Working around My Body Chemistry

Yesterday I wrote about tobacco blends that taste great but are so powerful in terms of flavor and nicotine, that I might have to lie down for a spell after smoking even a small bowl. I promised to report on a possible solution.

Lately, I’ve tried cutting these blends with a straight bland burley, and so far I like the results. Diluting with the burley has the effect of dialing back the flavor and the nicotine, and this has reduced the undesirable side effects. Of course the ratios of the two components are significant, so I am still playing with them.

The important thing is that the burley I’m using adds no flavor to the main blend. It has only a modulating effect — exactly what I am looking for.

What burley am I using? That’s the sad part of the story. I’m using McClelland X30 Pressed Burley. The problem of course is that McClelland and therefore this product don’t exist anymore. Fortunately I bought several ounces a few years ago, and I still have a good amount on hand.

But what about when I run out? I’m thinking that I could use Granger instead of Pressed Burley. When I first bought Pressed Burley, I also bought some Granger in bulk, and I recall that I thought they tasted much alike. If my memory is accurate, Granger — which I’m confident will be around a long time — should be a good tobacco for diluting the blends I have trouble with.

I’ll let you know.

Caution: some burleys, especially those from C&D, are quite powerful. They would definitely not work to dilute another powerful blend.

Tell me of your experiences.

Too Rich for My Body Chemistry?

Christopher Morley

Here’s my dilemma: I love the taste of a tobacco blend, but it’s so rich — I could say powerful — that by the end of even a small bowl, I’m overwhelmed. I might even need a wee lie-down to regain my bearings.

By rich, I mean two things: rich in sheer flavor and rich in nicotine content. Some blends can make my head so woozy, my stomach so queasy, and my legs so wobbly that I wouldn’t want to drive in that condition. Have you experienced that from pipe tobacco?

Several blends in this category come to mind: G. L. Pease Embarcadero, C&D Mad Fiddler Flake, Peterson Irish Flake, and Mac Baren Bold Kentucky. C&D Haunted Bookshop and Pegasus can also have that effect.

What to do? I could chalk it up to my permanent body chemistry and quit the blends once and for all. After all, if that’s how I am, then that’s how I am. Biochemistry is destiny. I should face it and turn to blander products.

But I like a challenge, so I have not quit the blends. I keep coming back to them — and suffering the consequences. Note: the severity of the consequences do vary depending, I believe, on my state of rest/fatigue, how long ago I ate, and possibly other factors.

Recently, however, I’ve hit on a possible solution short of quitting the blends, which I will discuss tomorrow.

Meanwhile, let me know in the comments if you are plagued by this problem and how you deal with it.

Satisfied, Maybe

Brosnan

Part of what accounts for the well-remarked-on pipe-acquisition disorder (PAD) and tobacco-acquisition disorder (TAD) is the all-too-human (I think) proclivity to value what we have less than what we are yet to have. I have way too much opened tobacco, each blend of which I was excited to acquire — only to find that I was much less excited once it became part of my stash. The excitement diminished not because I enjoyed it less than I had anticipated — I might well have thoroughly enjoyed it– but precisely because I now had it. For a blend to generate similar excitement in me now, it had to possess the characteristic of not being in my stash. The same goes for pipes. I badly want a blend or pipe that I don’t yet have, and when I have it — because I have it — I value it less, and I look to the next one. (Forgive me if I generalize without warrant; maybe I am the only human being who “suffers” this malady, though I suspect I am not.)

Is this a problem? It can be. I have too little time to enjoy what I already have; the day has only so many hours. What’s more, if I acquire blend or pipe Y, I will thereby have less time to get to know and appreciate blend or pipe X. It is not money that now makes me hesitate to acquire that next blend or pipe — it’s time!

I’m working overtime to appreciate what I have and not to think about what I don’t have. With temptation all around me, the task is not easy.

Nicotine and Balsa Filters

Wodehouse

Commenter P. Stephenson wonders if Savinelli’s balsa filters reduce the nicotine hit from tobacco by absorbing moisture. This is a good question, so I set out to see if that’s true. Some while back I used carbon filters in the hope that they would diminish the nicotine hit that some tobaccos give me. I can’t say they did. I don’t recall if I tried balsa filters in that regard, and I hoped to learn something about this in my latest experimentation.

After a week of testing, I can say one thing for certain: I’m just not sure. I smoked three blends that, under some circumstances, can give me quite a wallop: C&D Big ‘N’ Burley, C&D Mad Fiddler Flake, and GL Pease Embarcadero. I mean these guys can make my head spin and my legs wobble.

So what happened when I smoked them in my Savinellis with balsa filters? One thing I can say is that the nicotine hit did not disappear altogether. The question is whether it was reduced at all. And here I am not sure. It may have done, but I must bear in mind that, for me at least, the nicotine hit from a blend seems heavily dependent on factors other than the tobacco itself. Time of day, state of rest, and fullness stomach seem to have a lot to do with it. Thus even if I’m right and did indeed experience a lesser hit, I have no way of knowing if the filter was the reason.

I’ll keep experimenting, but I fear that no matter how long I do, I won’t be able to overcome the epistemological problem. After all, if on a given occasion I find the hit less severe, I will never know what it would have been had I smoked without a filter.

Here is another thing I can say with certainty, the filter makes the draw less easy than I prefer.

The FDA’s Assault on Tobacco Consumers, Part 2

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bill introduced in the U.S. House last month would ban the flavoring of any “tobacco product.” The targets are vaping devices (vapes, e-cigarettes), but also cigars and pipe tobacco. (Flavored conventional cigarettes other than menthol have already been banned.) The Food and Drug Administration deems vaping devices “tobacco products” even though they contain no tobacco. Introduced without sponsors by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the bill would allow an exception for some vaping products, but it is one that would be all but impossible to qualify for.

The rationalization for the prohibition is that flavoring attracts underage consumers to the products. Yet this seems implausible because it suggests that without flavoring teenagers would be uninterested in e-cigarettes (not to mention conventional cigarettes). Yet kids have long been attracted to conventional unflavored cigarettes. (And unflavored marijuana has no troubling winning favor among the young.) After all, fruit, mint, and other flavors are readily available in unrestricted products like hard candy, chewing gum, and soft drinks. So if underage consumers want those flavors, why don’t they stick with products they can legally buy? Clearly, the attraction to e-cigarettes (and conventional cigarettes) is something other than flavors — the “coolness,” or maturity, factor perhaps.

DeLauro’s bill betrays a fundamental puritanism, which underlies all prohibitionism: since nicotine is a substance that provides pleasure and some people therefore use it habitually, it must be stamped out and its consumers, producers, and merchants demonized. (Human beings have long affirmed themselves by demonizing others and their preferences.) As H. L. Mencken told us: puritanism is the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

At any rate, DeLauro’s bill is redundant because the FDA under Trump appointee and putative deregulator Scott Gottlieb is already moving in that direction. Indeed, Gottlieb now threatens to yank vapes from the market and subject them to a lengthy and expensive regulatory review if “the youth use continues to rise.” (The anti-vaping hysteria is just getting started.) According to NBC News, Gottlieb told a meeting: “If … we see significant increases in [youth] use in 2019, on top of the dramatic rise in 2018, the entire category will face an existential threat. It will be game over for these products until they can successfully traverse the regulatory process.” (Emphasis added.) He reportedly accused the e-cigarette makers of marketing to young people. Yet when those makers label their products as for adults only, they are accused of enticing children. Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

Welcome to America, the land (as Mencken put it) of the “theoretically free.”

In 2009 Congress and Barack Obama gave a virtual blank check to the secretary of health and human services to regulate “tobacco products” through the FDA and a soon-to-be-created Center for Tobacco Products. The result over the last few years has been a dizzying cascade of oppressive rules governing manufacturing, retailing, labeling, and other aspects of the business of producing and selling combustible and smokeless tobacco and nicotine-delivery products that don’t contain or are not made out of tobacco, such as e-cigarettes and pipes.

Among other things, the FDA has begun to move toward mandating that the nicotine in cigarettes be reduced to so-called “non-addictive” levels, the consequences of which would surely spill onto pipe and cigar smokers. (Nicotine users have always found ways to get the amount they want regardless of government restrictions.) The FDA’s most recent decree bans most flavored vape “e-juices” from general retail stores (as opposed to age-restricted vape shops), and prohibition of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars are also in the works. Meanwhile, other tobacco products, such as pipe tobacco, that entered the market after Feb. 15, 2007, are being deemed “new” and are required by law to have “premarket authorization,” whatever that turns out to mean. Even a retailer’s blend of two long-available pipe tobaccos is deemed to be “new” and subject to testing. (Deadlines for submission for testing are in 2021 and 2022, depending on the product. The FDA’s procedures have yet to be worked out.)

The upshot is that adults are being harassed as they go about their peaceful consumption of combustible and smokeless tobacco and nontobacco nicotine products, which human beings have done in one way or another from time immemorial. (While some people find it easy to habituate themselves to nicotine, unlike inhaled tobacco smoke, it is not hazardous to health.) As noted, many of these bureaucratic violations of liberty are defended in the name of protecting children; however, we can address that issue without the blunt instrument of the state, and as mentioned, many intrusions have nothing to do with children. How many kids are shelling out for premium cigars, pipe tobacco, and briar pipes?

Moreover, regulations that appear aimed at children, especially those regarding vaping, may discourage cigarette smokers from switching to that safer form of nicotine consumption. The warning that vaping is “not a safe alternative to cigarettes” almost sounds like an argument for sticking with cigarettes, although vaping is safer than inhaling cigarette smoke. (The reported rise in teen vaping has coincided with a drop in teen cigarette smoking.)

The intrusions simply hassle adults and make what they want to consume less abundant and more expensive. And they do something else: they entice teens, who will always be drawn to forbidden fruit. (What would Huck Finn be saying?)

Congress should repeal the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) of 2009, which empowers the FDA to regulate “tobacco products” and to define what a tobacco product is. How can anyone continue to believe that the U.S. government is constitutionally limited when Congress and the president can authorize an executive department and a regulatory agency to define their own powers over peaceful, consensual conduct?

Make no mistake about it: the assault on manufacturers and retailers is ultimately an attack on consumers who indulge in what other people believe are vices. (See Lysander Spooner’s Vices Are Not Crimes: A Vindication of Moral Liberty.) This is shameful in a society that fancies itself free.

To be continued….

This also appeared at the site of The Libertarian Institute.

The FDA’s Assault on Tobacco Consumers

tobacco

We’ve all heard horror stories about the run-amok regulatory state. Enabled by open-ended statutes passed by Congress and signed by presidents, regulatory agencies have acquired virtual carte blanche to write rules governing peaceful behavior. Even when a seemingly narrow purpose has been set out, regulatory rule-making has engaged in mission-creep with alarming regularity.

Here’s an example that gets little attention because it directly impinges on the freedom of only a small number of Americans. For the last 10 years the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been writing draconian rules governing the makers, sellers, and ultimately consumers of cigars, smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco, and even the pipes themselves (which of course are not made from tobacco) in what appears to be part of an effort aimed indirectly at eradicating these products from the marketplace. The fanatical campaign, reminiscent of America’s earlier crusade to prohibit alcoholic beverages, ought to concern everyone, including nonsmokers, because if it succeeds, other products could well be targeted on the grounds of public health. It is not just tobacco users who need to worry about the regulatory state’s tactics.

The assault on all forms of tobacco use, as well as the use of vaping devices, or e-cigarettes, which don’t use tobacco, is defended on public-health grounds, but we must not be fooled by this appeal. As Thomas Szasz showed throughout his career as the top critic of what he dubbed the “therapeutic state,” this assault is moral, cultural, and political, not scientific or medical. The anti-tobacco campaigners are not content merely with providing useful information, leaving people free to use it and the products as they wish. Instead, they support the use of state force to achieve their objectives; their advocacy of force is aimed not only at ostensibly protecting other people from smokers (which could be accomplished through contract and other consensual practices), but ostensibly at protecting smokers from themselves. (I should say “ourselves” because I’ve been a devout pipe smoker for over half a century.) Medical science can tell you what may happen to your body if you ingest a substance, but it cannot reasonably assert that in light of that information the state ought to prohibit or penalize the use of that substance. A physician qua physician has no special qualification to counsel when the use of force by the state or anyone else is justifiable.

Before describing the insidious campaign now underway (which will span a few of these columns), I want to establish a badly overlooked fact. The anti-smoking, or more generally, anti-tobacco, or more generally still, anti-nicotine campaign assumes that use of the relevant products entails costs but no benefits to “society.” Of course, that cannot be correct. We know this because individuals choose to consume the products; what’s more, they pay money (that is, they give up something of value) to do so. If consumers received no subjective benefit from the products, they would not buy or consume them. Lots of people have quit consuming them after deciding that the costs outweighed the benefits to them.

Among the benefits, which people of many cultures have enjoyed for centuries, are the well-known pleasant and useful effects of nicotine (as an aid to relaxation and concentration) and the palate-pleasing nature of the tobacco leaf. That those benefits can’t be quantified is no good reason to pretend that they do not exist. If tobacco products could effectively be banished (which they can’t be because of the robustness of black markets), the people who now enjoy them would be less well off in their own eyes; that is, the quality of their lives would be diminished. Why don’t those individuals count in the public-policy discussion? Are they lesser persons?

The campaign against tobacco and its consumers goes back several decades, but in 2009 it took a giant leap. In that year Congress and President Barack Obama enacted the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the statute empowering the FDA to regulate whatever it deems a “tobacco product.” Later, we will see why the word deems is important. That such authority would be given to the FDA should seem odd since tobacco is neither a food nor a drug in the pharmaceutical sense; people don’t eat it or treat (real or imagined) illnesses with it. If the issue were consumer welfare, regulation advocates might have wanted the authority given to the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Federal Trade Commission. So why should the FDA have anything to do with tobacco? The answer lies in Szasz’s term the therapeutic state. The government can claim jurisdiction over virtually any peaceful behavior simply by playing the public-health card. What’s more, many people will accept it without question.

At any rate, the word family in the name of the legislation is meant to suggest that the goal of the legislation is to keep children from becoming cigarette smokers, a worthy goal, to be sure, if pursued without the help of government. The first “finding” listed in the act is this: “The use of tobacco products by the Nation’s children is a pediatric disease of considerable proportions that results in new generations of tobacco-dependent children and adults.” (We’ll leave aside the Szaszian question of how the use of a product can be a disease. Adults who habitually use tobacco and nicotine are similarly seen as suffering a disease. While behavior may lead to a disease, it is not in itself a disease. Interestingly, it is only unapproved behaviors that are regarded as diseases.)

While we can stipulate that smoking cigarettes constitutes a personal health risk (as many other legal things do), we may reasonably doubt that children are all that the bill’s supporters have in mind. (By the way, the danger in cigarettes lies not in nicotine, as Dr. Brad Rodu argues in For Smokers Only. Pipe tobacco and cigars, the smoke from which is rarely inhaled, pose a far lesser risk than chemical-laden cigarettes.) Children are unlikely customers for premium cigars, tobacco pipes, and premium pipe tobacco, which are not within a typical child’s means. (Government campaigns to keep children from doing something will likely be undercut by the forbidden-fruit phenomenon: if the government thinks an activity or substance is that much fun, then it must be tried. Better to leave such matters to families and voluntary associations.) Thus, it is hard not to see the act as part of the larger campaign to rid America of tobacco and non-tobacco nicotine products. Through this lens, the FDA’s actions since 2009 — the warning labels, taxes, restrictions on adults, the product-testing requirements — all have a certain logic, but it is a logic that is inimical to individual liberty and responsibility. We’ll explore other features of the anti-tobacco campaign in future columns.

This was originally posted at The Libertarian Institute website.