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In today's episode of GFN News Chris Baxter shares his own views on the addictive nature of nicotine and the current state of nicotine research, and reflects on his GFN Five submission from GFN22 covering the addictiveness of nicotine.


0:00 - Coming up on today's programme
0:51 - Making the switch from smoking to vaping
2:21 - Looking back at Chris Baxter's GFN Five
3:17 - What do we know about nicotine?
4:21 - Vapers vilified for using nicotine
7:44 - Searching for the science
9:11 - Where does the public perception of nicotine come from?
10:46 - If not nicotine, then what?
12:36 - Closing remarks


00:00:05 --> 00:01:21

Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome! I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. Nicotine is considered to be addictive. Health organizations and governments worldwide have extensively documented and acknowledged the addictive nature of nicotine. But medical professionals and public health experts are recognizing a change in how nicotine is viewed, as smokers increasingly turn to alternative smokeless products such as vapes, heated tobacco, snus and nicotine pouches. Joining us today to discuss potential misconceptions around nicotine's addictive nature is Chris Baxter, a vaping activist who made the switch to vaping over a decade ago after struggling with smoking for 33 years. Hello, Chris. It's good to have you on the program. Please tell us a bit about yourself and how smoking and vaping have played a role in your life.

00:01:23 --> 00:02:20

Chris Baxter: Very briefly, I'm Chris Baxter. I'm 70 years old. I started smoking when I was 16. I loved it. It was like putting a key into a lock. It made me feel more like me. By 25, it was affecting my health. I tried to quit. I found I simply couldn't. And that was it, 33 years of quit and relapse with my health going downhill. At 58, I discovered electronic cigarettes, did my research, bought one, took it outside the shop, sat in the car, put the whole thing together, tried it, I knew I would never smoke again. And I never have. Within four months, the health improvements are so good I started training and 11 months after switching, I did an off-road marathon in a reasonable time. And it's been great ever since.

00:02:21 --> 00:02:37

Joanna Junak: Two years ago, during the GFN conference, you introduced a video titled Nicotine is not addictive, a 52-year case study. As the issue of nicotine still causes controversy, let's take a moment to revisit this video.

00:02:43 --> 00:03:16

Video: I've been drinking tea and using nicotine for 52 years. They are mild stimulants and a pleasant part of my day. But apparently nicotine is highly addictive. Really? A mild stimulant with no euphoria, no intoxication, highly addictive? It doesn't make sense. That's because it isn't true. Nicotine is not addictive. And after 52 years, I should know.

00:03:17 --> 00:03:19

Joanna Junak: So what is nicotine?

00:03:20 --> 00:04:19

Chris Baxter: Well, nicotine, so far as I can tell, it's an organic compound. It's very common in plants of the Solanaceae family. It's closely related to vitamin B3, which is niacin. Niacin, of course, is very important to us. of vitamin B3. And is there ever a chance that nicotine is also a useful trace element? We survive on trace elements, but of course it's been ignored. It's been known for a long time that it's got a very mild psychoactive effect. It clears the mind a little, which It helps motor skills, makes you a better driver and it's also slightly relaxing. But it's a very mild effect and it's almost impossible to strengthen the effect. If you use too much, you feel slightly unwell, stop and that soon passes. It's a very interesting mild stimulant.

00:04:22 --> 00:04:24

Joanna Junak: And what motivated you to record this video?

00:04:25 --> 00:07:43

Chris Baxter: Well, the idea for the video came because Very often in some forums, in particular Twitter, vapers are dismissed as nicotine addicts. Well, I'm a vaper. I don't feel addicted to nicotine at all. It's just a mild stimulant, a pleasant part of my day, just like drinking tea. So where's this idea come from? Perhaps the main reason I decided to try the video was that to me, it doesn't make sense that nicotine is vilified. Vapors are called nicotine addicts, but it's very mild. It's so, so different to smoking. I was a smoking addict in everything that entails, all the health problems, all the inability to quit, but nicotine vaping is just a mild part of my daily routine now. And somehow you've got to get away from the idea that nicotine is addictive or we're stuck with that forever. It really is the wrong approach for policymakers to take for how to handle vaping because it's smoking that kills. I know I've lost three close friends to smoking, but it kills because it's addictive. If smoking wasn't addictive, everyone would have stopped half a century ago. My friends could still be alive. So governments around the world spend vast amounts of money to do something about smoking. It hasn't had much effect. And again, that's because smoking is so addictive. About 15 years ago, a product emerged which could help, the electronic cigarette. But as time's gone on, the approaches by governments on policy making around electronic cigarettes is simply chaotic. It's mad. How can something as simple as that create chaotic policies all around the world? Well, I believe the chaotic response is because they're working from a central fundamental error that nicotine is highly addictive. Take away that error and we might be able to get correct policies about how to handle vaping. Because the real problem is combustion. It's precisely the products of combustion that the smoker inhales. It's the products of combustion that kill. And I believe it's, we know that, that's the term, but I believe it's also some of those products which are the addiction. Carbon monoxide and ammonia spring to mind, there are thousands of others, but it's the effect of those on the body which gives the addiction, not the mild stimulant, of nicotine.

00:07:45 --> 00:07:55

Joanna Junak: We have seen studies where nicotine is described as addictive, but we haven't come across any studies indicating otherwise. Why do you think this is the case?

00:07:56 --> 00:09:08

Chris Baxter: I don't know if there are any studies that show nicotine alone is addictive. It's very typical. I looked at Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a huge page on nicotine. The third paragraph starts with those four words, nicotine is highly addictive. And then it gives three references to that. If you check out the references, they're all studies of smoking. They're not studies of nicotine alone. There's been very few. There've been no studies I've ever heard of testing the addictiveness of nicotine on humans. There'd be ethical problems. They've tried to get rats addicted to nicotine alone and found that very difficult. It's not impossible. I found one study, unfortunately I've lost the reference, when somebody did try to mix carbon monoxide with nicotine and feed that to rats somehow, and they did show some signs of addiction there, but it was inconclusive. Otherwise, I'm not aware of studies of nicotine alone showing addiction in humans.

00:09:10 --> 00:09:16

Joanna Junak: So, based on what you've said, where does potential misinformation about the addictive nature of nicotine come from?

00:09:17 --> 00:10:44

Chris Baxter: So, where did the idea that nicotine is highly addictive and is the addiction in smoking, where did it come from? I don't know. I can't trace the history. It was somewhere in the 1960s when the dangers of smoking really became aware that something had to be done. And so, was it propaganda? Did somebody think a good, if you will, use nicotine as the enemy? Or was it just organic? Either way, it seemed to fit the bill and it was a simple message that was easy to send out to the public. And somehow that became the message, the unquestionable message. Here in the United Kingdom, famously in 1980, the government paid for a big anti-smoking campaign aimed at children. It featured a demonic cartoon character called Nick O'Teen. And Nicotine would try to get children to smoke, but his plans would be spoiled by Superman, who would get rid of Nick O'Teen. Apparently, it had very little effect on childhood smoking, but its public awareness was amazing. Everyone in the country knew Nick O'Teen. And I think from then in 1980, that's been it. Nicotine is to blame for smoking addiction. Nobody ever questions it.

00:10:47 --> 00:11:02

Joanna Junak: And the last question to you, Chris. Looking ahead to the upcoming #GFN24 conference, are you planning to introduce another interesting video?

00:11:03 --> 00:12:35

Chris Baxter: I don't know if I'll make another video. One thing that always interests me is that I think nicotine has incredible benefits. And I could do something on that. Almost everyone sometimes finds daily life stressful. And quite correctly, we look for things to help us. If we have a headache, we take a painkiller. If we're suffering stress, we look for something to ease the stress. And nicotine does that. But it does that with very few side effects. There's no intoxication. I'd say there's no addiction, just in pure nicotine. But it just helps somebody just step outside the stress of life just for a few moments, recharge their batteries. Get back to life with no intoxication. That's why it's been used for so long. If you banned nicotine, what would people use as stress relief in daily life? And you're looking at the awful things like alcohol. Who wants to drink alcohol in the daytime? The bad one, or the benzodiazepines, Valium. That's very addictive. Or antidepressants. These are powerful drugs. They shouldn't be part of daily life, whereas nicotine can help people just step aside for a few moments and then get back on and deal with their problems. They're very interesting, organic, mild stimulants.

00:12:37 --> 00:12:52

Joanna Junak: Thank you, Chris. That's all for today. Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our podcast. You can also find transcriptions of each episode on the GFN TV website. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.