Tobacco

Some Smokers Must Die So That Others Never Exist

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When David Kessler was head of the Food and Drug Administration, he was so eager to regulate tobacco products that he pretended his agency already had the statutory authority to do so. (The Supreme Court disagreed.) Now that Congress may actually give the FDA the power Kessler tried to grab, the current administrator, Andrew von Eschenbach, is noticeably less enthusiastic:

Government regulation of tobacco could backfire by inadvertently forcing smokers to light up more and inhale more deeply, the head of the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach said that if the FDA reduced nicotine levels in cigarettes, people would tailor their smoking habits to maintain current levels of the addictive drug.

"We could find ourselves in the conundrum of having made a decision about nicotine only to have made the public health radically worse. And that is not the position FDA is in; we approve products that enhance health, not destroy it," said von Eschenbach, a cancer surgeon….

"What I don't want to see happen is that we are in a position where we are determining that a cigarette is safe," von Eschenbach said.

Von Eschenbach is right to worry that reducing nicotine content, which the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would allow the FDA to do, would make cigarettes more dangerous by encouraging "compensatory behavior." A number of studies have found that people tend to smoke more or smoke more intensely to compensate for reduced nicotine yields. The compensation is not universal or perfect, but the upshot is that exposure to toxins and carcinogens is higher than suggested by official "tar" yield. This observation is the main reason critics of the tobacco companies accuse them of committing fraud by implying that "light" cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes. As I've noted, anti-smoking activists tend to forget this concern when they imagine government-ordered changes in cigarette yields.

But there is a "public health" rationale for cutting nicotine yields, even with the knowledge that doing so will result in more smoking-related disease over the short term. The argument is that lower nicotine levels will make cigarettes less appealing to new smokers, thereby reducing smoking-related disease over the long term. Depending on various contingencies (including the emergence of a black market in full-strength cigarettes), the net result might be fewer tobacco-related deaths. The idea is to kill more of today's smokers so fewer will die in the future. If that strikes you as a heartless, unjust policy that elevates a collectivist calculation of social welfare above the rights of individuals, you are beginning to understand the logic of "public health."

Addendum: In today's Washington Times, Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health, warns that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act "will likely increase smoking-related deaths." In addition to the danger of nicotine restrictions, she notes that the bill would help maintain the myth that all tobacco products are equally dangerous, deterring cigarette smokers from switching to smokeless tobacco, which is far less hazardous. (I made similar points in a 2003 column.) Whelan also worries that the FDA seal of approval will falsely reassure smokers that cigarettes are safer than they used to be even in the absence of actual safety improvements.   

[via The Rest of the Story]

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  1. The safest cigarettes would be to take super light, low tar cigarettes, then artificially add lots of nicotine, perhaps 5 times full strenth tobacco. This way smokers could get by on only a few light cigarettes a day without compensatory behaviour. Less cigarettes, less inhaling and lighter cigarettes means less tar and CO, consequently less health risks; since nicotine isn’t the health real problem.

  2. “The argument is that lower nicotine levels will make cigarettes less appealing to new smokers, thereby reducing smoking-related disease over the long term.”

    As I understand it, people start smoking because of social factors…not by how much nicotine is in the cigarette.

  3. It only takes a decade for DC to grasp the epidemiologically obvious- ”Making the World Safe for Cigarettes” , calling for high nicotine , low tar cigarettes to keep the smoking classes in fighting trim appeared in Forbes Sept 27 1997 .

  4. But, if people start smoking for social factors they may get addicted more quickly due to a higher nicotine content, which I don’t think necessarily follows.

  5. Another alternative, that I have accidentally tried, is chewing tobacco as an enhancement to the nicotine experience.

    Trick is finding women cool enough to not mind it.

  6. Some thing we learned from Prohibition is that when the satisfaction of a desired product is reduced the user will step up the consumption of another product to a new level. When cigarettes are no longer providing the satisfaction a switch to marijuana may be made. If marijuana becomes difficult to obtain a switch to prescription drugs or non-prescription drugs will be made. When beer gets too expensive some consumers will switch to a higher alcohol content product. Quiting consumption will be way down the lists of alternative behavior until the consumer decides to make a transition, for whatever reason.

  7. I must assume they’ve done studies on quit rates based on nicotine intake…anyone know if people who smoke low-nicotine cigarettes have higher success rates when they try to quit? I don’t think it matters. When I quit, the physical withdrawal was nothing compared to the psychological dependence.

  8. Quiting consumption will be way down the lists of alternative behavior until the consumer decides to make a transition, for whatever reason.

    The government should ban everything that isn’t good for us. It is there right and in fact their responsibility.

  9. let’s have another non-binding sense of the congress resolution…frigging cowards…lets’ just ban tobacco & be done with it, no more conflict of interest just outright prohibition and the attendant criminalization and underground economy…and likewise no more tobacco income for the states…I can hear the squeals now

  10. When cigarettes are no longer providing the satisfaction a switch to marijuana may be made.

    As a smoker of both products, I can tell you that one does not compensate for the other. That’s like saying instead of taking a smoke break during the day, you’re going to start doing shots at your desk.

  11. Interesting how the FDA sees increased nicotine levels as a good thing yet the DEA decries increased THC levels as a bad thing even though they produce the same effect, lowered intake of potentially dangerous molecules and hot gases into the lungs.

  12. “If that strikes you as a heartless, unjust policy that elevates a collectivist calculation of social welfare above the rights of individuals, you are beginning to understand the logic of “public health.””

    That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you guys. Beware the person who is looking at for your best interests. That person only sees you as a pawn.

  13. Another alternative, that I have accidentally tried, is chewing tobacco as an enhancement to the nicotine experience.

    I am not even going to speculate as to how you “accidentally” insert both chew and a death stick into your mouth at the same time.

  14. Kwix,

    Well, it is deceptively easy. The times I remember the most (because they were pointed out to me) were when I was a Support Platoon Leader. Can’t smoke around the fuel and ammo, but as the Platoon Leader I was on the go a lot.

    So, I would have both my Skoal or Red Man with me, plus smokes. When hanging around the ammo too long I would take a bit of chewing tobacco. Frequently we would leave before I was done with the chew or dip and a safe distance away I would frequently light up, not even noticing I still had tobacco in my mouth. The frequency of this increased in inverse proportion to the amount of rest I had.

    Sometimes I would notice before others, other times they would notice before me.

    Less frequently it would happen after classes in college, same rest note applies.

  15. If you can’t light up, the only way to go is dry snuff. The downside is that a lot of folks think you’re taking a bump of something other than powdered tabac.

  16. de stijl,

    I was never able to sniff snuff, but I did dip it a few times. It is kind of like trying to control mud in your mouth.

  17. Guy,

    With snuff you don’t have to spit, but blowing your nose fairly often is a good idea (and very gross if you look at what comes out).

    There’s this German spring loaded contraption that actually catapults the snuff way uo your nostrils which is a very cool thing to do with your friends at a bar.

  18. de stijl,

    With snuff you don’t have to spit, but blowing your nose fairly often is a good idea (and very gross if you look at what comes out).

    The getting it into my nose without having a debilitating sneezing fit was the problem. I didn’t mind spitting as I always had something to spit into.

  19. This reminds me, might have to bring some chewing tobacco to the next Reasonoid gathering tomorrow as they picked a freaking non-smoking place again.

  20. Does anybody know anything about the nicotine hand gel I saw at the counter at the gas station last week?

  21. Ross: Only that it is fucking awesome. I nearly shat myself when I first saw it on my way to a party. Granted, I was somewhat intoxicated, but at that moment it seemed like the best thing in the world. It is a bit overpriced however.

  22. Nicotine hand gel? What is that for? So you can get people addicted to Nicotine through hand shakes and masturbation?

  23. Two things,

    1. Guy Montag and de stijl if you did that nasal snuff in public I am amazed no one called you out. Those little things in other circles are called coke bullets put to the same use with a different substance. You may or may not have known that but if I saw someone do that anywhere other than a bar in Dallas I would be blown away.

    2. Hopefully this nicotine hand gel is better than the spitless tobacco candy they came out with a few years ago. The package said you didn’t have to spit, but let me tell you it was miserable, I would rather swallow my copenhagen than that shit. It also tasted like ballsack.

  24. tomtom, and you know the flavor of ballsack how?

  25. tomtom,

    The bar I was referring to actually has the gizmos behind the bar and waitresses will actually snuff you up. It’s awesome.

  26. tomtom,

    I only tried one little pinch up the nose one time, the old fashioned way. Stuck to dipping after that.

  27. de stijl,

    that is bad ass

    guy,

    What kind of snuff( thats what I call it anyway I’ve heard some call it dip or chew or whatever) do you dip?

  28. “””Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach said that if the FDA reduced nicotine levels in cigarettes, people would tailor their smoking habits to maintain current levels of the addictive drug.”””

    Hummm, if the above is true, people would smoke more to get the same level of nicotine. Therefore cigarette companys would sell more, governments would make more dollars.

    I’m with Daddiodaddy on this. I’m not a fan of banning, but I’m less of fan of this BS game they are playing.

  29. So I’ve tried the hand gel, in a vague attempt to quit smoking. Makes the hands feel a little greasy and makes the skin tingle nicely. Almost works but not quite. But, its enough of a fix to work in situations where smoking is absolutely verboten. A pity their business plan has been nearly destroyed by the current airport security regulations.

    The best product I’ve found is Firebreak gum, made by some Swedish snus company. Great nicotine rush if you chew two pieces at once, and tastes like normal mint gum. I think it has 2-3 times the nicotine of Nicorette, so it actually works and is cheaper.

    Onyx snus, with 11mg of nicotine per piece, is also a great product and has nearly replaced smoking for me. The taste isn’t awful, no spitting, and a substantially reduced rate of cancer compared to American chew, if the company blurbs are to be believed.

  30. Another alternative, …

    Reminds me of a kid I knew. At some party, we were maybe 15, he had a lip stuffed with chew, smoking, and had a gallon of screwtop wine in hand. He was falling down all over the place. Can’t quite remember his name.

  31. …tasted like ballsack.

    “The entire experience is difficult to describe, but if you can remember back to the very first time you made out with a hobo’s ass, it’s a lot like that.”

    Steve, Don’t Eat It! Vol. 6

  32. What kind of snuff( thats what I call it anyway I’ve heard some call it dip or chew or whatever) do you dip?

    These days (quite rare when I do) the spearmint Skoal Bandits are what I prefer. The tobacco is contained in a little paper envelope and does not get all over your mouth and teeth.

    That firm has apparently dropped their line called “Happy Daze” that was like spearmint Skoal (which was only peppermint IIRC from when I was a kid).

    If I had complete freedom to chew I would probably be chewing Red Man (leaf tobacco, comes in an aluminum lined pouch, a wad in the mouth is called a “chaw”). Maybe add a bit of plug or twist tobacco with it.

  33. Nicotine hand gel? What is that for? So you can get people addicted to Nicotine through hand shakes and masturbation?

    Funny, that is how I sometimes imagine the invisible hand of the free market!

  34. Leave us alone already. We know the risks, We KNEW the risks when we started.

    I don’t care what anyone says I enjoy smoking. I’m going to die someday, And maybe it is from smoking, Maybe not. All i know is if I die a few years sooner from smoking i’ll die that much happier and satisfied because I chose to smoke, Ya feel me?

    Agree? Disagree? Shoot me and Email at chrislav7@hotmail.com
    Especially if you disagree

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