Re: The Stupidest Thing I've Read All Week

1

Why not just get rid of nicotine in cigarettes altogether?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 10:43 PM
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Because nicotine is a stimulant.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 10:44 PM
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3

Wait, O'Douls is cool now? DAMMIT. I'm so behind the times.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 10:44 PM
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4

Finally, someone has the courage to propose banning the sale of cigarettes to those under the age of 18.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 10:48 PM
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Why not just get rid of nicotine in cigarettes altogether?

It worked so well when they tried it with booze...


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 10:51 PM
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5: The best booze is full of nicotine.

I've wondered before: why do we not have soda with nicotine in it? It's not inherently unhealthy, right? It has some of the virtues of caffeine, plus it's addictive. Seems like a win-win for the beverage companies.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 10:57 PM
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I think nicotine gives you heart problems at the very least. Not sure though.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 10:58 PM
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8

It seems to be unclear if it inherently causes health problems.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 11:02 PM
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9

O'Doul's is a gateway drug.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 11:02 PM
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10

Nicotine is, in fact, poison.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 11:02 PM
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11

Oh, well, I suppose I defer to teobanned.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 11:03 PM
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12

All bow before the authority of Wikipedia.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 11:04 PM
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13

I think caffeine causes more health problems, or at least more obviously causes health problems. Also, my dim recollection from biopsych classes I once took is that caffeine acts in all sorts of complicated ways in the brain, but nicotine just directly stimulates a class of acetycholine receptors (called, aptly enough, nicotinic), and doesn't do much else. So it's relatively clean and comprehensible, as mind-altering substances go. (Wikipedia seems to support my vague memories.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 11:06 PM
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As a vegetarian, I smoke one cigarette for every mention of bacon on the internet, because I'm polite. I don't want to get ahead. It's like Harrison Bergeron, but with Camel Lights.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 11:34 PM
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You know, I was wondering why Becks jumped to the conclusion that this was a liberal thing...after all, conservatives are stupid, too. But that was becuase I had read a different excerpt from this story earlier. When I finally read the paragraph with all the complicated policy details....ahh, this is a liberal's idea! Nuts.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 11:47 PM
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10. So is ethanol. So is caffeine. So is dihydrogen monoxide. So is oxygen. What's your point?


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:00 AM
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16, meet 11 at The Point, midnight sharp.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:03 AM
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My God. Oxygen is a gateway drug... the gateway drug! Something must be done.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:04 AM
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Nicotine gum is widely available in the UK. Marketed at smokers as an aid to quitting.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:33 AM
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20

Yes, we have that here in the colonies, too.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:52 AM
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21

I'd support a two cigarette strategy if the nicotine free cigarette contained THC.


Posted by: zwichenzug | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:11 AM
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22

Sometimes I feel like if I stopped breathing, I'd die.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:19 AM
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23

does anyone actually chew nicotine gum who isn't giving up smoking?


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:46 AM
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24

This passage is the best:

"The age to purchase addictive cigarettes might be set at 21. Better yet, sales of addictive cigarettes could be restricted to individuals born 19 or more years before the two-cigarette strategy was put into effect. Under this approach, 18-year-olds who start smoking non-addictive cigarettes would be prohibited from switching to addictive cigarettes even after they turned 21. In addition, a higher federal excise tax on addictive cigarettes than on non-addictive cigarettes would create a financial incentive for smokers of all ages, including scofflaw adolescents, to select non-addictive cigarettes."

Bonus points for including the phrase "scofflaw adolescents."

But there's nothing here that's especially "liberal," except as "liberal" is identified with "insanely bureaucratic." Without knowing anything else about David Adams, I just wrote this column off as something that belongs on his blog, not in the NYT or as tobacco company agitprop/PR.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:03 AM
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24--
sure. most of the people who chew it are not really giving up smoking.

they may be trying to, of course.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:03 AM
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26

Perhaps they could smoke candy cigarettes instead.


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:26 AM
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27

But there's nothing here that's especially "liberal," except as "liberal" is identified with "insanely bureaucratic."

I think it's more like "liberal" = "public health".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:32 AM
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28

Isn't the hard part about quitting smoking getting rid of the psychological addiction, not the nicotine addiction? And isn't the cancer-causing part mostly not the nicotine? Dumb, dumb, dumb idea. I'm sure the tobacco companies like it; they can even market it as safe!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:32 AM
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29

28--
"the hard part about quitting smoking getting rid of the psychological addiction, not the nicotine addiction"

i believe the rats say otherwise.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:34 AM
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30

I think it's more like "liberal" = "public health".

And, liberal = "legislate people into doing things that are good for them", i.e. helmet and seatbelt laws.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:36 AM
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Why wouldn't rats have a psychological addiction? You've still got a pavlovian reward thing going, even if the nicotine has flushed from the system in 2 weeks.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:36 AM
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Isn't the hard part about quitting smoking getting rid of the psychological addiction, not the nicotine addiction?

I think you're right and wrong -- the physical nicotine withdrawal is no big thing, an annoying week or so. But the psychological addiction is still nicotine related -- you're not hankering after having something in your mouth, or the taste of smoke, you're hankering after the physical and psychological sensations associated with the nicotine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:37 AM
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I feel like I come off as a progressive busybody on this blog, but I have to say that this suggestion doesn't strike me as stupid at all. It may not be effective, but it is hardly unreasonable. Certainly the government is entitled to closely regulate the content of addictive drugs. In fact, one of the advantages of legalizing the currently illegal drugs would be increased quality control.

I swear, I'm a civil libertarian. I give money to the ACLU. Most of my activism recently has been about torture. Really.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:42 AM
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In fact, one of the advantages of legalizing the currently illegal drugs would be increased quality control.

Yeah! Party on, Wayne!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:43 AM
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30: The rule is that (US) liberal paternalism is about public health, mostly things that will get you killed. Conservative paternalism is about public morality, porn and things that will send you to hell. There are very few pure civil libertarians in the US.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:44 AM
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36

i had thought the point of 28 was:
it is not so much the nicotine in cigarettes that is addictive, as it is the entire repertoire of behavioral patterns that surround their consumption: holding little paper tubes in your fingers, carrying matches or lighters, taking a break from work, being ostracized by co-workers, feeling part of an in-group, etc.

and this would be relevant because, were it true, then youths who smoked nicotine-free cigarettes would still be subjected to the majority of the addicting influences, sc. the behavioral repertoire mentioned above.

but that takes "psychological" in a fairly thick sense: sociological, behavioral, cultural, etc.

the reason that rats are relevant is because they do not enjoy the same complexity and density of behavioral repertoire in their addiction. they don't choose brands to identify with, or roll up little rat-sized boxes in the short sleeves of their tee-shirts, and so on.

maybe some part of their addiction is "psychological" rather than physical, but not in a sense relevant to the critique i thought you were launching in 28.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:45 AM
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37

Conservative paternalism is about public morality, porn and things that will send you to hell.

Everybody knows that pre marital sex leads to depression and suicide. And let's not forget the raping sprees I go on every time I see porn.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:47 AM
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38

33: Paternalism would be okay if it looked like it would work. But I think Becks has it right: teenagers aren't going to want to smoke the Junior label of cigarettes, but now we've just told the cigarette companies that it's okay to market their safe, non-addictive cigarettes to 18-year-olds. Or younger, you know. Because they're not addictive.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:48 AM
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39

kid, 28 is me, and the later comment is heebie. And you describe the sort of behavior I was thinking of, like the guy I used to work with, aged 65, who had quit twenty years earlier but reported having a strong craving for cigarettes just with coffee. Maybe it's just that the receptors in his brain are permanently fried,


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:51 AM
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40

Conservative paternalism is about public morality, porn and things that will send you to hell.

Although there are also liberal reasons to be anti-porn. Just for the record.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:51 AM
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38: I thought of that too, but on the other hand, the cigarette companies already think it's OK to market cigarettes to 18-year-olds, and younger, you know.

My objection is that smoking cigarettes is a lousy way to stop yourself from smoking cigarettes.


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:54 AM
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39--
oh sure.

and next you're going to expect me to distinguish between commenters?

i prefer rats, thank you very much. we just tatoo little numbers on them, and then make sure they comment in numerical order.

number 3674, what was that?
no! you just had your cigarette break twenty minutes ago!
back to your cubicle!


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:58 AM
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43

41: Right, but the rest of us don't endorse saying 'it's not addictive!'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:00 AM
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44

Anyway, this is the stupidest idea ever. If the packaging is easily distinguishable, and it would really have to be, no one will be caught dead smoking the nicotineless cigarettes.

Also, the tobacco companies probably wouldn't touch the idea with a ten foot pole. Selling anything that's kind of like a cigarette but purports to be healthy is just asking for yet another round of massive class-action lawsuits ten years down the road.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:05 AM
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45

44--

but how much could they make in that ten years?
and how much have they paid out in class-action damages?

given the billions they have taken in, and the piddling amounts they have paid out (since every headline-making award eventually gets pared down to small change), it might well be worth their while to do it for a while, even knowing that some "frivolous" lawsuit may arise.

or they could do it the bush way:
retroactive immunity from suit! yay!


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:08 AM
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There's no incentive for them beacuse it doesn't open up any new markets. Now, if you could sell the nicotine-free cigarettes to 12-year-olds, we might have something...


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:11 AM
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Paternalism would be okay if it looked like it would work.

Ack, no.

I'm all for mandated truth in advertising and such. Just have the little box on the side of the cigarettes read "of course it gives you cancer, it's fucking smoke", and leave people be.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:24 AM
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48

47

Of course the classic objection against paternalism, since the time of Mill, is that it doesn't work. Crackpot schemes like this (and I now agree after thinking about it for a second that it is really stupid) definitely reinforce Mill's view.

Of course, the easiest public health measure we could take to reduce smoking is not paternalist at all: We could stop subsidizing tobacco farmers.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:42 AM
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"Social Engineering" is what this was sometimes called.

Trouble is, it sometimes works, but I think the aversion to it in USan national culture cuts across almost all political and social divides, and may be a defining national characteristic.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:04 AM
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Dumb, dumb, dumb idea. I'm sure the tobacco companies like it; they can even market it as safe!

Exactly. The fantasy of a less addictive cigarette wrapped in a pretense of public health wrapped in a burrito is what I took away from the column. Which is why it struck me less as "liberal" than as "astroturf."


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:16 AM
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51

This doesn't seem dumb to me at all. They wouldn't be marketed as Baby's First Smokes, they'd be wrapped up in the same branding as light cigarettes, which have been a huge success. "Make flavor a hobby, not a habit" -- you know, that kind of bullshit. I think this could actually appeal to a lot of young smokers who pick up the habit as an affectation rather than as a deliberate way to get intoxicated and/or self-destruct.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:17 AM
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On the O'Doul's thing: there's a beverage company in Lebanon that made a fortune by selling Bacardi Breezers, only without the alcohol, in Saudi & elsewhere in the gulf.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:31 AM
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I'm all for mandated truth in advertising and such. Just have the little box on the side of the cigarettes read "of course it gives you cancer, it's fucking smoke", and leave people be.

I've got helpy-chalky's back on the meddling liberalism front here; as ghastly as the but think of the children!! squealing is, we don't let people do a lot of things that I think are perfectly well within the bounds of the "it's your funeral" rules if we think they're not old enough (or otherwise incapable of making informed decisions). Similarly, we don't let people do things with horrid secondary effects, even if they want to, which is why you can't just start a hog waste lagoon in your backyard. This is an incredibly dumb idea, but just saying, "People will work it out" is a bad principle if you're not a libertarian.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:33 AM
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...just saying, "People will work it out" is a bad principle if you're not a libertarian.

Although I'm enough of a libertarian that I think there's nothing worth doing about the problem of kids smoking-qua-kids smoking.

Tangentially, I seem to recall that the original anti-smoking ads were so brutal compared to the degree of media sophistication at the time (the mid-60s?) that the cigarette companies were happy to give up television advertising in exchange for the government taking them off the air.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:36 AM
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44 gets it right, obviously.

And let's not forget the raping sprees I go on

How could we forget? That was quite a day.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:38 AM
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Wow, Scudder, that's wild. Meanwhile, in Utah, kids drive across the border to buy real beer...


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:43 AM
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On the other hand, my friend points out that Christian heavy metal is a good approximation to non-alcoholic Muslim Zima. All of the fun, none of the sin!


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:56 AM
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We could stop subsidizing tobacco farmers.

Actually, we couldn't, since that already happened three years ago.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:06 AM
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Except we didn't. IIRC A bill was introduced to "buy out" the subsidies to the tune of a billion dollars, but it was altered so that the farmers could get the billion dollars and still continue to get subsidies.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 11:38 AM
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51: I think this could actually appeal to a lot of young smokers who pick up the habit as an affectation rather than as a deliberate way to get intoxicated and/or self-destruct.

Well, no one deliberately self-destructs. (At when they do, they usually choose something quicker than something that makes you slightly less employable and takes 30 years to kill you.) Teens start doing stuff like smoking to get intoxicated (to get a buzz, but I'm just sticking with your term), to rebel against their parents, and to fit in with a certain group of friends.

But I'm pretty sure safe cigarettes wouldn't give you a buzz, would they? And if they're really safe and non-addictive, using them wouldn't be transgressive, so they aren't that rebellious. Take away those two reasons, and the third reason would probably be much less important too.

The difference between strong and weak (regular cigarettes vs. light) is much bigger and more important than the difference between weak and practically nothing (light vs. these hypothetical nicotine-free cigarettes).


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:18 PM
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The nicotine has a large role in making the smoking ritual addictive.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:34 PM
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62

didn't anyone else ever smoke non-tobacco? cloves were the only think i really enjoyed (i mean, i enjoyed the non-tobacco element) of that kind of thing. i never really understood enjoying nicotine. smoking green tea was actually somewhat interesting.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:09 PM
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didn't anyone else ever smoke non-tobacco?

Every chance I get, yoyo.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:14 PM
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