Kids’ ear infections drop dramatically — partly because of drop in smoking

Fascinating story I read yesterday.

Health officials report that over the last 15 years, ear infections among children have dropped a whopping 30 percent. Wow!

One of the reasons ear infections have dropped so much is believed to be a concurrent drop in smoking (other factors are mentioned, but I believe the drop in smoking is a big one.). Not only are fewer people smoking, but more people who do smoke have bought a clue about not smoking around their kids.

I had constant ear infections as a kid, and still have problems with my ears today. I had my tonsils taken out, adenoids removed, tubes put in my ears. Didn’t do any good. Because back then, people didn’t make the connection between secondhand smoke and ear infections in kids. (Though I still shake my head that my parents could never figure out that their six packs a day were contributing to my chronic bronchitis.)

It’s pretty much taken as fact now, except by the Forces.org weasels, that secondhand smoke is a huge contributor to kids’ ear infections. This article explains the mechanism pretty well. Kids get ear infections often times after colds and flus, because the lining in ear tissue would become inflamed. Inflamed tissue then would become more easily infected.

Well, cigarette smoke causes the same kind of tissue inflammation in kids’ ears as colds and flus, making kids more vulnerable to infections.

According to the CDC, about 88 percent of nonsmokers (including children) were being exposed to other people’s cigarette smoke in 1990. That figure dropped to 40 percent in 2007.

And the winner of the 2011 Hackadamy Award? …. Inception!


The Hackademy Awards is a clever little PR trick done by a group called Scenessmoking.org to bring attention to the level of smoking in movies marketed to kids and teens.

One of the things that absolutely drives many of us anti-smoking advocates BATSHIT crazy is how Hollywood continues, in this day and age, evoke “cool” images of smoking … even though Big Tobacco supposedly stopped paying for product placement in movies 13 years ago. If you really pay attention, you will notice an absolute shitload of smoking in PG and PG-13 movies made after 1998 … and much of the time, that smoking is portrayed as “cool.” It’s fucking asinine and pisses me off. You can do whatever you want in an R-rated movie as far as I’m concerned, but if you can’t say “Fuck” twice in a movie and keep your PG-13 rating, then you shouldn’t be able to smoke in a PG-13 movie, either. Remember those ratings are really about marketing campaigns. They have nothing to do with freedom of speech or the first amendment or censorship. Some of us have fought long and hard to get automatic R ratings in movies for cigarette smoking, with limited success. The biggest problem is apparently a lot of Hollywood actors and directors (such as James Cameron) are apparently still stuck in the “Casablanca” mindset that smoking is still cool. Well, Humphrey Bogart died at 57 of esophagal cancer and that’s not so cool, is it?

Anyway, every year, this group picks their Hackademy winners and losers. The big winner for 2011 is “Inception.” (Interestingly, the group behind the Hackademy Awards hasn’t updated its website since 2010, but they did just put out a press release for what it’s worth.)

What’s interesting about this is Inception stars Leonardo DiCaprio, who is a notorious three-pack-a-day chain smoker and smokes like a chimney in countless movies. In several interviews, he claims he has tried to quit, but had to stop using nicotine patches because they were giving him nightmares. Supposedly, he is now smoking cigars now rather than cigarettes. As crazy as it sounds, cigars are actually less carcinogenic than cigarettes.

Texas smoking ban being attempted again

This has been attempted many times before and so far no dice. Two bills introduced in the Texas State Legislature would impose a statewide smoking ban.

Texas remains the largest state in the union with no statewide smoking ban, however, a ban there has a chance. First of all, Livestrong is based in Austin, and Lance Armstrong is adamantly pro-smoking ban and is not shy about using his influence, and his organization, to lobby for it.

Secondly, most of the major cities in Texas already have smoking bans — Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso and Corpus Christi all have smoking bans. San Antonio is the biggest city that doesn’t have a strong smoking ban (they have a very weak one). Fort Worth has a restaurant ban. Myriad other smaller cities also have smoking bans. So, like half the state of Texas already is living under municipal smoking bans. Might as well make it statewide.

But, truth be told, Big Tobacco has a LOT of influence in Texas too. Big Tobacco has been known to spend millions lobbying in Texas. The Houston Chronicle has come out to ask legislators to finally stop caving in to these lobbyists.

So, does this have a chance? Your guess is as good as mine.

New group to advocate getting chewing tobacco out of baseball


Well, I guess this was inevitable; though I was surprised to see it today. A new group has been formed, with snazzy website and everything to urge Major League Baseball to ban chew from clubhouses and playing fields. I’ll be keeping an eye on this site.

The group, called TobaccoFreeBaseball.org, the brainchild of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, one of the more deliciously assertive groups out there fighting Big Tobacco. (The Forces.org types really hate Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Must mean they’re doing a good job. Anything that gets that crowd’s dander up is OK by me.)

Here is their official announcement of their new campaign.

A short excerpt from their announcement:

Several news stories have examined the difficulty players and coaches have in breaking their addiction. Among those who have spoken about the challenge of quitting are Strasburg, American League Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton and Bruce Bochy, manager of the World Champion San Francisco Giants. Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn’s recent cancer diagnosis and his public comments attributing his disease to years of chewing tobacco have underscored the health threat from smokeless tobacco.

Tobacco use was banned in baseball’s minor leagues in 1993. The NCAA and the National Hockey League have instituted prohibitions on tobacco use. Major League Baseball is lagging behind.

Meanwhile, smokeless tobacco use among high school boys is spiking – there has been a 36 percent increase since 2003 and 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless tobacco, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They also forgot Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who has tried to quit chew, but hasn’t been able to so far.

Forces.org has gone insane

Not that they ever particularly had their shit together to begin with.

OK, I’ll probably get sued now.

Forces.org, a foaming at the mouth rabid anti-anti-smoking (anti-smoking ban, specifically) website that pretty much knee jerk claims that any and all evidence about the dangers of secondhand smoke is “junk science,” has put out a $3,000 “bounty” for anyone to claim if they have information that will lead to a CONVICTION that anyone in the anti-smoking movement has committed perjury.

To wit: “FORCES INTERNATIONAL is offering a reward of US $3,000.00 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of current or former anti-tobacco industry activist, institution or government official for anti-tobacco related crimes such as perjury, alteration/falsification of official documentation, false swearing, racketeering, and conspiracy.”

Oh, freaking brother 🙄

Not only are they gunning for scientists or professional lobbyists, but any journalists who have written stories about these studies or said testimony … which means they could also be gunning for bloggers like ME.

My favourite quote from the site: “These individuals are responsible for a large amount of the public hysteria and misinformation about tobacco use and secondhand smoking that is now pervading the society of many nations, and it has already caused the undoing of families, loss of jobs, business, and much social stigmatization.”

They have caused the “undoing of families and much social stigmatization…?” and have created “public encitement to persecutorial attitude.”

Oh, Christ, the poor smokers. Having to step outside to light up a cig. They’re as persecuted as the poor people of Libya. This is the crowd I used to butt heads with. You can’t reason with ’em. Most of them are batshit insane.

There. Sue me for that.

I love the spelling and grammar on this obviously professionally done website, too.

“This offer is limited to the United States, and Canada, and it will be expanded to other countries at a alter date.”

This kind of government-sponsored, self-perpetuating scam has attracted many unscrupolous individuals from all walks of life…

Well, with that kind of proofreading, you can tell Forces International is damned serious.

In all seriousness, this is laughable and pathetic, but ultimately it isn’t funny, because it is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate professionals involved in the anti-tobacco movement. Lots of people make lots of threats to sue (I’ve had some real dumbfucks threatening to sue me lately for defamation online), and lots of flippant lawsuits do get filed, which means people actually have to hire lawyers and deal with it. What ISN’T funny is this lame and half-assed attempt to somehow put a chill on people’s FIRST AMENDMENT rights (I especially like the part where members of the media are included in their investigation) to express their opinions about secondhand smoke.

Lance Armstrong campaigns for higher cigarette tax

Anti-smoking and anti-cancer advocate Lance Armstrong now appears to be moving full-time into cancer advocacy.

A couple of years ago, Lance campaigned pretty strongly for a smoking ban in Texas. He didn’t win that round, but since he started speaking out, several large cities in Texas have imposed smoking bans, in particular Houston and Dallas.

Now, Lance is campaigning in California for a $1 a pack tax in that state which would be directed specifically toward cancer research. California has a really low cigarette tax (surprisingly) at 87 cents a pack, which is considerably below the national average of about $1.50 a pack. California a few years ago also voted down a ballot initiative that would’ve raised its cigarette tax — after Big Tobacco spent tens of millions defeating it. Big Tobacco will spend a lot of money fighting this initiative, which should be placed on the ballot sometime in 2012. Why? Studies show that a $1 a pack increase will drive the smoking rate down roughly 10 percent. There’s roughly 4 million smokers in California. Big Tobacco is looking at losing 400,000 customers, spending roughly $1,000 to $2,000 a year on cigarettes, if this passes. It’s in Big Tobacco’s interests to spend money to fight the measure.

The measure would raise about $850 million a year. Hopefully, with the money directed specifically toward cancer research, California voters will do the right thing … and NOT listen to the propaganda that will be coming from Big Tobacco.

Duke Snider was really hot stuff back in his day

I read yesterday that Duke Snider died. I had heard of the name of course and knew he was part of Ebbetts Field lore back in Brooklyn, and he helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1955 and 1959. I’m sort of a stats geek, so I looked up his stats, and holy cats, he was a lot better player than I realized. He is mentioned a lot in books I’ve recently read about Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.

One thing I am really struck by in looking at the statistics of old-time ballyplayers is the off-times dramatic dropoff in their numbers in their early to mid 30s. Not 40s. 30s. Duke Snider stopped being a full-time ballplayer at the age of 32. His last decent season was at the age of 34. He retired at 37. He only had 1,200 at-bats after the age of 32. Back then, before the days of off-season conditioning and arthroscopic surgery, injuries caught up with athletes awfully young, so what happened to Snider was typical — Mickey Mantle’s last good year was at the age of 32. Still, Snider managed to hit 407 home runs and drive in 1,333 runs.

Can you imagine what kind of numbers he would have ended up with if he could have kept playing — and playing regularly — into his late 30s and early 40s? It makes you really appreciate guys like Henry Aaron, who hit 40 home runs at the age of 39, Willie Mays, who hit 52 home runs at the age of 34 and Ted Williams, who hit .388 with 38 home runs … at the age of 38.

Duke Snider had a remarkable 9-year run in which he hit .301, and averaged 34.5 home runs, 108.5 RBIs and 107 runs a year — in a 154-game schedule. This was before the days of steroids, remember. I didn’t realize he was so good.

$10 billion judgment against Phillip Morris revived!

A 2003 court case in Illinois awarded a $10 billion judgment against Phillip Morris for lying about the safety of its “low-tar” cigarettes. That decision got overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2006, but now an appeals court has breathed life back into the case by ruling that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision now changes the playing field legally.

It’s complicated, and I’m not sure I’m going to explain it 100 percent correctly, but here’s the gist of it. The Illinois Supreme Court had found that the descriptive terms for the cigarettes were permitted by the Federal Trade Commission and thus did not break state law. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to accept the plaintiffs’ appeal.

However, though in a 2008 decision regarding a lawsuit in Maine, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an “identical” Philip Morris defense, so plaintiffs’ lawyers successfully argued that the Illinois case should be looked again in light of that ruling.

RJ Reynolds, Lollilard suing the FDA over menthol? Really?

Don’t these douchebags ever get sick of being in court? Or are they in court so often they just see it as a normal way of life?

Oh, this is too rich. RJ Reynolds and Lollilard, which are usually the defendants have actually filed suit against the Federal Drug Administration over its tobacco policy advisory board.

The two tobacco giants are claiming that the advisory panel is biased against the tobacco industry and that several members have conflicts of interest.

One of the items the panel is chewing over is whether or not to recommend if menthol should be banned in cigarettes. Menthol is a continuing source of controversy in tobacco control. The FDA after it was granted regulatory authority over tobacco in 2010 quickly banned “candy-flavoured” cigarettes, but ignored menthol, well, because menthol has been around for a long time and is a huge part of the tobacco market. Lollilard’s No. 1 product, Newport, is a menthol brand. Newport brings in 90 percent of Lollilard’s revenues. It’s also the No. 1 type of cigarette for black smokers.

The suit was filed in United States District Court in Washington, D.C. According to the New York Times, the cigarette makers claim that three members of the panel — “Dr. Neal L. Benowitz, Dr. Jack E. Henningfield and Dr. Jonathan M. Samet — have received tens of thousands of dollars as expert witnesses in litigation against cigarette makers and as advisers to pharmaceutical companies that make smoking cessation products. They are all university professors, researchers and national experts in the antismoking movement.”

Phillip Morris made a similar complaint last year that was dismissed.