Sunday, January 30, 2011

The quit or die tactics of anti-smoker extremists

The state of New York is currently considering legislation which would ban e-cigs in that state, “until the FDA approves electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation device.” Unfortunately, in December 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the FDA could not regulate e-cigarettes as drugs or devices. The ruling dictated that e-cigs must be regulated as tobacco products.

So, why do politicians and anti-smoker organizations want to deny smokers alternatives that could save lives? After all, these people claim the war on smokers is being waged to protect the public health. Shouldn't they be welcoming every opportunity to reduce the health risks associated with smoking, rather than confining their activities to the complete elimination of tobacco use in any form?

Tobacco harm reduction (THR) is a concept based on the reality that smoking is unlikely to be eliminated any time in the near future. Even the prohibition of tobacco will not eradicate smoking. Although some might quit, it would, as likely as not, simply drive tobacco use underground.

Therefore, it makes sense to reduce the harm ostensibly caused by smoking, by encouraging smokers to switch to demonstrably less hazardous tobacco products such as snus, or even alternative nicotine delivery systems such as the electronic cigarette.

Since it is the chemicals in cigarettes, formed primarily through combustion, which have been identified as the source of the health risk, reducing exposure to those chemicals would obviously reduce the health burden allegedly due to smoking. Clearly, substituting less harmful tobacco products, or electronic cigarettes, for the real thing has the potential to lessen the morbidity and mortality associated with smoking.

Yet, harm reduction is opposed by the anti-smoker crowd as vehemently as they oppose smoking. The question is why?

It's not as if there is no scientific evidence showing the potential benefits of non-combustible tobacco products like snus as compared to smoking cigarettes. The research is actually quite extensive. The problem, I would suggest, is that research into tobacco harm reduction receives little or no attention in the main stream media. And, lacking media attention, the public is largely ignorant of the fact that there are other options available if they should choose to quit smoking.

In Canada, for example, snus is not available from convenience stores or other traditional retail outlets, although you may find it in a few specialty shops dedicated to tobacco products. But, the majority of Canadians buy their cigarettes from the corner store, or when they gas up their vehicles.
In addition, advertising restrictions prevent the tobacco companies from promoting snus as a less hazardous, or safer, tobacco product.

The Canadian consumer remains oblivious to the fact that there is an alternative to the nicotine patches, gums and lozenges being promoted by the anti-smoker crowd as the only acceptable path to smoking cessation and eventual salvation.

Most Canadian consumers are likewise ignorant about the potential benefits of electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking.

Last fall, at a party celebrating my sister-in-law's sixtieth birthday, her brother was reflecting on the difficulty he was having in quitting. When I brought up the subject of electronic cigarettes, I was met with blank stares from everyone within earshot. No one knew what the hell I was talking about.

Health Canada had already banned the device on the grounds that they had not been proven safe. Or, to be more accurate, they banned the sale of the nicotine cartridges used with the e-cig. In Canada, nicotine may only be sold (or prescribed) in the form of patches, gums and lozenges, or the nicotine inhalers sold by the pharmaceutical industry. A very convenient law – for the drug lords.

I have suggested several times on these pages that the motivation is primarily monetary.

Governments are reluctant to give up the lucrative revenue generated by sin taxes on tobacco products. In Canada, tax revenue from tobacco exceeds 8 billion dollars annually. In the US, sin taxes on tobacco are used to balance state budgets while avoiding general tax increases or a reduction in services.

Anti-smoker organizations are anxious to deliver potential customers to their financial backers in the pharmaceutical industry. And, every smoker they can coerce into quitting represents a potential customer for the (legal) drug lords. Provided, of course, there are no other alternatives to which they might turn.

But, although the politicians and anti-smoker groups fear losing control of the nicotine market, there is yet another reason for the constant attacks on alternative methods of nicotine delivery. That is the pure vindictiveness of anti-smoker extremists such as ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) and the ANR (Americans for Non-Smokers Rights) to name but two.

For extremists such as these, the healths hazards associated with smoking are merely a convenient excuse, a subterfuge, to justify their attacks, not just on smokers, but anyone using tobacco products of any kind. And, more recently, their particular brand of vitriol is being directed at e-cig users, not because it's a tobacco product, but because it contains nicotine and it closely resembles smoking.

Strange behaviour for those ostensibly acting in the best interests of public health.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think the anti-smoking groups are serving any pharma-masters.

I think they are just mean spirited bullies who live to persecute. Like the brownshirts. It's the movement that reinforces the socially accepted bigotry of this decade.

Like calling a dark skinned person a nigger in the 50's was ok. Anti-smokers think it's ok to publicly vilify and de-humanise smokers now.

The parallels are disturbing. No darkies/smokers are allowed in this area. They have to stand out the back of the building. To a lesser extent obviously but there are some parallels there i think.