known this since smoking began.

The method of delivery might be different, e cigarettes versus gum or patch, but the drug is the same, it goes to the same receptors… and guess what, it has the same response on the body.

So, was this research genuine research into learning more about nicotine and wanting to update the research? Because it doesn’t seem that they have learnt that much more from doing it.

Was it done to confirm what they already know?  That then raises the questions, why the misleading headlines?

Was it done to scare vapers?

Or was it done to raise research money, because vaping is cool right now and there is money around to study it?

Whatever the reason, it is a shame they used the click bait headlines of fear, because all we want to do is enjoy a far less harmful version of smoking. Research is great if it is of value, and we desperately need that in the e-cigarette world.

Perhaps they could have worded it differently, or helped to educate in a different way, but needless to say, this will have caused adrenaline rushes of fear for some that never read past the headlines.

But to end on a positive note!

Not that this post wasn’t positive…. hopefully you have found it interesting and educational.


Compare the above scary headlines to this poster from the UK: Yes… the UK Government and health bodies are actively encouraging the Brits to give up smoking using e -cigs!