The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids put out an interesting report last week about the various additives tobacco companies are putting into cigarettes today to make them more addictive and hence more deadly. According to this graphic from CTFK, there’s a number of things the tobacco industry has done over the past 50 years to make cigarettes more addictive. I’ve read all about how the tobacco industry has been known for manipulating the level of nicotine in cigarettes. (Something the tobacco industry continues to deny) Anyway, here is an interesting infographic. The various ways the industry increases the intake of nicotine:
Increased Nicotine: Tobacco companies precisely control the delivery and amount of nicotine to create and sustain addiction.
Bronchodilators: These added chemicals expand the lungs’ airways, making it easier for tobacco smoke to pass into the lungs.
Levulinic Acid: Added organic acid salts, like levulinic acid, reduce the harshness of nicotine and make the smoke smoother and less irritating.
Menthol: Menthol cools and numbs the throat to reduce irritation and make the smoke feel smoother.
Sugars and Acetaldehyde: Added sugars make tobacco smoke easier to inhale and, when burned in cigarettes, form acetaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical that enhances nicotine’s addictive effects.
Ammonia: Added ammonia compounds produce higher levels of “freebase” nicotine and increase the speed with which nicotine hits the brain.
“Most people would think that 50 years after we learned that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, cigarettes would be safer. What’s shocking about the report we issued today is that we’ve found that a smoker today has more than twice the risk of lung cancer than a smoker fifty years ago, as a direct result of design changes made by the industry,” Matt Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in an interview with ThinkProgress.
(One note about the Matt Myers quote. I would disagree with one aspect of his comment. A two- to three-pack-a-day smoker was not uncommon 50 years ago, and that’s almost unheard of today with the breadth of smoking bans, so smokers are not smoking nearly as much as they did 50 years ago. But, his point is taken.) Pretty chilling stuff. The industry has done everything in its power to try and make cigarettes more physically addictive to keep their customers until death do them part.
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.
For the Great American Smokeout last week, CNN.com interviewed 9 former smokers about their final cigarette. Most every ex-smoker can remember their last cigarette, when they finally had had enough and quashed one out for the final time. Most smokers can remember their last cigarette because it usually takes three, four or even more tries to quit, and when the day comes that quitting finally works is a big event in their lives.
So, CNN collected some awesome quotes from these nine people, citing everything from existentialism to their families as reasons for quitting. Let me share some of them:
A fellow workmate made a profound statement to me: ‘You know, Bob, there is never a good day to quit smoking, is there?’ That hit me like a ton of bricks.
— Bob Miller, last cigarette: April 1, 2006
Now, when I feel that urge, I think about two small faces, and how I’d answer them if they asked me why I was sick or why I was dying. I’d have no one to blame but myself.
— Beth Woods, last cigarette, Aug. 5, 2008
I remember a trip to the ER with a bad case of bronchitis. This was the first time that my husband had seen me that sick. The look of panic and helplessness convinced me that I had to stop.
— Lisa Gonsalves, last cigarette 2005
Gonsalves’ bronchitis was so severe, she had to have tubes inserted into her lungs to drain the fluid and her chest “cracked open” to clean out her lungs.
“I can’t say that I don’t crave it – especially when I am stressed out,” Gonsalves told CNN.com. “I do have to constantly remind myself of the pain and the feeling of drowning because I couldn’t breathe to keep me from running out and getting a pack. It is a very mental game I play every day but I get stronger and stronger every day without a cigarette.”
When I smoked my last one, it was more of a release, rather than freaking out about how I was going to deal with it.
— John Turner, last cigarette 2011
My wife got the news she was finally pregnant. The very moment she told me I crushed my pack of cigarettes up and threw them away.
— Martin C. Grube, last cigarette 1983.
Then the story of Kara Wethington, who quit after her 66-year-old grandmother died.
“I loved smoking. The social aspect of it, the taste of it, the way it made me feel — everything about it was romantic to me.”
But the death of her grandmother was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” soon after Wethington herself was diagnosed with an aggressive form of strep throat, and she hasn’t looked back for 13 years.
“I’ve had smoking dreams that felt so intimately real that the line of reality and fantasy blurred out my memory. I know I didn’t smoke but sometimes those dreams feel really good and sometimes with real regret.”
(Interesting, I never heard of this dreaming of smoking before, but another ex-smoker said the same thing.
“It took me years to stop dreaming about having a cigarette and sometimes I would wake up and not be sure if I had smoked.”
Well, it’s the tentative return of Pepe’s Non-Smoking Party Lounge, where we talk about smoking, tobacco, cigarettes, pot, health, lung disease and whatever else pops into the scrambled eggs of our minds.
One thing that will be different from the previous incarnation of The Lounge is I won’t be talking about Facebook stuff; there won’t be much personal information and I won’t be discussing local politics. That’s what Facebook is for. So, “Confederate” from Kentucky, you won’t find out much useful information about me here.
Here’s my agenda in a nutshell. I lost my dad to lung cancer when I was 16. He smoked four packs a day and was 49 when he died. He smoked the day that he died, hooked up to an oxygen tank. Later that day, he drowned in his own bodily fluids.
My mom has had cancer, a heart attack and for the past several years has suffered from COPD. She gets pneumonia and bronchitis every winter. COPD is almost exclusively caused by smoking. She has smoked as much as two packs a day. I figure between my mom and my dad, they have probably smoked considerably more than 1 million cigarettes in their lifetimes. To learn more about COPD, click here.
I grew up exposed to as much as six packs a day of other people’s (mostly my parents) cigarette smoke. I estimate that I ingested the equivalent of 25,000 cigarettes by the time I turned 16. I had constant ear infections, had to have three surgeries to combat the ear infections, and to this day have trouble with my ears. I grew up with chronic bronchitis which later evolved into a kind of asthma. I got pleurisy one year and pneumonia twice. Eventually, it cleared up. I haven’t had a single bout of bronchitis in probably 15 years and now I climb mountains for a hobby.
So, a few years ago, after watching my mom pawing through her luggage, desperate for a cigarette after being hospitalized for a heart attack, then begging me to stop at a store to buy her cigs as I drove her home from the hospital, then after getting word three months later she was back in the hospital with pneumonia, I decided to get more involved in anti-tobacco issues and start up an anti-tobacco blog. The blog did all right, but my readership never really got beyond the teens. I’m hopeful with more “pings” and more Internet contacts and more knowledge of how to build up readership, it will get a few more readers.
We’ll see. This will be a work in progress and I really am an neophyte with WordPress, so bear with me.