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Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

The Journal of Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues

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From the birth of the smokers’ clinic to the invention of Nicorette: Problematizing smoking as addiction in Sweden 1955–1971

Mark Elam
  • professor Department of Sociology and work science University of Gothenburg
  • Email:
Published Online: 2014-12-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/nsad-2014-0042


AIM - To discuss how scientific confirmation of cigarette smoking as a major contemporary drug problem during the 1980s was preceded by a rising tide of clinical and pharmaceutical innovation dedicated to treating smoking as a problem of addiction. BACKGROUND - This current of innovation, commencing already in the 1950s, carried the smokers’ clinic and nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) into the world, both of which were originally invented and pioneered in Sweden. It is argued that both of these inventions were vital for advancing the problematization of smoking as a matter of nicotine addiction. While the British doctor Lennox Johnston is well-known for his early attempts to demonstrate the reality of smoking as nicotine addiction through auto-experimentation, the historical significance of Börje Ejrup’s founding of the first smokers’ clinics in Stockholm in the late 1950s has not been widely commented upon. Attempting to remedy this situation, the rise and fall of Ejrup’s clinics deploying lobeline substitution therapy as a cure for ‘nicotinism’ is outlined in the main body of the paper. FINDINGS - Although the clinical treatment of smoking as addiction lost momentum during the 1960s, the invention of Nicorette gum in southern Sweden at the end of the decade provided renewed impetus. Commencing in Helsingborg and Lund in 1970, the smokers’ clinic and NRTs entered into the long-term service of each other; a new combination that in just over a decade would succeed in propagating the reality of smoking as nicotine addiction on to a global stage.

Keywords: Nicotine addiction; cigarette smoking; problematization; Börje Ejrup; the smokers’ clinic; nicotine replacement therapies; Sweden


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About the article

Received: 2014-02-27

Accepted: 2014-06-03

Published Online: 2014-12-11

Published in Print: 2014-12-01

Citation Information: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, ISSN (Online) 1458-6126, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/nsad-2014-0042. Export Citation

© by Mark Elam. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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