Tag Archives: smoking

Loneliness linked to phantom cigarettes

By Calvin Palmer

Today’s online edition of The Guardian features an article about the loneliness epidemic sweeping the UK.

The article stresses the health risks associated with loneliness and cites a report that states loneliness is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

That assertion is linked to an article in the Mail Online, which proclaims social isolation is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic, according to research by Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, of Brigham Young University in Utah and data obtained from 300,000 people.

Alas, the Mail Online article does not specify just how loneliness can be equated with smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And why is it 15 cigarettes instead of say 10 or five?

Is there a body of knowledge that can precisely show the effects on a person’s health of each cigarette smoked on a daily basis?

And what if a person is lonely and smokes 15 cigarettes a day, does that mean they are effectively smoking 30 cigarettes a day?

It all sounds rather implausible to me and smacks of the kind of junk science that is used to support anti-smoking and anti-tobacco measures the world over.

A photograph accompanying the Mail Online article has the caption: Me, myself and I: Loneliness can be as damaging for your health as smoking, research shows [sic]

Clearly working for the Mail Online means you do not end a sentence with a full stop. I wonder how damaging that can be to a person’s health? It is certainly damaging to your reputation as a working journalist.

And why does the caption only mention smoking when alcohol was also mentioned in the study?

It strikes me the Mail Online, like most of the mainstream media, has an anti-smoking agenda.

What’s the betting that every person associated with that article reaching the public is a non-smoker? I will wager they all like a few pints of beer or a few glasses of wine, hence the link to alcohol being downplayed.

You couldn’t make it up, could you? Well, actually they do.


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Forlán’s double strike steers Uruguay to Copa América crown

By Calvin Palmer

The final of the Copa América was always a foregone conclusion. The class and quality of Uruguay were always going to win out against the hard-running of Paraguay.

Goals from Luis Suárez and Diego Forlán, his second goal of the match coming in the final minute just to emphasize Uruguay’s supremacy, put the game beyond Paraguay’s reach.

Paraguay were under the cosh right from the start. Suárez created panic in the Paraguay penalty area after just two minutes and from the resulting corner, Uruguay skipper Diego Lugano powered a header that looked goal bound but Paraguay’s goalkeeper Justo Villar was equal to it with a magnificient save. Paraguay eventually cleared their lines.

It was only a temporary reprieve. Ten minutes later Suárez found himself in space in the Paraguay penalty area and his shot was deflected by Veron into the corner of the net. I think if Suárez had shot cleanly, Villar would probably have been equal to it. But football is not about ifs and buts.

Uruguay continued to press and Suárez set up strike partner Forlán whose shot was blocked by Villar.

It seemed only a question of time before Uruguay scored again. When midfield destroyer Egidio Arevalo dispossessed his Paraguay counterpart Ortigoza ten-yards outside the penalty area, the ball was quickly worked out to Forlán on the left who buried his shot into the far corner.

It was effectively game over even though the match was only in the 42nd minute. Paraguay had failed to score in their previous 240 minutes of football and they were never going put three goals past Uruguay to win the tournament.

In the second half, all credit to Paraguay for not letting their heads drop. They kept plugging away at their thankless task.

After 15 minutes of some torrid football, with players being caught in possession just outside their own 18-yard area and too many passes being mishit or easily intercepted by Uruguayan defenders, they suddenly found their stride and applied some real pressure.

Haedo Valdez, whose work-rate probably had Stoke City’s manager Tony Pulis trying to contact the player’s agent, fired in a volley that cannoned off the crossbar via Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera’s finger tips. A few minutes later, Valdez was put through on goal but could only fire tamely at the Muslera.

At the other end of the pitch, Villar pulled off another fantastic save when good work by Suárez saw a shot by Eguren deflected off two Paraguay defenders. Villar had already started to move to his right but then flung himself in the opposite direction to keep the ball out.

With the game moving into the final minute, the Suárez-Forlán partnership struck again. Suárez deftly headed the ball into the path of Forlán who raced for goal and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.

Forlán is now Uruguay’s top goal scorer with 31 goals but I have a feeling Suárez will eventually pass that total during his international career.

So Uruguay are crowned champions of the Copa América for the 15th time. They now overtake Argentina who have won the competition 14 times. I am tempted to say it was a Forlán conclusion.

I watched the match on Univision, the Spanish language network in the United States.  At half-time, the channel featured two T Mobile ads with the delectable charms of Valeska Castillo. It is almost worth tuning into the channel on a regular basis just to see her.

Half-time also put a face to the ebullient voice of Univision’s match commentator Fernando Fiore. He looks exactly how his voice sounds, avuncular and with a sense of fun gleaming in his eyes.

A few half-time shots of the crowd also revealed that the Edinson Cavani Stadium in Buenos Aires still allows people to smoke. I suppose it will only be a matter of time before the “sophisticated” ways of Europe and North America finally sweep Latin America. The people standing next to the smokers were not waving their hands around as if trying to fend off a wasp. It makes you wonder just who is the sophisticated society and who is the common sense society.

The sight of spectators smoking took me back to the days when I stood in the Boothen paddock at the Victoria Ground. During the course of a Stoke City home game I would smoke five or six Players No 6 cigarettes. And during the several hundred times I did that between 1968 and 1985, not one person keeled over from a heart attack induced by inhaling second-hand smoke. It almost beggars belief, doesn’t it?

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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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Amy Winehouse — a champion for a lost cause

Picture by AP, courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

Picture by AP, courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

By Calvin Palmer

Amy Winehouse enters the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London, today, where she was cleared of assaulting dancer Sherene Flash while backstage at the Prince’s Trust Ball in Berkeley Square, central London, last September.

District Judge Timothy Workman said: “Having heard the evidence from all the witnesses, I cannot be sure that this was not an accident. The charge is dismissed and the defendant discharged.”

The picture of Winehouse is my picture of the day. I cannot quite decide if she resembles Elsie Tanner on acid or Keith Richards in drag, and on acid.

But it is the trademark cigarette that makes me warm to Winehouse. It is defiant. It tells the world, “I will do my own thinking, thank you very much.”

Her looks and manner are perfect to become a figurehead for all the oppressed smokers in Britain; nay, the world!

She could don the mantle of Boadicea who challenged the might of the Roman Empire circa AD 60. With her two-tone hair and heavy mascara, Winehouse would strike terror in the hearts of health ministers, and those squeaky clean medical talking heads who ‘know’ what is right for each and every one of us, in much the same way as Boadicea did to Roman legions.

I learned about the exploits of Boadicea while at junior school in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Boadicea she was then, in 1963, and Boadicea she is now.

The revised name of Boudica probably gave some academic a bestselling book and professorial chair but for me it is, and always will be, Boadicea.

With Winehouse leading the charge, daubing faces with woad would be optional, we smokers could reclaim the pubs, stadia, parks, beaches and other public places where our dying art has been banished.

And following our triumph, the Benson & Hedges Cup could be restored to cricket; the John Player Special Formula One car could once again scream round the Grand Prix circuits of the world; Park Drive could again publish football books.

Cinema audiences could marvel at the surreal adverts for Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges. Manikin and Hamlet adverts could grace television screens.

And the nation would be better for it. After all, happiness is a cigar called Hamlet.

All of that may seem like the stuff of dreams but for me, and many others, it was a living reality.

Where did it all go so badly wrong? Answers please on a postcard.

[Based on a report by The Daily Telegraph.]

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Rare Audrey Hepburn postage stamp fetches $93,800

By Calvin Palmer

A rare postage stamp depicting movie star Audrey Hepburn smoking a cigarette sold for €67,000 ($93,800) at an auction in Germany today.

The Schlegel auction house declined to identify the buyer, who was represented by an agent.

Audrey Hepburn stamp sold at auction in Germany. Picture courtesy of the Associated Press.

Audrey Hepburn stamp sold at auction in Germany. Picture courtesy of the Associated Press.

The stamp is part of series featuring stars of the silver screen such as Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo produced by the German government in 2001.

But the print run of 14 million Audrey Hepburn stamps was destroyed after Hepburn’s son, Sean Ferrer, objected to the cigarette holder dangling from the actress’ mouth and refused to grant copyright.

However, a number of the Hepburn stamps had already been delivered to Deutsche Post for approval. Thirty of these stamps escaped destruction when an unknown employee pocketed them and used them to send letters postmarked from Berlin.

The stamp, only one of five in existence – has a reserve price of €30,000 ($41,959) at the auction at Berlin’s Kempinski Hotel Bristol.

“We can only guess that whoever took the Hepburn stamps from Deutsche Post didn’t realize their value and just used them on normal letters,” auctioneer Andreas Schlegel said.

One of the four other Hepburn stamps fetched €53,000 ($74,036) at an auction in Düsseldorf in 2005.

Audrey Hepburn became a movie icon during the 1950s and 1960s with her starring roles in Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina (1954), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1960), Charade (1963), My Fair Lady (1964) and Wait Until Dark (1967). She died of colon cancer in 1993 at the age of 63.

[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]

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Tax-shy Sebelius shows a profound ‘knowledge’ of health and disease

By Calvin Palmer

The Governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, appeared before the first round of Senate confirmation hearings yesterday.

Sibelius has been nominated to become Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in President Obama’s administration.

Sen Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, asked: “There is legislation that was pending last year and is pending now to put FDA regulation of tobacco in the FDA – would you support that?”

Sibelius replied that she does, calling tobacco regulation a key in reducing healthcare costs.

“Smoking is the number one cause of health related diseases,” she said.

That is great news for all non-smokers. The prospective health and human services secretary has just stated you will live a disease-free life, unless you happen to fall prey to a disease that is not health related.

You couldn’t make it up, could you?

It would appear yet another idiot is about to take control of people’s lives.

The health Nazis will be delighted.

But wait a minute, while Sebelius is so pious and well-informed on the subject of tobacco effects on health, she seems to have a little difficulty when it comes to the matter of paying taxes.

In a letter to the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, Sebelius said she paid a total of $7,040 in back taxes and $878 in interest because of “unintentional errors”.

She wrote: “In preparation for my confirmation process as the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, my husband and I hired a Certified Public Accountant to conduct a thorough review of our tax returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007. That evaluation revealed unintentional errors, which we immediately corrected by filing amended returns.”

Doesn’t the use of the superfluous words “thorough” and “immediately” kind of make you suspicious of this woman’s propensity for spin?

God help America!

[Based on reports by KSN.com and The Christian Science Monitor.]

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Teachers accused of beating their son with skateboard

By Calvin Palmer

Two special education teachers in Texas have been charged as a result of beating their teenage son with a skateboard after he was caught smoking in a family bathroom.

The 16-year-old boy’s arms may be broken, according to Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Both parents have been charged with misdemeanor assault of a family member, but Hawkins expects the charge to be upgraded to a felony for Leonard Law, who is a special education teacher at Dayton High School.

His wife, Amy Law, a teacher at Woodrow Wilson Junior High, witnessed the beating on Tuesday at the family’s home in Crosby, in northeast Harris County, and has been charged with failure to report an assault of a family member.

Hawkins said the boy returned to Dayton High School yesterday  and went to a nurse, reporting that he could not move his heavily bruised arms. The boy’s head and legs also appeared to be bruised.

Child Protective Services had opened an investigation earlier because police were called to Law home on previous occasions.

Dayton ISD superintendent Greg Hayman said the two teachers were sent home yesterday on paid administrative leave.

“We take these matters seriously, even though this was a home matter,” he said.

The parents have not yet been arrested and it is unknown whether the couple plan to turn themselves in.

[Based on a report by the Houston Chronicle.]

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