Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Magic Smokescreen - homeopathy & cigarettes

Smoking is big business.

According to the Tobacco Manufacturers Association consumer spending on tobacco products in 2007 amounted to £12.6 billion. This led to tax revenue amounting to £9.9 billion - £8.0 billion in excise duty plus £1.9 billion in VAT.

Then there's the aftermath - according to Medical News Today, the global smoking cessation aids market is to reach $2.6 billion By 2010.

Quite the lucrative industry all in all.

There are all manner of products to try and wean the addict from the evil weed, with varying degrees of success, but surprise surprise, they all require will power and rely on the person concerned having a genuine desire to give up.

It shouldn't really come as a surprise for this to be a booming industry. It is notoriously hard to give up, compounded by the fact that people know it is notoriously hard to give up and that provides its own psychological barriers. To be cynical for one second, a product which relies on will-power (regardless of whether it is Big Pharma or Big Quacka), will help to ensure repeat sales from people who won't give up giving up, and keep the tills ringing for many a moon.

This is happy home turf for homeopathy - a placebo remedy that depends largely on the psychology of the person, and not at all on the sugar pill. Failure is due to lack of will-power, success is due to homeopathy. FTW!

Despite it being illegal to sell homeopathic products in the UK with therapeutic indications (unless licenced by the Medicine and Healthcare product Regulatory Agency), it is possible to buy homeopathic products marketed at the smoker.

How about a homeopathic anti-smoking spray from Smoker Stop Shop?
Spray away your cravings (for tobacco smoke or chewing tobacco) with Smoke Control homeopathic oral spray. It helps with nervousness, anxiety and irritability when quitting. It can also help with cough or shortness of breath, difficult breathing and the sensation of weight on your chest from smoking.
Or what about those homeopathic detox tablets and anti-craving lozenges further down the page
Drug Facts
Active Ingredients (per lozenge) Purpose
Caladium seguinum 4x, 12x, 30x Reduces tobacco cravings
Plantago major 4x Reduces tobacco cravings
Cinchona officinalis 6x, 12x, 30x Reduces tobacco cravings
Lobelia inflata 6x Reduces ill effects of nicotine
Nux vomica 6x, 12x, 30x Reduces tobacco cravings
Staphysagria 6x Reduces ill effects due to tobacco
Calcarea Phosphorica 12x Reduces tobacco cravings
Ignatia amara 12x Reduces nervous tension

Seems like pretty straightforward indications for homepathic products to me.

For the interested few, I'm led to believe that 4x dilution is equivalent to a 2c concentration. This means that 1 drop of the mother tincture has been diluted in 99 drops, hit against a magic board (succussed) and then a drop of that taken and diluted in another 99 drops and succussed again. This means that although the product is dilute, there is still some 'active' in the sugar pill. i.e it's not a homeopathic remedy in reality, it's only labelled that to pass US Food and Drug authority regulations. This crazy loophole which means that products containing 'actives' can be called homeopathic and thereby politely excuse themselves from the rigours of normal drug testing. This can mean that the untested pseudo-homeopathic products have massive unknown negative side effects and cause problems in the users - ZiCam is the most recent example. A pseudo-pseudoscience, if you will.

This can lead to all sorts of wacky products like homeopathic nicotine water being sold (I'm sure I can get hold of some bong-water and sell that?) - but only in US, right? Our strict laws wouldn't allow such quackery to be sold in UK?

As ever there are loopholes. Just because a site has got a '.co.uk' domain name doesn't mean it comes under UK law. As I found when I contacted my MP about a quack arthritis product called Artrosilium and put a written question to the Department of Health, the UK's position is that
The importation of medicines by individuals for their own personal use or for use by a family member is exempt from regulatory controls, and this includes purchases from the internet.
Dawn Primarolo signed the letter. Trading Standards have recently been warning people about false confidence in '.co.uk' websites with consumer goods - surely untested imported medicines with their uncontrolled, unregulated ingredients should be given higher priority than a few knocked-off hair-straighteners?

So who runs the Smoker Stop Shop (www.smokerstopshop.co.uk)? That is one Penelope Walford, who runs a private clinic in Harley Street and refers to herself as a 'smoking cessation specialist' using hypnotherapy as her main tool.

[A Cochrane Review asking "Does hypnotherapy help people who are trying to stop smoking" concluded that
We have not shown that hypnotherapy has a greater effect on six month quit rates than other interventions or no treatment.
So much for that, then. No doubt she has many positive testamonials - most placebo treatments do, and present them in place of real evidence]

So how can Penelope Walford sell homeopathic products in the UK with therapeutic indications, which is against the law? I've asked MHRA the same question - I'll let you know the response.

The idea that homeopathy can do something for smokers to help them kick the habit is quite widespread. Other UK-based companies that seem to be up against the law are The Body and Mind shop and i-Quit, with the media, helpful as ever, to give a hand to evidence-free nonsense. Yet surprisingly, few of them seem to require the major magic ingredient that known to give results - willpower.

H/t to Blue Wode