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Sunday, 15 July 2018

Is Nicotine Really That Unhealthy?

AUBREY MARCUS IS A health guru as worshipped as they come. The founder and CEO of Onnit, an Inc. 500 lifestyle company that sells supplements, health foods, fitness gear and apparel and more, has written best-selling personal development books and has more than 243,000 Instagram followers and 10 million podcast listeners eager for his diet, fitness and other advice on what he calls "total human optimization." He'd rather skip breakfast than eat a carb or sugar at the meal, and has a physique Men's Health magazine deemed worthy of its cover.
And yet, Marcus occasionally uses snus, a Swedish powdered tobacco product that goes under the lip, to get a nicotine fix. He's not a former smoker, but rather uses it the way some people use alcohol (for a buzz in social situations), the way others use caffeine (for an energy boost ) and the way some use cannabis (for improved focus). "It's sort of like everything else drips away," says Marcus, who lives in Austin and has used snus while dancing in clubs, writing books and recording podcasts. "For someone with as noisy a brain as me, that can be incredibly pleasurable."
Isn't it ironic that a man whose empire is built on wellness endorses nicotine? Marcus – who uses a brand of snus that has minimal chemicals and doesn't require a lot of contact with skin – doesn't think so. "You want to live life – it's not about being perfect," he says of the philosophy he believes the wellness industry is increasingly embracing. "It's about maximizing the benefit and minimizing the potential risk."
Few, if any, public health and medical professionals recommend taking up nicotine if you're not already addicted to cigarettes. Even Greg Conley, founder and president of the American Vaping Association, which champions the use of vapor products and e-cigarettes, advises against it. "There's no reason for a non-smoker to use a nicotine product," and surveys show that very few do, he says.
But there's something to be said for distinguishing nicotine from the combustible products it's found in – namely, cigarettes, which kill 3 out of 5 users prematurely due to diseases including lung, oral and other cancers and obstructive lung disease. "The first thing everyone should know is that most of the harm of cigarettes is not from nicotine; it's from the combustion product," says Dr. Neal Benowitz, chief of clinical pharmacology at the University of California—San Francisco who's been studying nicotine for more than 40 years.