Nicotine Addiction and Risks of E-Cigarettes
Professor Colin ‘Nicotine’ Mendelsohn, a self-styled tobacco treatment specialist, is a man with a mission. He has the noble goal of wanting to cure smokers of their dangerous habit of smoking – but he wants to do this by encouraging them to switch to e-cigarettes.
I am sure our good Professor would agree that smokers smoke because they are addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes, and that smoking can cause nasty, even fatal, diseases. Therefore, if you’re a smoker who doesn’t want to risk dying prematurely you should stop, quit, or give up smoking. But, unfortunately, there are not a few smokers who, apparently, can’t or don’t want to stop smoking. Therefore, Professor Mendelsohn argues, if these smokers can somehow be persuaded to ditch cigarettes in favour of an allegedly safer way of taking the poison nicotine into their bodies that would be a good thing.
Now, apart from the fact that the Australian government has sensibly made the sale of e-cigarettes illegal, and therefore a practical difficulty exists over putting the Professor’s idea into practice, he makes number of assumptions that need looking into.
Why does Professor Mendelsohn believe that smokers need an alternative to smoking? And does he think there is a special group of smokers who ‘can’t or don’t want to quit’ that stands out from the generality of smokers? If so, he appears not to have grasped the fundamental fact that all smokers either can’t or don’t want to stop – that’s why they’re smokers!
Professor Mendelsohn believes that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking, but this is unproven; only time will tell. After inhaling e-cigarette fumes dozens or even hundreds of times every day for, say, twenty years, we shall probably have the answer. In the meantime, as I have said before and make no apologies for repeating, this is a huge unregulated public health experiment.
E-cigarettes should be seen for what they are: not as a quit-smoking aid, but as an alternative way of maintaining nicotine addiction. And why does Professor Mendelsohn aim so low? Why does he think this is the best that can be done for smokers?
This is what he says:
The reality is that many smokers are unable or unwilling to quit with approved therapies in spite of repeated attempts to do so. Switching to vaping can satisfy the smoker’s need for nicotine and provides ‘a smoking experience’ without the vast majority of constituents in tobacco smoke which cause most of the harm to health. (Emphasis added.)
What is the definition of a quit attempt? The concept is meaningless. One either smokes or one doesn’t. And what are these approved therapies? They are nicotine in some form or other to treat nicotine addiction, and prescription drugs that, by design, cause a chemical imbalance in the brain which is intended, somehow, to counteract the chemical imbalance in the brain from which smokers already suffer as a result of their nicotine addiction.
He seems to regard the smoker’s need for nicotine as if this is something incidental or unremarkable. Would he talk like this about a heroin addict’s need for heroin? This is the whole problem. No one has a need for nicotine except those addicted to it, i.e., smokers, and that is why they want to keep putting it into their bodies.
Why does Professor Mendelsohn aim so low? It’s as if he’s saying, ‘I can’t do anything for you to cure your nicotine addiction since none of the approved therapies work. Therefore, you might as well continue to be addicted, even if it’s for the rest of your life, by this alternative way that seems to be safer than smoking.’
Perhaps it’s the approved therapies themselves which need to be reconsidered; if they fail many smokers, then, surely, a new approach is needed.
I suggest the Australian government should ban the sale not just of e-cigarettes, but of ordinary cancer sticks as well.
Text © Gabriel Symonds
Picture shows Professor Mendelsohn speaking at demonstration to legalise sale of e-cigarettes in Australia.