Wednesday, December 26, 2007

You snus, you (maybe) -don't- lose...

While I have not been formally diagnosed, I suspect I have COPD. Got a cold this autumn with significant bronchial effects... and the bronchial effects have never quite gone away. Frustrating, since at my absolute worst I've smoked -maybe- 3/4 of a pack a day... but there it is. So it's more than obvious that it's time to quit smoking.

This should be easy. I have always resisted acknowledging the fact that I smoke at all. And for several years it was truly only 'social smoking'... I could go for months without a cigarette without noticing it. But over the last five or six years it's definitely progressed to true addiction. That said, I've always been neurotic about not smoking around any non-smokers (most especially my kids!!!), never smoking indoors or in any enclosed area, washing and brushing my teeth afterwards... So this seems like it shouldn't be as tough as it is for some people, right?

Mmm. Nice theory. Too bad it doesn't work in practice. :(

So there are all these NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) products out, right? So I should use them, right?

Have you seen the PRICES of these things??? Makes me think no one is serious about wanting to help people stop smoking, because otherwise the NRTs wouldn't be four times as expensive as smoking. (Ok, they'd probably be cheaper for the several-packs-a-day folks, but they are NOT for me.) (And -how- does one smoke two or three packs a day anyway? I can't figure out where anyone would have enough -time- to smoke that much. But that's a different subject.)

In addition, NRT products are designed to deliver a constant low dose of nicotine. When you smoke, you get a much stronger hit. That's the other reason why NRTs have pretty poor success rates: they don't actually replace the experience you get with the original delivery system.

But then I ran across information about smokeless tobacco. Specifically, Swedish snus. Turns out, they're discreet, don't require spitting, don't have all the 'lower-class' connotations that "chew" has here. The Swedes have used them for years... and DRAMATICALLY reduced deaths from just about all smoking-related mortality. It appears that the risks and problems caused by nicotine itself is no more than the risk for any other stimulant (caffeine, for example). And that when you don't burn it, tobacco has perhaps some small risk factors, but not significantly more than just about anything else in this day and age... and again, dramatically less risk than smoking. Seems that almost all the awful parts of smoking are caused by the inhaled smoke. If you can take that out, but limit the nicotine withdrawal, you can get many, many, many more people to quit smoking than you do with other methods. (And yes, the ideal situation is that you quit completely. But hello... it's called an addiction for a -reason-. If it were easy to just quit, wouldn't most of us have done that by now?) And the snus deliver nicotine in a method much more similar to the pattern of delivery provided by a cigarette, which makes them more effective at controlling cravings.

There is a version of snus being test marketed in my area right now, that is not catching on at all, which makes me wonder if they'll pull it off the market.

And one of the reasons it's not catching on? In the US, you can't say that it's much less harmful than cigarettes... EVEN THOUGH IT IS!

On the tin of snus that I have here with me right now, it says "Warning: This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes." Doesn't that make you think "well, I might as well smoke?" If that was all the data I had, I'd sure think that. But fortunately, I have the Internet. Yay Internet!

And the data I've found says something very different than that which is implied by that warning. If you want to wade through it yourself, take a look at this report by the UK Royal College of Physicians: http://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/pubs/contents/4fc74817-64c5-4105-951e-38239b09c5db.pdf as well as data found here: http://www.tobaccoharmreduction.org/index.htm. Or, for a shorter overview, try this NYT article: http://www.sallysatelmd.com/html/a-nytimes9UA.html

Is it totally safe? No, probably not. Is it notably, significantly, dramatically more safe than smoking cigarettes? Absolutely -- especially when viewed in relative terms. But heaven forbid we should be able to say this in this country. Oh, wait... there are large companies making a lot of money on NRT products, aren't there? Large companies that tend to spend a lot of political money? Gee, that couldn't have anything to do with effectively suppressing this data, could it? (And interestingly, the RCP data comes from a country where snus are banned. Cigarettes aren't banned. Other forms of chewing tobacco that are not nearly as safe are not banned. But snus are banned. Hmm...)

Anyway, right now the snus are available to me here, and are indeed helping me quit - I've smoked 3 cigarettes today, and only have one left, and don't intend to buy any more when this is done. (I'll make no promises, but that's my intention.)

But I wonder how many people could be helped by knowing this, and who are turned off of these new smokeless products, because we're so busy pushing abstinence that we don't provide accurate data about safer alternatives.

1 comment:

chainsnuser said...

Great article, Suzanne! Nothing left to say. I'd like to invite you to our international snus-forum:
www.snuson.com.

Cheers,
Dirk