Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NEJM Irresponsibly Damns E-Cigarettes as Gateway to Cocaine, Based on Mouse Nicotine Studies

The New England Journal of Medicine today published an incendiary anti-e-cigarette article that tags nicotine as a gateway to cocaine use… in mice.  It’s another sad day for tobacco truth.

The authors are Drs. Denise and Eric Kandel, the latter a Nobel Prize-winner for his work on the physiological basis of memory storage in nerves.  Since 1975, Dr. Denise Kandel has aggressively promoted a gateway theory that adolescent use of legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco causes use of illegal drugs, starting with marijuana and progressing to cocaine and heroin.  The theory is highly contested among addiction research and policy experts because it is not supported by human studies.

The NEJM presents the Kandels’ laboratory data on how nicotine and cocaine affect the mouse brain at the cellular and molecular level.  Their experiments involved force-feeding nicotine to and injecting cocaine into mice.  Post-mortem studies on the rodent brains led the authors to conclude that nicotine/tobacco causes cocaine use. 

Following a nine-page technical discussion of their research that made no mention of e-cigarettes, the authors inserted a concluding three paragraphs claiming that smoking, vaping and even passive smoke are gateways to cocaine. 

In a crass attempt to heighten interest in the publication, the Kandels and the NEJM offered the media a press release with an attention-grabbing e-cigarette-bashing headline and inflammatory quotes that exceed and distort the authors’ scientific work.  

Shame on all parties for allowing marketing to trump the truth.

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