nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
See here for more discussion.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thoughts On World No Tobacco Day

Today is World No Tobacco Day, and Memorial Day.

I'm struck by the confluence here.  At one time, a soldier's ration included cigarettes and matches.  Most infantrymen smoked in World War II, and if you talked to them about it, a lot would admit that it was calming, reducing anxiety.

If I was living the horror of combat in those days, I probably would have done anything to dampen down the fear and anxiety.

Tobacco is pharmacologically both a stimulant and a relaxant, based primarily on the actions of nicotine.
"At low doses, nicotine potently enhances the actions of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, causing a drug effect typical of those of psychostimulants. At higher doses, nicotine enhances the effect of serotonin and opiate activity, producing a calming, pain-killing effect." (Wikipedia, Nicotine)
It's this sequential and overlapping effect of alertness and arousal combined with relaxation and anxiety reduction that accounts for its popularity in combat and other stressful situations.

Given the overwhelming number of harmful side effects, it's still not surprising that on the front lines it would be useful.

Nicotine alone has almost no addictive potential. The presence of other compounds in tobacco, primarily the monoamine oxidase inhibitors, cause a behavioral sensitization that increases addiction potential.

In any case, all of the above is meant to draw attention to just how vulnerable we all are to engaging in unhealthy behavior when the circumstances push us toward it:  combat, peer pressure, etc.

I'm dubious that No Tobacco Days, like the Lights Out Earth Hour, accomplish anything.  It doesn't seem to impact behavior even for the day, or the hour.  And if people really need a yearly reminder about tobacco or wasting energy, then we're all idiots.

On the other hand, a No Tobacco Lifetime might work.

Doc D
 

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