Posts Tagged Nicotine Anonymous

“Lights” Out

Excuse my logic, but did you ever notice how some people will buy “light beer” or “light cigarettes” and then drink or smoke double the amount they would normally do, the net result being that they still consume the same amount of alcohol or tar and nicotine?

Let me put it to you plainly.  These types of people are the bread and butter for the alcohol and tobacco industries.  The math is simple.  Assume a pack of light cigarettes costs the same or even slightly more than its regular cigarette brand counterpart. If you smoke double the amount of light cigarettes than you would regular you are putting twice as much of your money in the tobacco company’s coffers as you would by just sticking with the full flavored variety.  It’s the same with beer.  A six pack of light costs just about the same as regular.  So if you drink two six packs of light figuring it’s better than one six pack of regular, you will be spending double the money.

The worst part of this twisted equation is the actual “health benefits” companies tout when promoting their “light” brands. 

Let’s start with beer. The reason I start with beer is that the news isn’t quite as grim as it is with cigarettes.  Yet it is nevertheless eye opening to realize how people are being duped by the beer companies.  According to the web site personal-nutrition-guide.com, the first light beer was marketed as “diet” beer but it didn’t go over well with men who are preconditioned to think of dieting as feminine and unnecessary for themselves. Since the men represent the much larger market share of beer sales, the beer companies had to go back to the drawing board and think of a new marketing ploy. They came up with the concept of calling lower calorie beer “lite.”  The beer companies didn’t hawk their new light beer by pitching potential customers that its fewer calories that would keep a man thinner.  They sold men on the idea that since it was “light” you could drink much more of them in a single session.  What beer swilling man doesn’t want to be able to drink more beers in a sitting? 

What "ales" them?

It’s interesting to note that if you consume two 12 oz. containers of light beer you will have ingested approximately 50 more calories and 1.2 percent more of alcohol than if you drank one 12 oz. container of regular beer. 

Now as mentioned, since alcohol contents in beer are much lower than that in “hard” liquor, the news isn’t all that bad.  I have known many people who are big beer drinkers who went on to live long and happy lives.  The main downside is the weight gain and accompanying strain on your heart that heavy beer drinking can produce.  If the average 12 oz. container of beer adds 150 calories to your diet, than a mere six pack represents a whopping 35 percent of the calories suggested for normal daily intake.  Add three average meals to that beer consumption and you may soon be ready for the fat farm. 

Furthermore, the beer companies take great pains to avoid putting calorie totals on the labels so as not to scare you off from imbibing their product.

This brings us to cigarettes, one of the biggest public health hazards ever visited upon mankind.  For several years, in an effort to bring my own consumption of Nicorette gum under control, I attended Nicotine Anonymous meetings.  Personally, I suffer from a condition where my brain’s neurons don’t produce enough dopamine and it has been proven that nicotine enhances dopamine production.  So I will chew Nicorette until I exit this world. However, I can tell you my nicotine consumption is a textbook case of how switching to a lower strength version actually increased my total consumption. When I switched from 4 milligram to 2 milligram, I just ended up chewing twice as many pieces. 

At Nicotine Anonymous, I recall two particularly poignant stories of people who smoked.  One concerned a woman who claimed to smoke seven packs of cigarettes a day.  She was asked how she could actually have enough time to smoke 140 cigarettes in a day.  “I don’t sleep,” she answered.  I wonder if this poor soul even wasted her time eating.

Another heavy smoker related a story of how she used to smoke in bed.  The ceiling above her bed which was white when originally painted turned a dark brown over the years. When she tried painting over this spot it took NINE coats of paint to make it disappear!

I transgressed from the original point of this blog in order to drive home the insidious addictive nature of deadly cigarettes with the two examples above.

"I swear I'll quit tomorrow."

When a human being smokes a light cigarette, there is no appreciable difference from a regular cigarette in the amount of smoke, tar and nicotine absorbed into your system.  When establishing rates of tar and nicotine that a smoker of light cigarettes will take in from their brand, cigarette companies test the cigarette on a smoke machine. This machine is measuring the so-called smoke to air ratio.  The fallacy of these test results is that the machine “smokes” a cigarette in a different manner than a human.  The light cigarettes are manufactured with vented filters and these filters are uncovered when being tested on the smoke machine. The result is that a good deal of the smoke passes out of these vents before it reaches the measuring devices.  A human smoker however will block these vents with pressure from their lips or fingers, meaning that a higher dose of smoke and carcinogens reaches their system than the readings recorded on the smoke machine for this same light cigarette.

Furthermore, as I indicated above in my own situation, taking in nicotine increases the production of dopamine.  Dopamine acts on the part of the brain that produces a sense of pleasure.  This is what makes cigarettes so addicting. Who doesn’t crave pleasure? A smoker who became used to the amount of pleasure generated by smoking a pack a day of regular strength cigarettes upon switching to a light cigarette with less nicotine (and admittedly nicotine levels are on average .5 milligrams per cigarette less) will find that he needs to smoke twice as many light cigarettes to achieve the same nirvana.

And therein lies the crux of the matter. The good intentioned nicotine addict who thought downgrading to a light cigarette would decrease his or her nicotine consumption ends up smoking twice as many of these cancer sticks, the net result being that they are still poisoning themselves at the same level as when smoking regulars.   

In conclusion, light beers and light cigarettes are not a panacea for their consumers.  Instead, they are more like a modern day snake oil veiled in the false promise of producing a healthier you.

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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