Canadians have become addicted to nicotine, which is the most popular nicotine replacement drug in Canada, and some smokers may be using it to help them quit smoking.
But according to a new study, it may be too easy for those addicted to tobacco to take advantage of the new tobacco-based nicotine products to the detriment of others.
In a study published in the journal Addiction, researchers analyzed nicotine and tobacco consumption in Canada and compared it to the amount of time people had consumed before becoming addicted to cigarettes.
They also looked at the likelihood that people would become addicted or quit using nicotine products once they had started using nicotine.
They found that while there was a significant risk for becoming addicted if nicotine use had been started too soon, the rate of quitters was lower among those who started using cigarettes in the previous year.
“The risk of nicotine dependence is lower for those who had started nicotine products before quitting tobacco cigarettes, compared with those who did not,” said lead author Mark Jansen, a clinical pharmacologist at the University of British Columbia.
“This suggests that the initial nicotine exposure, such as a few weeks, may have less of an impact on quitting,” he added.
“Nicotine is the gateway drug that gets people hooked on nicotine.”
The researchers said they found the risk of becoming addicted was not as high for those in the first 12 months after they started using tobacco.
The risk seemed to decrease for those more than 12 months.
“While there is no evidence that nicotine has a higher likelihood of being addictive in those with a high smoking propensity, there is a substantial difference between those who smoke and those who do not smoke, and the risks of smoking and nicotine are more likely to differ in people who smoke,” said Jansen.
“Those who smoke may find it more difficult to quit smoking because of the lack of nicotine,” he said.
“There is also a potential for a relapse to nicotine use in those who have stopped using nicotine.”
It was not clear if the new research was applicable to other nicotine products, such a nicotine patch, gum and inhaler, because they are not regulated in Canada.
But experts say the risk could be even higher for some people, as they have been known to quit on their own or with help.
“I think that people will just continue to vape as they continue to use the products,” said David Buell, professor emeritus of pharmacology at the McMaster University School of Pharmacy.
“It’s not the end of the world that people are going to be quitting on their devices.”
The new study was published in Addiction.