On the one hand we applaud this belated public health initiative, but on the other hand we are concerned about the introduction of a prominent display of the 1-800 QUIT NOW number on pack.
1-800 QUIT NOW is run by the US government along with the www.smokefree.gov site. As my friend John Polito from www.whyquit.com observes: 'SmokeFree.gov should be renamed BuyMeds.now as smokers thinking about quitting are bombarded with 173 recommendations to purchase "medicine" or "medication".' This is particularly worrying because nearly every real-world quitting study - including one funded by the government itself - show that the vast majority of long-term quitters did so without the use of medication.
Indeed, as Kevin Helliker pointed out in his 2007 Wall St. Journal article 'Nicotine Fix - Behind Anti-Smoking Policy, Influence of Drug Industry' it is troubling that the public health officials charged with the development of cessation policy have such close ties to the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture cessation products. Helliker notes: 'Dr. Fiore, a University of Wisconsin professor of medicine, headed the 18-member panel that created those guidelines. He and at least eight others on it had ties to the makers of stop-smoking products.'
The specific exclusion of non-pharmacological approaches from the guidelines, including the most effective and successful of all approaches - motivated, educated and supported abrupt cessation - causes some skeptics to allege foul play.
The fact is that American smokers wanting to quit continue to be guided towards products with very poor real-world success rates and this has happened because the policy makers are in bed with the makers of those products. Surely American smokers deserve to know all their quitting options, not just the ones that enrich already wealthy pharmaceutical companies?