This cynical comment was made to me by Christopher Proctor, chief scientist of British American Tobacco, the company whose poisonous products, legally on sale everywhere, are responsible for about 9,600 deaths every year in the UK. (They have 10% of the cigarette market and 96,000 people die annually from smoking-related diseases in the UK – latest figures from ASH.)
There’s gold in them thar smoking cessation! Now every man and his dog are jumping onto the bandwagon.
Let me explain. The latest trick, would you believe it, is called Harmless Cigarette™. Just what we’ve been waiting for! It’s promoted as ‘A natural way to quit smoking’. (What’s an unnatural way then?)
The idea seems to be that whenever you have an urge to smoke you suck on one of these thingummies – they look like cigarettes – which are described as a ‘therapeutic quit smoking aid’ (the word ‘therapeutic’ is redundant) and that this helps ‘satisfy smoking behaviors and hand to mouth gestures associated with smoking.’ The key to how they allegedly work is given in the description of one variety, thus:
Harmless Cigarette™ Oxygen variant is both odorless and tasteless and does not contain any ingredients.
It does not contain any ingredients! And it’s only $19.95 a pack!
Though there may be a ‘hand to mouth’ muscle memory component of nicotine addiction, and it is possible these gadgets may satisfy that aspect, nonetheless mention of ‘smoking behaviours’ implies that smoking is a psychological problem. Indeed it is. I wrote a book with this title in 2016 – see under the ‘Buy now’ tab.
The psychological nature of smoking was recognised as long ago as 1964. The following is from the US Surgeon General’s Report, Smoking and Health, published in that year.
The overwhelming evidence points to the conclusion that smoking – its beginning, habituation, and occasional discontinuation – is to a large extent psychologically and socially determined.
The psychological aspect of smoking is the key to successful quitting. This means that if smokers can be helped to understand why they smoke in spite of knowing the dangers, and why it seems so hard to stop – they can then stop smoking straightaway and with very little difficulty.
Text © Gabriel Symonds