26
Apr

Snus – Another alternative to Smoking

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In my last post I gave a brief introduction to the wonderful world of e-smoking, the claytons cigarette of the smoking world. “The cigarette you smoke when not having a smoke”. Whatever did happen to Claytons anyway? I remember the ads on TV and in magazines along with of all things, Horlicks – a malted drink and nothing to do with fake alcoholic beverages (note: I saw Horlicks in the supermarket recently. It’s somehow comforting to know that it is sill available, although I’m not exactly sure why). Not that electronic cigarettes have the same message as Claytons because electronic cigarettes are predominately used to provide the substance that smokers crave – nicotine, where as Claytons did not contain any of  that other societal evil; alcohol. Why Claytons and Horlicks have an association in my mind, as if they belong together is a mystery. Another mystery is why I have these memories at all and why they’re firmly implanted in my brain. It sure goes to show how heavily imprinted we become by media campaigns.

And so it is with tobacco, that evilest of all weeds. Millions of dollars has been invested to train us with the belief that everything associated with tobacco is extremely bad and something to avoid at all costs. We’re also told with authority that if you happen to be addicted to the stuff and smoke, then it is in your best interest to quit – “Every cigarette is doing you damage” as the commercial drums into our skulls with a repetitive snaring of our subconscious rhythm and every cigarette is doing us damage. It may even possibly kill us. Statistics demand that we heed the message, because 50 percent of smokers will die from the damage of cigarette smoke. Of course along with the quit message we are re-assured that there is help. Big Pharma have just the product up there sleeves – we can quit with the aid of NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy)  or we’re encouraged to visit our GP who can then prescribe the correct medication if need be, which presumably equates to finding ourselves at the corner Chemist filling out a script for Champix/Chantix. But what the QUIT campaigns neglect to inform us of is that NRT is not a therapy at all but just a substitute addiction, a grab for cash from addicted smokers. Have you ever noticed that NRT is at price point similar to that of tobacco? Why is that? If Big Pharma and Government were so interested in our health then it stands to reason that nicotine replacement therapy ought to be significantly cheaper than cigarettes but they are not. It’s akin to pricing Methadone at price point just a little less than that of Heroin – it sounds ridiculous but that is what smokers are asked to participate in .

What Big Pharma also neglects to mention is the fact that for the most part, NRT is an ineffective treatment for addiction. At best it is the equivalent of a methadone program for nicotine addicts and at worst, it is taking smokers for ride while they entertain the notion of quitting. Quitting any addiction is about abstaining from the substance one is addicted to and not replacing the witch for the bitch. If you are serious about quitting as espoused by the QUIT campaign, it is purely a matter of stopping and then sticking to that decision no matter what. I’m not trying to trivialise the struggle by saying that it is simply a fly-by process that is easily attained, because it is not an easy decision to make and stick to. But if the goal is to quit smoking and nicotine, the most effective way is to just to stop and white knuckle it through the turmoil which may be for an extended period or may be short lived. For some it is easy but for others it’ll be a daily struggle for an X amount of time. I myself have never ever gone past the contemplative stage and is easy for me to lambast NRT and Big Pharma over quitting with a piece of Snus (rhymes with goose) stuffed in my upper lip but the truth is, NRT or other so called smoking addiction treatments are a sham.

It is somewhat ambiguous and disingenuous when our minds are infected with the notion that addiction is a medical problem which ought to be treated with medicine and in the case of nicotine addiction, the medicine to treat the addiction is very same substance of addiction -  nicotine. It’s a strange irony that nicotine products manufactured by Big Pharma are deemed tolerable and acceptable, however any nicotine product from Big Tobacco is automatically considered evil when the truth is that Big Tobacco is in a better position to actually develop a product that smokers would want to use and if they were smart they could develop a safer alternative. In fact the product is already available but it wasn’t developed by the Philip Morris’s or British American Tobacco’s of the world but by a company called Ruyan and if it could be evolved to it’s full potential, it will certainly provide a product that could easily be adopted by even the most hardcore or diehard smoker . The opposition inherent to the Tobacco industry makes any technological advancement in nicotine delivery prohibitive when the idea that nicotine addiction is in itself evil. Big Tobacco would most certainly have their bottom lines first and foremost in their minds so any product they’d wish to market would be highly addictive and thus something outrageous to the Anti lobby. But lets not hastily throw the baby out with the bath water when it is worth considering that the leading cause of preventable disease and death is caused by smoking and not nicotine itself. With the abysmal failure of NRT as a successful treatment of nicotine addiction, looking further afield from the offerings of Big Pharma begins to look attractive.

If there are doubts about the ineffectiveness of people quitting smoking using NRT, one need look no further than the self evident. If NRT were an effective treatment would we still see people smoking? If they were an effective replacement then it is a reasonable supposition to see far greater numbers of smokers jumping ship and using patches, gum or lozenges rather than sucking on cigarettes – because they’d be a far better nicotine delivery system than cigarette smoke . But that is not what we see and apart from those who are thinking about quitting who then use these products to reduce withdrawal symptoms while they ponder the cost benefit analysis of quitting or those that use NRT when it is prohibitive to smoke, they fail to deliver. They ought to be marketed as a harm minimisation tool rather than a quitting aid because lets face it, they don’t work! They may reduce the amount of cigarettes one smokes but as a replacement they fall way short in doing what the label proclaims it to be and as for a therapy we can most assuredly dismiss such outrageous propaganda as merely a softening ploy to ease the ridiculous cost we’re dishing out to Big Pharma to use the drug we’re addicted to.

Besides we are assuming that nicotine is the only thing that the cigarette smoker is addicted to, when there are thousands of other chemicals in cigarette smoke that could be equally addicting or a multitude of chemicals acting together that has the right combination to satisfy. If it were just nicotine then we’d expect to see a lot of smokers who use NRT to least switch addictions to just nicotine after adjusting to the slower delivery but either the NRT products themselves are too stingy with nicotine or cigarette smoke has other compounds that make it a far superior product to satisfy the craving the smoker seeks. The problem is that nicotine itself has been demonised when it is safer in magnitudes of order to cigarette smoke, which makes it difficult to introduce a product with at least a comparable nicotine delivery system to cigarettes to adequately gauge if a faster and higher nicotine product would be effective in reducing cigarette smoking. Possibly clinical trials have occurred where this indeed the case although I know of none, it has been the demonization of nicotine that has thwarted any advancement in harm reduction as a viable alternative when the philosophy from the Anti-Tobacco lobby is Quit or Die. I really don’t understand this message at all when cigarettes are still sold, why is too much to allow a product that is safer although just as addicting when the real killer is still on retailers shelves? It makes absolutely no sense.

It’ll be a far better use of resources to hammer us with the message that quitting is easy and you can do it cold turkey than it is offering some panacea to tobacco addiction through NRT when clearly it is not or by extolling the Quit or Die message as the be all and end all of harm reduction and well being. Smokers want a way to stop smoking in the most painless way possible and if quitting is entirely the goal in mind then it should be encouraged but if there is resistance to quitting then at present we are left with the message of Quit or Die! So if we fail to quit we are resigned to die with our cigarettes in hand. It’s a strategy that is far from effective because it is a dichotomy that is counter to what quitting is about – the health and well being of the individual smoker. It seems that whole basis of this message is to drum it into the psyche of smokers in the hope that eventually it’ll sway the judgement of the smoker in favour of quitting. If addiction were such a simple process as bashing people like the god-botherers neighbourhood door knocking campaigns then we’d see far less smokers and we’d also see churches filled to the brim, but we see neither. The QUIT of Die message is perhaps more effective in brainwashing people from actually picking up cigarette smoking than it is in persuading smokers to quit. Fear campaigns aren’t really going to be an effective intervention in reforming existing smokers. Although media campaigns and mind manipulation are standard fare in every day life, when it comes to persuading addiction to leave its host it is perhaps not as easy a task as normal mind control because addiction works on far baser level than that of the higher cognition centres of emotion that seem to be the play ground of advertisers. Quit or Die! If you can’t or won’t quit then you die. How marvellous, but is it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Are there really only two options smokers have – Quit or Die? Therein lies the problem with the Quit or Die message – there is no middle ground when the option of harm minimisation is effectively taken away from the discussion, it has conveniently placed aside in favour of politicking. What of those smokers who realise that smoking is harmful but have no motivation to quit or who have tried but remain unsuccessful? What if those smokers would happily switch from smoking if a satisfying replacement, which was less harmful than cigarette smoking was available? Perhaps these people are a minority but shouldn’t they at least be offered a substitute with minimal intervention from the Anti camp?

With the introduction of electronic cigarettes into the market we have at least one other option to curtail the inhalation of cigarette smoke even though quitting nicotine is perhaps not on the agenda. Certainly “no nic” juice is readily available for those that wish to be free from addiction, but  electronic cigarettes can also be used as a replacement to smoking tobacco by inhaling nicotine in a glycerine vapour. A health risk is still present, however the risks remain unknown but it is reasonable to assume from preliminary studies that electronic cigarettes are safer than cigarette smoking by orders of magnitude. Shouldn’t this product then be embraced rather than shunned?

Not according to The Therapeutic Goods Administration – they in their infinite wisdom have deemed the electronic cigarette as a therapeutic good. According to this bureaucracy, e-cigs are not dissimilar to NRT – a medical device no less. Absolute baloney! The whole argument rests upon some website that dared suggest that one could stop smoking using electronic cigarettes. Notwithstanding anecdotal evidence that people have quit smoking and then progressed to zero nicotine vapour using electronic cigarettes, it is still a device that is used by many if not the majority as an alternative to smoking – more akin to smoking a cigarette than it is a patch. It looks like a cigarette and produces vapour like a cigarette and feels like a cigarette when inhaling but it is not a cigarette. How can it be even entertained as a therapeutic good? It delivers a recreational drug and not medicine for crying out loud! Big Pharma believes nicotine is a medicinal drug to treat nicotine addiction and if that were really the case then cigarettes themselves are medicine. Preposterous!

Given that the efficacy and safety of electronic cigarettes is yet to be fully determined with scientific testing, they do seem to at least be seen favourably by a few researchers and academics, while others in academia suggest electronic cigarettes are little more than placebos. However, studies have been conducted on the safety and efficacy of another smoking alternative, although little is known about this product outside of Scandinavia – that product is Snus.

 

snus

Swedish Snus has been used for 2 or 3 centuries in Sweden and to a lesser extent in Norway. What is Snus? Snus is a moist oral tobacco that has been milled into a fine powder and then pasteurised by either a fermentation or steaming process to eliminate micro organisms. Salt and flavours are added, traditionally with bergamot which gives a citrus taste and newer flavours such as mint, berry, cinnamon and many others to inspire the taste buds of tobacco lovers of all persuasions. Some Swedish recipes are as old as snus has been consumed. Ettan being a registered trademark since 1822 and probably the oldest commercially available snus brand today.

The process of steam pasteurisation is considered to produce a product that is between 90 to 99% safer than cigarette smoking, primarily due to the fact that nothing is inhaled, thus having no impact on the respiratory system and also because of the low count of tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNA) present, which are the main carcinogenic compounds found in tobacco. The fermentation process does not produce the same low TSNA count due to micro organisms not entirely killed in the process, which then begin producing nitrosamines as a by product as the tobacco ages. The shelf life is considerably less because of this, although it is most certainly a better proposition to that of smoking tobacco, which has the highest TSNA count by far. Swedish Snus is the product to purchase if one’s goal is harm minimisation while enjoying tobacco relatively guilt free. It is not without risk but is substantially less harmful than smoking. Snus does elevate the risk of pancreatic cancer, it doubles the risk from of those that do not use snus but it is half the risk of those that smoke. Nicotine is a drug and as such it poses health risks but if one is already addicted to tobacco smoking and who is unwilling to quit, then snus may offer a safer and satisfying way to deliver nicotine and tobacco alkaloids without the dangers of inhaling tobacco particulates.

Snus can either be purchased as loose or in portions. Portions are packaged in tea bag type pouches which are placed between the lip and gum, usually under the upper lip. Loose is not pre packaged in pouches and is moulded into a cylinder with either a pris tool or by hand, also placed in the same area of the mouth. Both are a spit less moist oral tobacco, although if using loose there is the possibility that it may become dislodged and make a mess in your mouth, so is probably not the type a novice should choose to use. Unlike chewing tobacco, which does require constant spitting, Snus produces little saliva because of its placement in the upper lip, near the front of the mouth making tobacco juices less likely to run, which may be a little nasty tasting. Because the upper front has less saliva ducts it generally eliminates the need to spit out the tobacco juice which is an irritant to the stomach and digestive system if swallowed.

Because smokeless tobacco was harshly treated in the 1990s, it was taken off the Australian and European markets. Quite wrongly, it was considered a health risk and carcinogenic due to studies done on Indian oral tobacco products, which do cause cancer and are entirely a different kettle of fish than that of Swedish Snus.

Unfortunately we in Australia are at the mercy of the federal government who in their infinite wisdom have laid a taxation regime on par with regular tobacco which wouldn’t be so bad if snus wasn’t 50% water. Because it is a moist tobacco we are being taxed $160 AU for water. Our taxation system is disproportionate to the harmfulness scale and for that reason alone, snus which is considerably less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, ought to be taxed at a far less rate than cigarette tobacco. Our taxes make it a prohibitive product to most smokers in Australia and it is an outrage and shame given that the leading cause of preventable death is tobacco smoke. However there is a fair chance that if one orders small amounts, in the range of 5 cans or less then they can get through customs without having to pay duties which offers a very cheap alternative to smoking with the health benefits to boot.

Category : Rants | Blog
1
Mar

E-cigarette – An alternative to Smoking

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E-Cig

The start of week 4 in my switch from smoking cigarettes to the use of an electronic cigarette and I haven’t had an analog (regular cigarette) since last Monday so it is my first full week without smoking. Since I received my Joye510 from Heaven Gifts http://www.heaven-gifts.com/index.php?gOo=goods_details.dwt&goodsid=200&productname= I’ve been trying to retrain my brain to receive it’s nicotine fix from a personal vaporiser rather than combusting tobacco. The advantage of using a personal vaporiser or electronic cigarette, e-cig for short, is that rather than burning tobacco and inhaling the 4000 chemicals that are included in the combustion process I’m instead inhaling a vapour that consists of maybe 10 or 12 chemicals. Nothing is being burnt  in an e-cig so I’m essentially inhaling a mist of what is called E-juice or E-liquid. Electronic cigarettes consist of a battery, atomiser and cartridge (a place where the juice goes into). A small wick is joined to the atomiser to allow the juice to travel from the cartridge into the atomiser, where the liquid is heated producing the mist we inhale. Pretty simple and easy to use.

It is considered a safer alternative to smoking but has yet to be fully tested and vapers the world over are essentially  guinea pigs, myself included. Although it may seem foolish to risk using an untested device, it does seem that inhaling PG instead of Tar, Carbon Monoxide, Ammonia and the 3900 other chemicals is logically a safer proposition. Considering Propylene Glycol is a common additive to many foods and medicines, it seems reasonable that it is safe. Whether inhaling it continuously is safe is yet to be determined but the quantities we are talking about is anywhere between 1mL to 4mL a day. The only unknown is the flavourings but that is where the superiority of using  a PV comes into play. Rather than being stuck with a few brands of tobacco, which more or less, all taste the same, we now have multiple flavours to whet our palettes with. From tobacco to fruity mixes, sweet or bitter, the array of flavours to choose from is more than enough to keep everyone happy.

E-juice is a mixture of predominately Propylene Glycol, Nicotine and food flavourings. My growing collection of paraphernalia associated with my  e-cig is pictured above. The bottles in the picture are the E-juice and you can see my Joye510 Personal Vaporiser (PV) in the case and on top of the Oksmokey box as well.

The Oksmokey bottles with orange lids actually came this morning and include some Extra-High and Ultra-High nicotine strengths which translate to 30mg/mL and 38mg/mL juice respectively. The other bottles are HG (Heaven Gifts) 24mg juice. I was having trouble getting satisfaction from 24mg so I thought a few 38mg juice bottles wouldn’t go astray. I was right, the 38mg juice does satisfy my cravings for a longer period of time and works well when I’m at work when I can’t just whip out the 510 for a hit when I want, which is often 🙂

In my quest to refrain from smoking tobacco I’ve also imported some Swedish Snus and have been using portions of the stuff tucked under my lip – since Saturday anyway, when I got it.  Apparently it is considered 98% safer than smoking and in Sweden where it is manufactured, they have the lowest rates of cancer in the European Union. Smokers in Sweden have substituted combustion in favour of snus and as a result Sweden is a healthier place.

The only downside to all this is, because we live in Nanny state, I have to import all my smoking alternatives. Although electronic cigarettes or at least e-juice is illegal to sell in Australia, I have to rely on the tedious process of ordering and having to wait for shipments to arrive. Customs appear to allow it through for personal use but there is no telling how long it is before there is an outright ban where none of the components and liquid nicotine will be available. Snus is legal to import but there are heavy taxes if customs decide to inspect the parcel. Snus should be available to buy at Australian retailers like it is in America but we decided to make it illegal to seel back in the 90’s for some absurd reason.

It would a great loss to the health of smokers who have made the switch from combustion to vaping all because some do gooders believe it is in our best interests to either quit or die from smoking. Electronic cigarettes offer another alternative – vaping for nicotine. A better way for those unable or unwilling to quit. NRT is an option but is essentially no different to what an electronic cigarette achieves, except we may very well continue to vape instead of aiming to be rid of nicotine altogether. Maybe that infuriates the anti-smoking lobby but vaping does no harm to anyone except maybe the user – so it seems a little over the top to not make it available when cigarettes are and they are known to harm others and users alike. Makes no sense at all.

Category : Journal | Blog
15
Apr

Smoking

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I’ve been thinking about quitting the durries and let me tell you, even thinking about the concept sends an anxious knot into the pit of my stomach. It is something I conveniently place at the back of my mind when ever I think about  giving them the flick. This addiction is a mighty powerful one and one that seems to need constant reminding that it is exactly that…an addiction. The only regret in life I have, is ever picking the damn things up in the first place. Trying to conquer the fear of putting them down is the hardest part. I am able to quite easily avoid the fear by postponing the quit day indefinitely, just by not thinking about quitting, but surely it is time that I lay this demon to rest….before it is too late. I have one packet left sitting there waiting for me to smoke…do I make the plan to quit once that packet is finished or do I wait till the doctor tells me I have throat cancer. The answer is simple I quit.

However, do I mean it when I say it? Will I have the strength to carry out the plan. Have I even made a plan? What exactly do I fear about quitting, the pain of withdrawal? I don’t know. It’s the fear of fear. The fear of feeling anxious. The fear of feeling deprived, stressed, angry and lonely. My companion will be gone. But surely these fears are irrational and how can I even feel fear now when I’m still smoking. It’s outrageous that such a pesky stimulant can provoke such negative emotions. Will withdrawal even be all that painful, after all, half my life I spend in a state of anxiety as it is. It’s just thinking about how hard and difficult things will be that gives fear its life. What if I think about how good I’ll feel once I don’t have stinking cigarette smoke choking my arteries with lead, tar, carbon monoxide and a thousand other vile chemicals.

I get nothing out of smoking except a sore throat and a case of worry that those little nodes at the back of my throat are something I don’t really want to deal with. And yet  I still smoke. Happily I want the nicotine to sooth my worry away but it always wants more and never fulfils its part of the bargain, to give me the flight of light headedness it once did. Apart from the slight reprieve it offers before reminding me that is needs another feed I get nothing but headaches, legs that feel like lead, guilt and fear. Like a wretched little infant crying incessantly to be placed back into the warmth of its mother’s womb, to be cradled and fed and not face the cold and harsh reality of birth, this addiction beast just doesn’t want to leave the nest I provide. I have to kick it out!

So procrastination and waiting for it to leave isn’t going to work, that much is for sure. Motivation is unlikely to come until it’s too late so what is left? The Plan. The Big Plan. To walk through the door that says Non-Smoker and what can be easier than walking through a door? I’ve cracked open that packet now. Will I lay this beast to rest once it is finished. That leaves tomorrow and fuck I’m scared to walk through that door. But what’s more scarier the door or the morgue?

Category : Journal | Blog