Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Obsession with Nicotine as Sole Component of Smoking Addiction is Evident in Current Journal Issue; Ties with Big Pharma are Blinding Our Eyes

This month's issue of the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research is devoted to articles on the study of nicotine receptors in mice and rats.

The articles in the issue include:
  • Nicotinic ACh Receptors in the Hippocampus: Role in Excitability and Plasticity
  • Preclinical Evidence That Activation of Mesolimbic Alpha 6 Subunit Containing Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors Supports Nicotine Addiction Phenotype 
  • Nicotinic Regulation of Energy Homeostasis 
  • From Men to Mice: CHRNA5/CHRNA3, Smoking Behavior and Disease Impact of Tobacco Regulation on Animal Research: New Perspectives and Opportunities 
  • Pharmacological Differences Between Rat Frontal Cortex and Hippocampus in the Nicotinic Modulation of Noradrenaline Release Implicate Distinct Receptor Subtypes 
  • Mice Lacking the β4 Subunit of the Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Show Memory Deficits, Altered Anxiety- and Depression-Like Behavior, and Diminished Nicotine-Induced Analgesia
  • Bupropion and its Main Metabolite Reverse Nicotine Chronic Tolerance in the Mouse 
The issue also includes a summary review article of the significance of this research for the development of new smoking cessation drugs, which features as its example of the implications of this line of research the development of the nicotine vaccine.

The Rest of the Story

This issue of the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research is a fine demonstration of the tobacco control  movement's preoccupation with nicotine as the sole component of smoking addiction and its obsession with treating smoking cessation at the molecular and cellular level.

However, smoking is a complex behavior that occurs not at the molecular level, but at the level of individual and the environment. Smoking addiction is far more than simply an addiction to nicotine. The behavioral, physical, and social stimuli associated with the smoking behavior play an important role. There is a body of research which demonstrates that the smoking behavior itself - even with nicotine - is self-reinforcing to some extent. De-nicotinized cigarettes have been shown to reduce symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

The tobacco control movement's obsession with nicotine as the sole factor in smoking addiction has contributed to its missing a golden opportunity to save lives: the development of electronic cigarettes. These devices address not only the pharmacologic aspect of nicotine addiction, but the behavioral, physical, and social aspects as well. This is why preliminary clinical trials have shown that electronic cigarettes have great promise in helping smokers to reduce the amount they smoke or quit smoking altogether.

The tobacco control movement's pre-occupation with smoking cessation drugs that target nicotine receptors is not a coincidence. The movement is heavily funded by Big Pharma and has followed the money, rather than the best interests of the nation's smokers in finding ways to help them.

The Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT), the producer of the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, is a prime example. The SRNT is funded by Big Pharma, and specifically, by pharmaceutical companies that manufacture smoking cessation drugs. For example, two of the major sponsors of the 2012 SRNT conference, which apparently provide financial support for SRNT that helps fund the annual conference, are Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. Pfizer, of course, is the manufacturer of varenicline (Chantix) and GlaxoSmithKline makes Zyban. Both of these are smoking cessation drugs.

The 2011 annual meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco was supported by three different pharmaceutical companies: GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer.

On its web site, the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco acknowledges financial support from three different pharmaceutical companies: GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer.

These pharmaceutical sponsorships create an unavoidable bias that precludes a truly objective consideration of any scientific issue that may have significant implications for the profitability of smoking cessation drugs, and therefore, for their manufacturers, who are SRNT sponsors. Thus, it is small surprise that SRNT's journal has devoted an issue to nicotine receptors in mice and rats.

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