Nicotine is the primary addictive substance in tobacco smoke and electronic cigarette (e-cig) vapour. Methodological limitations have made it difficult to compare the role of the nicotine and non-nicotine constituents of tobacco smoke. The aim of this study was to compare the effects of traditional cigarette smoke and e-cig vapour containing the same amount of nicotine in male BALB/c mice exposed to the smoke of 21 cigarettes or e-cig vapour containing 16.8 mg of nicotine delivered by means of a mechanical ventilator for three 30-min sessions/day for seven weeks. One hour after the last session, half of the animals were sacrificed for neurochemical analysis, and the others underwent mecamylamine-precipitated or spontaneous withdrawal for the purposes of behavioural analysis. Chronic intermittent non-contingent, second-hand exposure to cigarette smoke or e-cig vapour led to similar brain cotinine and nicotine levels, similar urine cotinine levels and the similar up-regulation of α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in different brain areas, but had different effects on body weight, food intake, and the signs of mecamylamine-precipitated and spontaneous withdrawal episodic memory and emotional responses. The findings of this study demonstrate for the first time that e-cig vapour induces addiction-related neurochemical, physiological and behavioural alterations. The fact that inhaled cigarette smoke and e-cig vapour have partially different dependence-related effects indicates that compounds other than nicotine contribute to tobacco dependence.
Keywords: Cigarette smoke; Electronic cigarettes, mecamylamine-precipitated withdrawal; Nicotine; Nicotinic receptors; Spontaneous withdrawal.
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