Halloween fun ride in Second Life

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Wow, did I ever find a fun Halloween ride in Second Life.

I had been looking for two or three weeks for a good Halloween-themed sim (what areas in Second Life are called). Halloween is one of my favourite holidays, maybe because I never got to celebrate it much as a kid. Some were OK, mostly cute, some had lots of free stuff (I like my ghost plush), but none of them were actually frightening. There was one ride that was pretty good, simply called Haunted House. It had stuff in it from The Ring, HellRaiser and Psycho. But, no real frights and a bit choppy on my computer.

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Third-person view, but first-person view works better. Also, I am viewing this with more light than you’re supposed to so I could make screenshots. Otherwise, it’s too dark.

Then, SL recommended this sim called Portal Park 1 that had a Halloween theme to it. At first, this sim was like the others — free prizes, lots of pumpkins, etc. Then I saw a path to a ride.

It turns out this ride is great! It was much more fun than the previous rides. It’s an absolute blast. You have to switch to a first-person view for it to really work right (which I figured out after I had finished riding it). It reminded me a lot of an old arcade video game called Carnevil.

You ride in a casket, and unlike most of SL, which you use a third-person view, you switch to first-person. The casket enters a spooky old haunted house, then drops down fast like a roller coaster.

halloween 41_001You first ride through a creepy insane asylum where inmates have written “Evil is Here” in blood on the walls. This part of the ride really reminded me of the creepy insane asylum in “The House on Haunted Hill.”

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This is how you’re supposed to view the ride.

The ride gets more gruesome as the insane asylum turns into a bloody slaughterhouse with inmates instead of livestock hanging from hooks. Very R-rated gruesome. Not for kiddies at all. It reminded me very much of some of the gruesome backgrounds in the “Bioshock” games. Other parts of the ride remind me of the old, original “Half Life” game.

There’s a couple of genuine “jump out of your seat” jolts here. Let’s just say stuff comes completely out of nowhere.

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The passageway into the Poltergeist TV.

The casket drops down a chute very fast and you end up going through a dark tunnel, with creepy eyes watching you from a distance. Ultimately, you go right through a television, ending up in another haunted house with a girl talking to a television.

This is very much taken from “Poltergeist,” with pictures on the walls changing into frightening images as you draw closer (This part of the ride appeared to be glitchy. One of the times I rode it, the pictures were lying on the floor when I entered the room.). Toys and a very creepy baby doll start flying around the room, as do you (this part is great in first-person).

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The paintings on the wall in the second Haunted House changing.

You end up leaving the second haunted house with the creepy little Poltergeist girl watching you, and you end up in a sinking mudhole with a bunch of skeletons, holding up signs with lots of “in” jokes for Second Lifers.

That’s the ride. It lasts a good 10 minutes, which is pretty big for Second Life (I rode another Halloween ride that lasted less than five minutes and was honestly a bit lame compared to the Portal Park 1 ride.). I was really, really impressed with the amount of work and energy these people put into their ride … and it was free, too. The only thing, I wished it had had some creepy music playing during the ride. Unfortunately, I could never find out who was the person behind the sim because I would have gladly donated to help keep it going.

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The room of spinning toys. This room is great.


The creepy girl in the Haunted House.


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A pumpkin snowman — a prize I picked up!

Water wheel removes 4 million cigarette butts from Baltimore Harbor


Something that doesn’t get talked a lot about the scourge of tobacco is the littering and pollution problem caused by millions upon millions of cigarette butts being tossed aside into the environment.

Cigarette butts are the No. 1 item by weight cleaned up on U.S. beaches. Yeah, those little tiny cigarette butts end up weighing more than all the plastic bottles and beer cans they clean up on our beaches. Thirty-two percent of the trash picked up on U.S. beaches during beach clean-ups is cigarette butts.

I thought this was an interesting story about an experimental water wheel installed in Baltimore Harbor to help clean up cigarettes. According to this article from , over 160 tons of trash was removed by the contraption in one year — that included 97,000 bottles and 80,000 potato chip bags. Get this, it also included 4 million cigarette butts. It just dwarfs the other trash by sheer volume.


This is why I’m not especially sympathetic to people complaining about smoking bans in parks and beaches. If so many smokers didn’t use parks and beaches as an ashtray (and I get it, not all of them do it — but too many do it so ultimately smokers have no one to blame but themselves on this one.), then they wouldn’t bother with smoking bans on parks and beaches. These are more of a litter and pollution issue than a secondhand smoke issue. And these cigarette butts are made out of plastic and non-biodegradable. They clog up the environment for decades.



Ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “Marijuana is infinitely more dangerous than tobacco”

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Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a couple of weeks ago during the Canadian election campaign that he opposes legalizing marijuana, adding, “marijuana is infinitely more dangerous than tobacco.”

Well, that one statement all by itself is a good example of how Harper was — and I’m sure continues to be — sadly out of touch with reality. And one of the reasons he is the EX Prime Minister of Canada. Harper added that “There’s just overwhelming and growing scientific and medical evidence about the bad long-term effects of marijuana.” He didn’t provide any examples of this “evidence.” The fact is, most of the studies out there show little evidence about the bad long-term effects of marijuana.

“Beer is perfectly fine. It’s COMPLETELY different from marijuana.”

Incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to legalize pot as part of his campaign. From what I’ve seen on the streets of Vancouver, I find it hard to believe pot is illegal there, but it is in fact, still illegal in Canada.

I don’t want to turn this blog into a pot advocacy blog, but I did want to address the sheer inanity of Harper’s boneheaded comment. Stephen, I really wish I could email you this post, you knucklehead. Here are the facts about pot and tobacco:

Deaths caused by tobacco in the U.S. each year: 440,000

Known deaths caused by pot in the U.S. each year: 0

Number of pot overdoses each year: 0

Number of people physically addicted to pot each year: 0

Wow, tell me again, Stephen, how pot is infinitely worse than tobacco?

The fact is, most studies that have been done on marijuana show no link between pot and lung cancer and no link between pot and COPD. The second bit surprises me, but I can’t argue with what studies have shown. The only studies showing a link between lung disease and pot are some that have shown that combining both pot and tobacco increases the risk of COPD more than just smoking cigarettes alone . Other studies completely contradict that conclusion. But, no study shows a hard link between pot alone and COPD.

I’m not a huge marijuana advocate, but I found Harper’s rhetoric really alarming and clueless, because I think it utterly downplays the shocking damage done to society by cigarette smoking. Not just deaths, but loss of quality of life because of the myriad other diseases we now know are tied to smoking — arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc. Cigarettes do more than kill people. They suck the quality out of people’s lives, too. The other interesting thing about Stephen Harper. When I went to Google images of him to get a mugshot, I found a LOT of photos of him drinking beer. He apparently really likes beer. But, beer is completely harmless in his little world, I guess — never mind the fact that alcohol kills at least 100,000 people every year in the U.S.

I personally don’t think pot is 100 percent, completely harmless; I’ve had some knock-down, drag-out arguments with pot advocates over that claim. I also don’t believe it is a miracle cure for every disease on the planet. Again, I’ve had heated arguments over some of the claims of its medical benefits, which I think some advocates tend to exaggerate. But, I would argue the biggest damage done by marijuana is the fact that it is illegal and people have had their lives ruined because of all the legal problems they have been forced to deal with, including real prison time, simply for possessing, using or growing pot because of antiquated laws that keep it illegal when tobacco and alcohol both cause far more addiction problems and death and damage to our society. Especially minorities. There’s black people in the South doing 5-10 years in prison for simple possession. There’s some real damage there.

So, good on you, Canada and good luck legalizing it.

Haruko’s Baseball Hall of Fame candidates — 2015 update

This is a follow-up to a piece I wrote in April about which current Major League Baseball players I thought had a good shot at making the Hall of Fame.

Which Major League Baseball players helped boost their Hall of Fame chances this season? Several did. I’m going to add a couple of names I didn’t talk about in April, but I won’t touch on every single player I wrote about six months ago. One very interesting theme about several of the players who helped state their case — some of them got off to a really slow start this season, but then played outstanding in the second half of their seasons.

Guys who really helped their cases

Clayton Kershaw

clayton kershawClayton Kershaw, after a slow start this season — at one point he was only 5-6 — won 11 out of his last 12 decisions to end up at 16-7, with a solid 2.13 ERA and 301 strikeouts. Those would be Cy Young-winning numbers in a lot of seasons, but Kershaw will almost assuredly finish third behind Jake Arrieta and Zack Greinke. Kershaw has now won 114 games (114-56, .671 winning percentage), has a career ERA of 2.44 and has won three Cy Youngs — all at the age of 27. After this season, he will have five top-3 finishes in the Cy Young vote. He is almost certain to go to the Hall of Fame. He should have at least 140 wins before the age of 30 and could have over 150. With any luck and good health, he should be over 200 wins before the age of 35. Kershaw also pitched well for the first time in the postseason this year, so that’s no longer a knock on him. Speaking of Greinke:

Zack Greinke

greinkeI didn’t talk about Greinke in April, but after this season, you have to consider him a serious Hall of Fame candidate. He went 19-3 this season and led the NL with a 1.66 ERA. He will finish either first or second in the Cy Young voting (his numbers are so close to Jake Arrieta’s either guy could win. I give a slight edge to Arrieta.). Greinke already has one Cy Young award. Over the past five seasons, Greinke is an incredible 82-26 (a .759 winning percentage). He has 142 wins at the age of 31, so it’s very possible for him to get to 200 wins by the age of 36. I think he still needs to do a bit more. He isn’t a sure-fire Hall of Famer like Kershaw.

Felix Hernandez

felixFelix actually had one of his poorest seasons in recent years, yet he still went 18-9 (he did have a respectable 3.53 ERA — for him that’s high). Felix was helped this season by a lot of run support (for once in his career) and a lot of decisions. He has been burned in the past somewhat by pitching for a bad offensive club that left him with a ton of no-decisions. Felix is now at 143-101 for his career and is still only 29. He has a good chance to reach 200 wins at the age of 33. He has won one Cy Young and finished second in the Cy Young voting twice. He cracked 2,000 strikeouts this season and will likely crack 3,000 before he is done.

David Ortiz

david-ortiz-baseball-headshot-photoOrtiz had a huge year for a 39-year-old player. He hit 37 home runs, the most he has hit since 2006. He also added 108 RBIs. Most importantly, he cracked 500 home runs for his career. He is 30th all-time in RBIs with 1,640. After next year, I expect Ortiz to be in the top 20 all-time in home runs and 22nd all-time in RBIs. Obviously, Ortiz has the numbers for an automatic Hall of Fame inclusion (especially if you consider his incredible postseason numbers), except there are two complications that are going to hurt Ortiz in the HOF vote. The first is he’s been a DH most of his career, and no pure DH has gone into the Hall yet (Frank Thomas played about 56 percent of his career at DH) and the bigger issue is a positive test for a banned substance leaked to the New York Times in 2003. No one knows what Ortiz tested positive for and he insists supplements triggered the positive result. I think if Mike Piazza gets in the Hall of Fame, which he almost surely will this year (he got 69 percent of the vote last year), that should help Ortiz’s case, because there’s some really strong suspicions Piazza juiced (in fact, he has admitted taking Andro) and more writers are starting to dismiss  “suspicions” for keeping a guy out of the HOF. It will also help if Jeff Bagwell gets in, too, because there’s “suspicions” about him as well. I don’t know how the vote will go with Ortiz. The only prediction I will make is he won’t get in the Hall on the first ballot mostly because of the 2003 incident. But at least there will be no question about whether Ortiz’s stats are worthy of the HOF.

Adrian Beltre

Adrian beltreLike Kershaw, Beltre had a slow start this season, then a huge second half that helped his HOF case. He was only hitting .255 at the All-Star break, but was red-hot the last two months of the season, ending up at .287, 18 HRs and 83 RBIs. His power numbers were down a bit, but that won’t hurt him — he topped 400 career home runs this year (he currently sits at 413 HRs). Most importantly, he had 163 hits this year, which puts him at 2,767 hits, only 233 short of 3,000 at the age of 36. He could get to 3,000 hits by July or August of 2017 when he is 38. That is automatic HOF. He’s close to automatic already with four Gold Gloves on top of all those hitting stats. There’s only eight guys in MLB history who have collected both 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. Beltre could be the ninth.

Robinson Cano

robinson canoI cracked up at all the Yankee fans in a baseball group I am in who earlier this year were constantly teeing off on Cano and what a terrible free agent signing he was for the Mariners. He was another player who had a slow first half. He was hitting just .235 in July, then much like Beltre, absolutely scorched the second half, ending up at .287 with 21 HRs and 79 RBIs. That doesn’t hurt his chances at all. Cano is now at 2,015 hits at the age of 32. He has an outside chance of getting to 3,000 hits by the age of 39. Even if he doesn’t get to 3,000 hits, with 239 HRs already at second base (likely over 300 by the time he is done) and a .307 lifetime average, I think he has a very good shot at the HOF.

Madison Bumgarner

bumgarnerIf Bumgarner had never pitched an inning in the postseason, I’m not sure I’d even be talking about him. But, his postseason numbers are so epic, you have to mention him as a HOF candidate. Bumgarner went 18-9 this season; he now has 85 wins (85-59 overall) and is still just 26 years old. He could easily have 140 wins at the age of 30. What also helps his case is being 4-0 (with a mind-blowing 0.25 ERA) in the World Series, and having an NLCS MVP and a World Series MVP.

Joey Votto

joey vottoVotto doesn’t get a lot of HOF hype, but some of his career numbers are incredible. He had a very good bounceback season after a lot of injuries last year. He hit .314 with 29 home runs and 80 RBIs, his best season since 2011. Votto also walks a lot and puts up incredible on-base percentage and OPS numbers. His career batting average is .311, his career OBP is .423 and his career OPS is .957 (his OPS this year was 1.001.). His career OPS is 18th all-time, ahead of guys like Mel Ott, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Ty Cobb. Votto has lost about a season-and-a-half to injuries, so his cumulative numbers aren’t great. He is still only 32. I think he needs to have at least another four or five really solid years (.290-plus, 20 HRs-plus) to get serious Hall of Fame consideration.

Mike Trout

Mike TroutMike Trout hit 40 home runs for the first time in his career and ended up with 41. He has an incredible 139 home runs at the age of 24. Seriously, he could have well over 300 home runs before he hits 30. For the fourth straight year, he will probably finish first or second in the MVP voting. He’s also a .304 career hitter so far and a great defensive player (though he has never won a Gold Glove, surprisingly).

Buster Posey

buster poseyBuster Posey quietly had another great season. He hit .318 with 19 HRs and 95 RBIs. He is a .310 career hitter, which is outstanding for a catcher, though the Giants are playing him 40 or 50 games a year at first base to keep him in the lineup every day. He may move to first base permanently one day because he’s such a good hitter.

Mark Teixeira

teixeiraTeixeira had another mixed, injury-riddled season. However, he did have his best power numbers since 2011 with 31 home runs. He was on pace for a monster bounceback season with 45 or more home runs when he went down in August with a fractured leg. He has really battled injuries the last four or five years. The only reason I include Teixeira is those 31 home runs did put him at 394 for his career, within legitimate range of 500. He will be 36 years old next year and he could easily hit 106 home runs in the next four years, putting him at 500 before the age of 40 and pretty much automatic Hall of Fame. I think the only way he gets in the Hall is if he gets to 500 home runs. He could be on the outside looking in like Carlos Delgado and Fred McGriff if he ends up at like 480 home runs.  Hurting Teixeira is the fact that he hasn’t managed to hit even .260 since 2009 (He has batted .244 over the past six seasons).

Guys that neither went up or down

Albert Pujols

pujolsPujols had his best power season since 2010 with 40 home runs, putting him at 560. He had his worst year ever as far as batting, however, at .244. Pujols is already automatic for the Hall of Fame, with likely 600 home runs and 3,000 hits before he is done (He is at 2,666 hits and will be 36 next year). A bigger question with Pujols is can he break Barry Bonds’ home run record of 762? — assuming A-Rod doesn’t break it first. Say Pujols plays seven more years, retiring at the age of 42. He needs 203 home runs to break the record, meaning he needs to average 29 home runs a season over his final seven seasons. Difficult, but plausible. A-Rod is 40 and is at 687 home runs. He would have to play until he is 43 and average 25 home runs a year for three years to do it. I think it’s a longshot for both guys.


IchiroIchiro had a very poor season. He ended up at .229 for the season. He was batting .248 at the All-Star break, so his second half was particularly awful. Ichiro says he plans to come back another year, but we’ll see if a team will take a 42-year-old guy who hit .229 last year. He is at 2,935 hits, tantalisingly close to 3,000. He could conceivably get to 3,000 hits with about another 250 at-bats. I really don’t think he needs to get to 3,000 hits to get in the Hall of Fame, but it would help his case.

Dustin Pedroia

Ft. Myers, FL, February 17, 2013: (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox)Pedroia was on pace to have a great season in 2015, but then ended up having another injury-riddled year. He lost about two months of playing time to a torn hamstring. Still, he put up decent numbers this season — .291, 12 HRs, 42 RBIs in only 93 games. He needs to stay healthy if he wants to make the Hall of Fame. He’s lost nearly 100 games the past two seasons to injuries. He is still only 32 and could have another five or six solid years left. He is a .299 career hitter and has won an MVP, ROY and four Gold Gloves.

Giancarlo Stanton

stantonGiancarlo Stanton is another guy who just can’t avoid the injury bug. He was on his way to having a monster season, on pace for nearly 60 home runs when he got hurt in June. Still, he hit 27 home runs this season and is at 181 home runs at the age of 25. That’s after missing 190 games the past four seasons. Imagine the numbers he could put up if he could actually stay in the lineup for 150 games a year.

Miguel Cabrera

miguel-cabreraCabrera had a weirdly off year. He was hurt a lot; he missed 43 games and he only hit 18 home runs and drove in 76 runs, which are really low numbers for him. But, he did win his fourth batting title by hitting .338. Cabrera at this point is probably an automatic Hall of Famer already. He’s a .321 career hitter, has hit over 400 home runs and has two MVPs. At 2,331 hits and 408 home runs at the age of 32, he should get to 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in another five years when he will still only be 37.

Max Scherzer

scherzerScherzer’s kind of an outside chance guy anyway. He had a strange year. In many ways, it was his best season. He had a 2.79 ERA (his best ever), 276 strikeouts (his best ever) and threw two no-hitters in one season. However, pitching for an underachieving Washington team, he only went 14-12. Still, he is only 31 and is 105-62 in his career. With any luck, he could have 170-180 wins by the age of 36.

Guys whose HOF stock went down

CC Sabathia

SabathiaIt’s hard to believe that at one time, Sabathia was a good candidate to reach 300 wins. He went 6-10 this year and has won only 9 games the past two seasons (9-14 combined over two years). The past three seasons, Sabathia’s ERA has been over 4.50 (4.81 combined the past three seasons). However, he just entered alcohol rehab, so perhaps this has been part of his recent problems. Sabathia is sitting at 214 wins. He is still only 35, so there is time for him to turn his career around. A couple of more decent seasons, say at 15-10 with an ERA under 4.00, he’ll be at the doorstep of 250 wins and Hall of Fame consideration. When I brought up his name as a Hall of Famer in a baseball group, a lot of people guffawed, but I think people forget how dominant he was for 11-12 years. At one point in his career, his won-loss record was 191-102 and he had a Cy Young trophy and four other top-5 Cy Young finishes.

Justin Verlander

justin verlanderVerlander is another guy like Sabathia who is a shell of his former dominating self. Three years ago, Verlander looked like a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But, after two sub-par years, he had another down and injured year this season, going 5-8 (his ERA was OK at 3.38.) Verlander is only 32 and has 157 wins, but he needs to turn his numbers around to make the Hall of Fame. His last really good season was in 2012.





Bills would cut CDC funding for smoking prevention; limit FDA review of e-cigs, candy cigars


I wasn’t even aware these bills were out there until I saw this recent editorial from The Hill.

There are two bills floating through Congress that would cut more than 50 percent of the funding for a Centers for Disease Control program to prevent kids from taking up smoking and for helping them to quit once they’ve started.

The second bill is even more heinous. It would restrict the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight over e-cigarettes and candy-flavoured cigars., including oversight over new tobacco products.

Gosh, I wonder who is lobbying for both of these bills?

Even though the editorial doesn’t get into partisanship, it’s also pretty obvious to me that these are likely both Republican-sponsored bills. Why they would want to cut funding for tobacco education and prevention is beyond me. I have no doubt the people behind these bills are receiving campaign contributions from Big Tobacco. It’s so cynical. And 77 percent of Big Tobacco’s political contributions go toward Republicans.


Fortunately, even though these provisions have been approved by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, I doubt that either bill will become law, as long as a Democrat is in the White House. But, what a waste of time and energy to be even be proposed such ridiculous ideas.

The FDA is expected to release rules and regulations — eventually, one of these days — regarding e-cigarettes.

Philadelphia proposes banning tobacco sales in drug stores


The mayor of Philadelphia last week proposed banning tobacco sales in pharmacies and drug stores.

This story jogged my memory that I think San Francisco did the same thing. Sure enough, San Francisco did ban tobacco sales in pharmacies, in fact some time ago — 2008 — longer ago than I remember.

City councilwoman Marian Tasco submitted the bill on behalf of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

Nutter is a longtime anti-smoking advocate. He advocated for a state bill allowing Philadelphia to impose a $2 a pack cigarette tax (Wow, the Pennsylvania cigarette tax is $1.60 a tax, so that’s a $3.60 tax on a pack of cigarettes in Philadelphia — cigarettes have to be pretty pricey there.). He also signed a bill banning smoking in parks and as a city councilman, pushed for a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. (The state of Pennsylvania has a very weak smoking ban that still allows smoking in bars.)

CVS Pharmacies recently banned all tobacco sales at its chain of drug stores nationwide. The chain has reported that the move has not hurt its overall revenues and has urged other drug store chains to do the same. CVS also dropped out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because that group has been lobbying around the world to loosen nations’ laws restricting tobacco marketing and packaging.

So, it sounds like Philadelphia is vying with New York City and San Francisco to be one of the most smoking-unfriendly cities in the U.S. San Francisco, which recently banned chewing tobacco at AT&T Park, isn’t particularly friendly to tobacco in general.



Study: One in three men in China will die from smoking


Devastating study in the Lancet this month stating that unless smoking rates are cut in China, one-third of men in that country will die from tobacco-related disease.

Something about this article that jumped out at me. China obviously has the highest population of any nation on the planet — 1.3 billion. It also has a very high — and still growing — smoking rate.

There is an oft-quoted figure — 440,000 — this is the number of deaths the CDC and other agencies state are caused by tobacco in the United States. Some people dispute the number (people on the old smokers’ rights forums, mostly), but I believe it’s an absolutely solid number.

Well, according to the Lancet study, smoking today kills over 1 million Chinese people every year. So, just between China and the U.S., 1.44 million people a year are dying as a result of tobacco. That’s basically the entire state of Hawaii being wiped out on an annual basis.

More shockingly, that Chinese figure is expected to double to 2 million people a year by 2030.

The smoking rate is extremely high in China, especially among men. According to this study, two-thirds of Chinese men take up smoking. This study points out that since the tobacco industry in China is a government-controlled monopoly, this has a profound effect on Chinese policies regarding tobacco (though, surprisingly enough China has been implementing public smoking bans and attempting to crack down on tobacco marketing.).

From an article in Mother Jones:

he high smoking rates are fueled by low prices. “Over the past 20 years, tobacco deaths have been decreasing in Western countries, partly because of price increases,” said Richard Peto, a co-author of the study. “For China, a substantial increase in cigarette prices could save tens of millions of lives.” Pervasive myths don’t help either, including beliefs that Asians are less susceptible to tobacco’s effects and smoking is easy to quit. The World Health Organization estimates that only a quarter of Chinese adults have a “comprehensive understanding” of smoking’s hazards.

This lack of awareness is hardly surprising when you look into who’s selling the cigarettes: An estimated 98 percent of the Chinese cigarette market is controlled by China National Tobacco Corporation, a government-owned conglomerate that runs more than 160 cigarette brands. According to a Bloomberg Business feature on the topic, the industry accounts for 7 percent of the country’s revenue each year and employs roughly 500,000 people. In 2013, the company manufactured 2.25 trillion cigarettes. (Philip Morris International, the second-largest producer, manufactured 880 billion.)

“The extent to which the government is interlocked with the fortunes of China National might best be described by the company’s presence in schools,” writes Bloomberg’s Andrew Martin. “Slogans over the entrances to sponsored elementary schools read, ‘Genius comes from hard work. Tobacco helps you become talented.'”


Angry and apparently very drunk vaper finds out the hard way you can’t vape on an airplane

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OK, I don’t do many of these stories. I should do more. This is just too funny to pass up.

NBC News did a story last week about how a woman, apparently very drunk, tried to fire up her e-cigarette on an airplane and was told she couldn’t vape on the airplane. Even after she was told to put it away as she entered the airplane, she apparently tried to use it in her seat.  For her trouble, she apparently was detained by the FBI and could face charges of interfering with a flight attendant.

After being told to put her e-cigarette away, she apparently tried to sneak in a few vapes in the bathroom. Witnesses said she then cursed at the flight attendant, exposed her breasts and threw a soda can at him. I love her explanation. “THAT is not true, I was trying to throw it in a trash can next to him.”

Yeah, because airplanes have trash cans….

She was ordered to move to the back of the plane where she apparently fell asleep. She was taken into custody after the plane landed.

“Maybe no one will mind … or notice….”

What really cracks me up about this, is at least once or twice every month, you will still to this day on the tobacco news boards (I used to see a lot of these stories back in the Topix days six, eight years ago), find a story about some smoker freaking out on an airplane after being told to put it out. Smoking has been banned on domestic flights for 25 years now 15 years on international flights. After 15 years, you will still find  people who just gotta try and smoke on an airplane or in an airplane bathroom or fiddle with the bathroom smoke detector so they can smoke. Look, here’s one from just three weeks ago. And they’re usually drunk, too. I just don’t get this phenomena of drunken people lighting up on planes. You know you can’t do it, you know you won’t get away with it, you know you could go to jail for it …. all over a cigarette. But, some nitwits still try it. And now there’s going to be a few nutty vapers apparently joining that group, now. I know e-cigarettes aren’t as obnoxious as cigarettes, but c’mon, you have to know you cannot vape on an airplane. (There is no law against it, but I looked it up, no airline allows vaping.).

Hey, nicotine is nicotine. Junkie behaviour is junkie behaviour, no matter what the nicotine delivery system.


New York Times story: U.S. Chamber has become a “front group” for Big Tobacco

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Another big New York Times article on how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is shilling around the world on behalf of Big Tobacco.

In the past several years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which used to be a fairly nonpolitical organization, but it has been transformed, mostly by its executive director Thomas Donohue, into a highly politicized lobbying organization.

And lately, much of the Chamber’s lobbying efforts have been directed toward not only defending Big Tobacco but aggressively attacking countries attempting to reign in tobacco marketing and packaging. The New York Times story uses the example of the Irish prime minister who visited the U.S. Chamber offices to lobby for investments, business opportunities in Ireland, and instead Donohue lobbied him to drop new Irish laws requiring plain packaging on tobacco products.

From the New York Times article:

Since taking over in 1997, Mr. Donohue has transformed the chamber into a powerful lobbying force, an evolution most starkly epitomized by its aggressive advocacy for tobacco. While the organization represents a variety of industries, its strategy has been a boon for cigarette makers, which have relied heavily on the chamber to push their agenda at home and abroad.

Few allies of Big Tobacco are as enduring as Mr. Donohue, who has personally lobbied the speaker of the House, the United States trade representative and the Irish prime minister on the industry’s behalf. A review of industry records, which came to light during government litigation, highlights the longevity of his ties.

In the 1990s, after taking over the chamber, Mr. Donohue fought the Justice Department’s tobacco litigation, personally lobbied against antismoking legislation in the Senate and promised “a unique role in determining the future direction of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce” to a big cigarette maker in a letter.

tom donohue
U.S. Chamber Executive Director Tom Donohue — New York Times photo

The US. Chamber’s lobbying efforts around the world on behalf of Big Tobacco has been talked about a lot in the past year. I’ve written about it and there’s been a number of major articles about it, including CVS Pharmacy quitting the U.S. Chamber over its tobacco lobbying. John Oliver has likewise taken on Big Tobacco’s battles against smaller countries.

This is specifically what’s changed just in the past year or two. While the U.S. Chamber has been for some time now lobbying for Big Tobacco in the U.S., it’s been putting a ton of energy into lobbying for Big Tobacco around the world lately. According to the Times article, it has gotten to the point that officials with the World Health Organization are literally calling the U.S. Chamber a “front group” for the tobacco industry.

According to the Times, a few weeks after Donohue took over at the U.S. Chamber in 1997, he received a letter from a Philip Morris executive.  According the to the New York Times:

Mr. Donohue’s ambition, he wrote in a reply to the Philip Morris executive, was “to build the biggest gorilla in this town.” He scrapped the chamber’s in-house cable network and magazine, which were centerpieces of his predecessor.

“The chamber has become the antithesis of its former self,” a Philip Morris memo reported in 1999, while an executive said in an internal email, the “chamber is doing good work.”

There’s even been a  revolving door between Philip Morris and the U.S. Chamber. A former Philip Morris executive is now one of the top executives in the U.S. Chamber … and better yet, a former U.S. Chamber employee is now a spokeswoman for Philip Morris International.