Smoke obscures the point of health advice tips

By Calvin Palmer

The Florida Times-Union yesterday did a feature yesterday on aging and quoted Paul D. Nussman or Paul Nussbaum depending on which part of the article a person happens to read. Looks like The Jacksonville Joke has struck again.

Nussbaum is described as an adjunct associate professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. You will find no mention of him in the Department of Neurological Surgery because as an adjunct he is not a member of faculty.  So his position sounds grand but, in reality, he is part time and non-salaried. And that of course begs the question as to why.

But given the column inches devoted to Nussbaum and the inclusion of the title “Dr”, although my research suggests that this title stems from his Ph.D. rather than M.D. degree, Nussbaum takes on the authority one of the 21st Century’s high priests, namely the medical profession.

Some of these high priests are tremendously skilled and countless people owe their continued existence on this planet to their medical knowledge and expertise. Others seem more inclined to tell us all how we should lead our lives.

Many Americans of the Republican persuasion eschew “big government” because they do not like anyone telling them what they must or must not do. A good many physicians are Republicans but they think of nothing of telling us what to do in terms of our lifestyle. And Republicans not clad in white coats accept it without a thought of staging a Tea Party protest. Such is the power of the white coat and stethoscope. Perhaps if President Obama were to dress up like a medical doctor he would become the darling of Republicans.

It seems Nussbaum has no rightful place among this elite but the media is easily taken in by the title “Dr”. As a result, Nussbaum gets his chance to preach to the masses and gives his top ten tips for maintaining a healthy brain.

Tip 1: Don’t smoke.

Smoking represents a major risk factor for cancer, heart disease and stroke. These leading causes of death represent an ongoing concern for all Americans. Non-smokers might consider taking an empathetic approach to smokers who are trying to quit, and parents might use a “tough love” approach with their children to make sure they don’t even start.

As an aside, the use of “might” here instead of “may” means that they are unlikely to do so.

The piece is entitled “Dr Paul Nussbaum’s Ten Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Brain From 1 to 100.”

Now if his advice were in regard to general health and longevity, I would be the first to agree, albeit reluctantly, with Nussbaum’s number one tip. But it is supposed to be about maintaining a healthy brain and nowhere does Nussbaum discuss the effects, harmful or otherwise, smoking has on the brain.

So what we have here is the white-coated high priest mantra against tobacco and little in the way it might impact the health of someone’s brain.

But in the non-smoking offices and grounds of The Florida Times-Union building, one can imagine the health fascists applauding Nussbaum for a job well done. He no doubt received messages of congratulation from the countless junk scientists allied to anti-tobacco organizations: “Good job, Nussbaum!”

And before you are tempted to dismiss this article, I would point out that I am also a doctor. Granted I am not a medical doctor but then neither is Nussbaum.

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