|Tech researcher Jansim Bavarva in the lab.|
The research paper (here) tells us that nicotine is "proving to be a formidable carcinogen, so much so that researchers caution that nicotine-infused smoking cessation products may not be the safest way to help smokers quit." (I will note here that scientific studies are smeared with words like "may," which don't mean anything, but which protect the researchers if they are wrong.)
Nicotine, the study says, is one of 4,000 chemicals found in cigarette smoke and many of them are carcinogens. Nicotine, however, has generally not fallen into that category, though it is often recognized as being as addictive as cocaine. Smoking substitutes like gum, patches and e-cigarettes deliver consumer determined levels of nicotine. You can get a pretty good whack, then dial it back over time as you try to quit or simply settle in with the e-cigs or other devices.
The study, says the press release, reveals "that nicotine excessively mutates a cell's DNA ... [causing] thousands of mutations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in exposed cells, compared with control cells that were not exposed ... These patterns are similar to those identified in cells experiencing oxidative stress, which is a known precursor to cancer. "
The study was conducted by geneticist Jasmin Bavarva and Harold "Skip" Garner, a professor of biological science, computer science, and basic science affiliated with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, as well as the colleges of science and engineering.
VTC is in the business of crossing department lines to combine disciplines in these studies. "We now have a broad picture of genomic effects in nicotine," says Bavarva, and that can be important in determining safer ways to treat smokers.