By CHRIS DANIELS
Promoters of a non-nicotine stop-smoking product are accusing big drug companies promoting nicotine patches and inhalers of "dirty tricks."
Nicobrevin capsules are advertised as a cheap way to stop smoking without putting any nicotine into the body, as happens with nicotine patches, chewing gum, inhalers or sprays.
But companies selling products containing nicotine are unhappy with the way Nicobrevin describes the health risks of using nicotine to stop smoking.
The Advertising Standards Complaints Board has dismissed an appeal from Nicobrevin against the board's order to it to stop making "exaggerated and excessive" claims about the dangers of nicotine.
Drug company Pharmacia and Upjohn, which sells Nicorette patches, gum, inhalers and nasal spray, complained about the advertising, saying it breached the Code of Therapeutic Advertising.
Newspaper and radio advertising for Nicobrevin said nicotine was "more poisonous than arsenic or cyanide, more addictive than heroin."
It said: "With nicotine in your bloodstream, you're a heart attack or stroke waiting to happen and a strong candidate for gangrene with loss of limbs."
The board said the advertisements denigrated other products by saying nicotine "from any source" was dangerous, and were "more than likely to exploit a consumer's lack of knowledge and fear."
The chairman of Nicobrevin distributor Pro-Health Products, Hilton Lowndes, said the decision to stop the advertisements was "ridiculous, absurd and biased."
Drug companies selling nicotine patches were trying to denigrate his product by describing it as "herbal," which it was not.
In his appeal, Mr Lowndes said it had been proven that nicotine constricted bloodflow and caused bloodclots.
By preventing Nicobrevin from making such claims, the board would stop it telling the public such facts, and lessen the effectiveness of its anti-smoking campaign
The company's legal advisers were looking at what further action to take, now the appeal had been turned down.
Pharmacia and Upjohn's consumer health manager, Carol Futcher, said the company backed the advertising board's decision, but did not want to comment any further on the matter.
Dr Ian Griffiths, medical director of drug company Glaxo, which sells the non-nicotine stop-smoking drug Zyban, said anything that helps smokers to quit should be encouraged.
Regardless of whether an anti-smoking method worked physically or psychologically, what was important was that people stopped smoking.