All posts by Pepe Lepew

E-cigs banned by New York City. Really? You realize these are e-cigs, not actual cigarettes?

ecigThis is a baffling story to me, sorry. Jack, I know you might not agree, but I have enough of a Libertarian streak to say, “WTF?”

A couple of weeks ago, the city of New York extended its strict smoking ban to e-cigs. E-cigs are not allowed in NYC bars and restaurants now.

OK, I don’t have a big agenda with e-cigs, which I will explain in a detailed post tomorrow (I promise), but this reminds me of  a dumb move made in Montana regarding e-cigs. When the state’s smoking ban went into place, a lot of the bars around here stocked up on e-cigs that they could sell to their customers who could no longer smoke in the bars. The state health department came down and claimed e-cigs were covered under the smoking ban, and the bars cried, “like … why?” And the state health department responded … “um … we don’t know.” It turns out the state health department literally thought e-cigs were somehow literal electronic cigarettes, which they are not. They are simply a nicotine delivery system, nothing more. After declaring e-cigs banned, the state health department backed down a few weeks later and said they were OK (probably after conferring with lawyers).

And there you have it. E-cigs are massively misunderstood … and let me stress, I am not endorsing them. Just saying they are misunderstoood. There is nothing toxic or poisonous or carcinogenic in the steam coming out of an e-cig. Just nicotine. And you’re not going to get addicted to nicotine because you might inhale a bit of nicotine-laced steam from an e-cig. More on this issue tomorrow (I promise).

Anyway, I guess I’m saying in a roundabout way that this appears to be a bit of an overreach in New York City. Former mayor Michael Bloomberg was possibly the most fanatical anti-smoking, anti-tobacco zealot on the planet — a LOT more than me. New York has some of the strictest anti-smoking ordinances in the country, which for the most part I am completely cool with.

Some people are vowing to fight the New York ban on e-cigs.

Good news everyone! Cancer death rate drops 20 percent in 20 years; Lung cancer death rate down 34 percent

professor farnsworthI wrote about this several months ago. The cancer death rate in the U.S. has dropped dramatically in the past few years, especially for lung cancer.

Three reasons:

1) Better treatment

2) Better detection

and a big one

3) a drop in the smoking rate

According to this study from the American Cancer Society:

An estimated 1.7 million new cancer cases are projected for 2014, including some 586,000 deaths, according to the new report from the American Cancer Society. And cancer remains the second-most common cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease.

The good news in those grim figures is that the rate of death from cancer has fallen from about 25 per every 10,000 people in 1991 to about 17 per 10,000 in 2010. That translates into about 1.3 million cancer deaths avoided, including nearly 953,000 men and nearly 388,000 women.

Lung cancer remains the top killer for both sexes, followed by prostate cancer for men and breast cancer for women. But largely because of declines in smoking, the lung cancer death rate dropped by 34 percent in 20 years.

I’ve actually had this argument with some smokers’ rights idiots, claiming “why is lung cancer going up if smoking rates are going down.” Well, I will have to remember this link if I ever run into another one. Lung cancer death rate down 34 percent in 20 years awesome. Lung cancer used to be pretty much a death sentence, less than 20 percent survival rate, but that’s improved dramatically in the last 20 years due to better treatment and better detection.

I also wonder if another factor if a higher percentage of people getting lung cancer are people getting lung cancer NOT caused by smoking. Remember, not all lung cancer is caused by smoking — about 15 percent of the people who get lung cancer never smoked a cigarette in their lives. And smoking is believed to cause a specific kind of lung cancer. There are other forms of lung cancer that don’t appear to be tied to smoking. So that could be a factor, too. Perhaps because of fewer smokers and fewer people getting lung cancer, period, that 15 percent figure has become higher. And these other forms of lung cancer may be more treatable than the cancer caused by smoking. Just a thought. No proof or evidence, just speculation.

50th Anniversary of Surgeon General’s Report on smoking

No more smoking at work or three-martini lunches, 1960s Don Draper

Next week is the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking U.S. Surgeon General’s report on cigarettes. This report was the result of more than a decade of studies and research into the growing suspicion of a connection between smoking and lung cancer.

A lot of this is documented pretty well in an excellent book called “The Cigarette Century.” The report was fought big time through political channels by the tobacco industry, trying to get it suppressed.

The report issued by Surgeon General Luther Terry came out on Jan. 11, 1964, and along with the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry, was a major turning point in the fight against smoking. Now, there was a highly official report, signed off by the U.S. Surgeon General, unequivocally with no subtleties — smoking causes lung cancer. And that cigarette filters did nothing to lower the risk.

cigarette machine
Remember these? These used to be EVERYWHERE!

Think about that for a moment. No if, ands or butts. There is no doubt. For years, the cigarette industry had been working feverishly to create “doubt” about the science (the same techniques are used by global warming and evolution denialists today — feed the “doubt.”).

It was such a momentous report that it was actually released on a Saturday for fear that it would devastate the stock market.

Think about 1964 … smoking ubiquitous on TV, in movies, in almost every workplace. Ashtrays jammed with cigarettes in hotel lobbies, restaurants, work desks, cars, everywhere. There were no smokefree areas, not in restaurants, not in airplanes, not even in hospitals. The smell was everywhere. Cigarettes sold in vending machines.

My how times have changed since 1964. But, it changed slowly.

A few years after the report, the warnings arrived on packs of cigarettes.

You would have thought this would have been the end of the tobacco industry with two or three years, but no, incredibly, smoking continued to thrive and smoking rates didn’t really start to drop until the 70s, and then didn’t really drop all that dramatically until the 80s, nearly 20 years later.

Why? The industry fought back. Afterward, the tobacco industry poured more money than ever into its PR machine and its advertising, trying to counteract the influence of the report. Advertising was aimed at women with a series of new cigarettes marketed specifically for women. Then, came Joe Camel, enticing what the industry called “new smokers” (The industry’s euphemism for teen smokers) by making smoking look more cool than ever. And for a time, they were successful.

luther terry
Luther Terry and his groundbreaking report

The smoking rate was about 43 percent in 1964 (and more than 50 percent for men). After the Surgeon General’s report came out, the smoking rate for women and teenagers actually went up for several years, but finally started to drop in the 70s. Around this time, cigarette ads were banned from TV and vending machines disappeared (They were finally banned by the FDA in 2010.). The dramatic drop-off was between 1970 and 1980, with a second, less dramatic drop-off after 2000. From 1990 to 2000, the smoking rate remained stubbornly persistent, dropping only from 25.5 percent to 23.3 percent (the result of a higher teen smoking rate than the 60s and 70s … thanks Joe Camel). Today, the smoking rate is about 19 percent.

What’s more. The attitudes toward smoking changed — dramatically. Smoking is no longer seen by society as “cool” or “hip.” Now, it’s seen as a dirty habit, something to be embarrassed about. Smokes are assigned to the alleys outside bars, in all kinds of weather. It’s no longer “fun” to smoke.

It took about 40 years to cut the smoking rate in half, in other words. Today, it is roughly about 44 percent of what it was in 1964. Just as importantly, but not talked about enough, is the amount of smoking has gone down because very few workplaces allow smoking any longer. There are very few 2- and 3-pack-a-day smokers today, compared to 50 years ago.

Jan. 11, 1964. The date the tide began to turn against the tobacco industry. It was the first major victory against the industry.

Awesome anti-smoking ad from Thailand

This is great. Another find on Epoch Times.

An outstanding anti-smoking ad from Thailand. Two little kids walk up to a bunch of smokers holding cigarettes asking for a light. In every case, the adults refuse to give the kids a light and instead give them a lecture about how cigarettes are poisonous and cause emphysema, etc.

The commercial ends with the children handing adults a note, saying, “you worry about me, but not about yourself.”

And cue the adults giving the kids puzzled looks. Powerful stuff. This commercial has been playing worldwide for a few weeks:




China orders government officials to stop smoking in public

China Smoking

Got this interesting article from the Epoch Times, a website by Chinese dissidents about China. It’s become home to a lot of HuffingtonPost refugees who are understandably pissed off about having to use their real names to comment on HP.

I did a quick search on Epoch Times, and they have a ton of articles about smoking. I’m linking to two of them today (well, because I hate college football.). Anyway, the upper echelon of the Communist Party central committee in China has ordered public officials to stop smoking in public. Here’s the new rules:

Officials are not allowed to smoke in schools, hospitals, sports venues, on public transport or any other places where smoking is banned, or to smoke or offer cigarettes when performing official duties, the official Xinhua News said. They also cannot use public funds to buy cigarettes, and within Communist Party or government offices tobacco products cannot be sold nor adverts displayed.

This is likely a major breakthrough. For the first time, very high-level attention and support is being given to anti-tobacco efforts,” said Ray Yip, head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s China program. The foundation has been working on smoking cessation campaigns in the country.

 China smokes more cigarettes than any nation on the Earth (more than 300 million Chinese smoke in a nation of 1.3 billion), and this might be the first step in a public smoking ban in that country. Don’t look for China to crack down on smoking entirely, since the cigarette industry is a state-run monopoly (U.S. Big Tobacco has tried to make inroads into China, but have been seriously rebuffed — Big Tobacco has since given more of its attention to India and Africa.)

According to Epoch Times:

Smoking, which is linked to an average annual death toll of 1.4 million people in China in recent years, is one of the greatest health threats the country faces, government statistics show. The annual number of cigarettes sold in the country increased by 50 percent to 2.52 trillion in 2012 compared with 10 years earlier, according to the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, which is overseen by health authorities.


So interesting first step to try and curb smoking in China. I’ll peruse Epoch Times from time to time to see what else they offer on the issue.


My Candlestick memories

candlestickTonight is probably the final 49ers game in Candlestick Park, the oldest football stadium in the NFL (not sure I would count Lambeau since it’s been completely rebuilt), and probably the biggest dump in the NFL (Oakland is a close second). It’s possible the 49ers will play a playoff game or two in Candlestick, but unlikely unless a lot of weird stuff happens next week.

Candlestick was a weirdly configured baseball/football stadium (the 49ers didn’t play there until several years after it was built, they stayed in Kezar in Golden Gate Park for a few years), designed in 1961 before people knew how to design joint baseball/football stadiums. A whole bunch of cookie cutter baseball/football parks were built a few years later, and to my knowledge the only one of those still around is in Oakland. In Candlestick, some of the seats didn’t actually face the field, giving fans a crick in their neck.

bill madlock

Candlestick was a total disaster from the moment it opened. Somehow, the architecture of the stadium created winds off the San Francisco Bay that made baseball miserable there, especially at night. The Giants left Candlestick more than 10 years ago, but the 49ers have continued to play there. For football, the stadium was OK. The winds weren’t quite as big of a deal during the autumn and winter, but the field was basically right at sea level and always muddy and boggy.

The 49ers are moving 35 miles south to Santa Clara, a suburb of San Jose. It will be weird watching the 49ers play essentially in San Jose.

I personally went to three games in Candlestick — I remember all three clearly, but not necessarily fondly.

The first game I went to in Candlestick was in 1978. My dad took me to a Giants game. It was some kind of business trip that he took me on. The Giants were good that year. It was in May and it was staggeringly cold. When you hear people talk about how cold Candlestick was, trust me — they are NOT exaggerating. It was mind-numbingly cold, with 30- and 40-mile-an-hour gusts. The Giants were in first place, but only about 10,000 people showed up to the game, mostly because of the cold.

I remember the Giants were playing the Houston Astros and most of the people around us were hipsters, puffing away on pot. That was the first time I smelled pot. I couldn’t believe people were smoking it in the open. The fans were pretty unruly and foul-mouthed. I remember they kept screaming at Cesar Cedeno that he was a “murderer!” “Killer!” (Found out during the game that Cedeno had been implicated in the shooting death of a girl in the Dominican Republic, but he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter).

Anyway, I didn’t get along that well with my dad, but we got along great on that trip and during that game, which is what I remember most fondly The Giants scored three runs in the bottom of the 9th and won 3-2 on a walk-off double by Bill Madlock that missed being a home run by a few feet. The Giants stayed in first for a few more weeks, but collapsed down the stretch like they usually did and finished second to the Dodgers that year.


The next time I was in Candlestick would have been 1982. The 49ers won the Super Bowl the year before, but they had a rough season that year. They just never got on track. They had Joe Montana, but no defence and no running game. This was before Roger Craig and Wendell Tyler — long before Jerry Rice. The whole team was Montana and he couldn’t carry them single-handedly. They actually lost to the New Orleans Saints, and the Saints were being quarterbacked by all people — Kenny Stabler (bet you didn’t know Stabler briefly played for the Saints). It was a cold, very wet and rainy and miserable game. It was a momentary blip in the Niners dynasty. They were back in the NFC title game the following year and were Super Bowl champs two years after that.

dusty baker

The last time I was in Candlestick was 1984. The Giants were having a bad year, but we went to the game because there was a Neil Young concert after the game. We were late, didn’t show up until the middle of the game, but it was 0-0, so we didn’t miss anything. It was a ferocious heat wave.

It was actually 100 F in San Francisco (SF hits 100 about once a decade). Just blistering hot, and our seats in right field were right in the sun. We just kept waiting for that damned sun to set below the top of the stadium.

I remember Dusty Baker hit a three-run home run in the 8th inning and San Francisco went on to beat Atlanta, another bad team 4-0. By the time Neil Young hit the stage, the sun had set and it was comfortable in the shade.

Suck it, Everson Walls. This never gets old.
Suck it, Everson Walls. This never gets old.

I moved to the Eastern Sierra in 1988 and left Northern California for good in 1992, so never got the chance to go back to Candlestick after that. Good memories, except for that crappy football game.

walsh and montana

Superman’s sordid history of marketing cigarettes … and then battling smoking

Superman coming out of one of those ubiquitous Marlboro trucks
Superman coming out of one of those ubiquitous Marlboro trucks

Just watched Man of Steel and had to absolutely crack up at the nonstop product placement through the whole movie — man, I really hadn’t noticed product placement in a movie in years. Man of Steel was one of the more blatant I’ve ever seen — Superman has a battle with Zod’s minions in the streets of Smalltown, right in front of a 7/11, then in front of a Sears, then Zod’s minion picks up a U-Haul van and throws it at Superman, then Superman throws one of the baddies through the wall of an IHOP (there’s also an obvious ad for Nokia earlier in the movie.). Pretty funny. Like, we’re too stupid to notice. This movie grossed more than $500 million worldwide, do they really need the extra $100 million from advertisers?

Anyway, the reason this resonates with me, is the 1978 and 1980 version of Superman (and Superman II) is an absolutely despicable chapter in the sordid marriage between Big Tobacco and Hollywood.


Product placement in Hollywood films began in the 1970s, and Big Tobacco was quick to join in. There was also a long history of Hollywood glamorizing smoking in films, but the tobacco industry never had to pay a nickel of advertising — Hollywood was literally doing this out of the goodness of their hearts.

That changed in 1978 with Superman and Superman II (actually filmed as a single production). Philip Morris not only paid to have Marlboro logos put into Superman movies, they also paid to have Lois Lane chain smoke through the movie — Lois Lane never smoked in the comic book. What’s especially craven about this is those Superman movies as we all know were geared toward kids and teens. They were rated PG and were wildly popular with kids, like Star Wars and Close Encounters. I mean, the whole thing is just criminal to me (since cigarette advertising had been banned on TV for eight years because kids watch TV), on both the part of Philip Morris and the Hollywood studios (three studios were involved in the Superman movies, including Warner Bros.).

Ironically years later, in 2006, a scene was added in Superman Returns in which Lois is attempting to light a cigarette and Superman, using his super-breath, blows out her lighter over and over, partly as an homage to the smoking in the Superman movies from 20 years earlier.


Weirdly enough, perhaps out of some sort of need for penance for the 1978 Lois Lane scandal, DC did a special Superman anti-smoking campaign in the 1980s (and accompanying cartoon — seems to be British.), in which Superman battles a villain called “Nick O’Teen.” Nick O’Teen is incredibly lame. He wears a cigarette butt for a hat and has yellow teeth and has these weirdly pedo dreams about handing cigarettes to little girls (Not even remotely exaggerating).

Unfortunately, this cartoon is so dreadful it’s just going to have the same effect as those lame anti-drug movies they made us watch in high school; it’s just going to encourage kids to do what you’re telling them not to do.

Superman product placement (and more Nick O’Teen)!

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Smoking has even become controversial in Bollywood

Not only has smoking cigarettes all but been eliminated in Hollywood films, it’s also controversial in Bollywood.

Hollywood had a long and sordid history with smoking. Directors had their characters constantly smoke in movies beginning in the 1930s and Hollywood played a HUGE role in defining cigarettes as cool and hip.

About 20 years ago, people started becoming really alarmed by this, especially when it was revealed that beginning with Superman (yeah, Superman, the 70s film … you know, the one aimed at kids), the tobacco industry started paying Hollywood studios millions to place their products in kids’ movies.

Even after the tobacco payments were exposed and stopped by the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, Hollywood continued including smoking in PG and PG-13 films … again, long after they were getting a dime from the tobacco industry (as far as anyone knew). It was like running on inertia. Hollywood was stuck in this time warp believing that smoking made you (and your character) look cool.

Anyway, about three or four years ago, the MPAA finally decided to add smoking to what makes film R-rated. Studios hate R-rated movies because they’re hard to market to families, so that effectively killed the chronic smoking in Hollywood movies.

Anyway, India has this strange rule requiring an anti-smoking message be shown on the screen if a character lights a cigarette. One director, Anurag Kashyap, is fighting this requirement for his newest film, taking the case to high court of Bombay. Woody Allen also recently pulled his latest movie, “Jasmine,” to protest the requirement.

(Funny anti-smoking ad from India)

“Such unreasonable conditions clearly fetter the rights of filmmakers to free speech and expression enshrined by the Constitution of India,” said Kashyap’s petition, according to a statement from his publicist. “Running a scroll not only destroys the aesthetic value of cinema but also diverts viewers from the film,” he added.

I dunno, this is a strange way to deal with the problem.


Live Action Cowboy Bebop … what are they going to do about the smoking?

spike smoking

This is pretty funny. Just read that Keanu Reeves had at one point been tabbed to play “Spike Spiegel” in the live action version of Cowboy Bebop. (Not really sure if live action versions of anime will work, Akira has been in development hell for more than 10 years).

Anyway, here’s where it gets interesting. Cowboy Bebop, a very popular and influential Japanese anime from the 1990s, has a TON of smoking in it. Most of the characters constantly have a cigarette in their mouths. I don’t know what the deal is with Japanese and smoking but the Japanese are really seriously into smoking; you see it in all kinds of anime, even kids’ anime, like Spirited Away. The Japanese are not as hung up on smoking as the West. Unfortunately, Cowboy Bebop goes considerably out of its way to make smoking appear cool and hip, but attitudes have changed in 15 years.

keanu Reeves Live Action Cowboy Bebop

Anyway, the six degrees of Keanu Reeves. Reeves was once in a movie called “Constantine,” which was based on a comic book series called “Hellblazer.” The character in Hellblazer, John Constantine, was a chain-smoker. Hollywood decided to keep Constantine a chain-smoker, but in a decision that was really controversial with Hellblazer fans, made Constantine’s chain-smoking a major plot point; they ended up making the most overtly anti-smoking film I’ve ever seen.

In Constantine, the Reeves character is dying of lung cancer after 20 years of constant smoking. He knows Hell awaits because of a previous suicide attempt; he’s seen Hell and knows what he’s in store for. Constantine hopes that by destroying enough demons walking the earth, he’ll be spared Hell when he dies again, but with his lung cancer diagnosis, he knows he won’t have enough time to collect enough evil souls to spare himself.


He commits suicide again to make a deal with the Devil to spare the life of a friend. However, because Constantine sacrificed himself to save a friend, he now goes to Heaven. The Devil doesn’t want to be denied his due, however, and rips the tumours out of Constantine’s lungs so he’ll continue to live (his lung cancer is black and gooey).


Anyway, that brings me to Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel. Regardless of whether Reeves is in the film (supposedly, he is no longer a part of the project, but he was at one point) I wonder if they’ll show him chain-smoking like in the 15-year-old anime. Attitudes have changed a lot in just 15 years about media depictions of smoking. If they do, Cowboy Bebop will almost assuredly end up with an R rating, so either the Cowboy Bebop movie will be aiming for an R rating (remember, studios make up their minds long before they begin making movies what  rating they are shooting for), or they’re going to have to make a major change to the Spike Spiegel character and remove his smoking. It will be interesting to see what decision they make.