Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Smoking – a loosely defined addiction?

In China, a fifteen-year-old boy was allegedly beaten to death at a training camp designed as a rehabilitation facility for the treatment of internet addiction. Uh-huh. Chinese officials, apparently, believe there is a growing problem of wwweb addiction among teenagers and are taking steps to deal with the pandemic. In fact, rehab facilities for internet addicts appears to be a growth industry.

A pandemic, of course, is an epidemic on steroids, one that has spread beyond national borders, often affecting entire continents, or even the world. That's serious shit.

And, I hope Health Canada is taking appropriate action to prevent the spread of this gruesome affliction into Canada. We certainly don't need another addiction. I mean, we already have problems with drug addiction, caffeine addiction, video game addiction, work addiction, compulsive overeating, problem gambling, computer addiction, alcoholism, nicotine addiction, pornography addiction, etc.

The point I'm trying to make is that addiction has become a grossly overused (and abused) word.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines addiction as
“the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”

Their medical definition says it's a: “compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful.”

But, I'm not convinced that smoking, so called nicotine dependency, fills all the requisites usually associated with addiction.

For example, drug addiction and alcoholism are usually associated with an intoxicating effect which reduces cognitive skills, impairs judgment, and adversely affects motor responses; smoking does none of those things. It's unheard of for anyone to be arrested for driving under the influence of tobacco. And, airline pilots and commercial drivers are not prohibited from flying or driving after having a smoke as they are after using illegal drugs like heroin or prescription drugs like Chantix.

Drug addiction is also strongly linked to deviant behaviour and criminal activity. Drug addicts are known to steal and engage in prostitution to feed their habit. I would suggest that young women (or men) are unlikely to sell their body to feed a tobacco habit.

And, despite claims to the contrary, smoking cessation is unlikely to cause “severe trauma”. It may be difficult for many people to break the habit, but to suggest quitting smoking can be as traumatic as heroin withdrawal or the DTs is ridiculous.

Says Health Canada about quitting:
“More than half of all people who have ever smoked in Canada have already quit smoking. This includes men and women of all ages and all levels of addiction. “

The fact is that there are more former smokers in Canada than there are current smokers. Far more. According to Health Canada, 21.8% of females and 26.3% of males smoked in 2002. But, their 2002 report on smoking related mortality also showed that 37.8% of women and 44.6% of men over the age of 15 were former smokers.

That means roughly 8 million Canadians were former smokers. And, the vast majority, perhaps as many as 95% managed to quit cold turkey, without smoking cessation aids; without taking up residence in a drug rehab facility or detox centre. Equating the smoking habit to heroin or alcohol addiction is just so much bullshit and bafflegab.

The simple truth: smoking has been declared an undesirable behaviour by the anti-smoker cult. And, everybody knows undesirable behaviour has to be corrected or eliminated. Branding smokers as poor, addicted misfits satisfies the anti-smoker strategy of denormalizing smokers.

The intent is to create feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety; to convince the smoker he or she is a hopeless failure who needs to be converted from their wicked ways and to seek salvation. And, the road to salvation begins with a visit to the local drug store to stock up on Nicoderm, Nicorettes and candy-flavoured nicotine lozenges.

“Nicotine replacement therapy provides the body with nicotine - generally in the form of a gum or patch - without the other harmful parts of tobacco. These aids can help a person concentrate more on quitting the habit of smoking by relieving the symptoms of withdrawal.” (Health Canada)

Health Canada notes that, in addition to possibly creating a chemical dependency,
“Smoking is also a learned behaviour. We begin to learn or associate things such as the way we hold or light a cigarette or take it out of the package with the pleasant feelings or sense of relief that it brings us.”

So, to cure the nicotine dependency, the anti-smoker cult prescribes nicotine. To cure the habit of smoking, they dictate a bizarre experiment in behavioural modification called denormalization.

I wonder how Health Canada will treat the deadly internet addiction.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why are patches etc. called nicotine replacement therapy. They are not replacements they are alternative delivery systems. How can you cure an addiction by supplying the drug?
The anti tobacco movement and their friends the pharmaceutical industry are without doubt the biggest bunch of lying ba***rds on the face of the earth.

Outraged Englishwoman