The question of NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) and the concept of “harm reduction” comes up quite often on the KillTheCan.org forums and on the main site. Typically, the question gets raised by someone trying to throw numbers, studies and “proof” that nicotine and smokeless tobacco really isn’t that bad for you. As we all know that numbers can be made to tell any story I normally don’t bother engaging.
However recently, we received a comment here on the blog from Steve who asked the question rather intelligently and genuinely seemed to be interested in a response… or at least I took it that way.
So… here’s the question and my response:
“Just curious…why are you so opposed to nicotine-laced alternatives? It’s the same as nicotine patches/gum, only more effective since the user, in theory, gets to retain the habit. Only the new habit (e-cigs included) contain far fewer harmful chemicals and carcinogens. In fact, the ecig liquid contains just a handful of ingredients (water, veggie glycol and glycerin, nicotine). None of which or overly alarming.
Over the past 5+ decades, we’ve seen how difficult and ineffective the “cold turkey” strategy is. It carries a very high rate of relapse. With alternatives, you retain the option to quit while reducing the harm. I can’t even fathom why anyone would oppose that.
And I can’t stand “the children” argument. Nicotine alternatives require the customer to be 18 or older, just like tobacco. It’s not any more difficult or easy to obtain than tobacco. It actually helps young people. If a teen is foolish enough to pursue a nicotine product (a decision he/she will likely make regardless of the availability of alternatives), at least the alt. product will not obliterate his/her health. And the “road to tobacco” counter argument to that is foolish. The arrow points the other way.
Just food for thought. Not intending to offend anyone or bash their thoughts.”
“I appreciate the question Steve. I’ll try an answer is succinctly.
I’m opposed to nicotine-lace alternative for one reason – they contain nicotine. I am/was addicted to nicotine. Therefore, if I was going to quit, I needed to get rid of that thing I was addicted to… nicotine.
The fact that these products, “contain far fewer harmful chemicals and carcinogens” (which I don’t necessarily agree with but won’t bother debating right now) is irrelevant. I was addicted to a substance and I got rid of it. Period.
As for how difficult cold turkey is… I don’t dispute that and never will. It’s hell.
As for relapse rates… I don’t dispute that either. However we’ve developed a plan at KillTheCan.org that when followed virtually eliminates relapse. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it successful? Absolutely.
My argument against “harm reduction” has always been this: I’d rather not be addicted to something than be addicted. I’ve also used the analogy: If someone shoots me in the head with a 9mm vs shooting me in the head with a 357 Magnum, the harm has been “reduced”… the outcome unfortunately is the same.
As for “the children” argument, I’m not quite sure what you’re saying, but I THINK I agree with you there as well. Children will get alternative products just as easily as they’ll get tobacco. I’m happy to discuss further.”
You can find the original discussion on the Elicit Herbal Chew Review.
What do you think about NRT and “harm reduction”? Am I off base?