Monday, 14 March 2011

On stopping smoking...


Given that I speak and write much about my anger over the government’s obsession with smoking – were it not for booze to the exclusion of every other public health consideration – I guess many of you think I smoke. To help you understand my position, I thought I’d tell you about giving up smoking.

I stopped smoking nearly five years ago. It’s a simple as that really. I stopped smoking – it just took me a little while to realise that this is all there is to stopping. All the semi-medical mumbo-jumbo, the hypnotism, the psychotherapy, the patches, the gum – let alone bans and restrictions – are of no consequence. If you want to stop smoking, you just stop smoking. Yet a massive industry – a billion dollar industry – has sprung up around smoking cession:

In 2009, total sales of smoking-cessation products surpassed $1.6bn (Rx products).

At drug company profit margins that’s a big business and it’s expected to grow!

The report predicts that the launch of new smoking-cessation aids early this decade will answer some unmet needs currently limiting that pharma market segment. Besides extensive coverage of currently-marketed drugs, this report examines the most exciting products currently in development. The report also includes external opinions on the sector, gained thorough original unique surveys. The report analyses current leading markets in North America, Europe and Asia in detail. A major contribution to the market during the next 15 years will come from emerging economies, led by India and China. Almost half of the world’s smokers live in those countries, with almost a third in China alone, reports suggest. At present, those national markets yield relatively low smoking-cessation revenues. However, the report predicts that the emerging economies have a large potential for sales growth of smoking-cessation products. This report reveals how their sales revenues and market shares will expand during the forecast period.

A brilliant strategy – medicalise the delivery of nicotine! Let me tell you something, these products don’t work. People stop smoking because they want to stop smoking – and whether they use patches, gum or specialist smoking cessation drugs makes not one jot of difference. But it does keep a pretty huge and very profitable industry going!

"At the annual meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco conference held in San Diego, CA, Scott Leischow, PhD., Associate Professor of Public Health for the University of Arizona, presented research findings indicating that over-the-counter (OTC) nicotine patches resulted in low quit rates of 4-5% at one year, which is in the range of naturally occurring smoking cessation. Published in the January/February 1999 issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior, the study also found that brief physician intervention did not improve on these rates." "New Smoking Study Questions the Effectiveness of the Nicotine Patch," PR Newswire, Mar. 24, 1999.

And some smoking cessation drugs have questionable side effect:

"It is very unusual to get 300-plus adverse drug-reaction reports in the first year of marketing a drug. The question is whether the benefit of the drug justifies the risk…and the answer is no." Rick Hudson, a medical consultant to British Columbia's Pharmacare program, quoted in Krista Foss, "The hidden cost of kicking the habit," Toronto Globe and Mail, Aug. 31, 1999.

And, of course, they don’t work. People stop because they want to stop – drugs make no difference.

When I decided to give up, like we’re advised to do, I went to see the GP – although I ended up seeing a very pleasant nurse (she spent a lot of time asking me how much I drink – which seemed unrelated to the reason I was there) who arranged a prescription for nicotine patches. Let me tell you, if you want that nicotine high, get those patches. I wandered around for a week in a zombie-like state, high as a kite on nicotine! Returning to see the nurse, she suggested using only half a patch to reduce the dose. No difference – still high as a kite, unable to function properly in my work and now with an uncomfortable rash. So I dumped the patches and went cold-turkey.

I haven’t smoked since – although a year sitting with Graham in the Fleece (before the stupid and unwarranted smoking ban) allowed some high quality Cuban passive smoking! I stopped because I ceased to enjoy smoking and without the pleasure there was no point any more in resisting the nagging!

All the millions spent of these products are, at best, having a marginal impact on people trying to stop smoking. But boy is it making the drugs companies some cash!

Update: An Anonymous comment brings this to our attention - reinforcing my point that the "anti-smoking" campaigns are, in truth, mostly ramps for drugs companies:

The heads of Pharmacia & Upjohn and Glaxo Wellcome both expressed their appreciation for the joint partnership.

"I'm delighted that Pharmacia & Upjohn is a leader in this ground-breaking action partnership with WHO to combat tobacco dependence," Fred Hassan, Pharmacia & Upjohn's President and Chief Executive Officer says. "Public health threats of this magnitude and urgency require the collaborative efforts of both the public and private sectors if we are to significantly reduce harm in a timely fashion. We hope that this initiative will serve as a model for other such partnerships."

"This partnership with the World Health Organization offers great promise in the effort to reduce tobacco dependence and thus reduce the significant health costs and burden of tobacco-related illnesses and deaths," said Sir Richard Sykes, Chairman, Glaxo Wellcome plc. "As a company, our commitment is to fighting disease. Tobacco dependence is in every sense of the word a disease with major but reversible health implications. Together, we can defeat this disease."



Clarissa said...

Cold turkey is how my old man stopped smoking cigars over Christmas about 20 years ago.

As for the patches, my brother and I figured out years ago that they would be the best way to get a nicotine addiction without the palaver of actually smoking (if we so desired to do so).

Pat Nurse MA said...

Fantastic post thank you. I agree with every single word as a lifelong smoker of 43 years from the age of 8. Sadly the Anti-smoker industry has been in competition with the tobacco industry for almost 40 years now. Both aim to supply the smoker with nicotine. I smoke for the taste. The govt should never have taken sides on this issue for the reasons you give in that the obsession with smoking diminishes other very important health issues and the reasons for them.
I started smoking in a different era, I am from a different generation when smoking was perceived differently. I resent and abhor Govt now excluding me and making my life difficult when I have done no wrong, never harmed anyone nor wanted to and have paid enough tax to pay my hospital bills when the end of my life comes. I am in good health btw and have never visited a doctor for any phantom "Smoking Related" illness.
The anti-smoker industry has made smoking far more dangerous than it ever was and opened up the market directly to children underground because of the black market run by organised crime that this kind of climate has encouraged.
Thank you again for your very common sense words. Tobacco is a herb not a drug and has only been labelled as such to promote the scandalous idea that smokers are "pathetic addicts" among other such social insults which is part of "Denormalisation" - a public health tool about as ethical as water boarding is to interrogation.

Smoking Hot said...

l must say that l'm quite shocked ... l've become so accustomed to hearing parroted drivel from our elacted representatives you are indeed a breath of fresh air (no pun intended)

l myself am a smoker and lf l decide to give up smoking. l will. For those that doubt that l can, l feel l should inform you that l gave up the product that is 'God's way of telling you that you are earning too much money'. l gave it up the same way as Simon did ... l just quit.

As Simon also says about these pharma smoking cessation aids ... do not use them. My sister quit smoking but now is addicted to the damn nicotine gum!

Great post Simon, thank you.

Xopher said...

What you say is so true yet our leaders are totally sold on the smoking cessation empire and pharmaceutical solutions.
Have they no sense or is there some ulterior force at work. Are they intent on depriving us of the contentment we all enjoy from every one of our pleasures on the say-so of evangelical healthists who allow only their own 'research' and opinion to the basis of their statistical fact!
Government thinks it right to promote the insulting and marginalising hatred of smokers in anti-smoking adverts, articles and 'indisputable propaganda' - could it be they're no better than pathetic, mindless playground bullies?

Anonymous said...

Surely this is the tactic used by ASH etc.
To try to force people to give up smoking will always produce the opposite effect and they will continue to smoke because they really didn't actually WANT to.
ASH are then creating the markets for their benefactors (The big pharmaceutical companies)
If people were not bullied into stopping smoking, many would stop on their own accord, but there is no NRT profit in that is there ?

Angry Exile said...

I stopped smoking the same way probably not long after you did. I'd previously tried the patches and the gum and I think the main reason they failed was because deep down I didn't really want to stop yet. I was going through the motions because I'd been made to feel I ought to but I was still getting a lot of pleasure from smoking. And not just the actual smoking. I'm still proud of the way I could hand make a cigarette that looked like it had come from a rolling machine, and I found it an excellent stress reliever for areas where you can't smoke (it also infuriated any anti-tobacco zealots who told me that I couldn't smoke there to hear me reply mildly that I wasn't going to, and then watch me pop the finished ciggie back in the pouch and take out tobacco to make another one). Chewing a rather unpleasant tasting gum, which for a non-gum chewer would have been like getting a non-smoker to give up gum with spearmint flavoured cigarettes, was never going to hold a candle to that. Nor was a nicotine laced elastoplast that left red marks on my arm and itched.

And when the time came when I realised that I just wasn't enjoying smoking anymore it just didn't seem like either of them were needed and I did without. The first week was a little tough but it was really pretty easy after that, so it doesn't surprise me that there are figures showing that the success rate of NRT products is no better than cold turkey. That's something the pharma mob probably don't want to health departments to put in the quit advice propaganda.

Anonymous said...

30 January 1999


"The strength of the Partnership Project lies in the fact that it has brought together three major pharmaceutical companies, Glaxo Wellcome, Novartis Consumer Health and Pharmacia & Upjohn, all manufacturers of treatment products for tobacco dependence, to support a common goal that will have a significant impact on public health."

Anonymous said...

Dr. Murray Jarvik - co-inventor of the nicotine patch

"The ironic twist is that he never smoked a day in his life. He was one of the most rabid anti-smokers you can imagine,"

"I would say that Murray's greatest impact was advancing the proposition that nicotine was the key addictive component in tobacco."

"When the pair were unable to get approval to test the idea on human subjects, they tried it on themselves.

"We put the tobacco on our skin and waited to see what would happen," Jarvik recalled in an issue of UCLA magazine. "Our heart rates increased, adrenaline began pumping, all the things that happen to smokers." ?

"Green tobacco sickness (GTS) is an illness resulting from dermal exposure to dissolved nicotine from wet tobacco leaves; it is characterized by nausea, vomiting, weakness, and dizziness and sometimes fluctuations in blood pressure or heart rate"

US ruling turns smokers into junkies - 1994

"Over the past few months, the FDA's commissioner, David Kessler, has been campaigning for tobacco to be regulated in the same way as many other drugs.

To do so legally, he must demonstrate that nicotine is a powerful drug, and that the tobacco companies depend on nicotine's addictiveness to keep smokers smoking.
But the tobacco companies continue to insist that nicotine is not addictive.

"I wandered around for a week in a zombie-like state, high as a kite on nicotine!"

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

I certainly have.