The Straight Dope

Lately I've been hearing nasty little rumors that my favorite addiction is just that... an addiction! Is it true that Chap Stick and others of that ilk contain ingredients that make you long for more? Is it true that the evil executives of these companies are preying on hapless lip-lickers such as myself in order to buy baby a new pair of shoes? Tell me it ain't so!

-- Licking My Lips in Anticipation of Your Answer, via AOL

You think you know what I'm going to say. You think I'm going to say it ain't so, that people who complain about "lip-balm addiction" are whiny losers who could probably get addicted to Froot Loops, and how dare they waste good brain cells worrying about this when there are so many other problems you could have, like overdue library books.

But I'm not going to do that. I'm tired of it. Where's the fun in shattering the vapid illusions of a bunch of pathetic, self-pitying, spineless, neurotic, sheeplike... well, OK, sometimes it's fun. But this week we're trying a new approach. We're validating personal realities! We're being accepting and nonjudgmental! We're believing any damn thing we hear! So yeah, of course Chap Stick, Blistex, and other lip unguents are addictive. Pity me, brothers and sisters, I got that Carmex monkey on my back.

For testimony we turn to the Webpage for Lip Balm Anonymous at http://www.kevdo.com/lipbalm/home.html. Some quotes:

*"[I want to tell] of my tragic story, my near recovery, and how I fell off the recovery bandwagon. I have 46 different flavors and kinds of lip balm.... I once had a teacher tell me there was more to life than lip gloss. At that time I didn't believe him, but I [now] admit that I have a problem and need help. I have now joined LBA and have begun working on the 12-step program."

*"I, too, am addicted to lip balm.... It got to a point where my lips were so slick I could not eat any food. Kissing was pointless. On a high point, I was able to kick my smoking habit because the cigarettes kept slipping off my lips.... Just call me... Lip Balm Slave."

*"My name is Betsy... and I use. I now realize I have been a lip-balm addict for probably about 25 years. I am SOOOOO relieved to find this Website!!!... When asked by friends about people, CDs, or books that I would bring to a desert island, I am instantly horrified by the idea of being stranded 'WITHOUT LIP BALM,' or running out! I am sick! I need help!! MUST STOP LICKING LIPS!!!"

Yowsah. The LBA people are particularly vociferous on the subject of Carmex, made by Carma Labs. They write: "Carma Labs does admit to putting salicylic acid into their lip balm, and they acknowledge the rumor that they put ground fiberglass into the lip balm. But they do not deny this rumor! Frankly, Carma Labs sounds like a Mob crime family to me!"

Wow! Us too! We called up the folks at Carma Labs to see what feeble riposte they could make against this damning indictment. We spoke to Paul Woelbing, grandson of Alfred Woelbing, who founded the company in 1936 and is still nominally in charge. Paul, obviously hardened by years of exposure to this sordid enterprise, was pretty cool about the whole thing. "Oh, sure, it's addictive," he said. "We add heroin." We detected sarcasm here. Paul knew all about the rumors, including some we hadn't heard (e.g., Carmex is carcinogenic), but assured us they were groundless. Right, Paul. You just don't want to get cut out of the old man's will.

Salicylic acid, by the way, is not that kind of acid, man. It's a component of aspirin that serves as an antifungal and antimicrobial agent. Three other ingredients -- menthol, camphor, and phenol -- account for the legendary Carmex lip buzz.

Hold on, this just in from my assistant Jane: "I contacted someone from Blistex who called back and left a message on my answering machine. She spoke slowly, emphatically, spacing out the words so that I'd digest them and presumably quit entertaining ridiculous thoughts: 'Lip... balm... is... not... addictive.' With the same authority that nuns used to tell us that talking in the hallways would earn us more time in purgatory."

That may be your take on it, Jane. I say she was just under the influence of the drug.

Is there something you need to get straight? Cecil Adams can deliver "The Straight Dope" on any topic. Write Cecil Adams at the Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago, IL 60611; e-mail him at cecil@chireader.com; or visit "The Straight Dope" area at America Online, keyword: Straight Dope.

 
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