We are all aware of the health risks associated with smoking cigarettes, and most people assume that nicotine plays a part in those risks. While nicotine is what gives smoking that pleasurable experience, it is not responsible for causing lung disease, cancer, or other smoking related illnesses.
Back in 1996 a paper was published in the scientific journal Life Science, detailing research on long-term nicotine exposure in rats. The rats were kept in a chamber with airborne nicotine that gave them twice the blood plasma nicotine concentration of the average smoker. They were in the chamber 20 hours per day, five days a week, for a period of two years. As a result they were exposed to nicotine at a much higher concentration than the majority of smokers are.
The results may surprise you. The rats who were in these nicotine-induced chambers did not have a higher mortality rate than other rats who were housed in normal cages. There was no increase in the rates of atherosclerosis, heart problems, or any kind of cancer, including lung cancer. There was also no increase in common precursor cells to lung cancer called pulmonary neuroendocrine cells, indicating that the nicotine did not increase the rats’ risk of developing lung cancer.
There was one statistically significant difference between the two groups of rats. The ones in the nicotine-filled chambers had a lower body weight compared to those not given nicotine. However, this difference did not obviously affect their health or well-being.
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