Worm Squirm

Nicotine for Weight Control Causes Squirming

Smoking and Obesity PrevalenceNicotine is fascinating drug that has been delivered for centuries in a lethal form – tobacco smoke. Along with obesity and high blood pressure, smoking is a leading cause of death and disease around the world. As smoking has declined, obesity has risen. At least some of the rise in obesity rates is attributable to smoking cessation.

Overall, that’s been a pretty good tradeoff because smoking is definitely more deadly than obesity.

But vaping throws a monkey wrench into this finely tuned public health calculation. Some see electronic cigarettes as a Trojan Horse. Vaping is a gateway to the slippery slope that leads to smoking. Others look at the numbers and see that teen smoking has dropped to the lowest levels seen in decades. Electronic cigarettes are diverting many people from smoking, but harm reduction is something that puts American Puritans into a tizzy.

Marewa Gower, Bernhard Brier, and Linda Bauld are unafraid of stirring the pot and offending our delicate sensibilities. In Nicotine and Tobacco Research, they have written a cogent analysis of the potential for vaping as a tool for weight management. They conclude:

E-cigs may have promise for smoking cessation and could play a valuable role in reducing preventable deaths by contributing to reductions in smoking prevalence.

More research on the potential of e-cigs to reduce disease risks is needed, and investigation of any potential role they may play in mitigating weight gain is a viable topic for future study.

Clearly, such research would not be without controversy.

Now there’s an understatement. Already, the Puritans are alarmed that smokers are switching to vaping. Combine the angst about vaping with angst about obesity drugs and some serious breakdowns in rationality are bound to appear.

Ideas that make us squirm are not entirely bad. Innovation and change cause discomfort. But at the end of the day, humans can find a way to think through such problems.

Click here for the paper by Glover et al and here for more perspective.

Worm Squirm, photograph © killerbee11682 / flickr

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October 27, 2016

2 Responses to “Nicotine for Weight Control Causes Squirming”

  1. October 27, 2016 at 6:13 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Thanks, Ted, for drawing attention to these important issues.

    For those curious for more about the state of the tizzy, I commend this paper also from yesterday (and sharing as a co-author Prof. Bauld–yes, she stays busy!) which provides a critical analysis of a WHO report and recommendations on e-cigarettes: http://ukctas.net/news/commentary-on-WHO-report-on-ENDS&ENNDS.html .

    Time for all of us to embrace more discomfort of thought!


    • October 27, 2016 at 7:21 am, Ted said:

      Let’s all squirm and find our way. Thanks, Joe!