One of the THR-supporters to whom I’ve linked, in the sidebar there on the right, is Dr. Michael B. Siegel, and on 03/17/19, he posted an article in his blog entitled “11 Million Lies: The Tobacco Control Movement is Committing Public Health Malpractice by Misrepresenting the Health Effects of Vaping.” While I agree that this is exactly what Tobacco Control is doing, I must take issue with one particular thing he says in that article. I’m often tempted to throw up my hands and say “What’s the use?” when it comes to rebutting any of the Tobacco Control fascists, but in this particular case, I keep waking up in the morning with this piece running amok in my brain; since Dr. Siegel seems not to be a typical Tobacco Control fascist -- he actually seems to be quite sane on the subject of Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR), unlike most of his Tobacco Control peers -- I find that one statement in the above-referenced article quite troubling. So if I’m to get back to my usual lazy late awakenings, I’ve apparently got to have my say about his article.
The statement with which I disagree so violently is in the very first paragraph. I agree with his first sentence, that it is wrong for public health to lie to the public -- but he then goes on to a lamentable self-congratulation of all the many ways that public health, specifically Tobacco Control, have made absolute pests of themselves with both the public and the tobacco industry and begun engineering the outrageous, regressive, and criminally-extortionate pricing of tobacco (which of course has become the blatant and punitive persecution of smokers, but I’ve already covered that in my piece about The Infamous Master Settlement Agreement, as well as in my blog post "And the Wages of Sin Tax...".). That self-congratulation for such heinous treatment of fellow human beings is bad enough, but Dr. Siegel’s first paragraph finally ends with one of the most egregious lies I have ever run across: “Clearly, honesty is the central value that has been at the core of the tobacco control movement for decades.”
I truly hate to imagine what Dr. Siegel deems DIShonesty, if his perception of “honesty” is the way that Tobacco Control has been lying to the public for decades.
Dr. Siegel goes on to say “In the last few years, however, I believe that our movement has largely abandoned truth as a central value in our campaigns against vaping.” That is certainly true! But the lies broadcast far and wide by Tobacco Control are not of recent origin, “in the last few years,” as Dr Siegel states, but have been part and parcel of the Tobacco Control strategy since its inception -- starting principally with their campaign against “secondhand smoke” which is for the purpose of sowing hatred and fear of smokers, moving on to an absolute redefinition and reinvention of certain terms (“addiction” and “addictive” are the primary examples), as well as misrepresenting, indeed, deliberately lying about the relative “addictiveness” of nicotine, which has led to the fallacious conclusion that nicotine is the sole reason for addiction to cigarette smoking -- and that fallacious conclusion is one of the primary reasons for both 1) Big Pharma’s “Nicotine Replacement Therapy” (NRT) products, and 2) the extreme difficulty of smoking cessation.
Speaking as someone who is now a non-smoker, I certainly agree with most other non-smokers, that cigarette smoke smells quite foul, most of the time ─ although when a cigarette is first lit, the scent can sometimes still beckon to me like turkey on Thanksgiving Day, and I obviously can’t afford to find that smell appealing.
However the plain fact of the matter is that secondhand smoke is not dangerous, to most people. Take careful note of that last sentence: I did not say that secondhand tobacco smoke is never harmful to anyone, I said it’s not dangerous to most people, by which I mean, healthy people without any problems with their breathing or their lungs, particularly in any situation in which there is good ventilation. In 57, nearly 58 years of life, I have in fact personally known three individuals who were actually, and rather severely, affected by secondhand smoke:
1. My son, as a child, who suffered pneumonia at the age of 5 and recurring bouts of bronchitis thereafter;
2. An old boyfriend, who was asthmatic and allergic to tobacco and its smoke
(and at the time I knew him, public smoking was still the norm, with few exceptions);
3. One of my uncles, who suffered rather severe emphysema.
In the case of my son, I do have to accept at least part of the blame, since I still smoked indoors from the time he was born until he was nine years old ─ because at least 80% of adults smoked in all the houses I lived in or visited as a child, and nobody suffered because of it, so I had no particular reason to believe that smoking around my own son could harm him. What finally woke me up was my realization of how many days of school he was missing, due to this or that respiratory problem -- colds, coughs, wheezing, etc. When I finally took my smoking outdoors, his respiratory health improved tremendously, so it’s clear that he actually was negatively affected by secondhand smoke -- when living in a small apartment with someone who smokes three packs or more a day, there’s not nearly enough ventilation to keep the air clear.
The other two cases, the old boyfriend and the uncle, were individuals whose breathing was already compromised, and thus any steady exposure to secondhand smoke caused them a severe problem, especially if there was inadequate ventilation.
But Tobacco Control would have the world believe that every human being on the planet is as sensitive to secondhand smoke as those three people… and it’s just not true.
If it really were true, then no one who was born before 1980 would be alive today -- we’d all have perished from exposure to secondhand smoke before we ever grew to adulthood. In fact, if any of this histrionic disinformation about secondhand smoke were true, those of us born between 1960 and 1980 would never have been born, because our parents would have expired before they were old enough to procreate!
Word-Redefinition, and The Role of Nicotine
These two types of lies actually go somewhat hand-in-hand. The primary word-redefinition which Tobacco Control has applied is to the word “addicted,” or “addiction.” They have done such a remarkable job of redefining this concept to suit their own purposes that it is now impossible to differentiate between “addiction” and “dependence,” even in a dictionary definition ─ but they are actually, and were originally, very different concepts.
The word dependence expresses a relatively mild situation: requiring some form of caffeine on awakening is the best example of that, and most of us can probably relate to it, the crankiness of someone before their morning coffee or tea, but even the most extreme cases will ─ perhaps grudgingly ─ accept that sometimes, one cannot have the morning eye-opener, or it must be delayed. And many of us have learned quite painfully that abrupt cessation of caffeine, after a long period of its use, will gift us with an excruciating headache, sometimes for days on end. Cold/congestion medicines also represent a minor problem: the rebound effect. Taking pseudoephedrine for an extended period, or using nasal decongestant sprays for more than two or three days in a row, will present this rebound effect, where abrupt cessation of either medication will render you stuffed up for as much as a week, unless you take more of the medication that caused the rebound effect, thus postponing the inevitable resolution. Both of these dependencies are frustrating in the extreme, even painful, but no rational person would ever claim them to be life-threatening.
Addiction is a different matter entirely. Probably the very best example of a true addiction is the addiction to heroin, or even to alcohol ─ to one who is truly addicted to either substance, consuming that substance becomes absolutely paramount, and the most important thing an addict of either narcotics or alcohol will do all day, every single day, is acquire that substance, by whatever means is necessary ─ theft, robbery, panhandling, prostitution ─ whatever it takes to acquire the necessary substance, the addict will do, with very little regret for having to do it ─ because the withdrawal from either is so extremely severe, it can even be life-threatening; withdrawal from narcotics can cause vomiting so extreme as to threaten one’s life, either from aspiration of vomit or resultant dehydration from hyperemesis; withdrawal from alcohol can even bring on a heart attack, or a “stroke.” When one of my doctors learned that I had voluntarily withdrawn “cold turkey” from alcohol, he was completely appalled.
Cigarette smoking can fall into this category to some slight extent, for some smokers, though not all ─ I was myself one of those unfortunates, and I well recall digging through public ashtrays, when those existed, to find butts that could be re-lit, or simply to find enough butts that contained some small amount of tobacco, which might be removed, combined, and then re-rolled. I also recall stealing money from the wallets of my parents, and my first husband, to acquire enough cash to buy cigarettes; I even once turned down a good job, because the Tobacco Control smoke-nazis had already engineered society to such an extent that smoking was not permitted in any workplace. It’s very easy to see that I truly was addicted, since even after I was given a diagnosis of adult-onset asthma, I was completely unable to quit smoking, and when I found myself pregnant with my son, though I tried very hard to stop smoking completely, I was unable to do more than reduce my smoking from two packs a day, to three or four cigarettes a day. The one time I attempted to stop smoking “cold turkey,” I even suffered some physical withdrawal ─ nausea, and constipation so extreme, I was unable to move my bowels for three weeks, which is understandable since one of nicotine’s physiological effects is stimulation of peristalsis; abrupt cessation of nicotine can slow or even briefly stop that rhythmic motion of the colon, so severe constipation is a very common withdrawal symptom.
But was my addiction to nicotine? Tobacco Control would say yes, definitely ─ but I have found, via first-hand experience, that my hardcore smoking addiction had very little, if anything at all, to do with nicotine.
Addiction is a serious problem which requires a true understanding of the nature of the addiction, and Tobacco Control’s dishonest (and self-serving, since Big Pharma funds most of Tobacco Control) portrayal of nicotine as the primary agent of smoking addiction makes it nearly impossible to get a permanent handle on that addiction, and become a permanent non-smoker. Anyone who has ever wrestled with addiction of any type knows how dangerous dishonesty is ─ it’s the primary motivation behind the denial which is one of the foremost aspects of any addiction, the “I can handle it,” and “I can quit if I want to… I just don’t want to” type of thinking. Indeed, any and every “12 step” recovery program points out that honesty is absolutely required, if one wishes to recover, and even after one has ceased using the addictive substance, absolute honesty is still required, each and every day, in order to remain in recovery.
Which makes the lies of Tobacco Control all the more heinous ─ you cannot treat an addiction without knowing exactly what you’re addicted to ─ and nicotine is sure as hell not the major part of the smoking addiction, so replacing nicotine is pointless, and somewhat irrelevant. I’m sure that Big Pharma knows that, and the FDA knows it too, because if nicotine was truly as addictive as Tobacco Control claims, there is no way in hell that that chemical would be available over the counter, and approved for use down to the age of 12 ─ as pharmaceutical NRT is available, OTC, and FDA-approved for use by people down to the age of 12.
Although on my first attempt to quit smoking, I failed to remain smoke-free for more than three months, and didn’t succeed in quitting at all on my second, I still hadn’t quite given up hope that one day, I might be able to finally become a non-smoker ─ after all, that last attempt and failure was during the process of becoming a mother ─ surely the best motivation possible to maintain one’s life and good health, and indeed, that was a large part of my motivation for getting sober in 1992. 1992 was also the year that nicotine patches first became available, and after I had been sober for six months, I thought maybe it was time to try again to quit smoking, so I got a prescription for “the patch,” and gave it a whirl. It required only one week of use to see that it was a total failure; not only did it not remove my craving for smoking, not even a little bit, it gave me severe heart palpitations, nightmares, severe itching wherever the patch was applied, and ultimately reduced me to a state that probably wasn’t too far from outright psychosis. I had a four-year-old son to care for, so my husband and I decided together that it was probably a better idea for me to simply go back to smoking ─ and almost immediately after I did so, the palpitations, nightmares, and nearly-psychotic behavior completely disappeared.
Three years later, my son was seven years old, my sobriety was quite solid, and nicotine patches had become available OTC -- I wouldn’t require a doctor visit and prescription, I could just go buy what I wanted, so I decided to try again, though using the second level, which contained less nicotine, to avoid the palpitations and hopefully the nightmares. But it was the same story, all over again: palpitations, nightmares, itching, and increasingly unstable moods and behavior ─ this time, it was both my husband and my son who begged me to please, go back to smoking!
At that point, it was very clear to me that nicotine replacement was not an effective method of smoking cessation, but when I saw advertisements for the Nicotrol Inhaler, I was intrigued, and asked my doctor if he would prescribe that for me ─ and his answer completely stunned me: because of my asthma, he was forbidden by law to prescribe me the nicotine inhaler! I asked him straight out, “So the AMA thinks it’s better that an asthmatic smoker should keep smoking, rather than use the nicotine inhaler to try to quit?” All he could do was shrug, and suggest the patch ─ which I rather rudely refused as being “totally useless” ─ because it is. So I simply kept smoking, because I could see no way to quit that didn’t entail ungodly suffering, which I was not willing to endure. As I’ve pointed out many times, the effects of smoking, terrible and life-threatening as they are, are cumulative and very long-term, whereas the effects of not smoking are immediate.
Years went by, and I kept smoking. In 2006, my father died of lung cancer, and still I kept smoking, despite remembering, every time I lit up, how horribly my father had died. Sometime in 2007, my mother was diagnosed with COPD, and she tried and failed to quit smoking several times, her condition growing worse almost by the month, until she finally had no choice in the matter at all; she simply could not continue both smoking and breathing: one of them had to go… so she finally managed to quit and stay that way, though she suffered horribly. Yet still I kept smoking. I saw an actress on the David Letterman show one night, with an “electronic cigarette”... and while it intrigued me, I didn’t really pay it much attention, because I had no wish for the suffering that I was convinced I would suffer in any further quit attempts.
Then came the winter of 2013-2014: the coldest winter in over thirty years, here in Atlanta. I’d been an outdoors-only smoker for just sixteen of those years, and had never endured cold this severe, so extreme that just slipping out for a few minutes to puff down half a cigarette was simply intolerable. So I started thinking about the electronic cigarettes, thinking I should try them, so that maybe on cold nights, I wouldn’t have to go out and nearly freeze to death despite wearing twenty pounds of outerwear.
I’ve described my beginnings as a vaper on the “My Vaping Story” page, so if you’re interested, you can read the details there. Suffice it to say, e-cigarettes worked far beyond my wildest imaginings, such that three weeks after I began vaping regularly, I became a non-smoker, for the very first time since 1975 ─ if you don’t count the wretched three months of my first attempt in 1984, and the miserable couple of weeks during the ‘90s when I tried the patch.
The aspect which is relevant here is the nicotine: when I bought eliquid for the first time, the vape shop personnel assured me that “all new vapers” needed 18mg/ml ejuice -- which very soon (within a couple hours) made me so ill, I started popping Dramamine and ginger capsules like Pez, praying for death. The next day, I went to a different store, and bought some 12mg/ml -- which also made me so ill, it nearly cured me of the whole vaping idea forever, though it did take a little longer. As a smoker for nearly four decades, I thought this was damned strange, but I finally ordered some 6mg/ml eliquid, and having done some research, ordered what I thought would be a reasonable facsimile of the flavor of the Virginia Slims I smoked for 30+ years ─ and it did turn out to be so remarkably similar, at my very first taste, I shouted “EUREKA!” And the best news of all was that I could vape 6mg pretty much every waking minute, and it never made me nauseated.
My first six months as a vaper were complicated by my emergency appendectomy and then the miserable recovery from it, a month-long relapse to dual-use, return to vaping-only, return of cravings, and eventual addition of WTA to my eliquid, which finally enabled me to settle back into the contented vaping I’d enjoyed before my appendix went ballistic, and I spent the next fifteen months slowly and systematically weaning off the WTA ─ which is every bit as addictive as smoking, but much easier to titrate downward and wean off.
When I was finally finished with WTA in March 2016, I was using 8mg/ml nicotine, and I remained at that level through the spring and early summer… but when the first hammer blow from the FDA fell on July 8, 2016, I thought it would be a good idea to wean down further on my nicotine level, so I set about doing that ─ and compared to weaning off WTA, it was like falling off a log; by December I was at 5mg, at which level I remained through the winter. During 2017, there was yet more idiocy from the FDA, so I thought it would be a good idea to wean down to 3mg ─ and again, it was an absolute piece of cake.
Late in 2017, I realized I was having some mental “focusing” problems, and a very mild version of “dysphasia,” which manifested as what I call the “tip of the tongue problem” ─ knowing the word you want, feeling it right there “on the tip of the tongue,” but taking minutes if not days to come up with the word from memory. This quite alarmed me, having one grandmother who perished from Alzheimers, and another grandmother who spent the last fifteen years of her long life gradually losing herself. So I decided to adjust my nicotine slightly upward, until it was at 4.5mg/ml, and I realized that I was no longer suffering the memory, attention, or “tip of the tongue” problems.
Then, at the end of January 2018, I managed to catch the severe flu that was knocking down the whole country ─ and at just about the point that my fever started climbing, I realized I could not vape without severe discomfort and coughing ─ so I retired to my living-room couch and left my “mod” on my desk, and didn’t even look at it fornearly two full weeks ─ I could barely even breathe, I sure as hell wasn’t about to try vaping. Which was quite unlike my experience when I suffered a severe flu in 1996 ─ I was couch-bound that time too, for a full three weeks… but I smoked throughout the entire illness, because when you’re a smoker, you can’t just “not smoke,” merely because you’re ill ─ you smoke, no matter what, because going without smoking is simply hell.
If I hadn’t known it already, this experience during the flu in 2018 would have answered any questions I had about the “addictiveness” of plain nicotine ─ it’s simply not addictive, or I could not have gone nearly two full weeks without vaping, without suffering withdrawal.
I was a smoker for 39 years; I know what withdrawal from cigarettes feels like ─ I got well-acquainted with it in my “cold turkey” attempt, and in my two “patch” attempts ─ and nicotine replacement does NOTHING for that withdrawal! And in 2018, as a vaper who had been free of cigarettes for, at that time, about three and a half years, but still used nicotine, I could go completely without vaping, completely without nicotine, for nearly two full weeks, without the slightest withdrawal symptom.
This tells me, loud and clear, that Tobacco Control is a lying bastard on the subject of nicotine, and if anyone, including Dr. Siegel, truly believes that Tobacco Control has been “honest” in its communications, particularly on the subjects of addiction, and nicotine, they are lying to themselves. This is not something that has begun "in the last few years," as Dr. Siegel seems to believe or would have his readers believe: Tobacco Control has been disseminating these lies for decades.
So... 11,000,000 lies, plus 1. And counting.