Sunday, June 10, 2007
The Swedish smokeless tobacco snus to some extent has been able to capitalize on public smoking bans -- some smokers turn to snus for nicotine in locations where smoking is verboten. But the extent of this capitalization is pretty restricted, so far being felt mostly in Sweden and Norway. Snus itself is illegal in the European Union outside of Sweden, and Norway is not in the EU. So a British smoker, for instance, does not have ready access to snus.
Not to worry, hapless British smoker: you can rub some nicotine-containing gel (available at Harrods, among other fine establishments) onto your palms when you feel a craving coming on. There is some outrage, of course, that someone would offer a product designed to take advantage of those benevolent public smoking bans.
I am not outraged, but vaguely concerned. What sounds like a single "dose" of the gel is said to contain one-tenth the nicotine of a cigarette. That isn't much nicotine, but the recent tragic death of the young woman in New York from an overdose of a compound found in pain-reducing ointments does make me wonder. Nicotine is poisonous in significant doses -- it leads to flu-like symptoms -- and when dissolved in water (or this gel, presumably), it can be absorbed through the skin. According to Tara Parker-Pope's book Cigarettes (page 55), "Hundreds of tobacco workers each year become ill from an overdose of nicotine as a result of handling tobacco leaves." Then again, people presumably will limit their use of the gel to levels that satisfy their nicotine urges, which would mitigate or eliminate any overdose risk.