Posts Tagged ‘Smoking’

Ink made from residue in dead smokers’ lungs

May 6, 2015

If this ad doesn’t make you want to quit smoking, nothing will.

Americans are becoming better-behaved

April 2, 2015

Americans—that is, average Americans, not necessarily Hollywood stars, sports stars and the financial and governmental elite—are becoming better-behaved.

  • Homicide rates are down.
  • Domestic violence is down.
  • Child abuse is down
  • Cocaine use is down (although marijuana use is up)
  • Alcoholism is down
  • Drunk driving is down.
  • Cigarette smoking is down.
  • Illicit drug use by teenagers is down.
  • Alcohol use by teenagers is down.
  • Cigarette smoking by teenagers is down.
  • Teenage pregnancy is down.

The main exception to these trends is that Americans are slower to get married than in the past and quicker to become divorced.  But maybe it is better to be unmarried or divorced than in a bad or abusive marriage.


Where American life expectancy is declining

November 28, 2011

Double click to enlarge

Life expectancy, particularly for women, is actually declining in parts of Appalachia, the South and the Midwest.

From 1987 to 1997, there were 314 U.S. counties and county equivalents, out of 3,141, in which life expectancy for women failed to increase or actually declined.  From 1997 to 2007, there were 860 such counties, and 84 counties in which life expectancy for men was flat or declining.

The principal cause, experts say, is the increase in obesity among Americans, followed by increased smoking among American women.  Obesity is not a joke.  Michelle Obama deserves credit for focusing attention on this problem.

A team of writers in the New England Journal of Medicine said that unless current trends in obesity are reversed, American life expectancy will fall, and decades of gains in medicine and public health will be wiped out.

Unless effective population-level interventions to reduce obesity are developed, the steady rise in life expectancy observed in the modern era may soon come to an end and the youth of today may, on average, live less healthy and possibly even shorter lives than their parents.  The health and life expectancy of minority populations may be hit hardest by obesity, because within these subgroups, access to health care is limited and childhood and adult obesity has increased the fastest.

In fact, if the negative effect of obesity on life expectancy continues to worsen, and current trends in prevalence suggest it will, then gains in health and longevity that have taken decades to achieve may be quickly reversed.  The optimism of scientists and of policymaking bodies about the future course of life expectancy should be tempered by a realistic acknowledgment that major threats to the health and longevity of younger generations today are already visible.

Source: NEJM.

The bright side, they added ironically, is that the solvency of Social Security will cease to be an issue.


Picking on cigarette smokers

July 12, 2010

When I covered business for the Democrat and Chronicle, I would always look for the cigarette smokers – taking their breaks outside the building, in scorching sun or freezing rain.  They were generally the rebels and malcontents, and they gave me an insider’s view I couldn’t have got from the company executives or PR people.

The reversal in attitudes toward cigarette smoking is one of the biggest societal changes in my lifetime. When I was growing up, not smoking marked me as an oddity.  Humphrey Bogart smoked cigarettes. So did Edward R. Murrow. Smoking was cool.

Now it is smokers who are in the minority.  And they are a highly unpopular minority, subject to all kinds of petty persecution.  It is as if society needs an unpopular minority group that it is legitimate to despise and pick on, and in a society increasingly tolerant of differences of race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation, somebody else has to be found to fill that ecological niche – not that smokers are lynched or denied the right to vote.

Smoking is hazardous to your health.  And nicotine is addictive.  But the U.S. approach to this problem is not to regulate the tobacco companies, or eliminate subsidies for tobacco growers, but to interfere with the daily lives of individual cigarette smokers.

A Wharton School of Finance study found that Philip Morris (now the Altria Group) was by far the most profitable on the companies on Standard & Poor’s 500 index.  An investment of $1,000 in 1957 in the S&P index would have yielded about $125,000 by the end of 2003, but $1,000 invited in Philip Morris would have yielded nearly $4.6 million.

I never smoked cigarettes.  I recall at age 12 or 13 picking up an adult’s smoldering cigarette from an ashtray when she was out of the room, and inhaling. It was so unpleasant I never tried it again.  But I have no feeling of self-righteousness over this.  I do other things that are bad for my health, and I fail to do things I ought to do for the sake of my health.

So I believe in live and let live.  I think I’m better off smoking than not smoking.  But I know that nobody ever made themselves immortal by observing safety rules.