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Nicotine-Free Cigs, Genetically Engineered 547

jim.b0b writes "Wired has an interesting article about nicotine-free cigarettes, made from genetically engineered tobacco grown by Amish farmers. Vector Tobacco is hoping that their Quest cigarettes will make them a viable competitor to RJR and Phillip Morris. Don't worry, they are nicotine-free, not carcinogen-free."
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Nicotine-Free Cigs, Genetically Engineered

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  • Wait.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ruis ( 21357 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:07PM (#5177242)
    IANAS (I am not a smoker) but isn't the reason most people smoke for the nicotine?
    That's like alcohol-free beer. What's the point?
  • by RadioheadKid ( 461411 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:11PM (#5177266)
    When I used to smoke, I smoked for the nicotine...What good are these things.

  • this is stupid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:14PM (#5177286)
    I don't understand. What is so bad about nicotine? The nicotine just keeps you addicted. It's the thousands of chemicals like TAR and like CHLORINE that will kill you.

    I'm still not sure I undrestand why cigerettes even have those other things in them. WOuldn't they be just as good without them?
  • Bad, very bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fredbo ( 118960 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:15PM (#5177294) Homepage
    One main reason smokers smoke one or two or more packs a day is that is the level of nicotine they are addicted to. Take away the nicotine and they'll be puffing away on 4-6 packs a day...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:16PM (#5177302)
    You know my biggest problem with quitting smoking isn't so much the nicotine withdrawals as it is the habit. I smoke all the time in everything I do. For me it's breaking the habit of lighting up after taking a shower, waking up, eating something, etc.. With the stress of ditching the nicotine compounded with not being able to smoke after dinner, it makes it quite difficult. With nicotine free cigs, I might be able to breeze through the initial withdrawals long enuff that later on, the trauma of quitting a constant, daily routine won't be as stressful and perhaps a little bit more manageable.
    And in the event that I wanted to light up the "occasional" cig to have with a cup of java, it wouldn't start the nicotine withdrawal process all over.

    Perhaps this could be the tool to my salvation? The way things are goinig, cigarettes will be illegal soon enough anyway.
  • by Captain Morgan ( 160029 ) <`cmorgan' `at' `'> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:16PM (#5177303) Homepage
    Wait until they find out that without nicotine there is absolutely no reason for someone to use their product. I mean look at the stunning sales of alcohol free beer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:18PM (#5177328)
    Smoking (with Nicotine or without) has to be the most idiotic practice anybody had invented. If you smoke, you get all of these wonderful benefits:

    Lets just face it. You stink. Your car stinks, your house stinks, your breath stinks. You just stink.

    The added expense of paying $5 per pack to smoke

    You get to outside in the cold rain or snow, or summer heat, and huddle around acting "cool"

    Oh yeah, and then there is the small detail that it kills you.

    Um. Yeah, sign me up.

  • by guido1 ( 108876 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:19PM (#5177335)
    Well, 1/5 isn't so bad. From page 3 of the article:
    In 1998, a Vector scientist stumbled upon a sealed canister in the basement of the old Liggett research lab in Durham, North Carolina. The canister contained cigarettes from a secret research initiative known as Project XA, an attempt to produce cigarettes with reduced toxins - a safer smoke. Liggett canceled the program in the '70s, reportedly after being pressured by other companies. The industry feared that the introduction of a reduced-toxin cigarette would be a tacit acknowledgment that cigarettes were harmful, an unthinkable admission two decades ago.

    But times had changed, and LeBow dived in. By 2000, a research team completed what its predecessors couldn't. Using palladium to treat tobacco, they produced a cigarette that caused 70 percent fewer tumors in mice. Trumpeting the research, LeBow launched a $25 million advertising campaign in 2001 and released what was dubbed the Omni.

    It was a huge failure.
  • help quiting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Twillerror ( 536681 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:20PM (#5177336) Homepage Journal
    As someone who smokes and wants to quit, these might be better then gum, etc.

    It would be cheaper as well. It would be interesting to see if it could be used to calm the cravings slightly. Fooling you into think you are getting the nicotine witout really getting it.

    As a smoker I'm not sure if I smoke for the nicotine, or if I just smoke to smoke. It would be interesting to see. When I drink I usually smoke a ton more then usuall, once drunk I don't know if I'd recognize the difference.

  • by Rob.Mathers ( 527086 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:20PM (#5177338) Homepage
    Although this is probably a good thing (even though you're killing yourself, you're doing it without addiction), I think there may be an overlooked aspect here.
    Considering how uninformed the typical consumer is, I fear this could result in a rise in the number of smokers. When Joe Sixpack is browsing through his local 7 Eleven and sees a pack of cigs with "Nicotine Free" on the box, what if he thinks "Hey, I can smoke without harming myself" and takes up smoking. I think this is not an inconceivable situation. I would hope that these things come with additional warnings stating that while they do not contain addictive nicotine, they are still cancer causing.
  • by Graspee_Leemoor ( 302316 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:21PM (#5177345) Homepage Journal
    This is nothing new really. For decades you have been able to get "herbal tobacco" which contains no nicotine. Some dope smokers roll joints with it to avoid getting hooked on nicotine. The actual point of it is the same as the point of these "nicotine free" cigs- to get you unhooked.

    I personally prefer using nicotine patches- so it's the other way around- nicotine and no smoking habit.

    The reason it's better is that you get rid of the withdrawel symptoms because you are getting nicotine, you aren't breathing smoke so it's better for your lungs- and you can use public transport and walk into shops without having to have a quick cig first- which is an actual bonus to giving up.

    I find people who give up by using, say, nicotine gum or lonzenges have an easier time to start with because they get a nicotine buzz, and there's a new ritual to replace the old one, but then a harder time getting from the replacement to nothing at all, as they haven't kicked the "ritual" part of smoking, or the nicotine delivered once per hour (or whatever).

    The only benefit of nicotine free cigs compared to the existing "herbal tobacco" if that's the way you want to go, is that the herbal tobacco cigarettes normally smell so bad that they clear out rooms- even of people who quite happily tolerate ordinary cigarette smoke.


  • Re:Wait.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Qrlx ( 258924 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:24PM (#5177368) Homepage Journal
    Im a smoker. I can go without smoking for a few days if the need be. I'm not as addicted to the nicotine as I am the psychological connection to the action of smoking.

    In other words, there's no real reason you'd choose this cigarette over one with nicotine.

    To extrapolate... who the *hell* wants nicotine-free cigarettes? The whole POINT of cigarettes is that by smoking, you get some nicotine in your blood stream.

    I guess, maybe, that the deal is that you can try to wean yourself off the nicotine by smoking ciggies with no nicotine in them. But taste is really important to smokers, so unless they have Nicotine-free Marlboros and Camels and American Spirits, I can't see that working too well. You'll try one pack of these things and go back to your favorite brand.

    This is even worse than that new Michelob Ultra Light beer. You know where the calories in beer come from? Alcohol. So what's gonna happen? You'll have more Ultra Light beers until you get the buzz you are looking for. Except that here, you just keep smoking, looking for the buzz that never comes, until you get emphyzema from huffing nicotine-free smoke hoping to get the nonexistent rush.

    If anyone can see a use for this product, let me know. Maybe, you could use it to educate kids that smoking is gross (by forcing them to smoke) without exposing them to nicotine, but that's certainly a niche market.

    Of course, if marketed properly this could be something HUGE. Just because I don't see a need for it doesn't mean that sexy chicks can't sell it to horny guys.
  • Alcohol-free beer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vic ( 6867 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:25PM (#5177382) Homepage
    You're making a big assumption that most people only drink beer because it has alcohol.

    For me, I'd be delighted to find a good-tasting alcohol-free beer. Or even a very low-alcohol beer. To me, it's the taste of having a good beer that is most important, although I admit that the alcohol is a nice bonus most of the time. ;-)

    But imagine being able to have a couple of stouts at lunch time, and then still being able to operate heavy machinery without killing someone (or running servers without bringing your corporate web server to its knees)? That would kick ass. Beer tastes so good.

    The non-alcohol beers, unfortunately, are not worth getting....

  • Amish Geneticists (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ZahrGnosis ( 66741 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:27PM (#5177402) Homepage
    I'm not at the forefront of the changes in the Amish community or anything, but doesn't the phrase "genetically engineered tobacco grown by Amish farmers" seem a bit odd?
  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:29PM (#5177420) Homepage Journal
    I've been a smoke for many years, I remember my nicotine addiction starting at 8 when my old man use to let me grab a pinch of beechnut. I remember feeling like crap and being addicted to it for a while, then later on quitting, then becoming addicted to cigerettes at 10 when I went to live with my mom.

    So here I am, over 20 years of putting this crap in my body.. The sad thing is when I don't have it.

    First sign is nervousness, agitation. Then I go into cold sweats as my body excretes tar and nicotine out from my pours. Third stage i'm rollin up butts from the ashtray.

    For those of you that don't understand the nature of addiction, let me tell you, I go through it every night. At least when I sleep, I have nothing to agitate me, but I still go through the physical withdrawel symptoms every night, proof of which is washing the sheets every 3 to 4 days to take out the yellow stain from my tar infused sweat.

    I hate cigs, they are a tax on my life and my health, and I feel that the addictive traits of nicotine has been played down to avoid lawsuits. I've even developed shakes at times, no different than any heroin junkie.

    I tried quittin new years cold turkey. I just bought a carton of marlboro reds today for 30 bucks. Previously I tried patches, gum, and hypnosis.

    I have heard of anesthetic therapy for herion users. Sorry for no link but I remember seeing it on dateline NBC, search there produced too many results. The premise is simple, hook a needle up to the patients arm with a drip bag of sodium penathol and let them sleep through their withdrawels.

    As neat as this genetic amish tobacco sounds, it just won't cut it for people who have been smoking as long as I have. Over 2/3's of my life I've had this shit running through my brain. I need rest.
  • Oopsie? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:38PM (#5177479) Journal
    Hypothetically speaking, what would happen if this strand got into the wild?

    Not being a smoker, I'd think it hilarious if a large portion of the tobacco crop ended up tainted with the "phony" tobacco. Just on the principle of the matter.

    Phillip Morris would have a collective heart attack if their biggest profit maker became non-additive!
  • by andres32a ( 448314 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:41PM (#5177500) Homepage
    Nicotine free cigarretes have been tried before... and it went really bad. The book BARBARIANS AT THE GATE mentions how RJR Nabisco once tried it an have a marketing test which got a 95% percent response: "IT TAKES LIKE SHIT".
    People are not cigarrete addicted. People are nicotine adicted. With no nicotine, every smoker will just about give the same response.
  • by knobmaker ( 523595 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:41PM (#5177501) Homepage Journal

    They have engineered the reverse, in a sense. Nicotine patches, gum, and so forth. Unfortunately, these are all priced far above the cost of nicotine delivered in a cigarette, so only those who can justify the cost as an aid to quitting will use these products.

    I see this as a perfect example of our screwy, chaotic, and counterproductive attitude toward drugs. Cigarettes give you cancer and heart disease, so instead of finding a healthier delivery system for addicts, we tell them they either have to smoke cigarettes or go without their drug. Or use oral tobacco with none of the carcinogens taken out, so addicts can enjoy a new set of cancers.

    This doesn't make any sense. Why not grasp the reality that some people are addicted to nicotine and like the effects? Why not provide them with a less-dangerous alternative? Surely a nicotine pill or drink could be made at a competitive price-per-dose. Lives would be saved.

    By the way, this isn't entirely a theoretical viewpoint. In Sweden an oral preparation called snus, [] is used by many Swedish nicotine addicts and Sweden has the lowest rate of male lung cancer in Europe. It does increase oral cancer rates somewhat, but that's a bug, not a feature. With our present pharmaceutical abilities, we ought to be able to come up with a delivery system that has harmful effects no worse than the drug itself. Nicotine, while not harmless, is less harmful than smoking cigarettes or dipping snuff.

    Maybe one of these days we'll start treating drug use and abuse realistically, but not yet.

  • Re:Wait.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xerithane ( 13482 ) <xerithane@n e r d f a r m . o rg> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:42PM (#5177504) Homepage Journal
    In other words, there's no real reason you'd choose this cigarette over one with nicotine.

    Well, wrong. People who want to quit, they'll buy them. People who want the social habit of smoking, without the nicotine or the physical addiction... those are real reasons.

    I guess, maybe, that the deal is that you can try to wean yourself off the nicotine by smoking ciggies with no nicotine in them. But taste is really important to smokers, so unless they have Nicotine-free Marlboros and Camels and American Spirits, I can't see that working too well. You'll try one pack of these things and go back to your favorite brand.

    The reason why they have the distinct Marlboro flavor (or Camel flavor, or whatever) is because of the tabacco they grow. Discount tobacco makes discount cigarettes. They're paying twice the normal cost of tobacco, so my guess is they definitely are using premium tobacco as a base. You shouldn't be able to taste a difference.

    Ultra lights have been an increasingly popular cigarette because of the low amount of nicotine, I suspect this will definitely increase Vectors market share.
  • by Transient0 ( 175617 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:45PM (#5177531) Homepage
    The reason this is interesting is because now the chemical and the habit can be seperated into two problems each easier to deal with on its own than in conjunction with the other. Nicotine patches and gum have helped a large number of people give up smoking because they allow a smoker to wean themselves off of the physical habit without having to deal with withdrawal from the chemical. If they are successful at this step, they have come half way and have only to wean themselves off of the patch.

    This engineered tobacco allows the same process to work the other way. In fact the two could probably be combined for a very gentle weaning process consisting of first switching smokers to nicotine-free cigarettes and nicotine patches and then slowly lowering the use of one while keeping the other constant and then lowering the second to match.

    Also, to all the people saying this is a dumb idea and using comparisons with alcohol-free beer(which they claim is also a dumb idea). Regardless of whether you think it will help people quit smoking or not, I guarantee that enough people will be willing to try to pull in a healthy profit for the company. All those companies aren't making alcohol-free beer because it doesn't sell. So in that sense its definitely not a dumb idea.
  • by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @06:53PM (#5177582) Journal
    Too bad it's illegal to grow in most places.

    Really? IIRC in MN you can grow hemp legally. Now, this is in MN, where just about anything fun is illegal in more than one way. I assume if it's legal in MN, it's legal just about anywhere.

    What I'd like to know is, if THC and non-THC marijuana look the same, how is anyone going to know you're growing the legal stuff?
  • by Mr. Asdf ( 267041 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:02PM (#5177637) Homepage
    most smokers who try to quit end up starting to smoke again days, weeks, or even months later- long after the nicotine addiction has passed. this is due to a psychological addiction which is usually much stronger than the physical addiction to nicotine. this product does not really address this issue, and IMHO, might cause people to smoke more, since they won't be experiencing the nicotine which they need to "take the edge off" of a stressful situation.
  • Just smoke Pot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DenOfEarth ( 162699 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:20PM (#5177805) Homepage
    The stuff grows naturally, has like, zero nicotine, tastes better than regular cigarettes, and it even makes you feel good. Support your local amish hydroponic operation pot!
  • by praksys ( 246544 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:44PM (#5177964)
    Actually no - if it were a drug delivery system then it would fall within the scope of the FDA's power to regulate. So far the Tobacco companies have escaped that horror or horrors.

    Smokeless cigarettes on the other hand (i.e. cigarettes that are considerably better for the smoker and entirely safe for those around him) were ruled to be drug delivery systems, and were kept out of the market. Life is strange sometimes.

    What's the point of leaving out the drug?

    I wondered about this myself - this stuff will ruin your health without making you feel good. Kind of like taking a burger and removing the flavor, but leaving the fat. Hmmm...
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:50PM (#5178003)
    Some sort of "rush" (whatever that is) is the reason *many* people smoke cigarettes. Bear in mind that smoking != does not equal cigarettes and smokers of pipes and cigars do not get such a "rush", nor do they experience the habit forming symptoms of the cigarette smoker.

    Believe it or not there ARE people who smoke merely for the act, and yes, the smell and flavor, no matter how offensive some *others* may find these. (Personally I can't stand patchouli or most other perfumes, that doesn't mean they *aren't* pleasant. . . to some). There are many, many other "smokey" products that even nonsmokers enjoy, such as incense, smoke flavored foods, etc., so the idea that smoke might smell and/or taste good is not only not bizarre, but historically the opposite point of view is the bizarre one. People have loved smoke since prehistoric times and may well be the main reason the control of fire was first sought, not heat.

    As for the nicotine itself there's a problem here. It has never actually been shown to be the "active" ingredient in cigarette smoke that gives the "rush." There's certainly no evidence that it's the agent that causes "addiction." ( And there isn't any actual evidence that cigarettes are addictive, at least in the classical sense, as opposed to "habit forming"). Other nicotine containing plants in common usage give no such habit forming symptoms.

    Such nicotine containing plants are among the most consumed on earth, with no ill effect of any kind ( at least if you prepare them properly) so there is clearly a safe level of nicotine consumption.

    "What plants?", I hear you cry.

    As it happens tobacco is a variety of nightshade. So are potatoes and tomatoes. When you you have fries with ketchup you're eating nicotine, and just about every *other* chemical found in tobacco. This is why tomatoes were long believed to be poisonous ( as its leaves actually are) and people die every year from bad potatoes improperly prepared.

    Nonetheless tomatoes and potatoes themselves are not only nutritious, but quite safe to eat.

    But just as with tomatoes people have *assumed* many properties to tobacco. Many of which it turns out it doesn't have or has to be shown that it actually does.

    The irony, and tragedy of the whole tobacco issue is that it's so politically, morally and religiously charged an issue that despite being about the most studied plant in history very little in the way of *facts* is actually known about it, or the effects of smoking it, most studies being clearly predesigned to show or confirm a predetermined negative assumption rather than the "truth."

    If you don't believe me try to get a *government* grant to study the *positive* effects of smoking cigarettes.

    You aren't allowed to simply say "There aren't any." That's a "religous" statement of "faith", not a scientific one.

    Proper science *requires* looking for positive effects to disprove the hypothesis that there aren't any.

  • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:03PM (#5178087)
    Yet another example of our inability to distinguish technological progress from social progress in general. It's, uh, new, and uh, technological, it MUST be better!!
  • Re:Wait.. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:05PM (#5178097)
    Oh come on... have you ever smoked properly, like a 10-20 day habit?

    Like with any drug, you smoke for the nicotine. You smoke a specific brand for the status.

    Who wants the health risk and smell on their clothes for neither of the two benefits above? Like Amish tobacco is going to confer social status on the dedicated Camel fan!

    The market is for a carcinogen-free buzz, not a fun-free death stick.

    Ultra Lights aren't popular because of the low amount of nicotine, they are popular because of the low amount of tar, which people mistakenly think confers some health benefit.

  • The real hit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by billybob ( 18401 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:32PM (#5178251)
    What's a hit to their bottom line is being forced to air advertisements discouraging use of their own product! You don't see that every day :) I've always found this very amusing.

    On topic, I use to smoke a lot, for maybe 5 years. I still smoke occasionaly when I go out to bars or whatever but am fine not smoking for long periods of time. Nicotine is only a small part of the addiction, for me anyways. As a parent post pointed out (I think), the addiction is just as much about the act of smoking. That's why things like gum and patches, while certainly helpful, don't have the success rate for quiting that one might expect. Cigarettes become such a part of your life after a while, after a big meal, while drinking, first thing in the morning, after sex, driving in the car, talking on the phone, using your computer, blah blah blah... They become associated with everything that you do and when you take that all away... it's very hard to deal with.

    One other thing that makes it very hard is by smoking, you meet other smokers. Said smokers become your friends. When you try to quit, all your friends all around you are still smoking. IF you dont have to see it, its not too bad, but being around chain smokers while trying not to smoke really sucks ass. I wasnt able to quit until I graduated college and moved away from most of my friends. Finally I was free of being around cigaretes all the time, and that's what made the biggest difference for me.
  • screwy indeed. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twitter ( 104583 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @09:24PM (#5178524) Homepage Journal
    I see this as a perfect example of our screwy, chaotic, and counterproductive attitude toward drugs. Cigarettes give you cancer and heart disease, so instead of finding a healthier delivery system for addicts, we tell them they either have to smoke cigarettes or go without their drug.

    I quit smoking, so can anybody. From a pack a day to zero. No big deal, you just stay away for smokes.

    What bothers me is the whole set up. If the federal government really wanted to kill tobaco, they could just STOP PAYING PEOPLE TO GROW IT. Of course, the states would lose their lucrative tax base and the economy would lose the export money. Does it bother anyone else that the federal government tells you tobaco will kill you, that you should not use it, but then encourages it's production?

    You have to wonder if this will get the same kind of subsidies. If not, we will know that the federal government considers tobaco a nicotine delivery system and encourges it.

  • by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @12:46AM (#5179665)
    A lot of ex-smokers start up again because they just plain miss having a smoke. Not SMOKING, but having *a* smoke. If it was the nicotine they wanted, there's gum/lozenges/patches/chew. Yet most ex-smokers end up lighting up.

    I know I'd kill for a 'safe' smoke - one that I can have, without the danger of becoming hooked again - just to see if it's as bad as it seems now (smell, taste, etc). And just to safely re-live that wonderful 5 minute ritual.
  • Re:Just smoke Pot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ratamacue ( 593855 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @08:58AM (#5180817)
    Good post. I'll add that, at the root of it all, the simple reason why [some] drugs are illegal is because it benefits those in power. Each and every expansion of government, measured not just in tax dollars but civil liberty, represents a net profit for those in power. Rationale? Imagine what would happen if they eliminated the war on drugs: Some very expensive agencies (DEA for example) with very highly paid officials would have to go. The police force would have to be cut in half, since half of them would be sitting around doing nothing. At the root, the federal government would lose a very big chunk of revenue, and you would be able to spend more of your money on what you want, not what government wants. What does all of this spell for government? NET LOSS!

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