Tell me lies about nicotine

by Chris Holmes

When I was growing up in the 1960s smokers did NOT think they were drug addicts. Smoking was a habit – perhaps a dirty one, but just a habit nevertheless – and the concept of nicotine replacement products like gum and patches did not exist. But the concept of nicotine replacement did!

The idea of substituting one form of nicotine for another was not conceived originally as ever leading to a saleable product to help people quit, but as “proof” that tobacco smoking was a drug addiction and that the “need” was specifically a need for nicotine. And it was not conceived by any special expert in addiction studies, but by a Scottish General Practitioner called Lennox Johnston.
Now I know that you’ve probably never heard of Lennox Johnston – hardly anyone has – but through the 1930s, 40s and 50s he was busy driving the British Medical Association mad by being well ahead of his time on the subject of tobacco and lung cancer. In 1942 he published an article in The Lancet which declared tobacco smoking to be the main cause of lung cancer, long before it was finally established as the truth in 1969.

The Medical Establishment don’t like being told things by underlings, and Johnston was by no means a member of the Establishment. He wasn’t even English, for God’s sake! So they weren’t going to listen to him or allow him to have credit for anything. He was repeatedly refused funding to conduct research into the link between smoking and lung cancer, which was given instead to Richard Doll and Bradford Hill.

Meanwhile Johnston was also experimenting with pure solutions of nicotine, regularly injecting himself with the stuff and twice nearly dying as a result because nicotine is extraordinarily poisonous even in tiny quantities. Later he assembled 35 “volunteers” who were habitual smokers and gave them regular injections of nicotine whenever they felt a desire to smoke. Some of them came, in time, to prefer the injection to the cigarette – just as we see some smokers, today, coming to prefer the vape stick to the cigarette, or the nicotine lozenge, or the mouth spray or whatever.

So: case closed! Nicotine is what smokers desire and any form of nicotine will do – right?

Trouble is, it doesn’t work. In January 2012, Harvard University published a study that confirmed my own published claims from five years before, namely that Nicotine replacement therapy DOESN’T WORK AT ALL. They looked at the success rates of all the nicotine products at the one year mark and found that the success rate (6%) was exactly the same a willpower alone. This is because smoking isn’t a drug addiction, it’s a compulsive habit.