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The repetitive use of tobacco which most smokers refer to as a "habit" is, in fact, an insidious addiction.  It is similar to a heroin addiction except that the craving is far less intense.

It is widely known that long term use of tobacco has a profoundly destructive effect on the body.  What is not commonly known is that few of the substances which contribute to the pathologies caused by tobacco smoking are specifically identified as toxins.  These are resins and tars which are merely bitter tasting, foul smelling, generally obnoxious substances that accumulate over a long period of time causing heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, and other morbid afflictions.  If not for the presence of nicotine in tobacco, there would be absolutely no compulsive motivation to draw this disgusting vapour into the lungs.

Like heroin, nicotine is an extremely deadly substance which, when administered in minute doses, has the effect of a soothing drug.  The effect of nicotine manifests in the feeling of relaxation a smoker experiences after the first few draws on a cigarette since a minuscule quantity of nicotine is distributed via the lungs and through the bloodstream to the brain.  In very small doses, the effect of nicotine is tranquilizing, but the effect of a large dose of nicotine would be neuroparalysis--almost instantaneous death.

There is enough nicotine in one cigarette to kill an adult human, but extracting pure nicotine {nicotine sulfate} from the tobacco would involve a sequence of sophisticated laboratory procedures.  The act of burning the tobacco during smoking serves to dissipate the greatest part of the toxin leaving only a tiny amount to be ingested, suspended in the resinous vapor of the smoke.  Even chewing and swallowing raw tobacco leaf will not (usually) release enough pure nicotine sulfate to be fatal because the digestive system will not tolerate its presence in the stomach.  Convulsive vomiting is the means by which the body defends itself against nicotine poisoning from ingested tobacco.

The factor of tolerance plays approximately the same role in a nicotine addiction that it does in a heroin addiction.  Most smokers may recall the nausea, dizziness, and vomiting experienced after smoking their first cigarette.  This is the natural reaction of a healthy organism to an assault by the deadly poison, nicotine (news flash).

The non-smoker is considerably more vulnerable to the toxic effect of nicotine than the addicted tobacco user; it would take about five times the amount of nicotine sulfate to kill a heavy smoker than a non-smoker, whose organism has not grown accustomed to a regular input of the poison.  Even veteran tobacco addicts experience occasional adversity when they exceed their usual daily intake of tobacco smoke.  This occurs in the form of  headache, nausea, and a general malaise which is sometimes referred to as "cigarette hangover".  These symptoms announce a moderate episode of nicotine poisoning:   The arteries, veins, and capillaries constrict, the brain is deprived of oxygen, the heart and lungs work harder than they normally would.  The same amount of nicotine which causes these transitory symptoms in a two or three pack-a-day smoker would probably kill or paralyze a non-smoker.

Pure nicotine sulfate is marketed {in liquid form} by chemical suppliers for use a variety of insect poisons.  Just a few drops of this fluid would be fatal to an adult human.  Nicotine sulfate has been used by numerous assassins, usually by serving it to their victims in coffee to obscure its distinctive taste.  If introduced directly under the skin, just a few milligrams, would have the same deadly effect as an equal amount of potassium cyanide.

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The EU is to withdraw the massive subsidies it pays to tobacco growers following a bitter battle among agricultural ministers in Brussels. The decision to withdraw payments for what is the most subsidised crop in Europe reflects unease about helping tobacco farmers while EU states campaign to get people to give up smoking. The EU has 1,000 tobacco growers and is the world's fifth largest tobacco producer, with 75% of its crop being grown in Greece and Italy. Smoking kills an estimated 500,000 Europeans a year yet EU farmers are paid 5,250 a hectare to grow tobacco. EU wheat farmers receive 240 a hectare in subsidies.

Ian Black, The Guardian
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Cancer causing products: should the FDA step in?

Imagine if a new product were introduced that contained 69 known or probable human carcinogens, and it was being marketed to children, but the government couldn't stop it.

Unfortunately, such a product already exists - cigarettes. And under current law, the federal government cannot act to eliminate the dangerous chemicals in cigarettes or further restrict their marketing and sale to children. Why? Congress needs to grant the FDA authority to do so.

Your action today can help: tell your Senators to allow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products. Please sign this petition:

Care to voice your opinion? Take our new poll about this issue: nicotine news

A coalition of anti-smoking groups has urged the government of the Canadian province of Quebec to ban all forms of cigarette advertising when it passes amendments to tobacco laws. "If it's a problem to enforce the legislation as it is right now, we believe that the government should go ahead with a total ban on indirect or direct types of advertising,'' said Francois Damphousse, a spokesman for the provincial non-smokers' rights association and a member of the coalition. While supporting already announced amendments to Quebec's 1998 tobacco law, the coalition of anti-smoking and health groups said Quebec should crack down on the promotion and availability of cigarettes. Damphouse said the Quebec government should go ahead with a total ban because of ``the misbehaviour of the tobacco industry. They do not want to respect the legislation. The only thing they want to do is attach imagery to their products and we say that's unacceptable.'' The coalition did note the Quebec law has had some effect since it has been in force, pointing out that 25.9 per cent of Quebecers now smoke. When the law was passed in 1998, 34 per cent of Quebecers said they smoked.

Nelson Wyatt, Canadian Press, Montreal Gazette quit smoking There are several herbs with a traditional reputation for helping people quit smoking. These herbs exert varying effects that will ease the process of smoking cessation. Most of them can be found in either dried bulk, capsule, or liquid extract form. Follow the directions on the label for use. If using dried herbs, use them only to prepare tea, and never smoke them as a replacement for tobacco.

Lobelia: Is a very powerful herb that helps to calm the mind and relax the body. It has helped many people to control their cravings for nicotine. Lobelia is also reputed to have the effect of making cigarettes taste very bad.

St. John?s wort: One of the best known herbs for promoting a positive mental attitude?something people often need help with during the early phases of becoming a non-smoker.

Black cohosh: Is commonly used by women to help them stay balanced during their monthly cycle. However, it is also known to be a safe sedative that relieves nervousness and anxiety, which makes it useful for the irritability, restlessness, and nervousness associated with quitting smoking.

Blue vervain: Has been referred to as a natural tranquilizer and as such it can be used to calm the nerves. It can also be used for insomnia.

Catnip: Has a soothing and relaxing effect on the digestive system, and helps to relieve diarrhea, flatulence, indigestion, upset stomach, and headache. Catnip also has antispasmodic properties that make it useful for abdominal cramps as well as chronic coughing. Catnip is also good for alleviating sleeplessness. Catnip?s antibiotic and astringent properties are also beneficial for treating colds and bronchial infections.

Hyssop: Has the ability to help with clearing mucus congestion in the lungs associated with COPD. It also has been known to alleviate the anxiety and even hysteria that is sometimes associated with smoking withdrawal.

Korean ginseng: Is one of the most popular herbs in the world for stimulating energy and helping the body to deal with stress. This property enables ginseng to help alleviate the fatigue and anxiety related to quitting smoking. Ginseng is known to help reestablish balance in the body?s systems, which can be helpful to smokers as their bodies adjust to the absence of nicotine.

Motherwort: Has properties that enable it to act as a sedative, inducing tranquility in times of anxiety associated with quitting smoking.

Oat straw or oat seed: One of the best remedies for stress, nervous debility, and exhaustion, especially when associated with depression (a common affliction in people who have recently quit smoking).

Peppermint: Has a relaxing effect on the muscles of the digestive system, combats flatulence, and stimulates the flow of bile and other digestive juices. The volatile oil in peppermint acts as a mild anesthetic to the stomach wall, which helps alleviate feelings of nausea. Where headaches are associated with digestion, peppermint may help. Peppermint also eases anxiety and tension.

Skullcap: Contains plant compounds that help the brain produce more endorphins (naturally occurring chemicals that promote feelings of well-being). This is believed to enhance both awareness and calmness. Skullcap relaxes states of nervous tension while renewing and reviving the central nervous system.

Slippery elm: Is rich in nutrients and easy to digest, making it an excellent food during times of digestive discomfort, which can sometimes accompany smoking cessation. It works with the body to draw out impurities and toxins, assisting with the healing of the entire body.

Valerian: One of the premier sedative herbs used to aid people with anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Valerian also acts as a muscle relaxant. Valerian is clearly one of the herbs of choice in smoking cessation to deal with the issues of insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety.

Adapted from Natural Therapies for Emphysema and COPD: Relief and Healing for Chronic Pulmonary Disorders, by Robert J. Green Jr., ND (Healing Arts Press, 2007).

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