I went to the cafe last week and passed by the meandering smokers nearby. It got me thinking about our comparative dependencies. Nicotine is (commonly) derived from smoking tobacco with a number of other toxic substances; caffeine is distilled from roasted beans (among others methods, but usually consumed). Could an ethical approach to nicotine dependence (a la caffeine) help eliminate more toxic delivery methods?
I'm well aware that ethical nicotine "treatments" are common (lozenges, patches). They are marketed as a way to wean people off nicotine an thereby tobacco. A sub-question could be the acceptance of ethical nicotine dependence. ie. Could nicotine dependence be made socially acceptable?
I can't discuss the science (I'm no scientist), but but the prevailing view seems to be that nicotine on it's own is not a carcinogen. For this I reference the Mayo clinic "Many people mistakenly believe that nicotine causes cancer, but that's not the case. Nicotine replacement medications, including patches, gum, lozenges, nasal spray and inhaler, can help relieve difficult withdrawal symptoms and cravings" http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nicotine-dependence/DS00307/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs
However here is the wikipedia extract that show various views - others can pick that up if they wish.
Historically, nicotine has not been regarded as a carcinogen and the IARC has not evaluated nicotine in its standalone form or assigned it to an official carcinogen group. While no epidemiological evidence supports that nicotine alone acts as a carcinogen in the formation of human cancer (on the contrary, a mechanism of urinary excretion of nicotine metabolites was identified as the link between smoking and bladder cancer ), research over the last decade has identified nicotine's carcinogenic potential in animal models and cell culture. Nicotine has been noted to directly cause cancer through a number of different mechanisms such as the activation of MAP Kinases. Indirectly, nicotine increases cholinergic signalling (and adrenergic signalling in the case of colon cancer), thereby impeding apoptosis (programmed cell death), promoting tumor growth, and activating growth factors and cellular mitogenic factors such as 5-LOX, and EGF. Nicotine also promotes cancer growth by stimulating angiogenesis and neovascularization. In one study, nicotine administered to mice with tumors caused increases in tumor size (twofold increase), metastasis (nine-fold increase), and tumor recurrence (threefold increase).http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotine