President Obama signed legislation today placing tobacco under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration. Well, finally!. Nicotine is a drug; a very powerful drug. Nicotine should be regulated, as much as heroine or cocaine or methamphetimines.
Actually, regulation is not the correct word, or correct response to nicotine. Nicotine has an addiction rate of around 98%. That means that 98 out of any 100 people who sample inhaling tobacco smoke will become physically addicted. We are not talking about psychological addiction – whatever that is. We are talking about physical withdrawal that can only be allieviated by continued use of the product.
A physical addiction has nothing to do with mental weakness or will power. Physical addiction has nothing to do with moral values or religious dictates. A physical addiction is an agonizing reaction to withdrawal from a powerful drug. Nicotine has the physical addictive properties of opiates. Opiates include heroine, codiene, morphine, and a variety of prescription pain killers. We mighty note here that drug addiction did not exist in humanity until around the 1500’s when the Chinese stumbled on a means of smoking opium. Most of us have images of opium dens – those dark back rooms representing the deepest sloth of man.
We do not want to downplay the addiction of alcohol – but the reality is that alcohol has about a 7% physical addiction rate. Only one in 36 alcoholics seek help, and only one of those 36 find recovery. Alcoholism is a serious health issue across the globe.
Nicotine is a particularly nasty addiction. Nicotine has a delayed reaction, meaning the harmful affects are not immediate and thus there is little aparent motivation to face withdrawal. For some the fear of withdrawal drives a powerful denial of any harmful affects. The reality is that tobacco will most likely take up to twenty years off a normal life – and the final ten years of the life are greatly diminished in quality.
Cocaine was first synthesized into a powder in 1850 – and for about forty years was hearlded as a miracle drug. With growing public awarness of the harms of cocaine addiction laws were passed outlawing the use of cocaine. There are no regulations – just flat out criminal prosecution for possession of the smallest amount of cocaine. Cocaine can destroy a life much faster than nicotine – but nicotine has a much higher rate of addiction – thus more lives are destroyed by tobacco than by cocaine.
Modern medicine has come a long way in recognizing the benefits and harm of nicotine. We note benefits because there is a statistical correlation between nicotine and depression relief. With this knowledge, medical researchers are looking at better anti-depressants in an effort to thwart the harmful use of nicotine.
The Europeans invaded America and brought with them smallpox. The Native Americans sent tobacco home to Europe as payment. Smallpox has been effectively erradicated. Nicotine is just beginning to lose its horid grip on humanity. And it is about time.