The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

August 4, 2013

Local doctor creates tobacco cessation product that also trims the waistline

For consumers to still pick up a pack or to pack it in, after the all-out war on smoking and the television ad campaigns featuring chewers with half-gone faces, tobacco must be powerful stuff. Chewing tobacco may even be heritage, according to Dr. Hassan Amjad of Beckley, a researcher-physician determined to help the last remaining users break free.

“This is based on 20 years of personal research,” says Amjad, an oncologist and herbalist known for preferring natural remedies. “There isn’t much research out there about chewing tobacco. Tobacco itself is as addictive as cocaine. But chewing and dipping (snuff usage) are very prevalent in Appalachia. It isn’t really a problem in metropolitan places like San Francisco or New York City.”

Amjad believes chewing tobacco is a residual practice that grew from the mining industry. “The problem is here because smokers couldn’t (for safety reasons) smoke in the coal mines, so they started to chew tobacco.”  They started young, he says, and still do.

“I recently hired a nurse to research the rate of high school children chewing tobacco in Fayette County. It is very prevalent today in youth,” he states. “It is an addiction that causes cancer, bad hygiene, tooth loss and aspiration pneumonia.” Mistakenly turned to as “safer than smoking,” “chewing tobacco is not healthy, period,” Amjad states.

Against an unholy trinity — smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and overeating contributing to obesity — Amjad has developed his own compound to help patients and others interested in stopping their habits, theoretically in one fell swoop. Labeled “Smoke-Less,” Amjad proposes that the herbal substance placed on the tongue “retrains the brain” to put down tobacco and sweets much like the learned response of not touching a hot stove, or of avoiding a particular food when associated with an unpleasant experience, in this case, rancid taste. He says it can even wean patients off of alcohol.

“It’s not ingested. You put the powder on your tongue and it changes taste perceptions. It makes tobacco taste like earwax.” Some users describe it as “like licking a tire.” After a short while of using it, says Amjad, they quit their habits.

So why would patients and compulsive tobacco users keep subjecting their tongues to the temporary taste-shock of Smoke-Less? For the reason that is the unavoidable component to any plan to quit something — a true desire to stop.

Amjad believes he has developed a safe and effective way to support that desire, without creating further harm and with the added bonus of potential weight loss. “Most people who don’t want to quit smoking or tobacco are afraid they’ll gain weight. For two hours using Smoke-Less, their food will not taste great either — especially sugary things.”

Stephen Fowler, a patient of Dr. Amjad’s, is convinced the powder works. He has a condition worsened by smoking, hemachromotosis or iron overload, that requires therapeutic phlebotomy, or blood drawn regularly for medical reasons. To Fowler, who has veins difficult to access, the therapy is painful. A 45-year-old and smoker since 16, Fowler came to Amjad not only to stop his nicotine habit but to hopefully improve his condition by losing weight. Admitting to a candy habit in addition to smoking, Fowler has considerably cut his smoking and has virtually eliminated sugar from his diet. “I’m down from two packs a day to about 1/2 pack a day, and I’ve lost 12 pounds.” He believes he’ll soon quit smoking entirely.

“I feel better. I feel healthier.”

Marse Morton Jr. of Shady Spring chewed tobacco for 20 years before he came to visit Amjad … with a chew in. “He said, ‘Are you interested in quitting that?’ I told him I’d tried several times and had been unsuccessful. I started when I was about 13.”

A coal miner by trade, Morton was in more than his fair share of company as a user of chewing tobacco underground. “I tried Smoke-Less here in the office first and he had me put another chew in. That lasted about three minutes before I had to spit it out. I took it home and used it, and I haven’t used tobacco since. The taste deters me,” he says.

Morton takes a small vial of Smoke-Less into the mines with him, in case he gets the urge to chew, but so far, he hasn’t had to use it again.

“I’m more able to relax when I get home now. I can go straight to bed, where before I was putting a chew in. I feel more rested, and my fiancée is very happy I quit. She’d been nagging me to for the last five years about it.”

On the difficulty of quitting the spitting, explains Amjad, “People don’t realize chewing tobacco is much stronger than cigarettes. It is absorbed at a much faster rate. The content of nicotine is low on the packaging, but they put other chemicals to increase the absorption rate and create a product worse habit-wise than smoking.”

Unlike the pharmaceutical companies for which Amjad admittedly holds little regard, he says he isn’t out to make a fortune, he just wants to make a difference. Smoke-Less sells for about $20, but Amjad says for those who can’t afford it and want to stop chewing tobacco or cigarettes, he’ll give it to them at no cost.

Although he won’t say exactly what the ingredients are (the product is yet to be patented), he says Smoke-Less is plant-based and 100 percent safe.

Medicinal plants, says the medicine man, are the future of healthy and effective cures for society’s lingering and most puzzling ills.

“When we are looking for new answers to medical problems, we need to go back to the primal forest. I discovered a combination of herbs that is very effective at stopping smoking and quitting smokeless tobacco, with no volatile side effects and that is only used for a short while. If someone doesn’t have the money to pay for it and has the desire to stop, I’ll give it to them.”

For more information on Smoke-Less or other herbal remedies, contact Dr. Hassan Amjad at 304-252-1600.

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