Cigarettes contain many chemicals that increase the risk of cancer. Polycyclic hydrocarbons and tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines are some of the more well-known carcinogens in this class.
But now, e-cigarettes appear to be isolating nicotine, and leaving behind many of the old toxins from cigarettes. This sounds like e-cigarettes may be “better” for the modern smoker. Are smokers of e-cigarettes increasing their chances of cancer later in their lives? If so, what is the risk of cancer from smoking pure nicotine?
For the sake of discussion, let’s ignore the possibility for novel cancer-inducing chemicals introduced from the various oils and heating mechanisms in e-cigarettes. Let’s assume it is possible to have a method of smoking that only exposes the smoker to nicotine and nothing else. Would this method of smoking still cause cancer?
This review of the literature on Nicotine from 2015 suggests the answer is “yes”. Nicotine alone still increases the risk of cancer for the smoker of pure nicotine.
“Several lines of evidence indicate that nicotine may contribute to the development of cancer.
“Evidence from experimental in vitro studies on cell cultures, in vivo studies on rodents as well as studies on humans inclusive of epidemiological studies indicate that nicotine itself, independent of other tobacco constituents, may stimulate a number of effects of importance in cancer development (5, 6).”