Widely believed to be safe, the patches and gum deliver nicotine to the system to quell the bodys craving for it. But researchers at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., report learning, for the first time, that a breakdown product of nicotine, called nornicotine, has the ability to interfere with a broad range of chemical reactions in the body and that this interaction has the potential to trigger adverse health effects.
The study suggests that those who take medications while smoking or using nicotine patches or gum may be at greater risk for potentially adverse drug interactions. Nornicotine could modify these drugs, possibly reducing drug potency and causing side effects, according to the researchers.
While patches and gum can vary in nicotine content, those who continue to smoke while using these products subject themselves to higher health risks by getting extra nicotine, they said.
They caution that their results are preliminary and limited to laboratory observations. The compound is undergoing further testing to determine its specific effects in animals and humans, but results are not yet available, the researchers added.
The study also implies that nornicotine adds to the health dangers of smoking itself. Although nicotine has been shown to be a dangerous chemical in addition to its known addictive properties, this is the first demonstration of the chemical potential of a nicotine metabolite, they said.
This represents another potentially adverse chemical found in tobacco thats coming from nicotine itself, said the studys lead author
Contact: Judah Ginsberg
American Chemical Society