All posts by Pepe Lepew

Colorado, Utah consider raising the age for buying cigarettes to 21

teen smoking

Interesting, Colorado, the state that legalized recreational pot is considering raising the legal age for buying tobacco products to 21. Utah is considering similar legislation.

Report on Colorado bill

Honestly, don’t have a strong opinion on this. I see the logic behind making 21 the legal age for alcohol, because too many 18- and 19-year-olds are still too stupid to know how to use alcohol responsibly — supposedly, a certain percentage of those dumb kids will be smarter at 21 to know not to get plastered and drive, etc. Supposedly. But, since tobacco isn’t really an intoxicant, that argument doesn’t wash.

I suppose you could make the argument that most kids by the time they are 21 know better to even get started with cigarette smoking, but most kids get started anyway when they’re 15 or 16. Perhaps those kids who are just smoking a handful of cigarettes a day, start buying their own packs at 18, and by the time they’re 20, they’re addicted to the nicotine. Perhaps, a certain percentage of those kids never get addicted to begin with because by 21, they’re smart enough to know cigarettes are stupid. I mean, very, very few people actually start smoking after the age of 18.

Not surprisingly, lobbyists representing mini marts and convenience stores are opposing both bills. I’m not a total socialist weasel, but I can’t feel too much sympathy for retailers on this one. Hey, really, you want to keep making money selling cigs to 18-year-olds? Raising the price of beer by 5 cents and gasoline by 1 cent per gallon ought to make up for the lost revenues.


My favourite Olympic hockey memory

Dominick Hasek, Nagano Olympics

The truly epic shootout between the U.S. and Russia a few days ago reminded me of one of my favourite Olympic hockey memories. It isn’t the most famous moment in Olympic hockey, not by a long shot — it can’t compare to the Miracle on Ice or Sidney Crosby’s overtime shot in Vancouver, but it’s my favourite.

It was 1998, the first year that NHL players were allowed to play in the Olympics (taking a cue from the success of the 1992 Olympics Dream Team and the 1996 Hockey World Cup, in which NHL stars from the U.S. beat NHL stars from Canada in a three-game series that was fanatically watched in Canada). I was living in the San Juans, and in the San Juans, you could get CBC from Vancouver.

CBC shows 6 straight hours of hockey every Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada and during the Stanley Cup playoffs would show hockey literally every night, so there were a lot of hockey fans in the San Juans. A lot of people only had over the air TV and the CBC station plus one in Bellingham were the only stations available over the air.

Anyway, this was a big deal in Canada because Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, Patrick Roy, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic and the other superstars of the era were going to play in the Olympics. For other teams, superstars such as Brett Hull (USA) and Jaromir Jagr (Czech Rep.) and Pavel Bure and Sergei Federov (Russia) were getting to play in the Olympics for the first time.

Canada was the heavy favourite, especially in Canada; Russia was considered the top contender. I found something somewhat distasteful in the Canadian attitude toward Olympics hockey. With the best players in the NHL in the Olympics now, I sensed a massive attitude of entitlement from the Canadians about the gold medal, as if they had already won it before the Olympics ever started.

Bobsled 4
Gretzky wonders what “Larry and Willy” will say on CFOX?

The games came on late at night because of the time difference. Canada more or less chewed threw the competition early, while the USA team, full of NHL stars, completely fell apart. The U.S., just two years removed from the winning the World Cup, completely flopped and didn’t even get a sniff of the medal rounds and got in trouble for tearing apart its hotel rooms.

It set the stage for a huge semifinal between Canada and the Czech. Rep. The Czechs were led by Jagr and one of the best goalies in the world at the time, Dominick Hasek. Hasek was good, we all knew that, but other than Jagr, the Czechs didn’t have a lot of big names on their team. Canada had legendary Patrick Roy in net and a roster full of superstars and fully expected to win.

The game began at about midnight and unlike NBC, the CBC showed all of the matches live. I actually had work the next day, but it wasn’t an important day at work, and it was the kind of job in which I could go in late if I needed to. My boss at the time was pretty cool with this, and I told him I would likely be coming in late, but that there was an 11 a.m. meeting I needed to attend.

The game started late, if I remember because the game before it went long. It ended up starting sometime around 1 a.m. Still no big deal, I thought. I was still young and full of beans back then and figured I could go to work after four hours of sleep.

Well, Hasek was absolutely spectacular. It was literally the most amazing, otherworldly goaltending I have ever seen. The Canadian, with all their raw, Hall of Fame, talent, with Wayne Gretzky (granted, toward the end of his career), simply could not crack him.

The game went into overtime. I believe back then they played a full 20-minute overtime. Still after all that, the game remained tied 1-1. I got the sense the Canadian announcers were in disbelief. You have to understand, Canada simply expected the gold medal was all theirs. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I remember after one play that didn’t go Canada’s way, one of the frustrated announcers actually said, “Oh, that’s a kick in the groin!”

haruko and T.J.
Haruko and her new heartthrob, T.J. Oshie. Poor Jacoby Ellsbury, she’s traded up!

The shootout lasted for five shots each. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as T.J. Oshie’s heroics. The format was different in that a shooter could not shoot twice. You had to go through the entire roster. The Czechs scored on their first  penalty shot, and then Hasek stoned five straight Canadian penalty shooters. Canada was in shock; they literally had been beaten by one man. There would be no gold medal. I found myself during the game actually cheering for the Czechs. They were huge underdogs and were being carried by one, superhuman man.

I was so mesmerized by the game, I wasn’t even paying attention to the time. When the game was over, it was actually 5 a.m. and the sun was starting to come up. I had expected the game to end between 2:30 and 3 a.m., not 5 a.m.

The morning DJs on the Vancouver radio station (Larry and Willy, legends in Vancouver for like 20 years) I usually listened to (CFOX) were furious about the game. It was all they talked about, that and wondering what the Canadian announcer’s, “Well that was a kick in the groin” was all about. Larry and especially Willy had been spending the whole Olympics trashing the U.S. team for being such a bunch of losers and were being pretty unsparing in their disgust with the Canadian team, too.

I sheepishly called my boss about the game at about 8:30 and explained I had only managed to get a couple of hours sleep. He found it all funny, and the fact that Canada was devastated by the loss. I made the staff meeting, then went home in the afternoon to nap.

The Canadian team was demoralized and barely showed up for the Bronze medal game, losing to Finland. The Czechs went on to beat that very powerful Russian team full of superstars 1-0 behind Hasek. Hasek was a huge hero (and still is to this day) in his home country. Never had I seen one player literally carry an entire team the way he did in those 98 Olympics.


Leonard Nimoy discusses his COPD with Piers Morgan


“I was an Olympic championship smoker.”

Sounding gravelly, this is what Leonard Nimoy tells Piers Morgan of CNN in an interview about his COPD diagnosis. Nimoy disclosed this week that he has COPD, though he has not smoked in 30 years. I notice Nimoy has an oxygen apparatus on the table in front of him during the interview.

Nimoy emphasizes that it’s “never too early to quit.” He quit after a 30-year smoking habit, and it took 30 years for the COPD to show up.

“The damage is being done right now. Every day you light up a cigarette, you’re losing cells in your lungs,” Nimoy said. Never were wiser words spoken.

Nimoy said he was smoking two packs a day. He talks about the insane smoking advertising of his day — doctors actually endorsing cigarettes; and he also talks about how physically addicting cigarettes are and how difficult it was for him to stop. He also talks about how much cigarettes were ingrained into the culture 50, 60 years ago.

“It was part of my culture. My guys, my gang…”

A brave man facing a huge challenge. Live long and prospier, Leonard.


Leonard Nimoy announces he has COPD


Leonard Nimoy announced yesterday he has COPD and put out a statement urging people to please quit smoking. Here is a more lengthy CNN article.

Nimoy, sent out a tweet: “I quit smoking 30 yrs ago. Not soon enough. I have COPD. Grandpa says, quit now!! LLAP (Live Long and Prosper, obviously)”

Part of the deviousness of smoking … even if you quit, the damage it does can come back to haunt you decades later. It’s heartbreaking that someone does the right thing … and still develops lung diseases years later. The best way to avoid that damage is to never start smoking to begin with.

Leonard Nimoy says he is feeling OK, but just cannot walk long distances. He issued his announcement after he was seen at an airport being pushed in a wheelchair and with a breathing tube. I know from personal experience they can do a lot to repair the damage done by COPD; they can’t cure it or make it go away, but they can get the lungs functioning better with various medications; I wish Nimoy the best.

Response to CVS Pharmacies ban on tobacco: Tom Brokaw intelligent, Fox News …. blathering idiots

gretchen carlson
Gretchen Carlson

Shaking my head at this one.

The Mensa crowd at Fox News blew a gasket when CVS Pharmacies announced it would not longer be selling tobacco products. First of all, Fox News tried to blame Barack Obama somehow for a private company’s decision not to sell a poisonous product because Obama had the audacity to (gasp!) express his support for the decision. On three separate occasions, Fox analysts used the CVS decision to attack Obama (Neil Cavuto claimed CVS was becoming “scaredy-cat” because of the ACA … that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense).

What’s interesting is Fox promotes free market capitalism pretty unabashedly. Well, here you have a company, making a decision of its own free will, to no longer sell a product — what is that? FREE MARKET CAPITALISM.

Even more ludicrous was a comment by Gretchen Carlson asking out loud if it was legal for CVS Pharmacies to not sell tobacco products since they are legal. “Is it OK legally … to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this?” she asked her guests.

Oh … my … freaking … God. Do they give IQ tests at Fox News? And then if you fail the test, you get the job?

There is no requirement anywhere that forces businesses to sell products they choose not sell? That would impinging on FREE MARKET CAPITALISM. My question to Gretchen. So, using your logic, are you saying that CVS Pharmacies should also be required to sell guns and vibrators? Since, these are both legal products? Just frightening how stupid these arguments become.

Tom Brokaw chimes in


Retired NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw had a — not surprisingly — much more intelligent response. In his op-ed piece, “Bravo, CVS, for banning tobacco products,” Brokaw admits he is a “cigarette scold,” who is not shy about confronting smokers about their habit (Personally, I don’t take it this far, unless smokers start telling me about their Aunt Mabel who smoked and lived to be 92.).

Brokaw says he feels this strongly partly because he counts 11 friends and family members who have been killed by tobacco, and partly because he is aware of the damage smoking does to health care costs.

Brokaw writes:

So I was thrilled to see that CVS — the giant pharmacy chain — announce it was going out of the cigarette business even though it meant a two billion dollar loss in sales. Two billion, with a “b.”

CVS is more and more in the health care business — providing vaccinations, clinics and the like — and selling cigarettes was not just inappropriate, but not good for the growing health care piece of their business plan.

Smokers will say they have a right to make their own decisions. We heard those same arguments about drinking and driving and about resisting seat belts. Think of how many lives and dollars the two changes in driving have saved.

I grew up in the smoking Fifties and couldn’t wait to graduate from high school sports to Lucky Strikes or whatever brand tobacco companies would distribute free to incoming freshmen classes.

 What madness.

So thank you, CVS for putting health, a national security issue, over profit.

You didn’t lose my cigarette business because I haven’t smoked in 45 years. But you did gain my admiration — and I now know where I’ll buy my toothpaste, razors, shampoo, cold tablets, cough drops, sunscreen and vitamin pills.


CVS Pharmacies to ban cigarette sales, other tobacco products


In the words of Joe Biden … this is a big fucking deal.

, the second biggest drug store chain in the country, will no longer sell any tobacco products in its 7,600 stores across the country. This means CVS will lose $2 billion a year in sales revenues … 1.6 percent of its total revenues every year. That’s a serious decision to just walk away from $2 billion a year retail.

Larry J. Merlo, the president and chief executive officer of CVS Caremark, said “As the delivery of healthcare evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care,” He added. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

From the L.A. Times:

Making cigarettes available in pharmacies in essence ‘renormalizes’ the product by sending the subtle message that it cannot be all that unhealthy if it is available for purchase where medicines are sold,” the company’s chief medical officer, Dr. Troyen Brennan, wrote in a new article in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. The article is co-authored by Dr. Steven Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at UC San Francisco.

Walgreens is the largest drug store chain in the country. In response to the CVS decision, Walgreens issued a statement saying it is “reviewing” tobacco sales at its stores.

It is pretty bizarre that a drug store would be selling cigarettes, when that drug store is selling probably all kinds of drugs and treatments for COPD and various cancers caused by cigarette smoking.

A great move that I applaud.

Can China really stop 350 million people from smoking?

Deng Xiaoping, “Paramount Leader” of China 1982-1987

Interesting read from NBC about China getting serious about cracking down on smoking.

China is the biggest smoking country on the planet with 350 million smokers (compared to about 45 million in the U.S.). According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 million people in China die every year from smoking-related illnesses. WHO also estimates 3 million Chinese will die every year from smoking-related diseases by 2050.

A high level Chinese committee announced last week that it plans to ban smoking in public places by the end of 2014. (China also recently banned public officials from smoking in public).

I have no idea how strictly such a ban would be enforced. The state tobacco company in China, called China National Tobacco Corporation, grossed an incredible $19 billion last year in tobacco sales (making it the largest tobacco company in the world, not Philip Morris or RJ Reynolds or BAT.) Is China really looking to put a dent in its own $19 billion business? (By the same token, why would state governments want to really cut smoking rates when they get so many revenues from cigarette taxes? It’s a conundrum.)

Anyway, I’ll keep my eye on this developing story. See if China is really serious about a smoking ban.


Yet another Marlboro Man dies from smoking


Incredible, yet another “Marlboro Man” dies from smoking. By my count, that makes four.

Eric Lawson, who portrayed the iconic Marlboro Man cowboy in Marlboro ads from 1978 to 1981, died this week of COPD at the relatively young age of 72. He appeared in anti-smoking ads after he worked for Philip Morris.

Lawson joins Marlboro Men models Wayne McLaren, Dick Hammer and David McLean, all of whom died of lung cancer. McLaren testified in favour of anti-smoking laws many years ago and Philip Morris tried to claim he was never a Marlboro Man model, but McLaren still had pay stubs calling him the Marlboro Man (what, a tobacco company LYING…?)


More 50-year anniversary stories: Smoking has killed 20 million people since 1964


Another story on the 50-year anniversary of the Surgeon General’s, this one from Think Progress.

The RawStory article touched on this, but this article deals with it more directly: Since the 1964 landmark Surgeon General’s report, more than 20 million people in the U.S. have died as a result of smoking — 2.5 million of those deaths are blamed on secondhand smoke (boy that’ll drive the Smokers’ “secondhand smoke is harmless” Club crazy.).

Think about that — what a holocaust, and that’s just in the U.S. That’s more than twice the number of people killed in Hitler’s Holocaust — only it happens in slow motion, a person there, a person here. I know I watched my mom’s entire circle of friends wiped out by smoking — almost all of her friends smoked and most of them died of cigarette-caused diseases relatively young. She smoked for 60 years and managed to outlive almost all of them.


More 50-year anniversary stories: Cigarettes do more than cause lung cancer

A-woman-smokes-a-cigarette-in-the-pedestrian-plaza-located-in-Times-Square-AFPLots of news outlets are doing 50-year anniversary stories on the Surgeon General’s landmark report. I’m posting links to a couple of them.

This one is from RawStory (Reprinted from a French news service — thanks to Haruko for the link and there she is posting away and a bunch of people shilling ecigs– starting to see these folks all over the Internet, and am starting to wonder how many of them are paid to promote ecigs), about a 50-year anniversary report put out. Two conclusions from this report stood out for me:

1) Cigarettes are more potent than they’ve ever been.

2) And this is a big one, there’s a LOT more health risk involved in smoking than just lung cancer. The updated report specifically mentions:

…. active smoking can cause a common form of blindness called age-related macular degeneration, as well as diabetes, colorectal cancer and liver cancer.

Smoking can also cause tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction, facial clefts in infants, ectopic pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, impaired immune function, and worsens the outlook for cancer patients and survivors.

Those who do not smoke but are exposed to second-hand smoke face an increased risk of stroke, said the report.

So, it’s right there in an official Surgeon General’s report: Smoking increases the risk for macular degeneration, diabetes, erectile dysfunction and arthritis (in particular, I’ve been looking into the ties between arthritis and smoking. Want to do a major post about that soon). This is important to me, because people tend to get hung up on idea that smoking causes lung cancer and that’s it. A lot of information has been coming out in the past 5 years about the connection between smoking and diabetes and arthritis.