Nix on Nicotine

Keywords: quit smoking, freedom from tobacco, anti-tobacco, smoking cessation, smoking deterrence, nicotine addiction

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Wrong Stuff

During a recent visit to a local consignment/resale store, I noticed a young man sitting on a bench waiting to be served by the “buyers.”  I noticed him, not because he was young and handsome (although he was), not because he was dressed in tasteful but very hip style (although he was), not because he was well-spoken as he conversed with a friend (although he was).  I noticed him because when I got within 10 feet or so, I could smell the overwhelming reek of tobacco smoke.  A quick glance showed other tell-tale signs – yellowish stains on his fingers, discolored teeth, a burn hole in his jacket.  A few minutes later, I overheard the buyers who had opened the bag of clothing that young man brought in for resale.  One buyer discretely turned to the other and quietly asked her to smell a jacket.  She wrinkled her nose and looked disgusted.  “Really strong” was all she had to say.  The first buyer just put the jacket back into the bag, and returned it to its crestfallen owner.  “I’m sorry, we just can’t take anything for the store today.”

Too bad.  Probably not the last rejection he’ll get, either.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

To Tell The Truth

A couple of days ago, I blogged about the Justice Department ordering big tobacco to “tell the truth.”  (Nix on Nicotine blog, February 24, 2011).  That phrase keeps recurring to me.  When you think about it, there are a lot of deceptions around tobacco use.

  • Using tobacco is a choice.  Let’s tell the truth:  Tobacco addicts have lost the ability to choose; they are slaves to their habit.
  • People start smoking in the teenage years to look or feel grown up.  Let’s tell the truth:  Adults who smoke almost all want to quit and many have tried to quit – grown-ups hate the habit! 
  • A “few puffs” or an occasional “dip” won’t get you addicted.  Let’s tell the truth:  nicotine is the most addictive substance known, more addictive than heroin or meth or crack cocaine.  Addiction begins with the first use.
  • Smokers enjoy smoking.  Let’s tell the truth:  Smokers are chemically addicted to nicotine, and prefer smoking to the withdrawal symptoms when they don’t.
  • Tobacco advertising, product placement in movies, and eye-level displays in stores convey the message that tobacco use is a healthy and normal adult activity.  Let’s tell the truth:  there are four times more tobacco-free people than tobacco-addicted people, and the addicts are finding it harder and harder to fit smoking into acceptable social behavior as more and more non-smokers refuse to be around them.
  • Prominently-placed signs in convenience stores warning against sales to minors, often with catchy sayings and cartoon drawings, are supposed to be there to keep kids away from tobacco products.  Let’s tell the truth:  Those signs and warnings, often at kid eye-level, were designed and placed there by the tobacco companies.  They appeal to children, and enhance their perception that smoking is a grown up activity, a rite of passage into the adult world.  Those signs imbue underage tobacco use with a risky and adventuresome mystique.
  • Many elected representatives would have us believe that Congress is working on our behalf to help curb tobacco use.  Let’s tell the truth:  Over the last 30 years, Congress has failed to make it harder for youth to buy cigarettes, failed to legislate stricter regulation of tobacco, and failed to limit smoking in the workplace.  The advances that have been made – such as ending cigarette billboards and “gear” – were made by the Justice Department, not Congress.  Why?  Because many Congress men and women are lobbied by and receive campaign funds from big tobacco interests.

Let’s tell the truth now.  It’s high time.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The world is my ashtray, I shall not want...

(With apologies to the 23rd Psalm).

Why is it that otherwise conscientious people think it's OK to throw cigarette butts on the sidewalk, out their car windows, in planters at public places, onto other people's landscaping, into waterways, on beaches ... really, everywhere?  According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, cigarette butts represent a huge pollution problem.

"Experts say cigarette butts rank at the very top of litter problems -- not just for their ubiquity, but for their toxicity and non-biodegradable nature."

Of course, some people who smoke are clueless, some are apathetic, some just don’t care.  But I know people who smoke who wouldn’t dream of dropping a candy or gum wrapper, a used tissue, or any other litter on the ground – except their butts. 

Here's my challenge to anyone who smokes:  carry with you a zip-closure plastic bag, and use it for one month to collect all of the waste associated with your habit – ashes, matches/matchbooks and spent lighters, and of course, the butts.  At the end of the month, take a look at what you’ve collected, and think about how to dispose of the toxic mess that heretofore you’ve been giving to others by mindlessly discarding it in public places.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Big Tobacco School of Modeling

What comes to mind when you think of models?  Fashion week in NYC?  Outlandish outfits, big hair, skyscraper heels? Fact of the matter:  we are all models (yep, even you and I) every day in every way.  When we smoke, we model that behavior to children, youth, and young adults all around us.  To our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our nieces and nephews, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our friends.

My good friend Walter (a master of marketing) has often commented to me that people need to see a product or service on average about 7 times before they are ready to buy it.  Now ask yourself how many times your child (or another youngster in your life) has seen someone smoking - in public places, in movies, on television.  No wonder that by the time they are teenagers, they are often willing and perhaps eager to try this grown-up activity.  They have been "sold" on the behavior just by watching models.  What a great deal for the tobacco companies!  They have an army of addicts out there in the world modeling their product to children (a new generation of customers!) while the adult addicts pay a hefty price for the priviledge!

Smoking is a perpetual-motion societal machine: role models selling the behavior of addiction to youngsters, who join the ranks of the addicted and become new role models.
So next time you light up, look around you.  You're on-stage, in the spotlight, a real live model.  Who is your audience today?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Most surreal news of the day?

I had to rub my eyes and make sure I was not dreaming this morning as I listened to the news.  It seems the Justice Department wants to order tobacco companies to "Tell the Truth."  By itself, this is strong and heady stuff for an anti-tobacco advocate!  But what the Justice Department wants big tobacco to say is almost too good to be true!  For example, one of the admissions that the Justice Department has proposed requiring tobacco companies to pay for and publish:

"For decades, we denied that we controlled the level of nicotine delivered in cigarettes. Here's the truth. We control nicotine delivery to create and sustain smokers' addiction, because that's how we keep customers coming back." 

Wow!  There are14 proposed admissions in all, dealing with a range of topics including the fact that smoking causes 1200 deaths in the United States EVERY DAY; that secondhand smoke causes disease and death in children, and more.  Here's another of my favorites:

"We told Congress under oath that we believed nicotine is not addictive. We told you that smoking is not an addiction and all it takes to quit is willpower. Here's the truth: Smoking is very addictive. And it's not easy to quit." 

And another:

"We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits."

Of course, the tobacco companies are appealing to try to weasel out of telling the truth; they have until March 3 to respond.

But another surrealistic story stalked the news today as well.  It seems that Muammar Khadafy announced that dissidents in Libya were given hallucinogenic pills in their coffee by Al Quaeda, causing them to do criminal acts and revolt against the government. 

So what do you think?  I'm having a hard time deciding which story is more surreal!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The NIX ON NICOTINE Campaign is Launched!

Today marks the launch of an in-school freedom-from-tobacco campaign.  I'm working with a couple of friends who are educators and youth advocates.  I'm also working with John Polito, a national tobacco deterrence/cessation educator.  It is John's opinion that an effective in-school program does not currently exist.
My eldest son, Quentin, died of smoking-related illness at the age of 23.  Quentin smoked right up to the end.  Please take a minute to visit Mr. Polito's website, where he has posted Quentin's story and a few pictures under a headline banner.  Quentin is also included in the "Smokers' Memorials" section, at #62.  I hope that by telling Quentin's story, someone somewhere may be spared the excruciating pain and devastating loss that we suffered.  And if you use tobacco, look around at some of the other stories and resources at
To launch the NIX ON NICOTINE campaign, I announced today an art contest for design of a logo/mascot for the program.  Grand prize is $250 cash!  If you're interested in submitting an entry, send me an email at, and I'll send you the contest announcement and entry form.
Stay tuned!