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Warning: Do not inject nicotine into your heart!

Dr. Chi Min Hai of Brown University has learned that concentrated nicotine applied directly to rat and human cardiac tisssue in lab dishes exacerbates a metabolic process that contributes to the formation of arterial plaque. Anyone planning to inject liquid nicotine directly into his or her heart must desist immediately, and it is to be hoped that regulatory agencies will move expeditiously to prohibit this dangerous practice altogether.

Professor Hai's study has no bearing on the question of potential dangers of nicotine concentrations reaching actual human hearts (inside living humans, for instance) from vapor inhalation at typical levels.

It is altogether likely that damage would be sustained by tissue exposed, in the manner employed in Dr. Hai's study, to a wide variety of substances, say, for instance, salt, or sugar, or camembert cheese. (As Dr. Carl Phillips says, "you can basically damage tissue in a lab with any chemical that is not completely inert if you want to".) We urge the immediate initiation of such studies on camembert, and wouldn't it be prudent to ban the fromage until results are in?

Those who oppose e-cigarette use are trying hard to establish Hai's study as proof that electronic cigarettes are dangerous, and the medical press seems to be leaning toward buying the line. Many of these people are aesthetically revolted by anything that looks like smoking, and extremely irritated by the obvious success of the product in smoking cessation efforts. But anyone savvy about the links between scientific research and public policy can see the holes in the logic.

The reason is that levels of concentration matter. And method of administration matters. The articles that have appeared on Hai's results during the past week, most of them anyway, have shared a defect displayed by much of the medical press, particularly on this issue: they throw around terms like "danger", "harm", and "toxic" with total disregard for the question of how the supposedly harmful substances were administered and in what concentrations. Of course this totally invalidates their conclusions, but by and large the public doesn't notice, especially when foaming at the mouth about getting rid of e-cigarettes.

In the real world we all know that anything can harm you if administered in a certain way at sufficient levels. We all know that regulatory agencies, bowing to the realities of life in food-processing installations (pace Upton Sinclair), allow a certain amount of disgusting stuff to get into our food. So the FDA allows processed food to contain trace levels of cockroach poop and dust mites. But trace levels of nicotine?! God forbid – when you bathe tissue in it in lab dishes it produces plaque! (Actually, the publicity on Hai's study, with typical unawareness of this issue, fails to mention how the nicotine was administered, or how much. Liquid seems the obvious possibility, barring the possibility of lab assistants standing around vaping and blowing the vapor on the petri dishes.) 

E-cigarette guru Talia Eisenberg, proprietor of the Henley Vaporium in New York (and herself an ex-smoker who quit through vaping) made an interesting analogy: "We don’t have have long term research on cell phones,... Who knows what they’re doing to our brains?” Another candidate for the Bloombergies to ban! They'd better get right on it; they've only got a week or so left.

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