A New Way To Poison Yourself
Do you know what formaldehyde cyanohydrin is?
The answer will be revealed shortly, but first, kind reader, consider the following:
A BBC news item (20 September 2018) shows TV presenter Jeremy Kyle sitting at his desk, looking rather serious. He boasts he’s quit smoking twenty cigarettes-a-day after thirty-five years: ‘I am proud to say that I quit smoking earlier this year,’ he is quoted as saying.
Except he hasn’t really quit. That is to say, he may no longer be smoking cigarettes, but he’s still in the thrall of nicotine addiction – only now in the form of e-cigarettes. Good for him!
He continues: ‘I’m currently on the lowest-strength nicotine and will then come off the e-cigarette when the time is right for me.’ And when will that be? The answer is that it’s likely to be put off indefinitely, because poor Jeremy Kyle apparently has no understanding of why he still feels the need to put the poison nicotine into his body repeatedly every day.
Mr Kyle’s confession is part of a commentary on the latest initiative to get people to quit smoking by the august body that, in the Spanish way of putting adjectives after nouns, is known as Public Health England.
Public Health England you will no doubt be intrigued to learn, is an independent agency of the UK government’s Department of Health and Social Care that, according to their website, provides expertise to interested bodies. And not just any old expertise, mind you, but evidence-based professional, scientific expertise!
Now, according to the BBC, the latest pronouncement by this august body on the smoking problem, as stated in this year’s vintage of their quaintly named Stoptober campaign, is that
Research has shown only 4% of those who go ‘cold turkey’ remain smoke-free after a year. But [so-called] nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches or lozenges, can increase that by 1.5 times.
From 4% to 6%. Brilliant!
And now, the highly esteemed Philip Morris tobacco company has seized on this official pronouncement in a hilarious all-singing, all-dancing back door marketing campaign, ‘Hold My Light’, for their smokeless cigarettes.
Here you can learn, among other amazing trivia, that ‘Public Health England says that using willpower alone is the least effective method of quitting.’
Unfortunately, Public Health England, in spite of all its evidence-based professional, scientific expertise, hasn’t taken into account a paper by Simon Chapman and Ross MacKenzie showing that, actually, two-thirds to three-quarters of ex-smokers stop unaided. (Doi: 10 1371/journal pmed 1000216)
In any case, it’s obvious that many smokers do quit on their own. They may just be fed up with smoking, wake up one morning and decide – that’s it! They don’t want to smoke anymore – so they don’t. Then why is it put about that the only decent ways to quit are either by struggling with willpower or by the illogical use of nicotine in a different form?
And now Philip Morris, with the help of Public Health England, having dismissed willpower, point you to ‘cessation products’ and e-cigarettes.
What an marvellous opportunity! If the best way to stop smoking is through ‘products’ of one sort or another, then Philip Morris can be part of the solution to the problem they helped create: they can market their own new products to help people give up smoking!
Philip Morris soon comes to the point: ‘With heated tobacco, seven out of ten smokers stop using cigarettes completely.’ This is according to market research in Japan carried out by, er, Philip Morris.
We can also be entertained by a nice man called Vaughan, in a staged interview on Philip Morris’s ‘Hold My Light’ website, being one of several people shown with the same background setting, who says:
…through my twenties [I was] smoking a pack a day and then into my thirties, starting to realise you need to start coming up with solutions and that’s why I started looking for alternative products…the transition from smoking cigarettes to a heated tobacco product was seamless, it was really easy for me to switch over. Ultimately I do want to give up completely and I think maybe in another half a year or a year give up altogether.
Oh yes? What other solution than just quitting could there be? But no, our Vaughan decided he needed alternative products. (Note the plural.) Why? Well, never mind. His transition to a heated tobacco product was seamless, it was really easy for him to switch over.
Is this a put-up job by Philip Morris? And note how our handsome Vaughn wants to give up completely – but in six month or a year or…never? Why doesn’t he just give up, like right now?
Now for the answer to the question posed earlier: if you click here you will find a paper published in the Tobacco Control journal, of a study of Philip Morris’s heated tobacco product (‘heatstick’) used in their iQOS device. They found that
…the tobacco plug does char and that charring increases when the device is not cleaned between heatsticks. Release of formaldehyde cyanohydrin is a concern as it is highly toxic at very low concentrations. (Emphasis added.)
This kind of study, nonetheless, is a smokescreen over the real issue.
It’s all very well for the likes of Jeremy Kyle, our friend Vaughn and countless others to have given up smoking after decades of poisoning themselves – even if they’re still using nicotine in another form – and good luck to them.
But what about the millions of people in Britain who still smoke and the hundreds of thousands of underage people who start smoking every year?
Text © Gabriel Symonds