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Nicotine gum, rinsing fruits and vegetables

Created date

July 14th, 2016

Please note: The following questions were submitted by readers. The answers are intended for your general information and should not replace a doctor’s medical advice.

Q. Is nicotine gum harmful? I chew a lot of it because I’m afraid I’ll start smoking again. 

A. Nicotine gum can cause side effects such as gastric upset, mouth and tongue irritation, and difficulty sleeping. It acts as a mild stimulant, and a fairly recent study showed nicotine gum might be associated with heart palpitations and chest pain in some people. In addition, some animal studies show an association between oral nicotine and cancer. That risk, however, is very small, especially when compared to cigarette smoking. 

Despite the research, we don’t know enough about long-term use of nicotine gum to draw conclusions, except that it prolongs nicotine dependence. Try transitioning to sugarless gum or another nicotine replacement product (such as patches), which may make it easier to wean off nicotine. Consider attending a smoking cessation support group. And talk to your doctor—prescription medications are available, which have been shown to reduce nicotine cravings.

Q. I always rinse off fruits and vegetables before eating them, but is that sufficient to remove germs and toxins?

A. This is a common question. Here are the facts: Any fresh produce can have bacteria or pesticides and other toxins, even if it’s grown at home, organic, or found at a farmer’s market. So thoroughly wash everything under cool running tap water, and dry with a paper towel or clean dishcloth to further reduce any contaminants. Use a scrub brush on firm produce, such as cucumbers. If you plan to peel something, you should still wash it to reduce contaminants being transferred from your peeler. The Food and Drug Administration suggests that you avoid soap, detergents, or commercial produce washes as they have not been shown to be more effective than plain water. Packaged and prewashed items are ok to eat without washing.

Jesse Wassner, M.D.
Medical Director, Cedar Crest
Pompton Plains, N.J.

Dr. Wassner received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey—New Jersey Medical School in Newark, N.J. He completed his internship and residency at the University Hospital in Newark. Wassner is board-certified in internal medicine and geriatric medicine. He joined Cedar Crest in April 2009.