Gap in knowledge is obstacle to decreasing addictions

Delon Human speaks about nicotine addiction and cigarettes.
Delon Human speaks about nicotine addiction and cigarettes.

By Sarah Kollmorgen

Over the past few decades, it has been generally accepted as fact that smoking cigarettes can negatively impact health. But what motivates people to start smoking in the first place?

“We need to better understand the behavioral science behind smoking,” said Delon Human of Health Diplomats at a symposium on addictions and compulsions at the AAAS annual meeting on Friday. Smoking is often approached from a health-related perspective, even though problems from smoking and other drug and alcohol use are often exhibited in behavior.

For example, 50 percent of stranger-inflicted violence is related to alcohol use, Human said. One of the greatest obstacles to decreasing cigarette, alcohol and drug use around the world is the gap between health research and knowledge of how these substances are actually being used, he said. “It’s high time we wake up and understand what’s happening.”

Additionally, Human noted that drug, alcohol and nicotine use are not the only dangerous addictions in society today.

“It’s actually quite interesting to see how the food industry has had to respond to food addiction,” he said. Caffeine use, which can have the same psychoactive affects as nicotine, has yet to face the same demonization and regulation of nicotine, Human said.

Nicotine, in fact, is not even the most dangerous parts of cigarettes. “There is no evidence that nicotine causes cancer,” Human said. “You don’t die of the nicotine, you die of the tar and smoke.”