Sting has given up coffee, "because I'm addicted to it," he said on the Morning Joe show. Everyone laughed. Mika Brzezinski opened a package of Starbucks and waved it under his nose, then ordered coffee for him, which Sting refused.
"How ridiculous," we think. "Coffee, addictive - what will they think of next."
Let's dial back to 1964 - the Surgeon General's Report (SGR), Smoking and Health. You know, the one that banned smoking - well, it made all sane people decide that they were glad they didn't smoke, or that they would quit.
The 1964 SGR revealed smoking was addictive, right? Not quite. Cancer-causing, but not addictive. No, it didn't FAIL TO SAY tobacco was addictive. It said: "tobacco is not addictive but only habituating."
Tobacco was not addictive, SGR concluded, because (a) it isn't intoxicating, (b) it creates a desire but not a compulsion to continue, (c) smokers don't increase their dosages, (d) it doesn't create physical dependence - only psychic dependence, (e) it is not an anti-social drug - but only harms the individual.
Stanton Peele's Warning: This is the U.S. Surgeon General's argument - I was the first to say smoking was addictive in 1975, in my book Love and Addiction.
Back to SGR 1964: "The tobacco habit should be characterized as an habituation rather than an addiction, in conformity with accepted World Health Organization definitions. . . .Besides tobacco, the use of caffeine in coffee, tea, and cocoa is the best example in American culture."
The Surgeon General did finally declare tobacco addictive in a separate 1988 report entitled, well, Nicotine Addiction. Smoking and Health was 387 pages; Nicotine Addiction was 618 pages - see, that shows nicotine is REALLY addictive. But how did it take a quarter century for the world's scientists to discover what everyone now knows? More than that - haven't people been using tobacco for centuries?
You can see addiction in people's brains, with MRIs, can't you? God made tobacco addictive, right? Only communists and tobacco capitalists say it's not addictive. They must have bought off the Surgeon General and World Health Organization pharmacologists!
Let's do a mind experiment. Suppose we discovered coffee caused cancer, and everyone's doctor (everyone who HAS a doctor) told them to quit. Many people would struggle - and some would fail. Coffee-drinking rates would drop to perhaps half, with many of the remaining coffee drinkers being those who have fewer life alternatives and support systems. Wait - that's what happened with cigarettes!
You mean, then they would drag Starbuck executives - and Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski - in front of Congressional committees to embarrass them for their crazy claims that coffee wasn't addictive?
Thank God coffee is good for you, so we don't have to quit. But, wait - if it's addictive for some - like Sting - doesn't that mean it's bad for you?
This is twisting my brain too much. I'm going back to those lists which tell you: "This drug is addictive; this drug is not." I know, I know, they just moved tobacco - and cocaine - from one column to the other in the 1980s, followed by marijuana.
What will they do next - put video games, gambling, and binge eating in the addiction column? That's crazy!
Stanton Peele's Warning: This post is not about how coffee is bad and addictive, or how smoking is good. It is about how addiction is a relative concept that has changed, is changing, and will continue to evolve.