Yes I smoke, but I don’t support campaigns to entrap others

That nicotine is what causes addiction is being hidden in PR campaign

In Summary

Scientific facts are being bended to suit the whims of manufacturers

A file photo of drug addict smoking bhang
A file photo of drug addict smoking bhang
Image: FILE

I’ve been a smoker since the days when some doctors still smoked openly and kept ashtray’s not just in their consulting rooms but in the reception, too.

I have known of the dangers carried in the little white sticks pretty much all my life. But more fool me, I continue to smoke, having long ago given in to my addiction and accepted it for what it is.

I even wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece elsewhere many years ago about smoker’s rights. 

Now you can accuse me of having my cake and eating it as it were, if you like, but I still have the ability to get outraged by claims cigarette manufacturers make about the relative safety of their products.

It is especially outrageous when they target people who are not as well informed as I am or they should be about the harms in smoking.

This is why I was recently floored by a public relations campaign that arrived, unbidden, in my inbox, telling the world that while of course smoking is bad for you, some tobacco products were less so.

The email, from a cigarette manufacturer, did not beat about the bush but was categorical when it said the following:

“For centuries, people have smoked tobacco and within the last decade, there have been scientific advances in the development of less harmful alternatives, like heated tobacco.”

The company, which manufactures cigarettes and a device that heats tobacco instead of burning it, claimed that “heated tobacco, also known as smoke-free products, are an innovative way of enjoying the authentic taste of tobacco without combustion”.  

Almost as a by the way, they said: “While nicotine is not risk-free and is addictive, it is not the primary cause of smoking-related diseases.”

Adding: “The burning of tobacco causes the production of the vast majority of harmful chemicals that are the primary cause of smoking-related diseases. By eliminating the burning process, the levels of harmful chemicals generated can be significantly reduced compared with cigarette smoke.”

They even had a doctor, an ophthalmologist, but a medical professional all the same, say: “Smoking cigarettes is the most harmful form of consuming nicotine, and it is the duty of the government to ensure smokers have access to less harmful nicotine products to accelerate the decline in smoking rates in the country.” 

He said: “I’ve observed that there are four groups of addicts in relation to the tobacco industry: the government are addicted to the taxes, the industry is addicted to profit, the smokers are addicted to nicotine and the healthcare professionals or experts are addicted to forming positions based on opinions rather than science.”

Meanwhile, the company’s big boss told investors, “We are now embarking on our next growth phase, further shifting to a better, more sustainable business by driving the development of the smoke-free category and leveraging our leading commercial model, which places the consumer at the core, to switch more adult smokers to our smoke-free products.”

All the while, they are fully aware that, as one scientist told me: “Nicotine is the primary addictive agent that ensures a customer for life.”

They are also well aware of the facts from another scientist: “Nicotine is the addiction-causing substance. It is used in pesticides and should not be thought of as a non-toxic substance.”

But here we are, and now they will find some terrible way to clap back at me. Bring it on, I say.

***In other news***

The South African city known as Port Elizabeth is now called Gqeberha, after the government here enacted a series of name changes of towns and airports this week as part of its Transformation of Heritage Landscape programme.

Some of the usual suspects have complained about the names being too difficult, but as a friend of mine said to her social media followers: “It's a isiXhosa word. You don't have to like it. That's your choice. But at least be respectful of other people's home/first languages. You live in a country with 11 official languages.”