Monday, 27 December 2010

An addict rambles.

These new patches are much better than the old ones.
(Picture donated anonymously by Email)

Once, years ago, I tried the nicotine patches. It was when I still believed in addiction, before the smoking ban finally proved to me that I wasn't actually addicted at all. I just like smoking. Now I visit the shops and leave my tobacco at home. It isn't vital to have it with me all the time, just as I don't carry a bottle of whisky or a portable espresso machine. It's not an addiction. Never was.

The patches were donated by a friend's mother who gave up on them and went back to smoking. She's now over 70, still active and still smoking. So I had some freebies, I thought I'd give them a go.

They brought me out in a nasty rash so I binned them.

However, tobacco prices kept going up, Man with a Van was still a rare beast and while the ban was still a few years in the future, it was becoming more difficult to find somewhere to smoke. Virgin trains were already entirely non-smoking and GNER had just one yellow-stained carriage for all the smokers to cram into. So I decided to try the gum instead.

It tasted like otter crap steeped in badger urine and formed into shape by forcing it through a fox's anus. There were fruit flavoured versions, which tasted the same except starting with a fruit bat instead of an otter. I persisted because I thought I was addicted to nicotine, therefore as long as I was getting nicotine, I wouldn't need to smoke. You know what the gum did to my perceived nicotine addiction?

It made it worse. Far, far worse. Faced with a long train journey on a non-smoking train, instead of settling back with a book or nodding off for the duration, I was chewing this stuff like a cow that's found a bale of marijuana the other cows haven't noticed yet. My jaw muscles developed a degree of definition that would make a bodybuilder weep. Unfortunately the rest of me would make a bodybuilder laugh, so let's just stick with admiring my Chuck Norris jaw muscles for the moment.

I was getting permanent nicotine intake. No more cigarette-break followed by declining nicotine levels. No more 'Oh well, can't smoke here, have to wait'. No, in went the gum and nom nom nom.

It didn't stop me smoking. At all. It morphed from a stop-smoking aid into 'I can haz nicotine and nobody can see', an additional nicotine intake I was convinced I somehow had to have on hour-long bus journeys and five-hour train journeys which had never previously bothered me. Eventually I remembered that I used to be untroubled by these smokeless periods and wondered what had happened to make the gum so vital. Could I still manage without it? I left the gum at home.

There was an instant improvement. The first bus ride made it clear that not only was the gum not helping, it was making life worse. Not being allowed to smoke tobacco for a few hours was no big deal. The vile gum was some form of self-flagellation, an admission of addiction, a witch's confession. It was a lie. I didn't need a constant infusion of nicotine through the medium of combined animal faeces in chewable form. It wasn't about the nicotine. It was all about the smoke.

The gum went straight in the bin. That addiction vanished in a flash. I have had no cravings on buses and trains, nor in airport waiting rooms, on planes, anywhere. I have not been in the slightest bit tempted to revisit the faecal-flavoured gum no matter how long I am stuck in a non-smoking environment. Because it's not about nicotine at all.

Nicotine does have effects in the brain, that's undeniable. The effects have been measured. Nicotine addiction - that's deniable, and I deny it. I am an Addiction Denier. A Nicotine Heretic. That's a new one. I expect some silly sod will be along to denounce me any minute.

If smoking was simple nicotine addiction, patches and gum would work. They don't work. If it was nicotine addiction, the gum would have accelerated my addiction to the point where I could not go without a chew, no matter how horrible it tasted, whenever I was restricted from actual smoking. I would have had to wean myself off that gum gradually. I didn't. I stopped and went back to not-smoking when there was nowhere to smoke, in just one day.

No cold turkey. No anxiousness. No mood effects. A whole section of my nicotine intake vanished with no effect whatsoever. Therefore it wasn't an addiction. So why was I still smoking?

It turned out to be very simple. I smoke because I like it. If I can't smoke, I don't. Smoking is, for me, an enjoyable thing. A relaxing thing. Not some frantic gotta-get-the-fix hippie frenzy. No, I'll make a coffee or pour a whisky, take my time rolling the cigarette, relax and enjoy both together. I no longer take my tobacco everywhere I go, as I did when I believed I was addicted. There's no point taking it when I go shopping. I no longer stop off at the cafe or the pub while out because smoking and shivering is not an enjoyable combination. I can't smoke inside any of the places I'll visit while out, so there is no point carrying the tobacco. When I get home I am not gibbering for a smoke. I'll deal with the shopping first, make a coffee and then take a seat and roll up a cigarette.

I know, for the antismoker, the very act of lighting the cigarete means they can scream 'Addiction' and use the line 'If you say you can stop, why haven't you?' to which I reply 'Because I enjoy it' and their response? 'Addict!'. There's no way out of a circular argument like that.

Try it on people who have jobs they hate. They don't go to work every day because they enjoy it. They hate doing it, but they do it every day anyway. Call them 'addicts' and see what you get. If you're not addicted, why haven't you given up that job and found another? Or gone self-employed? Or taken a course in your own time to get a qualification in something you enjoy, then change jobs? Why persist with something you hate doing, then call smokers addicts for persisting with something they enjoy doing? Pick the logic out of that one.

At my last wage-slave employment there was a porter who didn't like the job. He took evening classes at college, learned the basics of scientific lab work and moved up to a laboratory assistant's job. He wasn't addicted to misery and he did something about it. It can be done.

Okay, I'm saying smoking is not an addiction. Why then do so many find it so hard to stop? I know many who have stopped, and the most successful at stopping were those who were fed up with it and didn't want to do it any more. They didn't need patches and gum. They just stopped.

Most of those who fail to quit are those who still enjoy smoking. They aren't trying to stop because they're bored with it. They are trying to stop to save money, or because they believe it's killing them, or because they want a job somewhere that doesn't employ smokers, or because they have been ordered to stop by doctors, or because they have been harassed and bullied into it by ASH and their MP lackeys, or a host of other reasons except one. They are not actually trying to stop because they don't want to smoke any more. That is the only reason missing and it's the only one that works.

There is another set. Those who don't want to smoke any more but persist because they believe they are addicted. Psychosomatic effects can be very powerful. People have worried themselves into real physical symptoms where there is no disease, so setting up a purely psychological withdrawal scenario is easy.

So, convince a smoker they are addicted and you have control over them. They cannot stop smoking, even if they really want to, without your expensive help. Tell them the symptoms they will experience and they will experience exactly those symptoms. Tell them it's all about the nicotine and in these few cases, the patches and gum will work.

These are people who wanted to stop but believed they would suffer withdrawal. Given a patch or gum which they believe will stop them feeling withdrawal, they stop smoking - but in some cases they might be 'addicted' to the NRT. They are not, but they believe they are and that's good enough for the Pharmers. Hey, it worked for the tobacco industry, it'll work for them too.

Let's take something wildly bizarre. Suppose your hobby was puppy-strangling. You find nothing more relaxing than a cup of tea, a box of puppies and a garotte. Now, that hobby is unlikely to be socially acceptable. You wouldn't be surprised to find pubs and restaurants putting up signs saying 'no puppy-strangling' and if you went outside for a quick strangle, you'd expect passers-by to be disgusted with you. Eventually you decide that the social ostracisation is too much and you're going to stop strangling puppies. You try to wean yourself off it with kittens and budgies and mice but it's just not the same. Finally you stop, but not because you wanted to.

Then one day, you pass a pet shop next to a garotte shop and think 'One won't hurt'.

Are you addicted to puppy-strangling just because you enjoy it? Or are you slipping back because your reasons for stopping were the wrong ones? You didn't stop because you were fed up of strangling puppies. You stopped because society pressured you into stopping. They didn't approve of you and you went along with their demands. You didn't even notice the resentment building within yourself.

Without exception, those I know who have sucessfully stopped smoking and stayed off the baccy were those who just stopped. Just like that. They didn't want to do it any more. I know an ex pipe-smoker who picked up his pipe one day and said 'Nah, can't be arsed' and he never picked it up again. Several cigarette smokers who said 'It's not fun any more' and stopped. No patches, no gum, no books, no courses. No withdrawal symptoms, no mood swings, no cravings. They stopped because they wanted to.

The same is true of puppy-stranglers. Those who get bored with it just stop. Those pressured into stopping always relapse. Now that puppies can only be bought in packs of 20, come tattooed with warnings such as 'If you get your fingers caught, don't come crying to us' or 'Protect children: make sure it's furry and goes 'woof' before you strangle it', now they are all grey and sold under the counter, they are something surreptitious and naughty. You'll buy a box of puppies, take them home and sneak them out to the Strangly-Drinky in the shed.

Why? Because it was fun before and now that it's banned it's twice as much fun. The only one who can stop you smoking or puppy-strangling is you. Big Pharma won't help and don't want to.

Big Pharma gain from the addiction story. If you believe it's nicotine addiction you won't be able to stop even if you're not enjoying smoking any more. You'll keep buying patches and gum and keep falling back to smoking because you think it's a nicotine addiction. It's not but as long as you believe it is, you'll be suckered into buying NRT that does not and cannot work. Alternatively, you will fulfil Big Pharma's dream and become addicted to their product instead.

ASH gain from the addiction story because if you don't need their patronising smug version of 'help' then they are out of a job. The government gain from the addiction story because if you keep doing something long after you've become bored with it, you're still paying duty on it. Tobacco companies gain because... well duh.

Everyone involved gains from telling you you're addicted to nicotine. Whether they are selling you the stuff or trying to stop you smoking it, their continued existence depends on you believing absolutely that you are addicted. That's why their drones are trained to scream 'addict' at you.

I've read Allen Carr's 'Easyway' book. It has a success rate over 50% but ASH don't like it. Why? Because Carr didn't donate money to ASH and he was wiping out their addict base. Again, Carr's book talks of addiction but you'll find in there a passage where he tried to start smoking again to see if his method would work on a relapsed smoker. He couldn't start again. He didn't enjoy it.

Well, we're not supposed to be enjoying it. We're supposed to be slavishly addicted to it. One cigarette causes addiction, isn't that the mantra? So how come Carr couldn't restart on the grounds of not enjoying it?

Carr's success rate was down to his method being voluntary. People went to him because they wanted to stop. The NHS success rate is paltry because they push people into stopping. They are forcing people to stop doing something they don't want to stop doing.

The NHS are now giving away free iPods loaded with music to patients, to help them recover. I don't know what that costs but I bet it's in the range of hundreds per patient. For smokers, they are giving away patches that don't work. For less than half the cost of those iPods they could give away starter sets of Electrofag which feels like smoking.

No, it won't work for everyone but the antismokers miss the point. It is not about the nicotine. It is not an addiction. Decaffeinated coffee sells well because coffee drinking is relaxing. The caffeine is a buzz but it's not the principal aspect of the thing. Drinking the coffee is the main thing.

Likewise with smoking. The nicotine is the buzz, but the smoking is the enjoyable part. Electrofag is close to real smoking, without the ash and the nasty parts of the smoke. It doesn't have the heat and the full flavour but that could come with development.

We have Electrofag which emulates smoking to the point where you can sit back and blow smoke rings. Except it's not smoke, it's steam. No particulates, no potential carcinogens, no 700 (or whatever the made up number is now) chemicals, just nicotine, flavouring and steam. Sometimes just flavouring and steam. Loads of smokers have switched partially or entirely to Electrofag and what do the antismokers do?

They try to ban it.

If they were concerned about health they would be delighted. If they believed in nicotine addiction they'd be delighted. At a stroke, they could get many 'addicts' onto tobacco's methadone for far less cost than giving people pretty tunes to cure their ills. Instead of their Shamanistic belief in modern chanting to cure disease they could provide something that actually works.

They are not concerned about health. They are concerned about money. If 50% of smokers went over to Electrofag tomorrow, that massive duty take would also be cut by 50%. If all smokers went over to half Electrofag and half tobacco, again there would be a 50% loss in tax and we are talking in billions here.

As long as smokers believe they are addicted to nicotine, the Rash Patch and the Poo Chew will carry on being passed around by an NHS who knows it doesn't work and who, like their Pharma masters, don't want it to.

Smokers could all stop tomorrow. We really could, if we could get this 'addiction' nonsense out of everyone's head. That would ruin the Treasury. Even if every smoker decided not to smoke for one week, the effect would be huge.

We have to believe we are addicted because that is what keeps the whole gravy train rolling, from the tobacco companies through ASH and the Pharmers, through all those smoking cessation officers and departments, to the Treasury. There are a lot of people and a lot of money in this and it all hinges on smokers believing they are nicotine addicts. You know, if you added them all up, I wouldn't be surprised to find that the antismoking industry employs more people than there are smokers.

How to convince smokers they are not addicted? It won't be easy. They hear it from their doctors and their MPs and from 'experts' who tell them there are 700 chemicals in a cigarette without pointing out that if there are 700 chemicals in one cigarette, there can't be very much of any of them. They will place those as having higher authority than the bloke in the pub.

If the NHS really wanted to help people stop, they would play down the addiction story. They would tell you that stopping is just a matter of not doing it any more. Instead they hype it up until you believe you will pass through the very fires of Hell after stubbing out your last one. That approach almost guarantees the smoker will fail. Those feelings of nervousness and twitchiness and irritability are not caused by lack of nicotine. They are your mind's response to being convinced that you are about to suffer terribly from something you can't quite identify. The whole smoking-cessation industry is designed to fail. It is designed to keep its staff employed and to do that it needs smokers to keep smoking.

If ASH were really interested in stopping people smoking, they would be promoting Electrofag as a non-smoke alternative. They would be telling pubs and clube that Electrofag doesn't break the ban because then, smokers would return to the pubs in lousy weather and use Electrofag. Even if they don't stop tobacco use, they'll cut down. The pubs would be lively again too. Instead, ASH promote the patches and gum.

If I ever stop smoking, I am not likely to go back to the pub. For me, the two go together so if I gave up smoking I'd most likely lose interest in the pub part of the experience too. As it is, those two halves have been forcibly separated so I've replaced the pub half with smoky-drinky evenings. Because I'm addicted? Most of those who say that have never smoked, you know.

I say it's because I enjoy it. Smoking outside a pub is not enjoyable so I won't do it. If I don't have time or I am in a place where it's not allowed, or where it wouldn't be enjoyable, I don't smoke. No fidgeting, no irritability, no panic attacks. If smoking itself ceases to be enjoyable, then I will stop.

This one has rambled somewhat out of control. I suppose the bottom line is that if you smoke, don't want to any more and can't stop because you believe you will go through hell, you have been lied to. By all sides, because all sides profit from the addiction story.

The only ones who don't are the smokers.


Bill Sticker said...

Over 20 years ago I stopped smoking without nicotine patches or gum. The transition wasn't that bad, and one of the side benefits has been a highly nuanced sense of smell.

Now I don't mind smokers, think the second hand smoke is a lot of hype and hysteria from a bunch of holier than thou health wussies, and didn't stop smoking because of their exhortations.

I gave up because I'd stopped enjoying it. Funny that.

Happy new year Leggy. Don't let the bastards etcetera.

The Hickory Wind said...

I gave up about six years ago because I was sick of feeling terrible in the morning. I wouldn't say it was easy, but I did it and never wanted to go back.

I think I might take up puppy-strangling, though. Just as a hobby you understand. Releases tension, gives you a purpose in life and horrifies the sort of people you like to annoy. I can already imagine dedicated blogs and forums discussing the varying texture of the hyoid among breeds and the way the nap of the fur at the neckline affects the purchase of the fingers.

Leg-iron said...

I'm starting to wonder about something.

It seems to me that those who gave up because they didn't like it any more (such as Bill S and Cingram above) are generally tolerant of smokers. The thought seems to be 'You carry on if you like, I'm not interested in it any more'.

I wonder if those born-again antismokers who shriek 'I smoked for twenty years, I stopped, so now you have to' come from the ranks of those who were pressured into quitting. They act as though they have been deprived of something and now want everyone else deprived of it too.

Those who one day say 'Nah, it's not fun any more' and stop, have no such feeling of loss and therefore no need to get angry about it.

I used to like vodka but one day decided I didn't like it any more. I never touch it now. I have no axe to grind with vodka drinkers, it's just not a drink I choose. Have all the vodka you like, I don't want any.

Suppose that while I was still enjoying vodka, I had been told I couldn't have it ever again? Wouldn't I now be insanely jealous of those who were still allowed to have it?

There's a study there for someone who can be bothered. Is there a link between someone's reason for stopping smoking and their subsequent attitude to smokers?

Anonymous said...

Damn good post, Leg Iron.

It was not being able to smoke in airports and on planes that made me realise that smoking is not an addiction. Once I enter the airport, cigarettes leave my mind (funnily enough, so does the thought of drinking in their bars). The same on the plane. At first, I thought that having alcohol would awaken the 'craving' for a fag, but it didn't. When we arrive, I am not troubled until I leave the airport, at which point I light up - BECAUSE I WANT TO!

On the same topic, a year or so ago, I would drink a lot of coffee (as well as tea). For no apparent reason (or perhaps because we had just returned from a holiday in Majorca where we were drinking 'proper' coffee), I just went off nescafe and I have not had more that a couple of cups of coffee at home since.

Very strange how the mind works.

Anonymous said...


View from the Solent said...

A quotation from Orwell

"There's no prude like a reformed whore."

Sums it up succinctly.

Dick Puddlecote said...

That's a little bit of genius right there, LI.

And precisely why anti-smokers are entirely the wrong kind of people to be in charge of getting smokers to quit.

I'd exhort MPs to read it, but they aren't even capable of basic comprehension most of the time, let alone something important like this.

wassname said...

LI, this post deliciously sums up the situation. I stopped smoking many years ago on December 22nd of all times. Why? I have no idea. I just did. It certainly surprised the people who hung tobacco treats on the Xmas trees for me. I had to apologise for my maverick action. If the discrimination against my friends and relatives doesn't stop soon, I may well start again just to join the "smokers pride" march. Seemed to work for 2 percent of the population, why not 20 plus percent? I won't be apologising.

Pete said...

smokers pride - I like that.

I'll start making the banners tomorrow.

Ross Matheson said...

[Interesting that the captcha for this comment was "proban"!:-)]

I was sad when moved to their new portal, but am glad that they kept the old site live:

And from the evidence archive there:

Most relevant:-!!

Especially therein, in my humble opinion: ( =!})

Failing of the Disease Model of Addiction
"Especially during the last four decades, 'addiction' in this extreme pejorative meaning has been portrayed alternatively as a disease or a sin, and has been subject to social and moral sanctions. In an open society of free individuals such a coercion cannot be justified unless the condition is defined precisely by the simultaneous attributes of severe psychotoxicity, severe withdrawal symptoms, and recurrence tied to the loss of self-control and individual volition. Still, these attributes are open-ended, and an explicit metric of severity at which they may trigger social objection has not been clarified. As a consequence, 'addiction' allegations are left to elicit emotional, subjective, and value-laden responses ready to be exploited. A clamorous example is the claim by US officials that cigarette smoking is equal to the abuse of heroin or cocaine. An unequivocal definition of 'addiction' may restore some sense of proportion to official normative intervention."
Analysis by Dr. Gio Batta Gori

Just a bump, a reminder, & etc!

Ross Matheson

Anonymous said...

Something else I've noticed is the the most vehement antis are often ex-HEAVY smokers: Paul "I was once a chain-smoker" Flynn and that Health git from Wales who reckons he once smoked 100 a day always spring to mind here.

They must really, really enjoy smoking to gorge themselves on those stupid amounts of nicotine. Then they get sick - which is hardly surprising - and force themselves to give up, then spend what's left of their miserable, embittered lives lectering the rest of us - the ones who have some control over our habits and consequently don't get sick - on the 'dangers' of smoking.

All that moaning about the 'stink' of fag smoke. I bet they find the aroma of a freshly lit cig absolutely gorgeous - and that's why they want it banned everywhere and sod everyone else. They're weak people, afraid of their own appetites and jealous of those who aren't.

Season's Greetings, Leg-iron. Thanks for all the excellent blogging - this is one of the best.


Robert the Biker said...

I am visualising the sort of patch* you would get to stop strangling puppies - a mental image which will not soon leave me. Thank you.

*About three inches across and furry

Anonymous said...

I gave up for a couple of years. I was smoking 20-24/day. That was too much for me.

However, after a year or so I realized that I just didn't like being an "ex-smoker". There were too many connotations about it, let alone the other smug ex-smokers and never-smokers, who'd feel free to pass snide comments about the continuing smokers (who included some of my best friends and relations).

So, I decided to take it back up again at a level which I was comfortable with: 6-8 cigarettes per day.

You know what? I have no problem sticking with this. It's my new level. I'm comfortable with it. I reckon that I'd have to live to be 150, before it would intefere with my longevity, so all of you hall monitors can go fuck yourselves.

ScienceGuy said...

I wonder if you have had a read through this article on smoking lies - clearly not just a British problem.

Robert said...

This is a very interesting text. As a scientist devoted to tobacco dependence, I would be pleased if leg-Iron could give me authorization to put a french translation of it on my site

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