Closet Fascination

A blog about a journey, smoking, not smoking, vaping and everything in between


tobacco harm reduction

Reduction of Nicotine in Cigarettes: A good idea or Prohibition 2.0?

The FDA wants to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels. Part of me thinks this is actually a good idea. You might be thinking, “But CF this might be the end of conventional smoking…this is horrible!” And on some levels I feel the same way. But a larger part of me thinks this is exactly the what a lot of people need to switch to a less harmful nicotine delivery device. I think combustion as a way of consuming both tobacco and marijuana are on their way out.

My guess is they are going to treat the tobacco I some way to remove some of the nicotine. If it something that regulates it through the filter, people will start cutting the filters off. Basically the nicotine levels will be so low that they won’t satisfy existing smoker and will be so anti-climatic to new smokers they won’t continue. Current smokers that want to continue using nicotine will switch to vaping. Or at least that is the hope. Part of me is like, “Of course that is what would happen…” But is it? I mean many people that are still smoking now, have tried vaping and have decided to continue to smoke, for whatever reason.

What if reducing the nicotine levels in cigarettes has the unintended consequence of opening up a black market in unaltered high-nicotine cigarettes? Sounds like Prohibition 2.0.

Wouldn’t it be better to promote the shit out of vaping if that is what the government wants people to switch to? Release a statement like the Public Health England, and continue to research vaping to confirm that it is less harmful than smoking. Put a hold on regulating ‘enticing flavours’ because they are the best hope at getting people to make the switch- fake tobacco flavour was largely disappointing. Honestly, people are worried about their teen trying vaping. News flash: if your teen is going to try vaping, they were probably going to try smoking. Take it from this nerdy, yet curious teen. I was a good kid, I didn’t drink or use drugs until I was over eighteen, but I tried smoking. I probably would have tried vaping. You could make the same argument for not legalizing marijuana. Wouldn’t it be better to talk to teen openly about drugs and why people use them?

Prohibition doesn’t work, and regulating the nicotine in cigarettes likely won’t work in the way they intend. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to stop treating tobacco with additives that make cigarettes more addictive, but this idea to reduce nicotine levels to ‘non-addictive levels’ strikes me as more prohibition and what have we learned from alcohol, marijuana  and opiates? Prohibition doesn’t work and often increases rather decreasing harm to people that choose to use. Let’s learn from our past and stop making the same mistakes with drugs that we have made in the past.


Thoughts about Tobacco Harm Reduction

My idea for this post actually came from those randomly generated links that appear below each blog post. How related are these articles to my blog? Usually not at all. Most of the time it sends me to a blog of a person trying to quit smoking. Because that is what people do now days. This link happened to relate to my post on the smoking in Avatar. It brought me to an interesting anti-smoking website. What? Did she just say interesting and anti-smoking in the same sentence? Yes, dear readers- I did. Most anti-smoking websites or blogs are off-putting, because they assume that smokers are self-destructive idiots. Okay… maybe that is an exaggeration, but they come off as very condescending and very doom and gloom. Much like some sermon’s I have listened to in older school catholic churches. The blog I will be linking you to talks about tobacco harm reduction. What is this? Well- they are all about you quitting smoking, but you don’t have to give up nicotine or tobacco. You just have to quit smoking it. I’ve already had a few comments from Tony about the benefits of e-cigarettes.

I happen to have a thing for smoke. The way it smells. The way it tastes. I enjoy the effect of nicotine, but I’m not addicted to it. I do recognize its highly addictive potential though. Well, harm reduction people are anti-smoking advocates who say- obviously people smoke for a reason and that nicotine use is beneficial in some ways so instead of making people give up something they love, replace it with something else. They recognize that smokers are not stupid which made it refreshing to read some of their articles.

Am I going to give up smoking? Probably not. I see occasional smoking as “harm reduction” in a way too. The anti’s will have you believe that there is no safe amount of smoking, which is probably true, but they do exaggerate the risk for a low-level smoker. I plan on eliminating inhaling from my smoking routine, mostly because the type of smoking I will be doing doesn’t really require it and also- I am a nicotine lightweight, which is like being a cheap drunk. Will I have a higher risk of mouth and esophageal cancer? Yes.  But so do people who use smokeless tobacco. Inhaling and the frequency that you do so is what increases your risk so much more. Will I miss inhaling? Maybe… I only inhaled once on Saturday, and while it did feel good in a way, I also really enjoyed just blowing smoke. From the point of view of my fetish, I didn’t look like the pack-a-day smoker confirmed smoker that I always wanted to look like, but that goal conflicts with my greater desire to remain an occasional smoker. I didn’t look like a confirmed smoker when I was inhaling all the time, although my exhales were often quite impressive, the nicotine would kick me in the ass.

Back to the post I wanted to link people too, because honestly they make some really awesome points in it and it is something that I always tell people and they don’t believe me because tobacco has been so demonized. The post is: It’s not the tobacco, it’s not the additives: it’s the smoke. People are under the false impression that cigarette smoke is bad because of the additives, making cigar smoker safer because it is just pure tobacco. Or if I only smoke natural cigarettes, that is less bad than smoking regular cigarettes. Or my favourite, pot smoking is way less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Actually, smoking anything is bad. If I were to smoke tea bags everyday inhaling them like cigarettes and say did it 20 times a day, I would be putting myself at just as much risk as smoking 20 cigarettes a day and getting far less pleasure out of it. Sure nicotine is hard on your heart and blood vessels, but there is no good evidence that nicotine itself causes cancer. The carcinogens come from the combustion of the plant whether the plant you are burning is marijuana or tobacco. The only difference I can see between the two is that the majority of pot users don’t smoke twenty joints a day.

Finally, another article that I want to call people’s attention to is this one: Why Tobacco Harm Reduction Includes Defending Smoking. This is where you see that the people advocating for tobacco harm reduction are the only sane anti-smoking advocates out there. They believe that tobacco use, whether smoking it or other uses is an informed choice that people make. They try not to judge people on what choice they make, although they would prefer people choose smoke-free options. Further, they are actually not really for all the recent public smoking bans. This article: NYC:the city that never smokes talks about how there is not a lot of good scientific evidence for the dangers of second-hand smoke and he is right. The movement is largely a social one, that was backed by pseudo-science. I have a whole paper that explains how in great detail.

So when I talk about antis, I’m not talking about these level-headed tobacco harm reduction supporters who see smokers as people not just a demographic. I’m talking about the zealots who got mad because there was smoking in Avatar.  If the tobacco harm reduction people were in charge, it would be a different world for smokers. There might even still be places to smoke inside, although they would still prefer you switch to a less harmful form. These people take almost as much flack from the antis as smokers do, as they are accused of being “in league” with the tobacco companies.

I’ve covered a lot in this post and I think it might be something that I will revisit again at some point in the future. I find the science behind smoking very interesting, particularly because much of it tends to be biased. There is no getting around bias really, although many people seem to think science is “objective”. People try to be objective when doing science, but is it ever possible to be completely objective? No. What I find even more interesting is the communication of science and how the actually research results can be twisted to mean whatever society wants it to. Or  better illustrated by this PhD comic (click on comic for larger version):

The Science News Cycle

Just some food for thought, that we can’t always believe everything the media is telling us because something could have been lost in translation. Smoking is bad for us, yes. But how bad? That question is a little harder to answer.

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