Tobacco will kill 6 million people next year; cannabis will kill zero.

The World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society have compiled in The Tobacco Atlas a damning list of morbidity and mortality inflicted by cigarettes on the world’s people. Cigarettes are powerful drugs, the most addicting and lethal of all drugs. Cigarettes kill far more people than all the illegal drugs combined. In the USA, at least 30 times as many people die from cigarettes than all illicit drugs.

The lists of damage from cigarettes to the health of the world’s people is lengthy:

  • Smoking cigarettes contributes to 6 of the 8 leading causes of death.
  • “Tobacco accounts for one out of every 10 deaths worldwide”
  • Cigarette smoking killed 100 million people during the last century; it may kill one billion during this century.
  • Tobacco kills one-third to one-half of those who smoke it. Smokers die, on the average, about 15 years before people who don’t smoke. Chewed tobacco is also often deadly dangerous.

The most popular illicit drug, cannabis, kills zero people. Marijuana does not have a lethal dose and is not associated with morbidity. Actually though, a few people are killed by association with cannabis, usually in SWAT raids. In Malaysia, about one person is hanged each month for cannabis possession. Cannabis smoke, like all smoke, does contain some toxins, but has not been shown to cause cancer. Elements specific to marijuana smoke, especially THC, may be providing protection against tumors. Medical cannabis is now commonly consumed via vaporizer, so all toxins are eliminated.

What if swine flu developed into great plague next year and death swept across the globe leaving behind six million corpses? The world’s people would tremble in fear. We would grimace in mourning and horror among the mountains of the dead. Yet when this mass death is delivered by the artificial plague of cigarettes, the terrible toll is dismissed with a shrug.

Instead, a world-wide crusade is underway, lead by the USA, with the goal of stamping out not cigarettes, but instead the other drugs. Although they cause are the cause one one death for every 30 from cigarettes (in the USA) these other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, even nearly harmless drugs such as cannabis, are labeled poisons. Those possessing them, at least in the USA and places like Malaysia, are treated with penalties harsher than for real criminals with actual victims.

In light of cigarettes deadly toll, should the USA and other countries prohibit cigarettes and add them to the list of illicit drugs, where they clearly belong? Clearly NOT. The prohibition approach has failed spectacularly, as it did alcohol prohibition in the USA of the 1920s. The difference is that with alcohol the mistake was realized. With the war on drugs, into its 5th decade and with the USA quintupling its prison population into the world’s largest, the prohibitionist, hard-line, lock-em-up stance continues with almost no critical examination.

This ineffective and wasteful prohibition/incarceration model has caused immense collateral damage to American society. As has worked so well in Portugal, drugs should be removed from the law enforcement, zero-tolerance model into a harm reduction approach.

Such an approach has actually worked very well for cigarettes in the USA over the last 20 years. With education, segregation of smoking and higher taxes on cigarettes to help pay for their health toll, smoking has lost much of its popularity. Cigarette consumption has markedly declined in the USA with no arrests or violations of civil liberties.

US Senate regulates cigarettes, America’s most lethal and addictive drug.

The drug that kills 1,200 Americans each day will finally be regulated in the USA. Tobacco cigarettes, perhaps the most addictive of all drugs, yet virtually unregulated as a consumer product, will come under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA. This will not result in prohibition, as the legislation provides for the continued sale of nicotine cigarettes. But several major things will change:

  • Cigarette companies must provide lists of ingredients in cigarettes. The drug cigarettes is a combination of tobacco with a great many additives to strengthen their nicotine kick and mellow their delivery.
  • The FDA will be able to regulate these additive drugs going into cigarettes.
  • More advertising, warning and other restrictions will apply. Graphic warning labels will cover half the cigarette pack.

During the last 40 years of the War on Drugs, those politicians and bureaucrats who most demonized drugs like cannabis were apologists for tobacco companies and loathe to even call cigarettes a drug. Even in today’s historic senate vote, Drug War mongers such as Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell voted against the legislation bringing cigarettes under control of the FDA. As reported by McClatchy, “Senators who opposed tobacco bill received top dollar from industry.” In addition to McConnell, North Carolina’s Jim Bunning and Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss, republicans all, tried to stop the bill. Tobacco state senator Jim Webb, D-Virgina voted for the legislation.

The progress made already in reducing use of the drug cigarettes by Americans has been remarkable. Increased taxation, eduction and smoking area restrictions have helped to greatly reduce the use of this drug, even though highly addictive.

  • During the same period as the War on Drugs (some drugs, that is, such as cannabis) which has had virtually no impact on drug use, cigarette addiction and consumption has dropped in the USA.
  • To win this great preventive health victory over cigarettes, no one had to go to jail, and no SWAT squads were sent to break down doors. The FDA regulation should help these encouraging non-smoking trends even more, without the ineffective and un-American brutality of the drug war.

Strangely, during these long decades when the drug cigarettes killed over 400,000 Americans each year, the drug war was aimed chiefly at a far less addictive drug that killed no one. Marijuana, or cannabis, was (and still is) listed as a Schedule I drug and controlled by the DEA.

  • If any drug fits the requirements for Schedule I, it would be nicotine-laden tobacco cigarettes. They are highly addictive and have no recognized medical use, the supposed requirement for Schedule I.
  • Cannabis, on the other hand, is far less addictive and has dozens of well documented medical uses.

As cigarettes now move to FDA regulation, cannabis should be removed from DEA schedules and restrictions and likewise regulated by the FDA.

Hundred Years’ War on Drugs

February 10, 1909 began like most days across the 46 states of the USA.  However, in one way that day a century ago would have terrible consequences in future decades. The day before Congress had voted its first drug law, and with it, the roots of the counterproductive, destructive and continuing Hundreds Years’ War on Drugs.

In our current age, when drug prohibition, enforcement and related imprisonment are among the main functions of the federal government, it is sobering to remember that up until 100 years ago there were no federal drug laws. No drugs were illegal, except in some anti-Chinese city laws. Most drugs were freely available to all 76 million Americans as medical tinctures, including opium, coca and cannabis. Along with no drug laws, there was no drug problem.  Now, after a long century of ever-tightening laws and prohibitions serving an ever-growing drug war bureaucracy, we have a monstrous drug war problem and a failed attempt to solve a non-problem.

The sad ebbing of American freedom and triumph of bureaucratic authoritarians since that first drug law passed is skillfully documented by author and California NORML Director Dale Gieringer writing in COUNTERPUNCH. Gieringer notes  the insidious worldwide drug war control of indigenous plants such as cannabis in UN Treaties, while entirely ignoring nicotine cigarettes and alcohol as drugs. See Marking 100 Years of Failed Drug Prohibition: The Opium Exclusion Act of 1909.

Obama, Cigarettes and Cannabis

President-Elect Barack Obama has promised not to smoke cigarettes in the White House. Does not smoking in the house mean smoking in the entryways of the White House? Out in the Rose Garden?

Cigarettes are not just the most lethal drug confronting America, they are also the most addictive. The power of cigarette’s grip on human behavior its remarkably demonstrated by our next president. Barack Obama is literally the alpha male of human competence and self control. Master campaigner, victorious debater, now triumphantly poised to assume the most important job on the planet!

Yet still, of all people, the President-elect is not able to summon the will to not smoke tobacco cigarettes. As much as he would like to quit, as much as Michelle and the girls want him to quit, he will presumably duck out of the White House, furtively avoiding his family and to the chagrin of his Secret Service detail, light up a cigarette. Statistically, the smoke will cost him 11 1/2 minutes of his life, and each pack of 20 cigarettes will cost him 3 1/2 hours from his life.

Like most people who become addicted to cigarettes, Obama began as a teenager. Recent evidence shows that just a few cigarettes smoked by an adolescent can set up a lifelong addiction. Tobacco cigarettes were not the only drug smoked (and inhaled), “That was the point” by young Barack Obama:

  • One drug, cannabis with cannabinoids, he used and inhaled. Later, Obama stopped using cannabis when he chose to do so.
  • The other drug, tobacco cigarettes with nicotine, he also used and inhaled. Later, Obama could not totally stop using when he chose to do so.

Receptor discrimination?

When the young Obama smoked a tobacco cigarette, the main drug he inhaled was nicotine. Nicotine activates trans membrane receptors in cells, specifically the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR ). In less 10 seconds after taking a puff of tobacco smoke, nicotine molecules crossed his blood-brain barrier and fit like tiny keys into a locks normally activated by the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Nictoine causes the receptors to activate, change shape and initiate a chemical cascade. Young Barack would have felt modest elevation of energy and mood from AChR receptor activation.

When the young Obama smoked a cannabis “joint,” the main drug he inhaled was THC, short for Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol. THC activates trans membrane receptors in cells, specifically the cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. In less than 10 seconds after taking a puff of cannabis smoke, THC molecules crossed his blood-brain barrier and fit like tiny keys into a locks normally activated by the neurotransmitter, anandamide. THC causes the CB1 (and CB2) receptors to activate, change shape and initiate a chemical cascade. Young Barack would have felt mild euphoria from CB1 receptor activation.

Nicotine is a powerful insecticide. THC is a powerful neuroprotective antioxidant, anti inflammatory and analgesic. Tobacco smoking is highly carcinogenic. No smoke inhalation is a good thing (nor is it necessary with the advent of vaporizers, but cannabis smoking is apparently not carcinogenic. Indeed, THC exhibits several capabilities for preventing, even shrinking tumors.

Tobacco use kills over 1,200 Americans each day. Cannabis use kills 0 Americans each day.

Legal Sanctions

The contrast in legal sanctions for young Barack’s smoking activities are the most startling. If Barack had been caught underage with cigarettes, the punishment, if any, would have been minor. Certainly nothing that would jeopardize his career and future presidential run.

Had Barack been caught and arrested for possesstion of cannabis, though, his future would have immediately dimmed. If given a felony conviction and jailed, as would be possible because of cannabis’  misguided, draconian Schedule 1 listing, Barack would likely now be unemployed. Luckily, because Barack avoided arrest, the “justice” system missed its opportunity to crush the life and career of our next president.

Tragically, Obama’s choice for Attorney General, Eric Holder, holds neocon, authoritarian views on exactly this issue. When part of the Clinton Administration, serving as US Attorney for Washington D.C., he pushed for mandatory jail time for young people caught with cannabis in that city.

Hopefully, as Barack Obama puffs on his occasional cigarette outside the White House, he will think of the vast 2,000,000+ prisoner gulag stretched out across America before him. Far too many of these prisoners languish in jail because they were snared by the dishonest, cruel and self-serving laws against a plant. More Americans are arrested for cannabis possession than all violent crimes combined.

As you take your smoke, please think, Mr. President, of all these American lives being crushed and crippled by such torments as mandatory minimums.  Eric Holder gleefully fed young cannabis prisoners to this incarceration industry and as AG may force many more American lives and families down into the grinder.  All for contact with a substance with true medical value, as opposed to the tobacco cigarettes from which Mr. President, huddled outside the White House, draws another nicotine puff.