The drug addict lecture in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”


I watched “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” for the first time in a few years the other night, and really noticed something for the first time — I can’t believe I never caught this before.

One of the best scenes in the movies is when Hunter S. Thompson and his Samoan attorney attended an anti-narcotics lecture at a Las Vegas convention of the National District Attorney’s Association.

hunter s. thompson

As the camera pans through the audience, you see most of the DAs attending the lecture are puffing away on cigarettes, as the featured speaker, “Dr. Bumquist” is introduced with the line of:

“The man who will define this cancer eating at the heart of America.”

Cigarettes kill more than 200,000 a year in the U.S. from cancer … the irony.

fear and loathing 4

Now, of course, Hunter S. Thompson has his cigarette in his trademark cigarette holder, as well, but as Dr. Bumquist takes the podium to explain the evils of marijuana, he’s puffing away on a cigarette himself, proclaiming that he is there to help the DAs:

… to try and attempt to imagine what it is like inside the possessed mind of the addict.

A guy clearly addicted to nicotine … the irony.

Later, our Dr. Bumquist explains the psychology of the typical pot smoker (as Hunter drops the top to his vial of cocaine) that centres around the ideas of being “cool, hip and groovy,” and that by smoking dope, pot smokers can:

… become on of those cool guys

And here’s what I saw, Dr. Bumquist attempting to hold his cigarette in a suave and sophisticated manner as shown in countless smoking ads and Hollywood movies … the irony.

I have absolutely no idea if the director Terry Gilliam was  intentionally attempting to make any kind of message with the hypocrisy of the attitudes in the early 1970s toward pot vs. cigarettes, but I certainly picked up on. Maybe it just happened organically, or maybe Gilliam very much meant to do it. But, after I really caught on to it, it made that scene that much funnier to me.

Here is the scene:



Group calls on UK to ban smoking on beaches



A number of entities — states, parks and cities — have banned smoking on beaches in the U.S. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is primarily over the littering issues more than any secondhand smoke effects.

And as I said earlier, I have little or not sympathy for smokers on this issue, because if so many of them weren’t such litterbugs, then smoking wouldn’t be getting banned on so many beaches. You can say “a few bad apples,” but with the tons upon tons of cigarette butts having to be cleaned out of the beaches, it’s frankly more than a “few.”

Anyway, a surfing group in the UK is urging that country to consider a smoking ban on the beaches because of the cigarette butt problem. The group is called Surfers Against Sewage (I didn’t realize England had surfers!).

According to this story, SAS campaign director Andy Cummins says:

“A lot of people feel cigarette butts are made of cotton and its not really a big deal to thrown them away,” he said.

“But one cigarette butt can pollute between three to eight litres of water and they can take years to break down.

“If you have a ban people will understand that it is no longer socially acceptable to drop cigarette butts on a the beach.”

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ACTUAL Surfers Against Sewage protest on a British beach

However, a spokeswoman for the Cornwall Council says a beach smoking ban would be difficult to enforce (that’s not so much an issue in the U.S., I would respond). The spokeswoman isn’t actually named in the article … I guess British websites don’t need to quote spokespersons by name:

However, she added smoking bans could be hard to enforce.

“Discarding litter undoubtedly has an adverse environmental effect as well as costing tax payers a significant amount of money each year to clean up.

“A smoking ban on beaches would be very difficult to enforce however, it is a criminal offence under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act to drop cigarette ends on the ground and not properly dispose of them in a bin.”

London mayor frosty to smoking ban in parks


London, England, not the London that’s home to Joe Thornton and Drew Doughty, has started up a huge brouhaha by proposing to ban smoking in parks.

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, called the proposal “taking bossiness too far.”

“People should be discouraged from smoking but I think actively to ban people from doing something that is legal in a big open space is taking bossiness too far,” he told the BBC.


Apparently, Boris, if I may call him Boris, just because I think it’s funny the mayor of London is named Boris, has the power to direct the city’s parks board to adopt recommendations from a report on how to improve the city’s health.

In addition, England’s version of FORCES, called Forest (don’t know much about them, I’ll have to look into them), came out against the proposed ban.

“A ban on smoking in parks and squares would be outrageous,” said Simon Clark, director of Forest, which campaigns on behalf of smokers. “There’s no health risk to anyone other than the smoker. If you don’t like the smell, walk away.”

Personally, I think banning smoking in parks likely has a pretty minimal effect on the smoking rate or smokers’ health, and that the biggest argument in favour of them is that they cut down on pollution. Beach and parks bans on smoking drive smokers nuts, because it’s the great outdoors and people aren’t affected much by outdoor secondhand smoke (you can simply walk away from it if it bothers you.)

However, my sympathy is really limited for smokers here because of the littering and pollution issues. Several tons of cigarette butts have to be cleaned out of parks and beaches every year. People using beaches and parks as ashtrays are the biggest problem with smoking in parks.


Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds lose another $41 million settlement, this one for giving a person COPD

camelTobacco giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds lost another major settlement this week in Florida.

This case is one of the thousands of Engle cases winding their way through the Florida courts. R.J. Reynolds will appeal this verdict (oh, yes they will) but several of these verdicts have been upheld by appeals courts.

The Engle cases stem from a huge $145 billion class-action judgement in 2000. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court overturned that settlement, but made an important decision to allow individual lawsuits against tobacco companies. Since then, several thousand lawsuits have been filed against tobacco companies, primarily Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Lorrilard, and judgements ranging between a few million to $23.6 billion have been handed down by juries (I believe that $23.6 billion judgement will get tossed on appeal as excessive … when I Googled it, Google asked me “do you mean $23.6 million?”).

According to the article:

Attorney Kenneth Byrd of the Nashville office of national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, announced that a jury in federal court in Florida today returned a verdict of $41.1 million against Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for conspiring for decades to conceal the hazards of smoking and the addictive nature of cigarettes. The jury award consists of $15.8 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages in the amounts of $15.7 million against Philip Morris and $9.6 million against R.J. Reynolds.

“The cigarette industry argues that as Engle class members and their spouses die, their lawsuits die with them. We will continue working night and day to see that these class members get their day in Court.”

Interesting that was in federal court, I’m positive other Florida cases were in state courts.

This case is also a little unusual because most of these Engle cases at this point are being filed by relatives of people who died from lung cancer. This one was filed by the smoker, who is still alive and is suffering from COPD, not lung cancer. I believe that’s the first major judgement I’ve seen against a tobacco company for its role in giving a person COPD. I’m sure there’s been some, I just don’t remember ever coming across a story about it until now.

According to the article:

“At trial Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds sought to place all the blame on Mr. Kerrivan for becoming addicted to nicotine as a teenager in a time when the defendants widely marketed smoking cigarettes using celebrities and famous athletes and advertised on television shows popular with children and teenagers. Thankfully, the jury rejected this defense and held Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds accountable for their decision to target an entire generation of post-World War II American teenagers with a lifetime addiction to nicotine,” stated Mr. Byrd. “The cigarette industry argues that as Engle class members and their spouses die, their lawsuits die with them. We will continue working night and day to see that these class members get their day in Court.”

Smoking’s toll in California — $18 billion a year, more deaths than AIDS, Alzhemier’s or diabetes


A study from the University of California, San Francisco (a school that has long specialized in smoking and tobacco studies) states that in 2009, smoking-related illnesses cost the state $18 billion — $487 per person — and killed more people than AIDS, diabetes or Alzheimer’s.

That cost is $4,600 per smoker, and includes not only direct medical expenses, but indirect costs such as lost productivity.

From the article written by MedicalExpress:

Altogether, smoking represented $6.8 billion in lost productivity and about 587,000 years of potential life lost from 34,363 deaths, or 17.1 years per death, the researchers found.

Compared to California deaths in 2009 from other causes, the 34,363 total deaths from smoking were 17 times the number from AIDS; five times the deaths from diabetes, influenza and pneumonia; and three times the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s disease and unintentional injuries. The leading cause of smoking-attributable death was cancer (13,514 deaths), followed by cardiovascular disease (10,490), respiratory diseases (10,331 — most probably COPD), and pediatric disease (27). Secondhand smoke exposure caused 794 adult deaths (Pepe note — hmm, that’s a tough one to prove, actually, but never mind, that’s 800 people out of 34,000).

The direct health care costs of smoking accounted for 54.4 percent of the total $18.1 billion cost of smoking, or $9.8 billion. Lost productivity due to illness comprised 7.9 percent ($1.4 billion), and lost productivity from premature death comprised 37.6 percent ($6.8 billion).

While California has the most people of any state, it also has one of the lowest smoking rates. Only Utah is lower. About 12.6 percent of adults smoke in California, so imagine how much higher that $487 per resident figure would be is heavy-smoking states such as Kentucky or West Virginia. It might be twice as high.

Oh, too funny, R.J. Reynolds to ban smoking in its properties


Too, too funny…. R.J. Reynolds, makers of Camel and, soon-to-be makers of Newport cigarettes, which for years fought smoking bans tooth and nail (often times through tavern associations and other fronts), will be banning smoking in its buildings, except for specially designated “smoking rooms.” (Wonder if they will be glass rooms like at the airport in Salt Lake City?)

I think it’s funny they’re “phasing it in,” to not disrupt their smoking employees too much. First smoking will be banned in conference rooms and elevators in their buildings in North Carolina, New Mexico and Tennessee, but you can still smoke in hallways and personal offices (Interesting … according to my information, New Mexico bans smoking in all workplaces — so this article may have overlooked that. You can still smoke in some workplaces in N.C. Tennessee doesn’t have any statewide law.). Anyway, I digress. By, 2016, you will only be able to smoke in R.J. Reynolds buildings in designated smoking rooms.

Interesting, again … Reynolds already bans smoking in its factories and cafeterias.

According to Reynolds smokesman (err, spokesman) David Howard:

“We recognize that indoors restrictions are the norm today, so most people expect a smoke free business environment,” Reynolds American spokesman David Howard.

“We respect the rights and personal choices of employees who choose to smoke or use other tobacco products and those who don’t.”

“We are simply better aligning our tobacco use policies with the realities of what we’re seeing in the general public today,” he said. (Yeah, a reality that Reynolds fought to the death for nearly 20 years in countless smokefree workplace battles around the country.)


New technology helps COPD patients


This is an interesting story about new technology that can allow doctors and clinics to electronically monitor what is going on with COPD patients’ bodies.

According to this USA Today story, the sensor itself isn’t the new technology, it’s sending the patient’s biometric data to the Cloud via a wireless device, where it can be checked by a doctor or clinic. If they start seeing readings that are dangerous, the patient is warned to get themselves to a doctor.

I know from having a relative with COPD how quickly things can change with the condition and how quickly lung function can deteriorate.

According to the article:

According to Philips, physical activity and inactivity, respiratory function, heart rhythm, and heart rate variability are all monitored. The data is then retrievable via two apps: Philips eCareCompanion and eCareCoordinator, making it possible for doctors to monitor patients remotely.

“Instead of people just going to the hospital when things have deteriorated—they’re so short of breath or it becomes life-threatening—[the information] is coming in way ahead,” says Jeroen Tas, CEO of the Philips Healthcare Informatics Solutions and Services business group.


Wow, amazing, Bruno Bozzetto stumbled onto my blog post about “Allegro Non Troppo”


I was chuffed beyond belief when earlier this week I discovered that Italian animator/director Bruno Bozzetto had linked on his Facebook wall to a story I posted three years ago about his 1977 movie “Allegro Non Troppo.” He posted the link to our original blog, which we were forced to abandon in January because of issues with WordPress hosting.

The story was about how I saw this movie when I was in a hospital with a really high fever and I couldn’t remember anything about it except for the dinosaur scene, which was done to Ravel’s “Bolero.” It took me nearly 20 years to stumble on this movie again, I had almost completely forgotten about it.

Well, I wrote about this in 2011, and Bruno discovered it. Here is what he wrote on Facebook (with bad Bing translation):

Toccanti parole, scoperte casualmente in un blog, grazie alle quali ti dici che è valsa la pena di vivere..

Which, translated means:

 Touching words, discovered accidentally in a blog, thanks to which you say is worth it to live …:)

Bruno later left a comment on the old blog:

Dear Haruko, your story touched my heart and I’m glad I can thank you directly here for your beautiful words. I hope you can read this post because this means a lot to me !

Here are some of the comments on Facebook, with bad translations:

quanto di buono c’é in noi viene sempre letto dal cuore, da ogni cuore (how much good there is in us is always read from the heart, from every heart:) )

che storia!!!! (that story!!!!)

Capita Che storia! Dovresti davvero contattarla! Ciao (What happens to the story! You really should contact her!)

Che bella storia! Anzi, che bel brano di vita… davvero dà un senso alla vita e a tanto lavoro What a beautiful story! 🙂 (Indeed, what a beautiful life song … really gives a meaning to life and much work:-) )

Una meraviglia di racconto. Un abbraccio (A marvel of story. A hug)

Veramente una soddisfazione che premia una vita! Condivido.. (Truly a satisfaction that rewards a lifetime!)


Anyway, I’m honestly humbled Bruno Bozzetto found my blog post and was touched by it. What a sweet, kind man. I honestly did not realise he was even still alive (he is also younger than I realised –76).

Here is the Dinosaur scene from Allegro Non Troppo, you can’t get it on YouTube (YouTube quickly takes it down):

Allegro Non Troppo