Is smoking nicotine really more addictive than either cocaine or heroin? According to leading drug addiction experts it might be. This picture shows the nicotine addiction warning label on an actual pack of Camel cigarettes from Canada. Although youth in Canada and in all European Union nations now see addiction warning labels, since 1990 the U.S. tobacco industry has used its muscle to successfully stop the United States Congress from passing a bill to warn U.S. children and teens of the true power of nicotine to de-sensitize and enslave their brain reward pathways.
It's actually worse, as tobacco industry campaign contributions to Congress allowed it to purchase a law, the "Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, 15 U.S.C. 1334. It states, "No requirement ... based on smoking and health shall be imposed under State law with respect to the advertising ... of any cigarettes the packages of which are labeled in conformity with the provisions of this chapter."
It means that even if towns, cities, counties and states wanted to enact laws requiring all businesses selling nicotine to warn youth by display signs declaring, "WARNING: Smoking or chewing nicotine is highly addictive, and may be harder to quit than heroin or cocaine," that the local ordinance or law would likely be in violation of Federal law. Yes, like it or not, the United States Congress is a key tobacco industry's partner in helping annually enslave more than 700,000 American youth.
This year, worldwide, more than 4 million will be killed by tobacco and the World Health Organization warns that the death toll is about to explode and could top 1 billion by century's end. What these four million will have in common is that none, prior to getting hooked, received advance warning about the amazing power of nicotine to enslave their brain's dopamine pathways, and to do so with blazing speed.
None were told that very soon after starting to experiment with nicotine, that the most memorable memories the mind appears capable of generating, what Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, calls "pay attention" memories, would leave them totally convinced that bringing a new supply of nicotine into the bloodstream is as important as eating food.
Like eating food, no one warned them that captive dopamine pathways would generate powerful "aaah" sensations when anticipating or actually smoking nicotine, or, like eating food, that their brain's insulas would soon be punishing them with powerful urges, anxieties and craves if they attempted to go without.
When we put that first cigarette to our lips, we may have done so for a number of reasons. Some of us were just trying to look cool, fit in with our peers, to pretend or feel more adult, to briefly rebel against authority or even to satisfy curiosity after convenience store tobacco marketing ("Nicotine Addiction Central") had pounded our brains with hundreds or even thousands of invitations to smoke. But the reason we started had nothing to do with the reason we continued. We had to, as a rising tide of anxieties started to hurt when we didn't.
As shown by the recent HONC study, it may take only a few puffs on a few cigarettes before the mind begins losing autonomy, the ability to turn and walk away. We didn't then appreciate that almost 90% of all smokers became addicted while children or teens. Instead, convenience stores hammered home the fraudulent message that smoking was something that mature adults were intentionally deciding to do. We were not imitating a true adult activity but, instead, the same horrible mistake made by each other. The average adult mind is too mature to fall for the lies bought by our young, impulsive, developing and unprotected brains.
Truth is that our elected leaders could stop the intentional marketing assault upon youth if it were their collective will to do so. If they can require that hard liquor be sold only in stand alone stores to which youth are denied access, then why is the neighborhood candy, soda and chip store selling an average of $400,000 worth of nicotine products per year? These stores need to evaluate their priorities. Stores can either invite children inside or market nicotine but not both.
It is probably within your city council's ability to inact an annual nicotine sales license ordinance and apply 100% of licensing fees toward youth smoking prevention, or require all stores selling nicotine to contribute to funding community nicotine addiction recovery programs.
But the price of waiting on government to fulfill its primary function in protecting life and health may well be life itself. Key to helping those already enslaved is teaching them about where they now find themselves, while providing a clear and true path home.
The beauty of admitting true chemical addiction is that it makes the rules for breaking free simple. Like the alcoholic not battling against drinking an entire drink but only that first sip, nicotine dependency recovery is an all or nothing proposition too. There is no in-between, no having our cake and eating it too. During recovery we're not fighting a whole pack or even an entire cigarette but just that first powerful hit of nicotine that would thereafter occupy up to 50% of our brain's nicotinic-type acetylcholine receptors, creating a dopamine "aaah" explosion that our mind's pay-attention pathways would make nearly impossible, in the short term, to forget. Our midbrain and limbic mind would soon be begging for more.
The beauty of admitting true chemical addiction is that it destroys the need for all the lies we invented to explain why our rational thinking mind obeyed a never-ending stream of commands to find and use more nicotine. Flavor, taste? There are no taste buds inside human lungs. Like, love? To say we like or love something, don't we need an honest basis for comparison? If you can no longer remember the beauty of your pre-addiction mind, of going months and years without once craving nicotine, what basis exists for honest comparison? Friend? What friend kills you? Choice? We only had two choices, engage in that next mandatory feeding or endure the onset of early withdrawal.
Are you a drug addict? Are you living from fix to fix? Dependance, compulsive use, tolerance, damage, withdrawal, my name is John and "I'm a true drug addict!" These are the most liberating words this mind has ever uttered. Once I started reading and accepting all the similarities between nicotine and other drugs of addiction (such as opiates), I no longer felt superior to other drug addicts. It's just that my dopamine "aaah" sensation was accompanied by stimulated alertness while the alcoholic's "aaah" was drunk, the heroin addict's "aaah" was numb, the cocaine addict's euphoric, and the methamphetamine addict's "aaah" was traveling at the speed of light.
I recently completed presenting 63 nicotine dependency recovery seminars in 28 South Carolina prisons that banned smoking and oral tobacco possession and use inside all prisons. I witnessed firsthand what happens when nicotine is treated like other drugs of addiction. Many prisons saw the price of a single hand-rolled contraband cigarette skyrocket to $8 dollars. Wrapped in thin Bible paper, the tobacco within could have been collected from roadside cigarette butts, upon which some animal had urinated, it really didn't matter. What did matter were near unbelievable stories of nicotine addicts trading illegal drugs and sex for a chance to smoke nicotine.
Each day in the United States, approximately 3,600 students between the ages of 12 and 17 years begin smoking. Each day, an estimated 1,100 students become daily cigarette smokers (CDC Feb. 2009). U.S. statistics show that most hooked teens want to quit, have tried to quit (73%), but few have been successful (13%). I guess misery does love company because. Sadly, many addicted teens help their friends and classmates join the ranks of the permanently addicted.
And where does all the drug money go? It goes to the local seller (a true drug pusher in every sense), to the tobacco company (the supplier), to the tobacco farmer (the growers), and to governments demanding an ever bigger tax slice of the nicotine addiction empire (the industry's key partner). It goes to greed and power driven politicians willing to protect and write laws that they know allow easy youth enslavement and the annual sale of children into a lifetime of chemical bondage. And for what? A few lousy blood-soaked dollars.
I'm convinced that millions of adults would rather see our youth continue to become addicted and take their money, rather than to stop or control the madness. Here in the South Carolina, USA, you can't go into any supermarket, pharmacy (that's a kicker), bowling alley, gas station or restaurant without someone or some machine offering to sell you nicotine.
What does it say about governments that lock-up and imprison drug addicts whose chemical high is not "alert," as is nicotine's, yet become revenue sharing partners in regard to a drug that daily enslaves tens of thousandstens of children and teens? Why does it keep taking its slice as this sanctioned addiction pipeline pumps 4.9 million wonderful humans into very early graves? That's four (4) times as many people as killed annually by all other drugs, all car accidents, suicides, homicides, and AIDS deaths combined.
How many mothers would go out and purchase heroin to give their teen a drug fix? According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control there were 4,175 heroin related deaths reported in 1995. Mom, your child is 100 times more likely to die from smoking related causes than heroin related ones.
We must change the way we look at nicotine use and addiction. Is it cool to smell like an ashtray, have bad breath and watch your teeth grow stained while your gums grow diseased? Is it cool to live your entire life from nicotine crave to nicotine crave? Is it cool to surrender control of life to chemical commands, to become a slave? How strong is nicotine's grip? Well, for every 20 nicotine addicts who attempt to quit only one succeeds in doing so for an entire year. It was supposed to be cool, remember?
Even newly addicted youth can almost feel the tar and other chemicals as they begin to build and gradually impair their breathing. They can feel the damage when trying to run, swim, dance, sing or engage in other energetic activities? They don't have to wait on lung cancer, emphysema or heart disease before seeing tobacco's destructive power. For far too many, it will happen shortly after their first few cigarettes, as soon as nicotine takes control and commands them to find and smoke some more, and to do so ... NOW!
If you want to see where nicotine addiction can lead then read Sean's, Noni's, Bryan's, Kim's, or the tragic stories of others. Nicotine never lets up, the accelerated decay and damage never takes a break, and breaking free will never be easier than it is today. Take a quick peek at how thousands are breaking free with the help of serious online education, support and counseling. The site is called Freedom and it's a classroom and support group all rolled into one. Knowledge isn't just power but a true quitting method! We hope you'll stick around and discover the full power of the most empowering quitting method of all, understanding and knowledge!
Breathe deep, hug hard, and live long!
John R. Polito
Nicotine Cessation Educator
WhyQuit's basic "how to quit smoking" video
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