18

votes

Could smoking tobacco have a benefit? If so, what is the mechanism?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created February 28, 2010 at 3:06 AM

It seems as if every other account of traditional or hunter-gatherer cultures I have been reading lately marvels at the amount of tobacco smoked by the groups/tribes. The Kitavans, Eskimos, and Hazda all fall into this category. On Richard Nikoley's site, he indicated that in the China Study (of all places) the data showed a HIGHLY significant negative correlation between home-made rolled cigarettes and cancer.

I used to be pretty interested in ethnobotany, and recall that tobacco was more than just a sacred plant for many Native American tribes...it was a cure-all.

In the interest of full disclosure...I do smoke. But only about one a day (not lying) and they are organic American Spirits. I've never noticed any negative impact, outside of wanting to have a cigarette. Conventional wisdom says cigarettes are the worst thing in the world we could do for are health, so paleo wisdom says...?

If cigarettes do indeed confer a benefit, why do they? Appetite suppressant? Stimulant? Some compound within the plant? The nicotene itself?

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on November 17, 2012
at 09:49 PM

My parents never noticed any ill effects of cigarettes, until they both died esrly from lung cancer. Just sayin'...

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on November 17, 2012
at 06:50 PM

That's an interesting query about wood smoking meat and the GI tract. Maybe it should be its own question? I've read that benzopyrenes are a said to be a potential risk factor.

C0fcb48d7da4f76fac17318efd2cd6b8

(4069)

on November 17, 2012
at 02:36 PM

Can you ask the cannabis question in Washington and Colorado now?

B9cc28905ec54389c47cde031d709703

on June 27, 2011
at 03:16 PM

Dunhill has no additives.

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on December 02, 2010
at 10:13 PM

I tried to ask a very similar question regarding cannabis (non-smoker) and it got pulled from the site instantly. I think you may be onto something with this. Looking forward to the answers here and further research. I definitely agree that standard cigs are filled with absolute crud and should be avoided. Clean, pure, forms... maybe not.

37f4b3c51afbd92d259afaa171270874

(1219)

on March 13, 2010
at 04:04 AM

Not sure how that tracks with the Kitavans, who eat a high carb low fat diet and smoke a lot with heart disease basically being non-existent. It is an interesting subject. I recently wrote an introductory post on tobacco with a detailed follow-up post coming soon, Reach For A Lucky Rather Than A Sweet: http://bit.ly/aYGk2l

37f4b3c51afbd92d259afaa171270874

(1219)

on March 13, 2010
at 04:01 AM

Not sure how that tracks with the Kitavans, who eat a high carb low fat diet and smoke a lot with heart disease basically being non-existent. It is an interesting subject. I recently wrote an introductory post on tobacco with a detailed follow-up post coming soon: Reach For A Lucky Rather Than A Sweet

37f4b3c51afbd92d259afaa171270874

(1219)

on March 13, 2010
at 03:51 AM

That is an advantage if one smokes the standard brands, but American Spirits and all non-machine rolled cigars have the same advantage.

Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on February 28, 2010
at 04:58 PM

Great info...thanks!

Be4b60059db3511771303de1613ecb67

(1137)

on February 28, 2010
at 04:51 PM

If I were smoking them, I'd want to know exactly what is in them. But I'm fussy that way, lol.

Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on February 28, 2010
at 04:33 PM

I smoke organic American Spirits, which (supposedly) have no additives.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on February 28, 2010
at 07:57 AM

Peter's also commented on this, here: http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/search/label/Nicotine%20on%20the%20move

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 28, 2010
at 04:45 AM

It seems like a big advantage indigenous smoking has on modern smoking is: possibly home-grown, at least home-rolled or stuffed, and often smoked in a well-ventilated area.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on February 28, 2010
at 03:40 AM

Great question!

  • Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

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13 Answers

best answer

8
F0978a2a1c37d2a3d4ec6344c0c4ff82

on February 28, 2010
at 04:12 PM

Not really an answer, but some food for thought.

I'm a former smoker and was very addicted to it. I would have smoked in my sleep if I had found a way to do so. I think it played an important role in my developing periodontal disease and there seems to be a preponderance of research to support that idea. Having lost a bunch of weight twice, once with cigarettes and once without I can confirm that it was much easier with the cigarettes. I think Gary Taubes mentions in GCBC somewhere that he is a former smoker too but I may be confusing the source with an interview done with him at some time.

In considering the pros and cons of tobacco, consider the recent research that seems to indicate that smoking causes heart disease by increasing insulin resistance and increasing cortisol levels. As a counterpoint, keep in mind that a high fat low carb diet increases insulin resistance (physiological insulin resistance) and one of the criticisms of ketogenic dieting is increased cortisol. It seems that anything that increases the availability of free fatty acids induces insulin resistance in order to help the body make use of the fuel type that is most prevalent, ie.. fatty acids rather than glucose. Where we get into trouble is when glucose is high and insulin sensitivity is low. Low dose smoking like the OP reports might have a beneficial effect through hormesis, but many people will find nicotine too addictive to keep the dose frequency low. I think carb restriction is a safer option.

Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on February 28, 2010
at 04:58 PM

Great info...thanks!

37f4b3c51afbd92d259afaa171270874

(1219)

on March 13, 2010
at 04:04 AM

Not sure how that tracks with the Kitavans, who eat a high carb low fat diet and smoke a lot with heart disease basically being non-existent. It is an interesting subject. I recently wrote an introductory post on tobacco with a detailed follow-up post coming soon, Reach For A Lucky Rather Than A Sweet: http://bit.ly/aYGk2l

37f4b3c51afbd92d259afaa171270874

(1219)

on March 13, 2010
at 04:01 AM

Not sure how that tracks with the Kitavans, who eat a high carb low fat diet and smoke a lot with heart disease basically being non-existent. It is an interesting subject. I recently wrote an introductory post on tobacco with a detailed follow-up post coming soon: Reach For A Lucky Rather Than A Sweet

7
6b73f0c4b971e2dde7147920e329fe7f

(2041)

on February 28, 2010
at 06:45 AM

One of the factoids mentioned in Good Calories, Bad Calories was that nicotine is the most effective weight-loss drug in history. It is an analogue of epinephrine, and as such, it stimulates lipolysis in fat cells.

There might also be some hormesis factor in there.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on February 28, 2010
at 07:57 AM

Peter's also commented on this, here: http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/search/label/Nicotine%20on%20the%20move

6
D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on June 27, 2011
at 04:04 PM

Many thoughts but only a few minutes at lunch break to comment -

1) You have already noted negative correlation. Correlation is not causation.

2) Tolerated is not optimal. Moreover tolerance in the present (possibly with sub clinical issues) does not guarantee lack of consequences in the future.

3) Kurt Harris wrote about this when discussing the Kitavins (http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2009/11/2/im-so-bored-with-the-kitavans.html) "Just like their apparant tolerance of smoking tells us absolutely nothing about whether it is good to smoke. It only confirms that smoking on the SAD is much worse. That is very interesting, but hardly an endorsement for smoking, is it?

So bottom line from my point of view - If you want to smoke, then smoke. But trying to find hormetic benefits, etc to justify it is a waste of your time. I don't smoke, but I still drink a fair bit (wine, vodka, mostly avoid beer). While resveratrol and polyphenol consumption might be beneficial, it would disingenuous to "justify" consumption on this basis - I LIKE A GOOD BUZZ FROM TIME TO TIME. Hormesis be damned :-)

Be honest with yourself and live with the consequence. Life is short. Enjoy it but don't fool yourself would be my message.

Take Care, Aravind

5
B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

on December 02, 2010
at 08:09 PM

I think this question is a great way to bring up something that is easy to forget:

Ancestral (X) might not be the same as Historical (X) might not be the same as Modern (X).

I was tempted to use [!=] as the mark here to indicate "does not equal", instead of "might not be the same as" but that will not be true in every case.

We have already tried to address this where X = wheat in at least one instance: http://paleohacks.com/questions/10455/how-has-wheat-changed-in-the-usa-in-the-last-60-years


In this case, where X = tobacco there are some indications that ancestral tobacco might best be represented by Nicotiana Rustica, Nicotiana benthamiana, and Nicotiana gossei. Compared to the more modern-bred Y1 (bred by Brown & Williamson for high nicotine content), and you will see broad differences.

If you go searching for medical papers with possible benefits of Nicotiana rustica you will find some cool ones, including:

FOR HEALTH: Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Nicotiana rustica total extract http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13880200902896020?journalCode=phb

FOR RELIGIOUS PURPOSES: On the Use of Tagetes lucida and Nicotiana rustica as a Huichol smoking mixture: the Aztec ???Yahutli??? with suggestive hallucinogenic effects http://www.springerlink.com/content/u230g665237r2772/


If you would like to see a general archeology-type document concerning Nicotiana rustica, then Nicotiana sp. Seeds are the most commonly identified part of the tobacco plant recovered from archaeological sites. where the fun compound word "Paleoethnobotanists" is used.

Enjoy learning more! I did try raising Nicotiana rustica from seed as a natural pest control and pretty border flower a few years back... Can't tell you much about smoking it, tho.

4
B9cc28905ec54389c47cde031d709703

on June 27, 2011
at 03:41 PM

Interesting papers to consider on this issue:

Carbon monoxide has anti-inflammatory effects involving the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v6/n4/abs/nm0400_422.html

The vagus nerve and the nicotinic anti-inflammatory pathway http://www.nature.com/nrd/journal/v4/n8/abs/nrd1797.html

Nicotine and Biochanin A, but Not Cigarette Smoke, Induce Anti-Inflammatory Effects on Keratinocytes and Endothelial Cells in Patients with Beh??et's Disease http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/v127/n1/full/5700492a.html

Carbon Monoxide: Innovative Anti-inflammatory Properties of an Age-Old Gas Molecule http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/152308602753666361

Inhibition of Lung Carcinogenesis by Black Tea in Fischer Rats Treated with a Tobacco-specific Carcinogen: Caffeine as an Important Constituent http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org.ezproxy.umuc.edu/content/58/18/4096.short

There are also a couple of blogs out there that discus this here is one: http://mangans.blogspot.com/

He links out to a couple other blogs who look into this issue as well.

2
Be4b60059db3511771303de1613ecb67

(1137)

on February 28, 2010
at 04:11 PM

You are not smoking just tobacco, unfortunately, unless you grow and roll your own. Modern cigarettes have tons of additives. Not very Paleo.

Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on February 28, 2010
at 04:33 PM

I smoke organic American Spirits, which (supposedly) have no additives.

Be4b60059db3511771303de1613ecb67

(1137)

on February 28, 2010
at 04:51 PM

If I were smoking them, I'd want to know exactly what is in them. But I'm fussy that way, lol.

B9cc28905ec54389c47cde031d709703

on June 27, 2011
at 03:16 PM

Dunhill has no additives.

1
94480caec9fbbaacc386d86a45efa720

(1007)

on November 17, 2012
at 08:57 PM

Check out the therapeutic uses of nicotine. Also, smoking or nicotine potentially keeps celiac disease latent or in other words some studies suggest that cigarette smoking truly protects against the development of adult coeliac disease.

1
Medium avatar

(10611)

on November 17, 2012
at 04:34 PM

I don't smoke, but I eat a lot of self-smoked meat. Plain woodsmoke on plain meat has no appetite suppressing properties, and if anything makes the meat more appetizing. My concern is similar to a smoker's. What is all that partially combusted wood residue doing to my GI tract? If it wrecks lungs does it damage colons? Any references or experiences are appreciated.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on November 17, 2012
at 06:50 PM

That's an interesting query about wood smoking meat and the GI tract. Maybe it should be its own question? I've read that benzopyrenes are a said to be a potential risk factor.

0
Ed7403e397077dd1acdbf25c7f6e56ce

on November 18, 2012
at 11:33 AM

All that aside, if I want to reach a psychedelic state, I'll use the usual suspects.

There is not a drug in the world that crushes me with horrible negative side effects the way tobacco does. Alcohol is in second place, but pound for pound... the smallest amount of tobacco will sicken me for days...

If you want help raising your metabolism, there are plenty of more sensible choices. Caffeine, cayenne, cinnamon, Adderall... and the list for effective appetite suppressants is even more extensive.

Personally, I can't see any reason to justify tobacco use. But, if it doesn't make you feel like crap, I guess that's an entirely different situation.

0
Ed7403e397077dd1acdbf25c7f6e56ce

on November 18, 2012
at 11:23 AM

Adam C's response rings closest to what I've heard to be true.

I don't have any sources, so obviously take this how you like... but I have heard that 'sacred' and 'ceremonial' tobacco plants would induce hypnotic psychedelic states in the smoker.

I attended a sweat lodge once, we were instructed to bring cherry pipe tobacco, because that was this particular Grandfather's favorite. It was used as aromatherapy (among other herbs) by throwing it on the red-hot rocks (also called Grandfathers). There were also a few points where we passed around a pipe of tobacco inside the dome.

So, in that situation, I certainly reached a psychedelic mind state while using commercial-grade tobacco. It's pretty safe to say I would've without it, though.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 27, 2011
at 04:18 PM

You need to google cigarettes and hormesis. That is probably the mechanism though which it works beneficially. You might want to try hanging out on this website which is entirely devoted to the subject of hormesis.

0
E7a462d6e99fec7e8f0ddda11b34a770

(1638)

on December 02, 2010
at 08:43 PM

We all sometimes get so focused on the nutritional/dietary aspects of things when we are talking paleo/primal that we forget that there might be other explanations as well. Just gonna toss this thought out there (grin) Tobacco smoke will chase away creepy-crawlies and flying pests without you having to roast yourself next to a smokey fire.

-3
F5951dbfa0f274c1be9b43b86359d5fc

on November 17, 2012
at 08:35 AM

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