Many years ago, Dr. Erfan called to tell me his story. He’d spent 17 years inventing and testing a device to help people quit smoking. It involved a small battery-operated unit that clips in your ear like a hearing aid.

Whenever the smoker felt the urge to smoke, he pushed a button on the unit. It sent a micro-amp charge, which stimulated a nerve in the ear. This nerve caused a release of natural body chemicals which reduced the need for a smoke.

Human trials had shown very positive results. Enough so that the device was already cleared for use in other countries. But not in the U.S. The FDA was not satisfied. They demanded animal testing. Thus, Dr. Erfan’s call. His question, “Was I aware of any animals stupid enough to smoke?”

Food for thought: First, we would have to find a species we could teach to smoke. Then, once they were addicted, we’d have to teach them to push a button the size of a match head whenever they felt the urge.

Certain species, regardless of their stupidity, are eliminated because of lifestyle. Largemouth bass, for instance, whales or sea anemone could never keep one lit. Others lack suitable anatomical features necessary, like prehensile lips: i.e., crocodiles, ducks or hippopotami. Or ears in which to insert the unit. Penguins are out, as are frogs, snakes, millipedes and woodpeckers.


Then the selected species would have to be physically capable of pressing the small button. As you could imagine, even the most dexterous ungulate would have difficulty manipulating its cloven hoof. And I doubt the smartest rhinoceros in the world could reach his ear with his finger.

So that narrows it down some. I came up with three suggestions for the good doctor. The anteater, the bird-dog and the cowboy.

Even granting the anteater a modicum of intelligence, none of the three species suggested have been known for their good judgment. In addition, all are creatures of habit, work close to the ground and have a symbiotic relationship with another species, which could be helpful in the collusion.

There are some who might question the anteater’s ears, but you gotta admit: He has smoker’s lips.

On a flyer, I had called up Dr. David Kessler, czar and mahatma of the FDA at the time, to find out what animals he might suggest that would satisfy their criteria. I had understood him to be a crusading anti-smoker, and I thought this might be just what the doctor ordered. But anyone who has dealt with the FDA knows they move with the speed of a glacier. Their motto, “No decision is a good decision.”

I’m still waiting for Dr. Kessler to return my call. I can only hope Phillip Morris is on hold too.  end mark