Obama criticized for use of unapproved anti-smoking therapy

Reported recently at FoxNews:

US President Barack Obama has a secret weapon in his battle against his smoking habit — celery, he revealed in an interview gaining traction Thursday.

First Lady Michelle Obama said earlier this month that her husband had not smoked a cigarette for almost a year.

In an interview posted late Wednesday, Obama confirmed to 4029tv.com that he had given up smoking for good — however the stresses of being commander-in-chief have seen him adopt a healthier addiction.

“There’s certainly days where I’ve got to grab a lot of celery sticks to make up for that bad habit that I gave up,” Obama said.

The POTUS has joined the legions of ex-smokers who have switched to using celery but officials at the FDA and some of the leading voices in public health warn that celery is not a proven anti-smoking therapy and is not a safe alternative to smoking.

Researcher Thomas Eissenburg who has investigated celery as a cessation aid described the results of that work as being inconclusive and not that promising. “We found smokers who had never used celery before and had them try it but found that most of them found it difficult to get a substantial amount of smoke while drawing on the stalk and subsequent cotinine testing found that not enough nicotine was being gleaned for this to really function as a satisfactory substitute for smoking.

Noted urinanalysis specialist Stefan Hesht warned that it has long been know that celery contains harmful chemicals.

Celery has always been known as a salty plant, containing a high level of what is knows as celery-specific salt, or CSNa. Consumption of CSNa has declared by major health organizations, like the Office of the Mayor of New York, to be a deadly hazard. To put the risk in perspective, if you consumed your entire calorie intake for the day in the form of celery you would eat well over 10 grams of CSNa, more than five times the recommended safe level.

When asked to comment on this, Leif Stock, a spokesman for the celery industry, responded that celery was historically considered salty tasting, but modern research has shown that it is actually contains more potassium, known as the “good salt”. He added that no epidemiology had ever shown a danger from celery and that the only tests of CSNa that had ever suggested any risk were animal tests, such as pouring large quantities of isolated CSNa on a garden slug. He added “when eaten in its natural form, the celery stalk poses no measurable risk, even to slugs.”

When asked to respond to this, Hesht replied:

Look, the fact is that when I test the urine of celery eaters, I find high levels of CSNa! It varies a little depending on where your celery comes from, Swedish celery for instance is quite a bit lower in CSNas but I can still measure it and if I can measure it, that means it cannot be healthy.

Among others commenting on this latest action by the President was Johnathan Winickoff, well known for his tireless advocacy in regards to public safety:

Of course being such an influential figure Obama places us in a difficult spot but the bottom line is that celery has not been submitted to the FDA for testing as a cessation aid. We really have no idea of what the long term effects of daily celery consumption are. Is it safer than smoking? Maybe. Do we know for sure? No, Nobody has done the tests that need to be done. I guess one thing I do know as a pediatrician is that celery seems tailor made for kids.

Roni Rabid, previously at the NYT and now at Legacy said that:

this sets a bad example for the kids. Our research has determined that if children see anything stick-like and particularly anything tubular being put in and out of the mouth, those kids are much more likely to end up smoking. This is why often as not you will see me sitting in the dark with Slanton Glance watching those scenes in those movies so we can better save the kids.

However, Jack Amis of the National Grocers Association said that while celery had no official clearance as a cessation aid, he himself was a previous smoker and was now entering his third year as a smoke-free but daily celery user. He said many celery buyers were former smokers or smokers who were curious about whether this would work for them. “We don’t really see kids buying these things” he added.

The FDA’s Larry Ditton said:

We realize that because Obama is Commander in Chief and thus technically part of the armed forces he is not allowed to use Champix or others of the class that could lead to a psychotic breakdown but it really is just a question of semantics. Champix is a proven cessation aid that has worked for a few people and celery is just a vegetable.

We cannot really promote celery in this regard and anyone who does is contravening WHO guidelines. And given the listeria outbreak of last year, our concern for public health means that we will keep fighting to take celery off the shelves until more testing has been done.

Could arguably the most powerful person in the world do a lot of damage due to an adverse reaction to this drug? Of course, and we or our good friends at Phizer would not feel any responsibility for any such actions but, we still believe that this sets the wrong example when instead of a vegetable he could be using one of the many fine drugs available to help him in these difficult times.

But it is not only presidents looking to this alternative. For those on the street, there are many who have found this to be the answer, at least for the time being. One long time celery user who preferred to remain anonymous said:

Other celery users I know feel a bit of pressure to then give up the celery as well but I don’t plan to. If its not hurting me and I enjoy it, why stop? I think what and the shape of what I put in and out of my mouth is my business and nobody else’s. And you know, I could never go back to smoking. Its just not as fresh and after you’ve used celery for a while you get to liking that crunch. I would miss the crunch.

But if they took it off the shelf. I don’t know. There’s a lot of us now and you take it off the shelves and you’ll just have some shady types setting up a green market, and then all these government types will have managed to do is make criminals out of many of us and back to smoking for the rest.

Nobody wants a President enslaved to Big Tobacco but is the tradeoff thousands of kids taking up the evil weed because they saw the big man on the stalk? Given his prominence this might be one case where a private hidden vice is more in the national interest than publicly flaunting an unproven substitute.

-Paul L. Bergen (with input from Carl V. Phillips)

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Comments

  • Michael J. McFadden  On February 19, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Wow! I never KNEW all these facts about the dangers of celery!

    Heh… Paul, I’m glad you continue to be brave enough to stick your tongue in that cheek! :> Beautifully done!

    In reality however, there probably ARE some individual who would experience some shorter term negative effects from celery ingestion as a replacement for smoking. A sudden increase in the amount of roughage might be hard on some digestive tracts, and bits of celery fiber stuck in multiple diverticuli could cause problems. Dunno if all that constant chewing might have some effects on wearing down tooth enamel, but it might be something that someone should look into. Plus children who see adults constantly “eating” may not make the important differentiation between celery and potato crisps ‘n chips and be led into the lifelong misery of terminal obesity.

    ::sigh:: All of this thinking is making me reach for a carrot…

    ;>
    MJM

  • James Dunworth  On February 20, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Brilliant, Paul, loved it! Off to shoot up some lettuce now!

  • CraigSchultz  On February 20, 2011 at 11:46 am

    I don’t think smokers should be allowed to use celery or be allowed to buy it!

    The only safe method to quit smoking is to quit smoking! If you can’t just quit, you are safer smoking than you are using something unapproved by the FDA to help you stop or replace smoking!

    Common sense be damned! Unless millions of dollars are spent to prove that celery is a safe alternative to smoking, it should just not be allowed.

    We don’t want common sense, we want FDA sense!

    I think the FDA should detain shipments of celery passing through customs, and they should definitely stop the production and distribution of Peanut Butter because Peanut Butter on Celery is a gate way drug to eating celery itself and as we all know, once eating celery, our kids are going to want to start smoking!

    I think the FDA’s attitude that smokers should just die, instead of using something that the FDA has already approved as generally known to be safe for other applications used in the same way, is the route to take.

    [The preceding opinion is from the UUAoA, United Undertakers Association of America]

    • rothenbj  On February 21, 2011 at 3:41 am

      I strenuously object to your shortsighted view you have of celery and specifically peanut butter flavored devices. Just today, I used the Skippy brand extra chunky in my celery and it was delicious and satisfied my cravings.

      Had it not been for this flavoring in my celery I may well have gone back to smoking. The FDA has no concern with flavoring when it comes to liquor or overpriced, ineffective NRT products.

      I came here specifically to mention the added benefit of using Skippy Extra Chunky in my celery and find the antis already are here posting their lies and half truths. Stop using the children to promote your agenda! We’re all children at heart and it’s up to our parents to keep us on the straight and narrow.

      You can get your own flavored celery filler at IHeartSkippy.com

  • Prudence Sneegus  On February 20, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    If somebody wants to risk bits of celery fiber getting stuck in their multiple diverticuli, FINE! But what YOU PEOPLE never seem to GET is that YOUR right to crunch ENDS where MY ear BEGINS!

    Why should I, my CHILD, and my ELDERLY aunt (who was once diagnosed with gastroenteritis, like you care!) be forced to walk through a wall of crunch just to get into a tavern?!?

    If I can HEAR you, that means your crunching is vibrating those little thingies in my ears that send signals to my brain and I am being AFFECTED!

    There is NO safe level! This is the leading cause! How can you be so selfish?!? The CHILDREN! Nottafinga!

  • kristinnm  On February 20, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    “Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Celery oil and celery seeds are LIKELY UNSAFE when used during pregnancy. Large amounts of celery might make the uterus contract and cause a miscarriage. The safety of using celery while breast-feeding is unknown. It’s best to avoid celery in medicinal amounts if you are pregnant or nursing.

    Allergies: Celery can cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to certain other plants and spices including wild carrot, mugwort, birch, and dandelion. This has been called the “celery-carrot-mugwort-spice syndrome.”

    Kidney problems: Don’t use celery in medicinal amounts if you have kidney problems. Celery might cause inflammation.

    Surgery: Celery can affect the central nervous system. There is some concern that celery, in combination with anesthesia and other medications used during and after surgery might slow down the central nervous system too much. Stop using celery at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.”

    Also found links to skin cancer.

    Celery is also used in insecticides and is comparable to deet, which “has been found to be toxic to the central nervous system!” (Of course, celerey is the non-toxic comparable to deet, but we aren’t going to tell people that!)

    Found on the net – no kidding!

  • Michael J. McFadden  On February 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    I have forgotten the exact term, but I believe there is a form of disabling tinnitus that involves the ultra-magnification of minor background sounds.

    – MJM

    • Paul  On February 20, 2011 at 8:04 pm

      Hyperacusis?

  • Michael J. McFadden  On February 20, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Unairneuf, C’est vrai! :>

  • rothenbj  On February 21, 2011 at 3:52 am

    Oh Paul, in the middle of my rant and my unabashed commercial attempt at promoting my web site, IHeartSkippy.com (discount code- Chunkmycelery), I forgot to mention your piece was brilliant.

  • Michael J. McFadden  On February 21, 2011 at 4:32 am

    Paul.

    Poor Paul.

    You thought you could get away with it I see.

    You didn’t count on my tracking your history back to the clinic where I spoke with your psychiatrist, Dr. Grantz. Paul… he told me everything. About the house. About that night of the thunderstorm.

    About what you did with that sad, deadly, celery stalk on that benighted night of nights, all hidden, or so you thought, under the dark of the night.

    It’s over now Paul. You can stop pretending. The best doctors in the land have had a conference, and have examined their testimony and dissected the evidence.

    Paul, no more celery for you, Paul. Everything will be OK now. Just relax and let us take care of you Paul. Your vegetables have been taken from you and you will soon return to being a happy, healthy, normal, smoking human being.

    You’ll thank us later.

    Sincelery,

    Dr. Michaelious

  • Sarita Otero  On March 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Oh please. Obama is not endorsing celery as an anti-smoking product, he is simply stating what HE HIMSELF is doing to curb his cigarette smoking habit. Additionally, if we look at the whole picture I don’t think celery is any more dangerous than smoking. You don’t see commercials of people dying or having had strokes and trachs done for eating celery.

Trackbacks

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  • [...] safe is celery….really… Judging by the comments on our last post, concerns persist on whether celery is a safe enough substitute for cigarettes. Normally, we would [...]

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