The nicotine of the cigarette, including the electronic cigarette, has negative effects on the brain and the cognitive abilities of adolescents and adults, a postdoctoral researcher at the Biomedical Research Foundation (BRFAA) of the Academy of Athens Charalambos Sigalas said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
Apart from other already known health problems such as lung cancer or cardiovascular disease, it is less well known that nicotine is a toxic substance that damages the brain at different levels: molecular, cellular and organic.
According to Sigalas, parts of the brain of smokers have been found to be smaller than non-smokers, and also
nicotine negatively affects memory, learning and attention, with any consequences this may have on the performance of students in school.
Especially in teenagers, he said, studies have shown reduced learning performance of students who smoke, compared with non-smokers. “Nicotine enters the bloodstream through the lungs and reaches the brain, it is incorporated into a group of proteins, the nicotinic receptors, thus deregulating the functions of the neural network (brain cells),” he explained.
One can avoid other harmful substances of the cigarette, such as tar, with the electronic cigarette, but cannot avoid the nicotine. As he said, “it is wrong to believe that the exposure to nicotine by the electronic cigarette is much lower than tobacco cigarettes.”
Sigalas noted that it is highly difficult to estimate the accurate exposure to nicotine, but since it is addictive “it is a legal drug” and, given that there are so many smokers, it “is a very big problem for public health.”
This concerns passive smokers as well. “Since there is exposure to nicotine, even passive, it has exactly the same effect,” he said.