The Realities of Addiction

In 1988, the Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop, released a report entitled, “The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction”. This report concluded that nicotine is just as addictive as heroin or cocaine.

Naturally, Big Tobacco denied that nicotine was addictive at all – even going so far as to have their top executives testify to that effect during Congressional hearings in 1994 – yet their own internal documents (which they were forced to release as part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998) show that they clearly recognized the addictive nature of their product.

In Their Own Words

An internal memo from Philip Morris, for instance, equates nicotine with other highly addictive drugs such as cocaine and morphine, calls cigarettes a “nicotine delivery device,” and states unequivocally that the primary reason people smoke is to deliver nicotine into their bodies.1

In fact, as early as 1963 (before the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health came out), an internal Brown & Williamson company strategy memo said in part, “…nicotine is addictive. We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug…”2

The reality is, you are addicted to nicotine, the tobacco industry knows this and exploits it to their advantage, and changing the way you feed that addiction from smoking cigarettes to chewing gum, or wearing patches, or using an inhaler, is not going to help you control that addiction. All it will do is continue to reinforce that addiction.


It’s hardly even worth mentioning the millions of dollars Big Tobacco has spent (and continues to spend) spreading disinformation about the addictive nature of nicotine; that’s a given. But what is worth mentioning is the disinformation being spread by the Big Pharmaceuticals, who have their own shills actively working to influence U.S. Public Health Policy.

In fact, in 2008, new “guidelines” for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence3 were released by the Public Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which say, in part, that,

“Numerous effective medications are available for tobacco dependence, and clinicians should encourage their use by all patients attempting to quit smoking…”

What’s Remarkable

The remarkable thing about this recommendation is that, as we’ve already seen, smokers are actually 13 times more likely to quit long-term if they don’t use “nicotine replacement therapy” (or “NRT”) or drugs such as bupropion (trade name “Zyban”) or varenicline (trade name “Chantix”).

But if NRT and the various quit smoking medications really have such a poor record of actually helping anyone quit smoking, why would these guidelines recommend their use “by all patients attempting to quit smoking”?

Cui Bono (Who Benefits)?

Here’s a big clue: the chairman of the committee charged with revising those recommendations had financial ties to the pharmaceutical companies that make the recommended quit-smoking aids, and at least 8 other members of that committee also had ties to companies that make quit-smoking products.4

Is it any wonder that these guidelines recommend the use of snake oil when the people who wrote the guidelines had already accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the snake oil salesmen?

Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain

I believe that Big Tobacco has had its hooks into the pharmaceutical industry since at least the early 60s5: they correctly foresaw the need to diversify the “delivery devices” for the addictive drug they were selling and pharmaceuticals were a logical place to look; if they could get you addicted to their product (their real product; the addictive drug, nicotine), then sell you the “cure” (“Nicotine Replacement Therapy”), they’d have you coming and going.

The only problem is the “cure” doesn’t work: it only reinforces the addiction and keeps you hooked.


1 Philip Morris Memo Likens Nicotine to Cocaine; Alix M. Freedman (winner of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for National reporting for this article);

2 Legacy Tobacco Documents Library;

3 Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update—Clinical Practice Guideline; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service;

4 Behind Antismoking Policy, Influence of Drug Industry; Kevin Helliker (originally published in the Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2007);

5 I can’t prove this for tobacco companies based in the United States, but in other places, they took no trouble to hide their tracks: Japan Tobacco – one of the largest tobacco companies in the world – started “diversifying” by buying up pharmaceutical companies in the 60s and today, their website has an entire section devoted to their pharmaceuticals division.

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