Not surprising — Southerners most likely to die from smoking-related cancers

Auto Racing: NASCAR Heinz Southern 500: Dick Trickle (84) smoking cigarette on track before race at Darlington Raceway.  Darlington, SC 9/3/1989 CREDIT: George Tiedemann (Photo by George Tiedemann /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X38788 TK3 R6 F13 )
Getty Images, obviously. A totally non-stereotypical depiction of Southern cigarette smoking.

This is a bit from the “Well … duh” department. A new study from the American Cancer Society shows that Southern states have the highest death rates from cancers caused by smoking.

Forty percent of the cancer deaths for men in Arkansas are smoking -related cancers, while 29 percent of the cancer deaths for women in Kentucky are for smoking-related cancers, according to the ACS.

Nationally, roughly about 29 percent of all cancer deaths are blamed on smoking-related cancers, primarily lung cancer.

The study also looked at other cancers thought to be linked to smoking, such as liver, throat, pancreas, colon and kidney, as well as leukemia.

lung cancer rates
Lung cancer rates. Darker is deadlier.

Most of the 10 highest states for cancer death rates are in the South, while most of the 10 lowest are in the West, where smoking rates are low. The lowest state was Utah, with 22 percent of cancer deaths among men  attributable to smoking and 11 percent for women. Utah, mostly because smoking is a sin among Mormons, has the lowest smoking rate in the nation. California and Hawaii are the next two lowest, I believe.

What do almost all Southern states have in common? Low cigarettes taxes and virtually no statewide smoking bans (Only two or three Southern states even bother to ban smoking in restaurants, much less bars.). They also spend the least on tobacco education. And gee, what a coincidence, they tend to have the highest smoking rates (Kentucky and West Virginia keep trading back and forth over which state has the highest smoking rate).

The average cigarette tax in the South is 49 cents a pack, compared to about $1.80 a pack in the rest of the nation.

The South by far has a much higher lung cancer rate than the rest of the country. Add to that a high rate of diabetes (which probably has to do with the Southern diet, but smoking is a contributor to diabetes) and it’s simply not a very healthy part of the country.

I want to make clear I’m not making fun of the South here. Lung cancer is no laughing matter, no matter what part of the country it’s happening in.



What th….? Those monsters in North Korea taught a zoo chimp to smoke cigarettes


I … I … just can’t. I don’t know.

North Korea, for some reason, is entertaining people by featuring a chimp at the Pyongyang Zoo, that smokes.

She doesn’t just smoke, either. She smokes an entire pack of cigarettes a day. That poor chimp. Hooked on nicotine, probably getting sick.

And those assholes in North Korea — letting him do it.

It wasn’t something that happened by accident, either. The North Koreans actually taught the chimp how to smoke cigarettes.

From the Washington Post:

When she puffs on a cigarette, onlookers “roar with laughter,” as the Guardian reported recently. “Her trainer seemed to be encouraging the smoking and prompted her to touch her nose, bow thank you and do a simple dance.” She appears to have been taught to use a lighter. On Wednesday, an Associated Press photographer caught Dallae on camera as she ignited a fresh cigarette from a smoldering butt.

Pyongyang Zoo officials said the chimpanzee, whose name when translated from Korean means Azalea, does not inhale the smoke. (Smoking remains a popular habit among North Korean men, with nearly half — 46 percent — estimated to smoke daily by World Lung Foundation’s Tobacco Atlas. North Korean women only smoke at a rate of 2 percent.)

Terry Francona’s body trying to send him a message — finds a tooth in his chew


Cleveland Indians’ manager Terry Francona, seriously, dude, your body is trying to tell you something. It would behoove you to listen.

Francona is a noted tobacco chewer. He’s publicly spoken about his habit and how hard it is to break. Maybe this will be enough to finally convince him it’s time to quit for good.

The other night during the Indians’ playoff game versus the Blue Jays, Francona’s tooth came out … in his chew.

Yes, he found his tooth in his plug of tobacco. About a 9 1/2 out of 10 on the grossness scale.

From a story:

“Right before the game, I mean, like literally, my lower tooth, the veneer popped out while I was chewing,” Francona told reporters Tuesday. “That thing came off, and I’m chewing, and it felt crunchy. I was like, ‘Uh oh.’ So I undid my tobacco, and there’s my tooth.”

Terry, seriously, man, one of the things chewing tobacco does is destroy gum tissue … meaning that chew likely had something to do with your tooth coming out … in your chew. You really need to try and try again and keep trying until you’re able to quit.

OK, wait until after the World Series is over. I give you that, that you have bigger things on your mind right now.


Ah, the good ol’ days, when people really smoked around babies


I normally try to stay clear from partisan politics here, but here is a funny video from about Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again.”

In the video, two women dressed in 1950s pearls and hoop skirts sing about the good ol’ days of sexual harassment, domestic abuse, segregation, date rape and the days, “before we even knew that gays had rights.”

What cracked me up is later in the video, they’re both smoking around a baby. Yeah, the good ol’ days, when millions of parents smoked around their kids and gave their kids asthma, ear infections and upper respiratory infections from their omnipresent secondhand smoke. You youngins today might not believe it, but this was absolutely normal back then. It just boggles my mind today what people did to their kids 50, 60 years ago.

As an aside, I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually witnessed someone smoking around a child. It’s been at least five or six years. I remember it clearly, it was in a car parked in a parking lot of a mini-mart, a couple of idiots in the front seat smoking with a toddler strapped in his child seat in the back. I just wanted to slap those people.

So, that’s pretty good in that I personally haven’t seen anything like that in at least five or six years. But, they’re still out there — those idiots, but they’re pretty few and far between. The vast majority of smokers today know full well not to smoke around their — or other people’s — kids.

Here’s the video. Again, as usual, enjoy it while you can, because I never know when YouTube is going to take these things down:




14-year-old kid burned by exploding e-cig on Harry Potter ride

Olivia Wilde. I’m using a photo illustration because real photos of victims of exploding e-cigs are pretty gross and intense.

A girl was burned when an e-cig in somebody else’s purse exploded while she was riding a Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios in Florida.

So, when these things blow up, they are not only a danger to the person holding the e-cig, but anyone in their general vicinity. The girl was injured badly enough that she had to be taken to the hospital.

I don’t want to overstate the alarm over these things, but I don’t want to understate it either. There have now been dozens upon dozens of incidents, perhaps hundreds now, of people being injured by these things exploding. They’re cheaply made, often times in China, with little or no regulation.

Some spokesman for the e-cig industry in this article claimed in this article that there’s only been 22 documented incidents of e-cigs exploding since 2008. E-cig industry flaks are starting to sound exactly like cigarette industry flaks from 30 years ago. I’m pretty positive I could round up more than 22 articles about exploding e-cig incidents just from Google (In fact, I did this, hundreds upon hundreds of articles about exploding e-cigs) … and that’s just from 2016. This one story from CNN had links to four other recent exploding e-cig incidents.

The person with the e-cig was kind of a jerk, apparently. She split without identifying herself and she’s being sought by police at last word.

L.A. Times editorial — time to increase California’s cigarette tax

Associated Press photo

The Los Angeles Times has come out in favour of Proposition 56, a November ballot initiative which would raise California’s cigarette tax by $2 a pack.

This is the third time California has tried a ballot measure raising its cigarette tax (The State Legislature is too yellow to do it themselves.). A more modest $1 a pack proposal in 2012 lost by less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the vote (It lost by less than 25,000 votes out of 5 million ballots cast) after Big Tobacco spent more than $40 million to defeat it.

Most of the money from this tax increase is specifically earmarked for Medi-Cal.

So, every bit helps.

From the L.A. Times:

… tobacco taxes are really a brilliant and beautiful thing: They not only bring in revenue for government but also serve a social good in the process. On average, peer-reviewed studies have shown, a 10% increase in the total price of cigarettes will yield a 3% to 4% reduction in adult consumption — and a 7% reduction among young smokers.

While bringing down smoking rates, the tax also would bring in between $1 billion and $1.4 billion in its first full year — 2017-18 — after which, the revenue would decline slowly as the number of smokers shrinks. Some of the money would go to administration and enforcement of the tax itself; a sizable chunk would go to tobacco prevention and control programs; a portion would go toward research on cancer, heart and lung disease and other tobacco-related diseases. But the bulk of the funds would go to Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for low-income residents — specifically, to pay healthcare providers more to treat Medi-Cal patients.

Many people are surprised to hear this, but California actually has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country — just 87 cents a pack. The national average for state taxes is about $1.65 a pack, so California is barely half the national average.

This proposal would jump California from the 37th highest cigarette excise tax in the country to ninth.

Increasing cigarette taxes has been shown time and again to be one of the most effective ways to cut the smoking rate. It gives people extra incentive to quit and kids extra incentive to not start to begin with. I mean, if someone is smoking just a pack a day of cigarettes, with this cigarette tax, quitting would save you $2.87 a day. That’s about $1,000 a year. That’s just one pack a day.

It’s interesting that Big Tobacco would spend so much in California trying to beat it, because California already has one of the lowest smoking rates in the country. But, if the measure cut the smoking rate by just 5 percent … that’s 5 percent coming from the biggest state in the country. That’s maybe 200,000 to 250,000 smokers, multiply that by maybe $1,000 a year they would no longer be spending on cigarettes (and this is for perpetuity) … you start seeing why Big Tobacco cares.

The tobacco industry is already trying to spread lies that the initiative would somehow take money away from schools. From the L.A. Times editorial:

The battle to pass Proposition 56 will be tough, as always, because of the power of the tobacco lobby, which already is making deceptive claims like this one: “Prop 56 cheats schools out of at least $600 million per year.” That’s baloney. Proposition 56 wouldn’t take a penny from schools; it would merely exempt the new tobacco tax revenue from the requirements of Proposition 98, the 1988 measure which guarantees public schools a large share of the state’s core revenues. Many initiatives include such an exemption.

Don’t believe the cynical, disingenuous opponents of this measure. Proposition 56 will save lives. The Times urges a yes vote.


Research: Cigarettes permanently damage smokers’ DNA


OK, smoking gives you lung cancer, it makes you impotent, it can lead to Alzheimer’s…

… want another reason to quit smoking? It also permanently damages smokers’ DNA. Put those words together in a sentence … permanently …. damaged … DNA.

This is something I was somewhat already aware of — it’s the DNA damage smoking causes that has a lot to do with smokers developing lung cancer. I know I’m seriously oversimplifying it, but it comes down to smoking breaking the DNA strands, which leads to cell mutation, which leads to tumours. Keep in mind, cigarette smoke actually contains Polonium-210, a radioactive isotope.

I don't know what's going on in this photo, but I thought it was funny.
I don’t know what’s going on in this photo, but I thought it was funny.

According to this research done at Harvard Medical School, the damage to a smokers’ DNA does fade over time if a smoker quits. However, it does not completely vanish. There ain’t no undoing some of the damage. It lingers … for life.

From an NBC News article:

The marks are made in a process called methylation, which is an alteration of DNA that can inactivate a gene or change how it functions — often causing cancer and other diseases.

“Our study has found compelling evidence that smoking has a long-lasting impact on our molecular machinery, an impact that can last more than 30 years,” said Roby Joehanes of Hebrew SeniorLife and Harvard Medical School.

Heart disease and cancer are both caused by genetic damage — some of it inherited, but most of it caused by day-to-day living. Smoking is one of the biggest culprits.

“The encouraging news is that once you stop smoking, the majority of DNA methylation signals return to never-smoker levels after five years, which means your body is trying to heal itself of the harmful impacts of tobacco smoking,” Joehanes said.

Smoking scars DNA in clear patterns, researchers reported Tuesday. Most of the damage fades over time, they found — but not all of it.

Their study of 16,000 people found that while most of the disease-causing genetic footprints left by smoking fade after five years if people quit, some appear to stay there forever.

Image: A customer smokes a cigarette in a cafe
A customer smokes a cigarette in a cafe in Prague, Czech Republic, May 25, 2016.DAVID W CERNY / Reuters, file

The marks are made in a process called methylation, which is an alteration of DNA that can inactivate a gene or change how it functions — often causing cancer and other diseases.

“Our study has found compelling evidence that smoking has a long-lasting impact on our molecular machinery, an impact that can last more than 30 years,” said Roby Joehanes of Hebrew SeniorLife and Harvard Medical School.

Heart disease and cancer are both caused by genetic damage — some of it inherited, but most of it caused by day-to-day living. Smoking is one of the biggest culprits.

“The encouraging news is that once you stop smoking, the majority of DNA methylation signals return to never-smoker levels after five years, which means your body is trying to heal itself of the harmful impacts of tobacco smoking,” Joehanes said.

The team examined blood samples given by 16,000 people taking part in various studies going back to 1971. In all the studies, people have given blood samples and filled out questionnaires about smoking, diet, lifestyle and their health histories.

Among quitters, most of these changes reverted to the patterns seen in people who never smoked after about five years, the team reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.

But smoking-related changes in 19 genes, including the TIAM2 gene linked to lymphoma, lasted 30 years, the team found.

DNA damage. Some pretty heavy and scary stuff. And it makes me also worry what DNA damage might be caused by breathing in secondhand smoke.

Big Tobacco stooge John Boehner joins the board of RJ Reynolds


Well, knock me over with a feather.

Chain-smoker and notorious Big Tobacco congressional stooge John Boehner last week joined the RJ Reynolds board of directors.

Why am I not surprised. Yeah, believe it or not, this is absolutely a true story, Boehner once handed out cheques from tobacco companies on the floor of the U.S. Congress before he became Speaker of the House. He did this actually on the floor of the U.S. Capitol in 1995. the cheques were an attempt to persuade representatives from voting against a bill cutting tax breaks to Big Tobacco. Boehner and Big Tobacco’s tactics won the day.

What a shill! What  a sleaze.

Boehner reportedlt received nearly half a million in campaign contributions from Big Tobacco during his political career, and he was notorious for doing tobacco’s bidding during his many years in Congress.

From this story:

Big Tobacco made nice with Boehner early in his career and kept the money coming. Over his 14 years in the House, Boehner received $497,112 in direct contributions from the tobacco lobby. Boehner stayed loyal, consistently siding with the tobacco industry’s wishes in legislative battles.

And what a surprise! Boehner, after resigning his House seat and his Speaker of the House post, has glided into post-politics retirement as an actual corporate board member of RJ Reynolds.

From a National Public Radio story:

“RAI (RJ Reynolds) is striving to transform the tobacco industry through innovative strategies that include speeding the decline in tobacco use among young people and reducing the harm caused by smoking,” said a Boehner spokesman. “These are objectives Speaker Boehner supports and looks forward to helping RAI advance through his service on the board.”

Supposedly, Boehner was such a heavy smoker that current House Speaker Paul Ryan had to have the Speaker’s office fumigated and the furniture replaced because of the smoky stench.

I would never wish lung cancer on anyone, but John … dude … you’re pushing that sentiment to the limit.



Wow, video of an e-cigarette bursting into flames

I’ve written a bit in the past about one of the issues with e-cigarettes … that there’s not a whole lot of regulation about how they’re built and they do have a dangerous habit of exploding/bursting into flames from time to time.

At this point, probably hundreds of people have suffered major and minor burns from exploding e-cigs. Granted, a might be a minor issue compared to the overall question of the safety of e-cigarette vapour, but it’s just another reason why I don’t trust these thing.

Watch the video. It’s pretty harrowing. It’s definitely a “holy crap!” moment. Imagine if you will if you were actually holding that e-cig when it erupted into flames.



African-American doctors urge banning menthol cigarettes


For some reason, I’m not sure why, menthol cigarettes are favoured by black smokers (interestingly, my parents were big menthol smokers for years and they were decidedly not black)… and Big Tobacco has long marketed menthols to black smokers.

In fact, 75 percent of the smokers of the second biggest cigarette brand — Newport cigarettes — are black. Newports are mentholated. Man, here’s a shocking stat — 83 percent of older black smokers prefer mentholated brands, while 72 percent of young black smokers also prefer menthol cigs.

Newport trails only Marlboro as the most popular brand in the U.S. .. mostly because so many blacks smoke them. Newport was also the No. 1 brand for Lorillard, which is now part of RJ Reynolds.

Newport, a menthol cigarette, is the No. 1 brand among African-American smokers.

Interestingly, several years ago, the Food and Drug Administration banned candy-flavoured cigarettes, such as cherry, raspberry, etc., because these cigarettes were obviously being marketed to kids. However, the FDA did nothing about menthol cigarettes, which have a candhy-like minty flavour. Menthol cigarettes were grandfathered in.

A group called the African-American Tobacco Control Leadership Council last week called on Barack Obama to ban menthol cigarettes (not really sure if Obama could actually do this by Executive action).

One of the big problems with menthol is that it makes cigarette smoke less harsh and easier to ingest, thus making cigarette smoke that much more dangerous for the smoker.

Yeah, I don’t get the logic of banning candy cigarettes, but not a minty cigarette. It just shows that there is a too-cozy relationship at times between the FDA and Big Tobacco.