Friday, May 20, 2011

A Strange Day: Tobacco Executive Tells Public that Smoking is Addictive: Prominent Anti-Smoking Advocate Tells Public that Smoking is Not Addictive

This is a day I thought would never come. Very strange indeed.

Today, a tobacco company executive is telling the public that smoking is addictive.

On the very same day, a prominent anti-smoking advocate is telling the public that smoking is not addictive.

In an ironic twist - as you would expect the exact opposite - the tobacco companies are now telling the public the truth about the addictive nature of smoking while at least some anti-smoking advocates are deceiving the public about smoking's addictive nature.

In a press release, anti-smoking advocate Professor John Banzhaf of the George Washington University School of Law tells the public that smoking is a choice, not an addiction, as smokers can easily switch to non-tobacco nicotine replacement products: "although there is evidence that for many people smoking involves addiction, that addiction is to the drug nicotine, not to the act of smoking itself, which is a behavior. Because those who desire to quit smoking (e.g., for a medical procedure) can ingest nicotine from nicotine gum, nicotine patches, nicotine spray, nicotine inhalers, and e-cigarettes, their decision to ingest it by smoking rather than by using nicotine replacement products is a choice. Since it is a choice rather than an addiction, disease, or health status, it seems more legally justified to restrict access to medical care to smokers than to the obese."

In contrast, Michael E. Szymanczyk, Altria's chairman and chief executive officer, yesterday told the public that smoking is indeed addictive. According to an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "The top executive of tobacco giant Altria Group Inc. told shareholders Thursday that smoking is addictive and can be very difficult to quit."

The Rest of the Story

It is difficult to believe, but this is a true story. I'm not making this stuff up. You're not reading The Onion. You're reading the Rest of the Story.

And the rest of the story is that while the CEO of Altria acknowledged that smoking is an addiction and can be very difficult to quit, the former head of Action on Smoking and Health told the American people the exact opposite: that smoking is not an addiction, but is a choice, and that smokers can easily quit by switching to a nicotine-containing alternative, since it is only the nicotine that is addictive, not smoking.

Adding to the irony, Professor Banzhaf is one of the key architects of litigation against the tobacco companies in the first place - litigation that relies upon the argument that smokers are not responsible for their injuries from smoking because they were addicted to smoking and could not easily quit or use an alternative, safer nicotine-containing product.

The anti-smoking advocates seem to change the science on whether smoking is a choice or an addiction based on the issue of the day. If the issue is a lawsuit, then smoking is an addiction. If the issue is refusing to hire smokers, then smoking is a choice. If the issue is the FDA regulating nicotine, then smoking is an addiction. If the issue is denying medical care to smokers, then smoking suddenly becomes a choice again.

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