In the 1990s, culture seemed to truly get that cigarettes and the damage they cause are the leading preventable lifestyle killer. Tobacco companies got penalized to the tune of tens of billions of dollars for their part in suppressing data showing the harms of smoking but instead of celebrating the win and using that money to promote smoking cessation and harm reduction, much of it went to trial lawyer yacht payments and the "expert witnesses" they support. 

Some went to anti-smoking groups, who were now reliant on Big Tobacco money and, you guessed it, then had to get allied epidemiologists to start promoting a new lawsuit, this time for second-hand and even third-hand smoke as causes of cancer.(1)

If it's good enough for James Bond, it's good enough for me, and much safer than martinis or casual unprotected sex with supervillain henchwomen.

While the winners in the Big Tobacco Master Settlement were planning how to spend their newfound wealth, anti-smoking groups showed no leadership at all in actually helping people quit, so it fell to Big Pharma, the one group in America that has long been trusted just as little as Big Tobacco. They rolled out FDA-approved patches and gums, and those do have value, but they only address nicotine. Nicotine in itself is addictive but less harmful than caffeine, despite strange efforts by FDA and cultural fundamentalists to claim otherwise.(2)

Nicotine is only one issue and, counter-intuitively if you read pop culture in corporate media, a minor one. Will the government some day tell Coca-Cola to take caffeine out of soda to prevent obesity? That's been the regulatory approach to nicotine. Actual experts outside government epidemiology recognize the big triggers for smoking are instead psychological, like stress, habit, or social occasions where it is associated to time spent with friends.

Nicotine gums and patches perform only as well as hypnosis because it only deals with the chemical, and as I discussed in UPF OMG: The Dinner Table Is Not A Periodic Table, government efforts to be reductionist about everything - so people on a panel can feel all science-y - not only don't help, they harm positive efforts.

What does work is mimicking some of the behavioral aspects, the triggers, with products that don't cause harm. You don't have to get drastic and dump all of your friends. Smoking is not like alcohol, where you may only have become part of a tribe because everyone likes to drink. Habit and stress are easier to mitigate with alternatives. I chew gum, for example, it helped me when I was a young Army officer. If we had a break I chewed a piece of gum. I tell myself it helps me when I think because 'I stop thinking', if that makes sense. Surveys of the mass public say it helps with stress. If there is a habit of doing something with your mouth after a meal, gum does all that as well. So those who want to quit smoking and are triggered after a meal can do that instead.(3)

Avoiding triggers is a low-risk, high-reward approach and relatively easy to implement.


 (1) Those last two efforts have collapsed, though they marketed it so hard that the casual public still believes second-hand smoke causes cancer. Doctors don't help, since the half of lunger cancers that don't involve smokers still get 'did anyone in your family ever smoke? questions from doctors, and epidemiologists claim that's science. In lawsuits it all collapsed because, unlike smoking, they used bad methodology. You can link the increase in organic food to high the price of electric cars epidemiologically, others will call out that methodology, and that happened with new attempts to get money from tobacco companies. The idea that second-hand smoke could cause cancer, or even more ridiculously that small-micron particulate matter left behind after smoking can cause cancer, evaporated. How corrupt third parties, like epidemiologists living outside science, can erode trust is an oft-studied phenomenon

Cigarettes are a nasty habit that is rightfully dying off, and of course it will annoy asthma sufferers just like the perfume section in Macy's will, but we're not helping society if we cry Chicken Little over everything, we simply teach the public to trust nothing.

(2) One person did try to commit suicide using nicotine. Despite taking 300X the 'lethal' dose in rats, he only got ill. You even do an order of magnitude lower than that with caffeine and you may go into cardiac arrest. 

(3) It used to be that people who quit smoking put on weight and the general public, and then of course epidemiologists who latch on to pop culture beliefs to get media mentions, said it was because nicotine helps people lose weight. Its effect on metabolism is negligible compared to caffeine, people who put on weight while getting off cigarettes instead kept eating to do something with their mouths. Gum is almost always - weird "organic" and "natural" gum alternatives aside, sugar-free, so you can't gain weight.