The French government has temporarily limited sales of nicotine replacement products after French researchers announced a clinical trial to determine if nicotine can help prevent coronavirus infection, or treat COVID-19 complications. The temporary restrictions do not affect consumer products like nicotine vapes or tobacco products.
The government said the restrictions are intended to prevent “excessive consumption” inspired by the announcement of the studies showing nicotine’s promise as a COVID-preventive medication, and to guarantee a “continuous and appropriate supply to people requiring medical support to stop smoking.”
The emergency order limits sales of products like nicotine patches, gum, lozenges and inhalers to a one-month supply per person, and bans online sales. Customers will be required to give pharmacies their personal information in order to track sales. The order is in effect until May 11, when some restrictions will be eased.
The clinical trial, which will begin soon at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, follows a study showing that French smokers contract the virus at far lower rates than the general population. The French data confirms previous findings from China and the United States. The trial will use nicotine patches, which deliver nicotine very slowly, and are unable to create dependence or addiction in nicotine-naive users.
The World Health Organization said Friday that the French data are “not consistent with what we are seeing in other countries,” but that is incorrect. Results have been remarkably consistent showing that smokers are hospitalized with the virus at disproportionately lower rates than non-smokers.
Scientists, including Greek cardiologist and e-cigarette researcher Konstantinos Farsalinos, hypothesize that nicotine occupies certain receptors on cells that are prime targets for the coronavirus to enter the body, blocking access by the virus. If the benefit is proven, nicotine could become a stop-gap prophylactic until a vaccine is available for the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.
Nicotine has many benefits that are generally ignored by the medical establishment. It is a reliable cognitive enhancer, improving short-term memory and reaction time, and is known to prevent Parkinson’s disease. Vanderbilt University researcher Paul Newhouse is currently leading a major, multi-institution study of nicotine as a treatment of the cognitive impairment that leads to Alzheimer’s disease.