Tag Archives: New Nicotine Alliance

They – Will – Cause – Death!

Dave Dorn is a trustee of the so-called New Nicotine Alliance (astonishingly, a Registered Charity in the UK). He claims that 80% of smokers who have taken up vaping have successfully switched from smoking because of what he calls ‘the pleasure principle’.

The gold necklace-wearing Dave gave a talk at the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw in 2016. This was a ‘multi-stakeholder event [for those] with an interest in nicotine and its uses.’ The purpose of the conference seems to have been to promote e-cigarettes.

This is part of what he said:

The enjoyment that a smoker can have, the pleasure that a smoker can have from something which at the end of the day is not going to kill them. Something that presents less than 5% of the risk of smoking lit tobacco. The pleasure principle [holding up e-cigarette device] is what makes these things work. And this is why the Tobacco Products Directive in the EU, the FDA Deeming Regulations, all of which are concentrated on Quit! Quit! Quit! will fail. They – will – cause – death! They – will – cause earlier death because they do – not – allow for the pleasure principle. And that – for e-cigs – is the most important thing.

Death or pleasure – what a choice!

This is worth looking at in a little more detail. He also said, warming to his pleasurable theme, that some e-cigarettes taste absolutely gorgeous and give him more enjoyment than smoking did. The absolutely gorgeous taste presumably is not experienced through drinking the e-liquid – because it indeed could cause death if you did this – so presumably he must be referring to the taste of the vapourised e-liquid in his mouth as he sucks it into his lungs.

It is difficult to understand how you can perceive a taste in this way but it seems he has been doing this daily since 2009 instead of smoking. If you observe vapers, they suck at frequent if irregular intervals on their devices and a conservative estimate would be at least one hundred times a day. Now, is Mr Dorn saying that the reason he engages in this unnatural practice is because he gets pleasure from it? Does vaping produce in him a sense of bliss, a kind of ecstatic or orgasmic state so wonderful that he feels compelled to do it a hundred times or more every day for years on end?

In any case, he’s muddled about the idea of the pleasure principle. This theory was first propounded by Sigmund Freud, and he meant it as the instinct to obtain pleasure and avoid pain, particularly in babies and young children who seek immediate gratification of hunger and thirst. As the child matures this is tempered by the reality principle: the need to defer gratification and accept pain, if necessary. So Dorny means, not the pleasure principle, but merely pleasure.

Is pleasure in this context an illusion? And does it matter if it is? One patient said to me: ‘Maybe the pleasure of smoking is an illusion, but it’s a very nice illusion!’ But if smokers and vapers could understand why their perceived pleasure is illusory – and it’s easy enough for them to demonstrate this to themselves – would they be happy to carry on poisoning themselves for years on end?

My publisher, in the course of editing my book Smoking is a Psychological Problem, made the interesting observation that some people claim to enjoy whipping themselves, so who am I to say they’re wrong?

This is an valid point. I would respond that there is nothing wrong with self-flagellation if that is what adults wish to do. It may be harmful – the skin could be broken and infection set in – but the number of people involved is miniscule. I suppose there is a market for whips, but unlike smoking, it is not a multi-billion dollar enterprise resulting in seven million deaths per year worldwide.

Therefore, if vaping is (almost) harmless and vapers are deluded that it’s pleasurable why not just let them pretend to enjoy themselves?

Pleasure is also hyped by the purveyors of other alternative ways of gratifying the need for nicotine, such as with the new product called IQOS. I picked up a partially used pack of these things lying on the ground. It contained two ‘HeatSticks’. They looked like thin short cigarettes including a filter. The pack that I found was designated ‘Mint’ and indeed the things did smell like a combination of mint and tobacco. But it also said on the pack: ‘Tobacco enjoyment with less smell and no ash.’ So that’s all right then.

Well, it’s not all right. It’s very far from all right. The gloss on the IQOS packet ‘Tobacco enjoyment’ is false. Here’s why. There’s nothing pleasant or enjoyable about inhaling tobacco fumes. What happens is that when the nicotine in the fumes reaches the brain, the user is in a drugged state. Shortly thereafter, as the nicotine level starts to fall, he or she suffers (or is on the point of suffering) mildly unpleasant symptoms of drug withdrawal. It is the relief of these symptoms by the next dose of nicotine that provides the illusion of transient pleasure. Let poor Dave Dorn try a flavoured but nicotine-free vape liquid to experience his absolutely gorgeous taste and see for how long he wants to keep doing it.

Apart from that, take one hundred sucks of an e-cigarette or an IQOS gadget every day for twenty years and then let’s see what affect it has on your health.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Vaping for Fun

Smoking used to have a certain image. When Sherlock Holmes had a difficult crime problem to solve he would smoke shag tobacco in his pipe and think it through. He also used cocaine and morphine to escape from ‘the dull routine of existence’ as he put it. The creator of Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, died in 1930, long before the dangers of smoking were recognised.

I used to smoke a pipe myself – a Petersen pipe – because I thought it looked impressive. And in the 1970s for a time I worked for Dr Peter Abbott. He discovered in the Sudan in 1956 the cause of a terrible disorder called Madura foot – a fungus infection. He used to smoke a pipe and grew his own tobacco in his garden, though he recognised he was addicted to it.

I remember a patient, a professional photographer, who used in his own publicity a photo of himself with his arms folded over his Hasselblad camera on a tripod. He was a smoker and said smoking was part of his image. Nonetheless, he agreed it wouldn’t look very appealing if his promotional material showed him with a cigarette in his mouth.

Times have moved on and the only image that smoking now has is an undesirable one. The prevalence of smoking is going down in most developed countries but the number of e-cigarette users is increasing: there are nearly three million in the UK.

And not just in the UK. The other day in my local neighbourhood in Setagaya-ku in Tokyo I noticed a young man walking along the road holding in one hand a metallic tube-like object. At irregular though frequent intervals he would discretely put one end of it into his mouth – and suck. This would be followed by the expulsion of a brief puff of mist into the air. Then I realised he was a ‘vaper’ (vapeur if you’re French) and what he was doing was inhaling into his lungs nicotine-laden fumes generated by his e-cigarette.

Most people who vape do it as an alternative to poisoning themselves with tobacco smoke – which they previously did as a way of getting their doses of nicotine. Vaping is said to be much safer than smoking. But do you really want to vape long term – or even for the rest of your life? Who knows what will happen if you do this many times a day, every day for ten or twenty years?

Why do people start vaping? In most cases it’s a continuation of the reason they started smoking cigarettes – which they did typically as teenagers because their friends or parents smoked. They then found they couldn’t stop, or thought they couldn’t. Now e-cigs have come along. Wonderful! They can continue to ‘enjoy’ the ‘benefits’ of nicotine without (most of) the risks of inhaling smoke from smouldering chopped up tobacco leaves.

What smokers didn’t realise when they started smoking was that they were buying into an image designed to appeal to young people who were fooled into believing it would make them appear grown up, sophisticated and confident. Big Tobacco has spent billions in advertising its false promises and has made vastly more billions from the unfortunate people who have been lured into believing them and as a result have continued – in spite of knowing the dangers – to buy pack after pack after pack because they became hooked on the nicotine in the cigarettes.

And now, if you’ve taken to vaping as an alternative to cigarettes or just for the supposed fun of it, you can continue your addiction without (most of) the dangers of smoking. But you’re still addicted! And what’s so wonderful about vaping anyway? Do you see a vision of heaven or experience an orgasmic sensation every time you take a suck?

What vaping does for you is – nothing. Nothing at all – except give temporary relief of the need to take another dose of nicotine. And now, just as with cigarettes, many vapers find they can’t stop so they say they don’t want to stop. The very suggestion has them up in arms. Hence organisations, just like Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco), such as the New Nicotine Alliance in the UK (where, incredibly, it’s a registered charity) and similar ones in Australia and Sweden, have sprung up to defend the right of their members to enjoy being addicted to e-cigarettes.

But what if the alleged enjoyment provided by nicotine were an illusion?

Text © Gabriel Symonds

E-cigarettes and the Charity Commission

mh-ecig-mainmmarlboroa_01Not everyone is happy about e-cigarettes – and it’s not just I. The BBC online news (5 November 2016) carries a report that Dr Phil Banfied, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Welsh council, wants to see proof of the safety of e-cigarettes.

To emphasize the need for caution with these new drug (nicotine) delivery devices, he reminded the audience at a BMA Welsh council meeting that thalidomide, which was originally thought to be safe, turned out to be a disaster. Predictably, he was attacked for this comment by a representative of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) who dismissed it as ‘alarmist nonsense’. They would say that, wouldn’t they.

Dr Banfield is quite right. E-cigarettes have only been in use for a few years; who knows what will happen after, say, twenty years of regular use? It’s clear they’re not only being promoted as a smoking cessation aid – a dubious concept anyway – but as an alternative (even if supposedly safer) way of absorbing nicotine into your body, and many people may do this long-term. E-cigarettes are a huge unregulated public health experiment.

ECITA is not the only body poised ready to counter any move to restrict or raise concerns over e-cigarette use. There’s also the so-called New Nicotine Alliance (NNA), surprisingly a registered UK charity, that ‘is concerned with improving public health, through a greater understanding of “new” (risk-reduced) nicotine products and their uses.’

Anyone can campaign for anything they like, within reason, but is it right and proper for the NNA to be a registered charity? I wrote to the Charity Commissioners about this. They told me that the NNA was registered with the following objects:

To preserve and protect the health of the public against the harmful effects of cigarette smoking by:

  • Advancing the education of the public and organizations about ways to reduce harms associated with cigarette smoking
  • Advancing the education of the public and organizations about the effects of nicotine and its use
  • Promoting scientific research into the safer uses of nicotine
  • Providing information to the public and organizations about the risks of smoking and safer ways of using nicotine

All this advancing, promoting and providing is just a smoke-screen. Why do we need a lay organisation for these purposes? There are already campaigns run by the NHS and its affiliate Public Health England that propagate such information; their views are backed up by reports from the UK Royal College of Physicians, the National Organisation for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and other official bodies.

The main concern of the NNA seems to be to oppose legislation intended to regulate e-cigarettes which might restrict their availability or ban vaping in public places. In other words, what they are promoting, if indirectly, is drug addiction – the drug, of course, being nicotine.

I wrote again to the Charity Commissioners and said this:

I understand that the Commission accepted the application of the New Nicotine Alliance because its stated objects meet your criteria.

I am sorry to trouble you further but there is one question you have not yet answered.

It is clear from the New Nicotine Alliance’s website that their main aim is not just the advancement of health (by unconventional means); it is to promote drug (nicotine) addiction through e-cigarettes.

Will you please tell me whether it is a proper use the  Commission’s powers to grant charitable status to an organization whose main object is to promote drug addiction.

They replied thus:

In the context of charity law, education is interpreted very broadly and it should allow those being educated to make up their own minds on controversial issues…I can find no evidence to suggest that…the charity actively promotes drug use.

Well, that’s a bit surprising. What is vaping if not drug (nicotine) use? The labelling of e-cigarette liquid, under laws which came into effect in May 2016, must now make this explicit: ‘This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance’.

The NNA claims to have contributed to ‘what is known as “tobacco harm reduction” – a term used…to describe ways of reducing harm from cigarette smoking without necessarily giving up the use of nicotine.’ So they want to have their cake and eat it.

It all comes back to the important question raised by Dr Banfield: are e-cigarettes safe?

Apart from this, there are other concerns about the increasing use of these new nicotine delivery devices:

  • It is likely there will be an uptake of e-cigarettes among people, especially children and adolescents, who would not otherwise use them.
  • E-cigarettes contain substances such as formaldehyde, which can cause cancer, as well as various flavourings and other substances which may be harmful to health.
  • If e-cigarettes are used to reduce smoking, as opposed to quitting, there may be no overall benefit for health.
  • One study shows that dual use (smoking and vaping) was above 80% after 12 months follow-up.
  • There is no evidence which clearly shows that e-cigarettes are as effective as established cigarette quitting aids.

While medical organisations and governments grapple with these issues, may I modestly suggest the following proposal:

What about the completely safe alternative to smoking of not using nicotine at all, in any form?

Text © Gabriel Symonds