If there were no perceived benefits to smoking, then no one would smoke. It really is that simple. The percentage of people in the population who smoke may have gone down, but the population has increased at the same time meaning that (although these figures are hard to pinpoint) in absolute terms there are very probably more individual smokers year on year. For thousands of people the benefits of smoking outweigh the risks; simply looking at tobacco sales will tell you that this is true. That the risk of smoking has been overstated by people who are supposed to be unbiased arbiters of health muddies the waters for smokers trying to seek the truth. I could see that the information I was being fed was flawed and so dismissed it instead of trying to ascertain the truth behind the exaggerations. I was far more likely to attribute my concerns about the health risks of smoking to nicotine, the chemicals added to cured tobacco and to tobacco itself rather than what I now see is the real risk of smoking; the act of inhaling smoke.
Tobacco control hates tobacco and with it nicotine use. This hatred borders on irrational, leading to the demonisation of individual smokers alongside the demonisation of nicotine and tobacco. When faced with evidence that suggests that it is tobacco smoke that causes the issues in smokers, they dismiss it as evidence of new ways to addict people to nicotine, ignoring the bigger picture and refusing to move from their failed ‘abstinence only’ propaganda.
I’ve known for years that the nanny-state-knows-best arguments are failing smokers. This is the prohibitionist agenda. All smokers must renounce the evils of tobacco and nicotine and accept the smug sanctimonious purity of abstinence into their hearts. Only then may their lives be saved. There is no other way; inveterate smokers will be cast into outer darkness and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The reasoning is that the people who are advising smokers know better than us what we want. Despite the incontrovertible fact that smokers die from the smoke and not the nicotine, they believe and create evidence that supports the belief that all smokers actually want to quit nicotine rather than lit tobacco. They then reinforce that belief by demonising smokers so that we are more stressed when smoking. Bombard us with negative ‘nocebo’ images, create anti-smoking hysteria, turn friends and families against us so that the only honest answer is that yes, I would rather be free of the stigma surrounding my habit, but I do still enjoy the act of smoking.
The anti-tobacco zealots don’t care about the individual smoker. They believe that the aims of their war against tobacco – wiping all tobacco use from the planet – justifies the means. Collateral damage is acceptable in that fight. Even though the population effects of a switch to harm reduction would be overwhelmingly positive, winning the health battle would mean loosing that war. Compromise is not possible on this point. Their egos will not allow it. And so we have the current situation where tobacco control is unwittingly supporting the very industry that they are fighting against to demonise Tobacco Harm Reduction products on the ground that THR will not eliminate nicotine, and therefore it won’t eliminate tobacco. They can’t see that by giving smokers the choice, and making that choice more attractive than the lethal alternative, they might just win their war against smoking.
Where is the rational, analytical, evidence based argument for eliminating tobacco and nicotine use from the population entirely? What about the therapeutic uses for nicotine now being discovered? What about the treatment for Ebola recently trialled in extreme need, with the precautionary principle being properly applied because rational thinking and not zealotry was being applied to the issue. What about the social benefits on a population where thousands of smokers switching to a preferred lower risk alternative retain a higher quality of life than allowed by the zealots’ alternative of ceasing nicotine use entirely. What about the prevention of relapse to smoking, even after complete abstinence, where a relapse to a lower-risk alternative is still a net health gain compared with a relapse to smoking.
Maintaining the position that a safer alternative to smoking is not “safe,” that all tobacco use is always deadly and that the only safe choice is to cease nicotine use altogether simply convinces smokers that switching to a safer alternative doesn’t provide enough benefit to warrant the effort of trying. Why any public health official would try to convince the world that a 95-99% reduction in risk is as bad as smoking is utterly beyond my comprehension.
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