expressed opinion entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
I have a secret that I have kept from my children for 21 years.
In the fall of 1984, when I was 14 years old, I was in ninth grade at the prestigious Trinity School in Manhattan, which I attended since kindergarten. That’s a pressure cooker. As every parent of a high school student in a serious private school would say, “Now is the time to work hard to get into a good college.” (That is, if you don’t work hard and don’t take it seriously, the rest of your life will be screwed up.)
its at west 91stone On the streets of Trinity, I would start the worst relationship of my life that took me seven years to break.
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I’ve been smoking most of my life. Even though smoking rates in America are slowly declining from an astounding 40% of adults, my dad still smokes two cigars a day, claiming they’re not as bad for you as cigarettes. My grandmother smoked two packs of unfiltered cigarettes for most of her life, despite battling countless recurring respiratory illnesses including emphysema and chronic bronchitis until her death. Even my seventy-something babysitter smoked Salem — a fact hidden from my parents — secretly when I was home alone with her. In fact, some of my early middle school memories are of me stealing her cigarettes from her purse and flushing them down the toilet because I thought they were disgusting.
Back then, smoking was allowed in movie theaters, restaurants, and even airplanes.Luckily my dad quit smoking in the 1990s after battling cancer and we just celebrated his 90th birthdayth Birthday. I must admit, however, that I still miss the smell of “good cigars,” which reminded me of the constant smell of my childhood weekend afternoon apartment while my dad would smoke and watch games.
Just across from West 91stone The street in front of the school is a magical place called “under the stairs”. Here, students can simply cross the street between classes, walk down a short flight of stairs to an alley, and start a romance and addiction with a group of influencers. It’s charming and insidious, and everyone does it. Smoking was uncomfortable at first, but then it became difficult to quit. I was hooked, as were about 50% of my class. By the end of high school, I found myself smoking more than a pack a day and couldn’t stop. The nicotine spell has a powerful hold on me.
I am addicted. I now have an albatross around my neck because I can never leave the house without my vices and their accessories like lighters and matches. I remember on family trips I had to go to the bathroom on the plane and steal a cigarette in the back seat of the plane to satisfy my cravings. I smoke before and after school and during breaks. This is something I can’t escape. Even though I clearly didn’t meet the minimum buying age at 14, there was no shortage of retailers willing to take my $1.50 date with Marlboro Man. This is the Achilles heel in the system.
this. Have. to. stop.
By the age of 21, I knew I had to quit smoking. I’m a third of the way through smoking now and I know if I don’t quit now, I probably never will. I really can’t explain how I did it, but I somehow found the mental acuity and courage to stop. cold turkey. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done, and I’m so proud to be able to get out of my addiction.
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As a father of two children aged 21 and 18, I was terrified that my children might fall down the rabbit hole that held me captive. As my kids matured, I spent a lot of time talking to them about nicotine. I’m not trying to scare them off with thoughts of getting sick and dying – I’m just focusing on how bad it is to have to rely on nicotine. The need for constant scratching that never goes away is a smoker’s devil. I think it works because my kids don’t smoke and are lucky they don’t need to suffer.
Confessions of a JUUL Investor
I’m an intuitive investor and always trust my gut to make big decisions. There is no other way. It led me to invest in JUUL for the first time before its launch in 2015, and I firmly believe it is a public health benefit that should be available to all adult smokers looking for a combustible cigarette outlet.
I have never used JUUL, but I believe that e-cigarettes are far less harmful to users than combustible cigarettes and could save tens of millions of lives. I won’t relive the story of JUUL’s ups and downs and its tragic and unintended impact on America’s youth, but I clearly believe that children — or anyone of any age — should not be exposed to nicotine.
Many non-smokers believe that vaping companies maliciously introduce flavors to lure kids to their products. That’s not the case, just as flavored vodkas aren’t really aimed at young people. I can tell you that as an ex-smoker it would be easier to convert tobacco into better tasting products like mango. I believe the smoking cessation effect would be higher with flavors, but I understand the parents’ argument that these flavors will attract their children to these banned products. While JUUL has been a huge success, it’s not a bad actor company trying to get a generation of kids on nicotine. Like me, the founders were just smokers who wanted to innovate and create a better, less harmful outlet for cigarettes, who were also addicted to cigarettes. Unfortunately what happened, but it has been corrected. With Tobacco 21 and better retailer compliance, we are seeing a reversal in teen smoking trends, which I hope will be zeroed out by increased enforcement.
The road ahead for drug addicts
While you may have heard of some of the health benefits of nicotine, such as its ability to increase concentration and alertness, and the fact that it doesn’t cause cancer, it’s one of the most addictive substances found on our planet. It’s this single fact that makes it so scary. Having been an addict myself, after speaking with an addiction specialist, I believe quitting smoking is harder than quitting nicotine than other substances, including heroin, alcohol, cocaine or marijuana. Solutions currently available on the market to help smokers quit are not effective. While two-thirds of U.S. smokers want to quit, and more than 50 percent will try this year, fewer than one in 10 adult smokers successfully quit. Less than one-third of adult smokers use cessation counseling or FDA-approved cessation medications when trying to quit. Why? Because smokers have tried all the options available, their experience and results are the same regardless of treatment, they just have to feel the weight of failure. The fact that there has been no innovation in the field of smoking cessation therapy for over a decade is simply a failure.
Trusting my gut to work when investing in JUUL is probably why I first invested in a napkin sketch idea presented to me in 2018 by a young entrepreneur with a vision for a new smoking cessation technology, saying for Chinovia.
They believe they have created the world’s first therapeutic prescription drug delivery platform that neither heats nor burns, so no harmful ingredients are released into the user’s lungs. This is revolutionary, and I hope Qnovia’s groundbreaking science platform technology can improve the health and lives of billions of consumers and patients worldwide in a $1 trillion global addressable market, and provide a strong outlet for smoking.
I’m excited to be Qnovia’s first investor and even consider myself a co-founder and serving on the board. We have attracted some of the best business leaders and scientific minds in the field, including Brian Quigley as Chief Executive Officer and “Jas” of Dr. Jasjit S. Ahluwalia as Chairman of our Scientific Advisory Board. Brian is the former CEO of Altria’s Smoke Free and Innovative Products division, where he managed a $2 billion business focused on harm reduction products and has a strong background in the FDA regulatory environment. Jas is one of the world’s foremost academic research and public health experts, focusing on tobacco use, nicotine addiction and smoking cessation. A physician and public health scientist at Brown University, he is a professor, associate director of the Legoretta Cancer Center, and associate director of the $13 million Center for Addiction and Disease Risk Exacerbation, an NIH-funded Center for Excellence in Biomedicine Research center. Ahluwalia’s work has been published in more than 350 papers in leading scientific journals, and he has received more than $100 million in research funding as a principal and co-investigator.
Invest with heart
I now have more of my net worth invested in Qnovia than the other 275 companies I’ve invested in. We’ve now raised $30 million in funding, and it feels great to have some of the best minds and thought leaders on our journey, and I’m encouraged that we have a chance. We’ve just started seeking FDA approval to market a nicotine replacement therapy solution, so we’re a long way from helping smokers. My personal goal is to see one day we succeed in eradicating a billion smokers from the world and create a better, safer future for which we have no one left to help. It’s a lofty goal, but I’m confident it can be achieved.
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