For the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s watershed report on smoking and lung cancer, both NBC News and CNN had for a time last weekend smoking as their top stories. Imagine my excitement seeing cigarette smoking dominating the top of both websites with so many other stories going on — Ariel Sharon’s death, Bridgegate, West Virginia, etc.
(Hey, doesn’t that Bing window look like a cigarette?)
Anyway, NBC’s take on the issue was to look at, yes the smoking rate in the U.S. has been reduced greatly since 1964, from 43 percent to 19 percent, but can it ever be reduced to 0?
Several experts weighed in. One idea was to raise the minimum age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21. Another one, by Michael Fiore of the University of Wisconsin, is a two-pronged approach of “hard-hitting public policy. At the same time, we need the ready availability of treatments for smokers.”
Yes, I agree. Treatment should be available and covered by insurance, be it patches, Nicotine gum, or even Chantix or e-cigs (and I’m not wild about the last two, in fact, I’m not positive any health care officials consider e-cigs a “treatment.”)
NBC also cited a Harvard study stating that smoking has killed 17.7 million people in the U.S. between 1964 and 2012 (So, when I call it a “holocaust,” I am not screwing around — 17.7 million people is a holocaust.
Also mentioned in the NBC article. How to stop smoking? Stop it before people start, before nicotine’s incredible addictiveness takes hold. 88 percent of smokers begin smoking before they turned 18. Education, education, education, is the way to stop smoking.
Ah, the NBC article also talks about how the $180 billion from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement is not being used properly to combat smoking. Instead that money is being used by states simply to help balance their general funds. States are receiving $8 billion a year from the settlement, but are only spending $640 million a year on tobacco control.
A good article from NBC News, that touches broadly on most of the major issues surrounding tobacco control.
CNN story on smoking — Why do people still smoke?
I like CNN’s angle, too. CNN asks the question of when people know how bad smoking is for you, why do they still smoke? The answer, according to CNN, a “portrait of defiance.”
CNN dug up a portrait site on smokers (Oh, man, I have to do a separate post on this site with the photog’s permission, hopefully). The photographer, Laura Noel, said that:
While shooting these portraits, she noticed the age difference among smokers. Young smokers, she said, enjoy it with a kind of practiced defiance. “You see a little more of the addiction when people get older.”
The CNN story makes a great point. The whole argument that smoking is a “personal choice” becomes complete bullshit when the smoker is no longer making the choice to smoke — the nicotine is in control. It stops being “choice” when addiction takes hold. (The tobacco industry long ago abandoned the battle trying to fight the evidence that smoking is deadly and has instead adopted a Libertarian coda that it’s personal choice. I’ve had two or three Libertarian trolls stink up this blog with their “personal choice” bullshit, too. And, oh by the way, of course, none of them were actual smokers. :roll:)
“Smokers typically start smoking as adolescents or young adults, with initial smoking occurring in social situations,” said Sherry McKee, the director of the Yale Behavioral Pharmacology Lab. “Most young smokers believe that they can easily quit at any time and nearly all believe that they won’t be long-term smokers.”
“Ultimately, they will lose their capacity to make a free choice to smoke,” said Jed Rose, the director of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation in North Carolina. “Then 30 years later, that’s when we typically see them in our program desperately trying to quit, because now they can’t go a single day without (a cigarette).”
And one final point in the CNN story, something I actually learned. I never really thought of this, but it makes sense. The addiction to smoking is more than just the chemical components of nicotine, it has to do with the smoking behaviour.
“The chemicals in cigarettes work on the structures deep within a smoker’s brain, literally rewiring it so the habit becomes deeply ingrained,” said Rose.
With drugs like cocaine, there can be extreme discomfort from withdrawal in those first few days, but it goes away. “The behavior addiction of smoking may be far more compelling than just the short-term withdrawal symptoms of a hard drug,” he said.
That means smokers may be more addicted to the smoking behaviors than the nicotine.
“Every move a smoker makes: the lighting of the cigarette, the inhaling, all the feelings and sensations of it, the whole package becomes highly addictive,” Rose said.