jump to search

The independent evidence

What the science says

Find out what the independent experts think.

What the independent evidence tells us about nicotine

It’s widely accepted that nicotine is not the cause of smoking-related diseases.

Independent evidence
We have known for years that people smoke for the nicotine, but die from the smoke."
Reducing the toll of death and disease from tobacco, open letter to the WHO signed by 53 leading scientists and public health experts, May 2014

Nicotine: The facts

  • Nicotine occurs naturally in tobacco leaf and significantly lower levels are also found in plants such as tomatoes, potatoes and aubergines (eggplant).
  • Nicotine products, as an alternative to conventional cigarettes, are considered to offer significantly reduced health risks.
  • It is largely the toxicants found in cigarette smoke that cause the overwhelming majority of smoking-related diseases – not the nicotine itself.
Nicotine inhaled from smoking tobacco is highly addictive. But it is primarily the toxins and carcinogens in tobacco smoke – not the nicotine – that cause illness and death."
Tobacco harm reduction approaches to smoking, UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, public health guidance 45, July 2013

What the independent evidence tells us about e-cigarettes

Evidence suggests e-cigarettes are significantly less risky than smoking.

In a study on behalf of the UK-based Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, a panel of global experts in the field of nicotine and tobacco research used a multi-criteria analysis to rank tobacco and nicotine products based on harm to users and harm to wider society. The study attributed a relative harm score of 100% to conventional cigarettes, while giving a score of 4% for e-cigarettes. [1]

The chemicals that make cigarettes dangerous are either absent in electronic cigarettes or present only in trace concentrations."
Should e-cigarettes be regulated as a medicinal device? P Hajek et. al., The Lancet, July 2013

Studies suggest e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking, while there is currently little evidence that they’re a gateway into smoking.

Many recent studies [2] have found that regular e-cigarette use among people who’ve never smoked is negligible at under 1%.

E-cigarette testing
While it is important to control the advertising of electronic cigarettes to make sure children and non-smokers are not being targeted, there is no evidence from our research that e-cigarettes are acting as a gateway into smoking."
Action on Smoking and Health UK, press release on e-cigarette research, April 2014
[1] Estimating the Harms of Nicotine-Containing Products Using the MCDA Approach, Prof David J Nutt et. al. on behalf of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, European Addiction Research, April 2014.

[2] (a) Electronic cigarettes: review of use, content, safety, effects on smokers and potential for harm and benefit, P Hajek et. al., Addiction, July 2014; (b) Trends in electronic cigarette use in England, Smoking Toolkit Study, University College London, June 2014; (c) Use of electronic cigarettes in Great Britain, Action on Smoking and Health, April 2014; (d) Characteristics, Perceived Side Effects and Benefits of Electronic Cigarette Use: A Worldwide Survey of More than 19,000 Consumers, K E Farsalinos et. al., International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, April 2014; (e) E-cigarettes: Prevalence and attitudes in Great Britain, M Dockrell et. al., Nicotine & Tobacco Research, July 2013; (f) E-cigarette awareness, use, and harm perceptions in US adults, J L Pearson et. al., American Journal of Public Health, September 2012.

External links

Nicotine Explained

Read an overview of the facts behind nicotine. We try to answer some of the questions around nicotine use.

Nicotine Explained
Nicotine Explained