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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The low down on second hand smoke

Recently, this article was found in the Holland Sentinel. The tobacco industry has known about this problem for years. But while the money keeps rolling in, all they are showing is how much they care about the almighty dollar and how little they care about the health of the general public. Nonsmokers have the right to have a healthy, clean environment to live in.

New study concludes there is no safe level of second-hand smoke

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Breathing any amount of someone else's tobacco smoke harms nonsmokers, the surgeon general declared Tuesday -- a strong condemnation of secondhand smoke that is sure to fuel nationwide efforts to ban smoking in public.

"The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard," said U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona.

More than 126 million nonsmoking Americans are regularly exposed to smokers' fumes -- what Carmona termed "involuntary smoking" -- and tens of thousands die each year as a result, concludes the 670-page study. It cites "overwhelming scientific evidence" that secondhand smoke causes heart disease, lung cancer and a list of other illnesses.

The report calls for completely smoke-free buildings and public places, saying that separate smoking sections and ventilation systems don't fully protect nonsmokers. Seventeen states and more than 400 towns, cities and counties have passed strong no-smoking laws.

But public smoking bans don't reach inside private homes, where just over one in five children breathes their parents' smoke -- and youngsters' still developing bodies are especially vulnerable. Secondhand smoke puts children at risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, as well as bronchitis, pneumonia, worsening asthma attacks, poor lung growth and ear infections, the report found.Carmona implored parents who can't kick the habit to smoke outdoors, never in a house or car with a child. Opening a window to let the smoke out won't protect them.

"Stay away from smokers," he urged everyone else.

Even a few minutes around drifting smoke is enough to spark an asthma attack, make blood more prone to clot, damage heart arteries and begin the kind of cell damage that over time can lead to cancer, he said.

Repeatedly questioned about how the Bush administration would implement his findings, Carmona would only pledge to publicize the report in hopes of encouraging anti-smoking advocacy. Passing anti-smoking laws is up to Congress and state and local governments, he said.

"My job is to make sure we keep a light on this thing," he said.

Still, public health advocates said the report should accelerate an already growing movement toward more smoke-free workplaces.

"This could be the most influential surgeon general's report in 15 years," said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "The message to governments is: The only way to protect your citizens is comprehensive smoke-free laws."
The report won't surprise doctors. It isn't a new study but a compilation of the best research on secondhand smoke done since the last surgeon general's report on the topic in 1986, which declared secondhand smoke a cause of lung cancer that kills 3,000 nonsmokers a year.

Since then, scientists have proved that even more illnesses are triggered or worsened by secondhand smoke. Topping that list: More than 35,000 nonsmokers a year die from heart disease caused by secondhand smoke.

Regular exposure to someone else's smoke increases the risk of a nonsmoker getting heart disease or lung cancer by up to 30 percent, Carmona found.

Some tobacco companies acknowledge the risks. But R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which has fought some of the smoking bans, challenges the new report's call for complete smoke-free zones and insists the danger is overblown.

"Bottom line, we believe adults should be able to patronize establishments that permit smoking if they choose to do so," said RJR spokesman David Howard.

And a key argument of some business owners' legal challenges to smoking bans is that smoking customers will go elsewhere, cutting their profits.

But the surgeon general's report concludes that's not true. It cites a list of studies that found no negative economic impact from city and state smoking bans -- including evidence that New York City restaurants and bars increased business by almost 9 percent after going smoke-free.

To help make the point, Carmona's office videotaped mayors of smoke-free cities and executives of smoke-free companies, including the founder of the Applebee's restaurant chain, saying business got better when the haze cleared.

In addition to the scientific report, Carmona issued advice for consumers and employers Tuesday:

--Choose smoke-free restaurants and other businesses, and thank them for going smoke-free.
--Don't let anyone smoke near your child. Don't take your child to restaurants or other indoor places that allow smoking.
--Smokers should never smoke around a sick relative.
--Employers should make all indoor workspace smoke-free and not allow smoking near entrances, to protect the health of both customers and workers, and offer programs to help employees kick the habit.

In having worked as a waiter, I have handled customers who have had children who have had asthma and have had to be seated as far away as possible from the smoking area so that their children could breathe. The tobacco companies are lying to the public. The danger is not overblown. It is very real.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A new definition

I saw this and just thought that this would be an interesting article. I found this at Wired News.
As if we do not have enough distractions on the road, do we need any more?

John Coyne, the venerable, 82-year-old mayor of Brooklyn, Ohio, is primed to lay down the traffic law again. And again, modern technology is the reason.

As soon as General Motors puts its Web vehicle on the streets -- expected next year -- Coyne may do something about it. GM announced this week it will soon begin tests of a car with Internet access, and Coyne isn't happy about it.

Why? He's seen people do a lot of stupid things in automobiles.

In 1966, Coyne watched out the window of his office as a mother drove by, her toddler standing in the passenger seat, hands on the dashboard. Seconds later, mom slammed on the brakes to avoid a collision, and the baby's head smacked against the windshield.

"I ran downstairs and the little girl's nose was bleeding like a hog and the mother was hysterical," said Coyne. "I looked at the seatbelt hanging there unused, and I thought, 'By God, there ought to be a law.'"

So he made one, the first seatbelt law in the country.

Some 30 years later, another car plowed into an elderly woman at the same intersection. This time, the driver was yapping on a cell phone, distracted. He kept talking even after the accident.
Coyne, still mayor, went into action again: No talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving in Brooklyn, Ohio. Passed just last March by the City Council, it's the first law of its kind in the country. Coyne fully expects it will soon become the national norm.

"We're not banning them. If it's an emergency, fine. But if you're gonna gab on a cell phone, you should pull over to the side of the road," he said.

Hello, Netmobile.

Coyne insists that drivers' attention be kept from wandering into email or stock quotes or the Pamela Lee fan page when it should be on the road.

"Mark the date and the time; there's going to be a law," he said. "Auto collisions are the leading cause of death in this great country of ours, and I'm saying, 'Wake up!'

"We're the dumbest country in the world when it comes to auto safety. We get carried away with technology, and we don't think about the consequences."

Is Coyne just an aging technophobe? Perhaps not, said experts.

"It's hard to know until the products are introduced," said Ginger Watson, a research scientist at the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa. "But as humans, we're only good at doing a certain number of tasks at a time. Sometimes driving is the only task we can attend to -- it requires full attention."

When you add the Net to the ringing cell phone, screaming kid, and a cassette that needs changing, you've got a car filled with distractions.

GM officials couldn't be reached for comment, but they've previously said that GM's car-based Internet access will be voice-activated, and an electronic voice will read Web site text and email to the driver. Hands can remain on the wheel and eyes on the road.

That might not matter, said Don Redelmeier, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, who in 1997 published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found driving while using a cell phone increases the odds of crashing four-fold -- nearly as much as driving drunk.

One of the study's other key findings: The distraction of talking on a cell phone is nearly as dangerous as fumbling with the phone when dialing or trying to handle the steering wheel.
"Hands-free cell phones were still associated with a large increase [in accidents]," said Redelmeier. "It's about keeping your mind on the road, not just keeping your hands on the steering wheel."

Trying to craft that email to an important client, even hands-free, might pose a similar hazard to concentration.

Ford, which is also designing a Net-connected car, said it's looking carefully at the risks of overtaxing the driver's attention with techno-gizmos.

"It's a big concern," said John Harmon, Ford's public affairs manager for technology. "There's a whole group that's looking into information overload and the distractedness of drivers."
Harmon declined to offer details of the pending Ford Net car, though he did say what it would not be. "In Japan, they've got a lot of televisions and entertainment systems that the driver can see. That's not what we're doing."

Whatever Ford is doing -- and GM and DaimlerChrysler -- it's likely that the real safety ramifications won't be known for years.

The University of Iowa and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration are developing a sophisticated driving simulator, the National Advanced Driving Simulator, but it won't be complete until the middle of next year. The results of studies there won't be known for months or years after that.

In the interim, statisticians will have to rely solely on accident data to determine the hazards of driving a Netmobile.

"When people started using cell phones, no one knew it would be a problem," said the University of Iowa's Watson. "Now it's recognized as a problem, because the accident statistics are speaking for themselves. It's far better to look at it in an experimental setting in advance than it is to look at crash data."

Watson is quick to point out, though, that new technology may actually reduce accidents.
"By understanding how humans interact with technology, it's possible to improve safety," she said.

A passenger checking the Net for directions, or weather and road conditions, could be a real safety asset, for instance.

For its part, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is taking a wait-and-see attitude.

"There are all kinds of ways to get distracted in a vehicle," said spokesman Tim Hurd.
"When radios first came in cars in the '30s, people worried about them," he said. "By definition, each new thing is a possible distraction, but they don't have to be if they're used responsibly."

Or if they're made illegal, said Mayor Coyne.

"My concern is, with all the safety people we have in this world, we still walk around with blinders on. I'm not a doctor or a lawyer, but I can still do something to help. How can we stand by and let people get killed? I don't understand it."

People should be keeping their attention on the road. Anything else is completely unnecessary.

A few ideas on a perfect world

A few ideas on a perfect world.

In this world, people will always have differences of opinion. Conflicts of opinion are a fact of life. It is how these differences are handled that define us as a society. Unfortunately, these differences are not always handled in a positive way. More often than not, it is these differences that can cause nations to go to war.

An example of this is the situation in the Middle East. That mainly concerns the Arab nations and their inability to accept the right of the nation of Isreal to exist. In particular, the many times that Isreal has been attacked by their Arab neighbors and the many terrorist attacks on it’s citizens.

Because of this, Isreal has always been in danger of being attacked. The people of Isreal live in a nation that is surrounded by nations that just as soon see Isreal wiped of the face of the earth.

In a perfect world, going to war would not be necessary. They would be able work through their differences. If the religious fundamentalists in the Middle East would make the effort to see past their own hatred, they would be able to come up with a compromise.The same could also be said of religious fundamentalists, fanatics, and extremist everywhere in the world. There would be no need for tribes and nations to go to war.