Addicted to Nicorette
Long-Term Risks? continued...
In some published studies, people have used nicotine gum up to
five years, according to Richard Hurt, MD, professor of medicine and director
of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"As far as we now know," he says, "there are no heart or vascular
problems associated with long-term use."
Cigarette smoking itself, of course, can cause serious,
life-threatening health problems. But the nicotine in the gum is delivered
slowly through the mucous membranes in the mouth, and at much lower levels than
the quick-hit surge of nicotine that occurs when puffing on cigarettes. At the
same time, the gum does not contain any of the cancer-causing substances
present in cigarettes.
"The major harm from smoking is not caused by the
nicotine," says Hughes. "The cancer and heart disease associated with
smoking come from the carcinogens and the carbon monoxide in
In fact, if you've been a chronic nicotine-gum user, you may
have experienced the most frequent health problem that it causes -- jaw pain
produced by constant chewing, week after week, month after month. As for other
health concerns, a caveat is usually given to pregnant and breastfeeding women, advising
them to use the nicotine replacement product only on the advice of a healthcare
"In the third trimester of pregnancy,
there are no adverse effects to either the mother or the fetus with the use of
nicotine replacement," says Hurt. But, he adds, no studies have been done
on the effects of the product early in pregnancy.
Isn't the Gum Addicting?
If you've ever felt as though you were becoming hooked on
nicotine gum, you might not have been imagining it. Even though the nicotine
levels in the stop-smoking product is lower than in cigarettes, there could be
an addictive component to its use in some individuals.
"In the Lung Health Study of about 3,100 users of nicotine
gum, some of whom used it for five years, all had been daily cigarette smokers
when they entered the study," says Robert Murray, PhD, professor and
director of the Alcohol and Tobacco Research Unit at the University of
Manitoba, Canada. "So through cigarette use, these people had established a
physical addiction to nicotine, and the gum may have perpetuated that