Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Myth of Nicotine Addiction

On the 16th May 1988, the Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett-Koop, announced to the world that nicotine is an addictive drug. He concluded that “behavioral characteristics that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine.” And that is it! The sum total of an argument that still rages today. Smokers smoke because it gives them pleasure in a way that is 'similar' to the effect of certain dangerous drugs (and alcohol, caffeine, favoured foods, favoured activities and even religious fervour of course). What a surprise that is; people do something that gives them pleasure, and pleasure makes them want to do it again!

Of course, that is not quite the end of the story. Based on the Surgeon General's report, President Bill Clinton, on 22nd August 1996, declared nicotine to be addictive, and placed it under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And those two pronouncements were sufficient to enshrine forever that nicotine is a deadly and addictive drug to be vilified, regulated, taxed and banned as required by every government, and every action group on earth.

The Surgeon General's comment puts me in mind of Bishop Ussher's pronouncement that the world was created in 4,004 BCE, based on the ages of prophets mentioned in the Bible, in that there is very little evidence for, much evidence against, but those who care to believe it will do so because it is a basic tenet of their religion. President Clinton was, of course, a lawyer and not a medical man, so he acted solely on the advice of the Surgeon General. He was also a politician with a strong personality, and overrode the views of Al Gore (the Vice-President) who advised against the ruling that nicotine should be overseen by the FDA.

I make no defence of tobacco. As a means of providing nicotine, it is a disaster. It is full of toxins, some of which are known, or at least strongly suspected, to be injurious to health. The 'curing' process to prepare it for smoking adds even more harmful compounds. The combustion process that releases the nicotine also releases toxic gases, particulate matter and trace elements at the same time. The smoke is dirty and toxic, like the fumes from a forest fire, or a vehicle's exhaust, or a power station's chimneys. It harms the user and poisons the atmosphere, so that even non-users are at risk of harm. All of these are known disadvantages of extracting nicotine from tobacco by combustion.

But does this make nicotine a dangerous drug? If our need of energy causes us to burn fossil fuels, which poisons the atmosphere, which causes health problems or climate change, does this make electricity a dangerous product? Well, electricity can kill, of course, which is why we have sensible guidelines for its usage, but we accept certain dangers for the benefits we gain from electricity. We do not exclude it from our towns and cities, or our homes. Instead we adopt harm reduction measures to protect us from its dangers. Electromagnetism is, of course, a naturally-occurring force of the universe that we adapt for our benefit, a little like the nicotine that occurs naturally in many of the foodstuffs that we enjoy; tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, peppers, cauliflower, and many more. When did we ever consider that a taste for these foods constituted addiction? Surely, if nicotine is so powerful and dangerous a drug, we would expect that people would exhibit an addiction by excessive consumption of these foods, but we do not see such an effect. Consider too that the medical establishments' standard 'treatment' for tobacco 'addiction' is to wean the smoker away from smoking by the administration of small amounts of - nicotine! In other words, treating the addiction by administering the object of addiction! This is akin to giving an alcoholic a stiff drink to cure his problem, or a quick 'fix' of heroin to a junkie! Did anyone ever advise an ex-smoker to avoid potatoes, tomatoes or cauliflower in order to avoid a relapse?

Such logic is, of course, lost on the anti-smoking campaign that has taken on the nature of a religious crusade. To the zealots who now run our health agencies, nicotine is the devil incarnate, the ultimate evil, the source of all the world's ills, the jew of their Hitlerite hatred. Science, like public opinion, is to be perverted or suppressed to fit their agenda. If the millions of people who enjoy smoking can be demonised by arguing that they are drug addicts, then it is only fair that they should be penalised by fines in the form of taxes. With public opinion turned upon them, they can be segregated and vilified until they relinquish their filthy habit. And the campaign began to work; smoking prevalence dropped from around 70% to around 30%, and the zealots rejoiced greatly!

In the mid-1990's, however, was invented a nicotine-inhalation product that does not involve the incineration of tobacco. Instead it uses pharmaceutical-grade ingredients (glycerine, propylene glycol and flavourings) containing a small amount of nicotine. This 'e-liquid' is heated by a coil connected to a battery to vapourise it so that it can be inhaled by the user, the nicotine is absorbed by the membranes of the mouth and lungs, and the remaining water vapour is then exhaled. The user gets a nicotine 'buzz', and there are no carcinogens, toxins, odours or particulates to harm anyone in the vicinity. It emulates the acts and rituals of smoking and helps users to adapt their behaviour to become 'vapers', non-tobacco nicotine users, non-smokers. Thus the electronic cigarette (or e-cig) solves the problem, one would think; a win-win situation that answers all the criticisms of smoking – except one!

It's that pesky allegation that nicotine is a deadly and addictive drug, made by one man years before the e-cig was even a spark in a test-tube, and the reason that the crusade against nicotine continues anew in the clean, smokeless new world of the e-cig. But the illogical arguments now become ludicrous, and laughable, except for those whose religious views are offended, and the governments whose income depends on taxation from tobacco, and the tobacco companies who profit from smokers, and the pharmaceutical companies whose profits come from treating victims of smoking, and/or providing nicotine 'treatments' for nicotine 'addicts', and the health advisers whose employment depends on the war on smoking. Arguments that run along the lines of:-

Smoking kills, nicotine encourages smoking; We must kill safer nicotine consumption, but let smoking continue for it generates income!”

If people continue to consume nicotine, they will continue to smoke, even when safer options are available that are safer, cheaper, cleaner, and more socially acceptable!”

Seeing people not smoking, but consuming nicotine in a safer way, undermines the message that smoking is a deadly occupation caused solely by nicotine 'addiction'!”

If people are consuming nicotine in a way that vaguely resembles smoking, then others will emulate them, but will choose to smoke cigarettes, rather than use an e-cig!”

If e-cigs look like a safe alternative to smoking, then non-smokers will try them, be instantly addicted to nicotine, and will become lifelong smokers!”

Addicts who think they enjoy nicotine in e-cigs must be mad, for they must have smoked to become addicted, and only a madman smokes, so they can have no aptitude for rational decisions!”

It was 500 years before we found out that smoking was deadly. E-cigs have only been around for a few years, so we do not know how safe they might be. We should ban them now, in case not smoking might be found unsafe after 500 years of not smoking!”

Nicotine Is Addictive! Nicotine Is Addictive! Nicotine Is Addictive! Nicotine Is Addictive! Nicotine Is Addictive! Nicotine Is Addictive! …” to be repeated forever to the tune of any favourite hymn.

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