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Jewish World Review April 23, 2002 / 12 Iyar, 5762

Sean Carter

Sean Carter
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Consumer Reports

FDA "sucker punches" smokers | As a smoker, I can attest that, with the possible exceptions of performing neurosurgery, playing the violin or operating a "child-proof" lighter, there is nothing more difficult than quitting smoking. This is not to say that it is impossible to quit. In fact, I've quit smoking several times.

In fact, people like myself have helped create an entire industry to service us. Several companies now offer nicotine gum and patches. And recently, some companies have began to market new nicotine-laden products, such as nicotine lip balm and even nicotine water.

In my efforts to quit smoking, I have tried many of these products. But they all seem to have at least one major drawback.

The nicotine gum is wonderful for getting that quick "pick-me-up" when you can't light up. However, as you can imagine, it doesn't go particularly well with an after-dinner wine. And I find it difficult to justify leaving my office at work every fifteen minutes to take a "gum break."

On the other hand, the nicotine patch has one major advantage --- simplicity. You simply strap the patch to your arm and all of your nicotine needs are met for the day. Well, almost all of them.

For one, the nicotine patch doesn't satisfy the oral and manual fixations that afflict many smokers. Second, most smokers are not craving a constant flow of nicotine. Rather, we are looking for an abrupt change in body chemistry, which helps us stave off boredom, stress and annoying non-smokers.

This is why I was excited when I heard about a new smoking-cessation aid hitting the market --- nicotine lollipops. The lollipops seemed to provide the perfect solution to the major drawbacks of the gum and the patch. Heck, you can still look cool sucking on a lollipop. After all, it worked for Telly Salavas on the hit TV show, Kojak. And let's face it, trying to look cool is what made most of us take up smoking in the first place.


But, before I could shave my head and start saying, "Who loves you, baby?" the Food and Drug Administration halted the sale of nicotine lollipops. According to the FDA, the nicotine used in the lollipops, nicotine salicylate, has not been tested for safety or effectiveness.

Now, let me see if I understand this correctly. Nicotine lollipops must be taken off the market because they could possibly be unsafe, while cigarettes can continue to be sold although we know they are unsafe. This is the kind of backwards thinking that typifies large bureaucracies and my wife's side of the family.

Actually, I find it remarkable that the FDA has jurisdiction over nicotine products in the first place. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms oversees the tobacco industry not the FDA. In fact, the FDA has about as much control over cigarettes as I have over my children.

The FDA claims that it has jurisdiction over smoking-cessation aids because they are "drugs." And the FDA's policy is to test all drugs before they are sold. So, a "drug" that could possibly reduce smoking deaths will be held up for safety reasons while cigarettes will continued to be sold to the same people being "protected" by the FDA. Only in America!

After all, maybe it's just me, but I'm willing to take my chances with the lollipops. In fact, I don't care if they contain trace elements of gasoline, Drano or my wife's meatloaf, they have to be safer than cigarettes.

Now, in fairness, the FDA is not totally to blame here. It has been receiving a lot of pressure from the anti-smoking forces to get these nicotine products off the market. Groups, such as Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, have complained that these products may hook kids on nicotine and cause them to eventually start smoking.

Obviously, the anti-smoking zealots need to pop open a can of Budweiser, puff on a Marlboro Light and relax. The fear that children will jump from lollipops to cigarettes is as misplaced as the "little black book" from my bachelor days.

In my day, kids started smoking as a way to declare their independence. In essence, we were saying, "I'm my own person! I can do what I want! In fact, I'm so independent that I suck on this tobacco product until I become hopelessly addicted and die a painful, early death. I'm free!" Obviously, the nicotine lollipop does not quite make the same statement.

For now, though, the FDA has sided with the anti-smoking forces, leaving smokers like myself without a suitable alternative to cigarettes. Therefore, in answer to Kojak's immortal question: "Who loves you, baby?" The answer is certainly not the FDA.

Sean Carter is a practicing attorney, stand-up comedian and humor writer. Comment by clicking here.


03/31/02: Seniors are "disparately" seeking equal justice
03/08/02: More than a day late, but definitely not a dollar short
02/12/02: Beam me up, your honor!
01/25/02: Until irreconcilable differences do us part
12/17/01: Teachers go to the pokey for playing hooky
11/16/01: When baseball fans attack ...
11/02/01: Pop-torts
09/04/01: Can't beat the competition? Sue, baby, sue!

© 2002, Sean Carter