Thank you for publishing the excellent Associated Press article about the 50th anniversary of the fight against tobacco (“The report that snuffed out smoking – sort of – hits anniversary,” Jan. 5).

Unfortunately, the article had one fatal flaw. The headline in the print version referred to this relentless addiction as a “habit.”

By referring to tobacco use as a “habit,” a ravening wolf puts on a sheep’s coat. And tobacco companies take advantage of the well-known biology of nicotine addiction to sell their products.

The word “habit” makes it sound like tobacco use is not as serious as, say, cocaine or opiate use. But studies show that tobacco addiction is even harder to break than most of these other addictions.

Many smokers believe the “habit” concept and tragically do not take advantage of what limited help is available, even though, without help, their chances of quitting are cut in half. When they fail to quit, they blame themselves or simply decide they don’t care, not realizing they are in the grip of an addiction.

Last, but certainly not least, the word “habit” allows health insurance plans to remove any access to treatment for this addiction, even though there is excellent evidence that treatment makes a difference. This is what happened in Maine when Gov. LePage made the decision to remove tobacco treatment options from those Mainers who have MaineCare, thus making it far more likely that they will die with their addiction.


Please, let’s call this illness what it is! Tobacco use is a very serious addiction.

Lani Graham, M.D.


Daniel Oppenheim, M.D.


co-chairs, Maine Medical Association Public Health Committee


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