Stories tagged smoking

Earlier this month, we posted about the huge increase in federal taxes on cigarettes and how they are spurring on more people to quit smoking. Smoking opponents point out that smokers incur increased costs for medical care, so such a tax hike is warranted. But non-smokers live, on average, ten years longer than non-smokers and incur added government costs for Medicare, Social Security and other programs. This study says that every pack of cigarettes purchased, and the resulting long-term consequences, saves the federal government 32 cents. What do you think?

Apr
01
2009

You're charging me how much?: Even big shots like Bogart are taking note of the large increase in cigarette taxes that are going into effect today.
You're charging me how much?: Even big shots like Bogart are taking note of the large increase in cigarette taxes that are going into effect today.Courtesy Yousuf Karsh / Library and Archives Canada
What do you get when taxes on a pack of cigarettes jump 250 percent? Lots of calls to smoking cessation programs.

Today, the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes jumps from 39 cents a pack to $1.01 The national average price for a pack of cigarettes prior to the tax hike was $5.

In the past, a 10 percent hike in cigarette tax translated into a four-percent increase in people quitting smoking. Health experts expect those numbers to climb even higher with today’s hefty tax hike. One number being tossed around is a nine-percent decline in smoking with the new tax.

Prior to the tax hike, public consumption of cigarettes had been dropping about three percent per year. That drop, experts point out, includes people who outright quit and those who cut back on their smoking.

Smoking cessation hotlines have seen a huge spike in business in recent days. An Omaha office has seen its call traffic go up 50 percent this week. An office in Michigan has seen its annual budget already dry up after having fielded three times as many calls this year as it had in all of 2008.

There’s an interesting political twist to this cigarette tax increase, whose new revenue will be used to fund a national children’s health insurance program. Congress approved the tax increase last year, but President George W. Bush vetoed the bill. President Barack Obama, who has struggled to stop smoking himself, signed a new version of the bill shortly after taking office this year.

What do you think of these causes and effects on a cigarette tax? Is a “sin tax” like this a good way to drive public health policy reform? Or this an abuse of government power interfering with people’s private lives? Share your viewpoint here with other Science Buzz readers.

Dec
19
2008

Oh, I don't know...: It's a tree, it sort of looks like a man, it's kind of kingy... Just read the post, okay?
Oh, I don't know...: It's a tree, it sort of looks like a man, it's kind of kingy... Just read the post, okay?Courtesy Natmandu
I’ve never seen that show “Ugly Betty,” but I’m assuming that the premise is that there’s a girl who’s too poor to buy the clothes and makeup that would make her hot, and that her parents were too poor to buy the childhood braces that make our teeth hot, and that eventually she’ll have some sort of Cinderelly event where she gets all these things and finally just be Hot Betty.

I could be off on this, but I feel pretty confident.

There’s also that late-90s movie about the dorky girl and the hot guy who goes out with her on a bet… What was that called? It was in the vein of “10 things I hate about you” (#1: your attitude)… It doesn’t matter. At some point in the movie, somebody had this sort of scientific/religious revelation that if they let the dorky girl’s hair down, and put her into a tight, red dress, she would suddenly transform into a hot girl (who still knew how to read and stuff)!

I’m not sure if I actually saw that one either, or if I just watched the preview a bunch of times, but I’m pretty sure it was a great film.

Anyway, last year the world got to experience a similar transformation in real life, thanks to Dede Koswara, the Tree Man. Y’all remember him? He has an extremely rare genetic condition that prevents his immune system from controlling the growths caused by the human papilloma virus—that is, he was covered in monster, foot-long, horny warts. I guess they kind of made him look like a tree, which, outside of fantasy epics, is decidedly un-hot. They also prevented him from being able to feed himself, which is also pretty un-hot.

Last spring, then, Dede was offered medical treatment for his condition, and underwent some serious pruning. All in all, more than 14 pounds of warty growths were cut off of him, and… sparkle sparkle… a regular Javanese James Dean emerged, a latter-day Skeet Ulrich, a living Corey Feldman!

Don’t believe me? Check out this picture. Not only can he feed himself now, he can smoke! And if you can see through the smoke and remnant warts, you’ll notice stylish glasses, and a brooding expression. Very nice. I think the world has just found its “Mr. Ugly Betty.”

Sadly, when one assumes the Crown of Cool it’s only a matter of time before tragedy finds him. James Dean, Steve McQueen, River Phoenix, James Franco—all casualties of the rock and roll lifestyle of the blisteringly cool. And now, it seems, Prince Dede’s warts are growing back.

While doctors say that the condition is no longer life-threatening, we members of the cult of Koswara can only stew in our dread and wait for Dede to return to the way he was.

We knew this would happen, Charlie, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

French researchers have found a link between smoking and memory loss for people between the ages of 35 and 55.

Jun
11
2008

They attempted to remove the heater: But he bites, even when asleep.
They attempted to remove the heater: But he bites, even when asleep.Courtesy goatopolis
It turns out that if you are likely to fall asleep at any time and without warning, it’s not a good idea to have a burning piece of material on your person. So, for instance, if you have narcolepsy, you shouldn’t smoke.

It turns out, however, that many narcoleptics do smoke. And they keep getting burned.

In a community-based study, nearly two-thirds of narcolepsy patients were past or present smokers. Nicotine was reported to help combat sleepiness, although twenty-five percent reported smoking in bed (an odd place to fight off sleepiness), and thirty-seven percent claimed to have fallen asleep while smoking. Seventy-five percent reported burns involving clothing, furniture, or carpet.

The moral of the story, then, is not to self medicate with something involving fire if you’re narcoleptic. Self medicate with something else! Is speed still illegal? Yes? Oh, forget that then.

Dec
11
2007

A climb in quitting: Minnesota's recent smoking ban has led to increases in several measures of ways that people try to stop smoking.
A climb in quitting: Minnesota's recent smoking ban has led to increases in several measures of ways that people try to stop smoking.Courtesy Saudi...
I had some fun on the eve of the start of the state smoking ban in October with a post about how Ireland’s accordions are cleaner now that the smoking is not allowed in public places.

That post generated a lot of debate on if a state should be involved in regulating people’s health habits. Now comes this headline in today’s Star-Tribune: Since the smoking ban started, efforts by people to quit smoking in Minnesota have jumped significantly.

How do we know this? There’s a lot more action on the stop-smoking efforts.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield reports a 43 percent jump in traffic on its telephone hotline used for people wanting immediate support in their effort to quit. And during the month of the start of the smoking ban, there was a tripling in the sales of nicotine patches and other quitting aids by members of the same health plan.

Blue Cross is not alone -- insurer Medica has seen a 40 percent climb in its members wanting to use smoking cessation counseling programs.

What’s going on with all of this? It may be too early to tell yet, but cessation advocates say that the smoking ban especially targets younger people. The ban doesn’t allow for smoking in bars or nightclubs, and younger people often like to smoke when they’re out partying. Now, if young smokers want to be out on the nightlife scene, they have to divide their time with inside reveling and outdoor smoking, experts surmise. Non-smokers get to stay inside where the action is.

And they’re careful to note that quitting smoking is a long, hard process. Successful quitters usually have to try quitting a number of times before they’re unhooked. But the advocates say that it’s a nice, early, unintended consequence so early in the smoking ban’s life.

Here are some tips on how to stop smoking from another recent Science Buzz posting.

Sep
28
2007

Breathing easier: Irish accordions are happier these days now that they're being played in smoke-free venues. Build up of soot and odors in the instruments was impacting the sounds that they make. (Flickr photo by schwa23)
Breathing easier: Irish accordions are happier these days now that they're being played in smoke-free venues. Build up of soot and odors in the instruments was impacting the sounds that they make. (Flickr photo by schwa23)
Minnesota’s statewide smoking ban starts on Monday (Oct. 1) and humans aren’t the only one who’ll benefit from it.

According to a study being conducted in Ireland, musical instruments that are played in the now smoke-free bars and pubs of that country are experiencing a better quality of their life. The new findings have recently been published in the British Medical Journal.

But the more you think about it, instruments like an accordion are a lot more like a set of lungs than anything else. They draw in and exhale air to create their, uh, unique sound.

The Irish smoking ban in public places has been in effect since 2004. And while many studies have been conducted to test the health benefits to people who work in the pubs, bars and restaurants that now have cleaner air, this new study is the first to look at the impact on instruments. And not so coincidently, one of the researchers is an accordion player. Other instruments checked out in the study were concertinas, melodeons and Uilleann (Irish) bagpipes, all of which are bellows-driven.

How do they know the instruments are happier and healthier since the ban? Researchers contacted the repair workers for the instruments in the country. They reported that prior to the ban, they’d get a blast of foul odors when opening up the instruments to do repairs. They also found sooty particles in the tubing and chambers of the instrument. Get enough of that gunk in there, and the tones the instrument was putting out could be affected.

Now there’s something to dance a jig about!

Jul
23
2007

We post this photo with great reluctance: We know that teenagers have no will of their own, and a single media image of smoking, or sex, or violence, or ANYTHING will instantly turn them into anti-social hooligans.  Yeah, right. Photo by ronsho at flickr.com
We post this photo with great reluctance: We know that teenagers have no will of their own, and a single media image of smoking, or sex, or violence, or ANYTHING will instantly turn them into anti-social hooligans. Yeah, right. Photo by ronsho at flickr.com

Hot on the heels of our scathing expose that teenage girls talk too much, comes another shocking report from the No Duh! Department: teenagers don’t listen.

A study at the University of Georgia shows that middle school students who have seen anti-smoking ads are actually more likely to smoke. In fact, the more ads they see, the greater the chance they will light up.

Hye-Jin Paek, an assistant professor at the University, speculates the ads backfire because of the natural instinct for kids and teens to do the opposite of what they are told. (See: Beans Up Your Nose, Don’t Put.)

Paek suggests

[A]ds should focus on convincing teens their friends are heeding the anti-smoking warning because peer pressure has the most direct effect…. "It doesn't really matter what their peers are actually doing."

More damn adult lies.

Meanwhile, here’s a review of an anti-drug campaign which the writer suspects is more effective than the typical “horror story” approach.

May 16, 1988: C. Everett Koop, surgeon general of the United States, publishes a report declaring nicotine as addictive as either heroin or cocaine.