Category Archives: smoking


I wrote a little piece about pet peeves a little while ago. But I’m interested in asking you folks if there are things that really bug you, especially if you have not much to do with it. Maybe it’s the political discourse that’s distasteful.

I was at work helping someone with a question, and I rediscovered that there are a couple issues that really have been bugging me, and really are, in the end, none of my business. Though I will make a case for the idea that, at least the former issue is a public health issue and therefore everyone’s concern.

Issue #1 is the huge number of Cesarean section births in the United States. From this document, the CDC notes that the C-section rate went up for the 11th straight year in 2006 up to 31.8%, the highest ever reported in the country. Lowering the rate was a governmental objective for the last quarter century. The mission actually seemed to be working for a while – the rate went from 22.8% in 1989 to 20.7% in 1996, but it’s been going up ever since. The optimal rate is between 5% and 10%. The whys are varied, but it concerns me regardless. And it worries some in the medical community as well.

The other issue involves pregnant women smoking. I know that tobacco is addictive, but when I see it, it makes me crazy anyway. Low birth-weight babies are often the result.

So what issues that really don’t affect you directly nevertheless gets on your nerves?


S is for Smoking

I am of an age when I could, and did, go to the corner store, O’Leary’s, when I was five years old and buy for my father a pack, or even a carton, of Winston cigarettes. Of course, I’m also old enough to have seen cigarette advertising on U.S. television, even featuring popular TV cartoon characters.

They were insidious, those cigarette ad. Nearly 40 years after they were banned from the radio and TV airways, I can still tell you that LSMFT translates to Lucky Strike means fine tobacco! I recall that “You can take Salem out of the country, but…you can’t take the country out of Salem.” Whenever I hear the theme for the movie The Magnificent Seven by Elmer Bernstein, I feel that I’m in Marlboro Country.

Country – a recurring theme. Cigarettes, in addition to being “cool” – there was, or maybe is, a brand called “Kool” – were also supposed to be refreshing, relaxing, rather like the great outdoors. But a study from last year suggests otherwise. Pew Social & Demographic Trends notes Smokers Can’t Blow Off Stress

Ask cigarette smokers why they light up and one answer you’re likely to hear is that it relieves stress.

But if that’s the goal, it’s not at all clear that cigarettes deliver the goods. Half (50%) of all smokers say they “frequently” experience stress in their daily lives, compared with just 35% of those who once smoked and have now quit and 31% of those who never smoked, according to a Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey conducted June 16-July 16, 2008 among a nationally representative sample of 2,250 adults.

The finding raises as many questions as answers. Does it mean that the kinds of people who smoke are predisposed to stress? Does it mean that the stress relief smokers get while smoking doesn’t last once they don’t have a cigarette in hand? Or might it mean that the whole idea that smoking relieves stress is illusory?

And more recent reports confirm what I’ve instinctively known since I was a child: second-hand smoke causes harm As I got older, I started to refuse to buy my father cigarettes, and he got to be all right with that. But then I would steal his cigarettes, not for my own consumption, but in the vain attempt to make cigarette smoking so expensive -they were about 35 cents (U.S.) a pack at the time – that he would cut back or even quit. No, he eventually would say,”Roger, give me back my damn cigarettes.” I was a lousy thief.

But I have a far too sensitive nose. I will wait in the rain rather than share a bus kiosk with someone who is smoking. In my building, there are about a half dozen women who all take their cigarette break together; it’s tolerable to take the elevator down with them, but after they’ve sat outside puffing away – let’s just say, I’d rather take the stairs back than share an elevator with them.

Kissing smokers is not my favorite thing.

My father stopped smoking briefly when he developed emphysema in his 40s, but when he became asymptomatic, he returned to his habit, which frankly really ticked me off.

He finally stopped a few years later by saying that he wasn’t quitting, but that he hadn’t had a cigarette today. then another day. And another until it reached the last 27 years or so of his life.

Thursday, November 19 is the date of the Great American Smokeout. But you don’t have to choose that date, or even be an American, to set to… quit smoking…for at least one day. And maybe, the day after that.

Pictures once again from


Post for Gordon

Gordon offered to answer questions on his podcast but only if the questions were NOT e-mailed to him. One of the acceptable methods was to post something on one’s blog. So here it is:

Seeing how it’s the Great American SmokeOut as I post this, does your long-standing (and righteous) antipathy against smoking cigarettes come from your public policy background that shows the economic devastation of families having to deal with the results of lung cancer and the like? Or is it a function of fairness, that people ought not to deal with second-hand smoke? Or do you have personal experiences (friends, family, even yourself) that has informed your crusade against the “coffin nails”? And don’t you think it’s rather interesting that, long before the Surgeon General’s warning in the 12960s, the term “coffin nails” was in regular use?

Hmm. I remember, as a kid, going to O’Leary’s corner store and buying packs of cigarettes (Winstons) for my father. Later, it was cartons. I used to steal his cigarettes, not to smoke myself, but in hopes that the cost (35 to 50 cents a pack!) would serve as a deterrent; it did not. Eventually, he developed emphysema and did quit, but when his symptoms abated, his smoking returned. I was…unsubtle in my frustration with him over that. But then a few years later, he stopped smoking for good. He said he never said he quit; he just didn’t have another one, and he was smoke-free for the last 25 years of his life.
Fewer U.S. adults smoke, but cigarette smoking continues to impose substantial health and financial costs on society, according to new data from CDC.


Mondo meme

The groupings or levels are practically random. Jaquandor did it, but dropped some questions. I went back to Samauri Frog’s post and took all the questions, masochist that I am.

Level 1
(x) Smoked a cigarette.
() Smoked a cigar.
(x) Kissed a member of the same sex.
(x) Drank alcohol.

I’ve probably smoked 25 cigarettes in my life, a plurality of them in the early part of 1977 when I was living in Charlotte, NC with my parents for four months. They used to sell stuff (costume jewelry, knickknacks) with others at these craft fairs. I didn’t really fit in. I was an effete snob from the North who used words of more than two syllables. I tried smoking, which most of them did, to try to fit in; didn’t work. (I’ll say that Charlotte is much better now.)

I was in a production of Boys in the Band in May 1975 in Binghamton, which involved greeting someone at a party with a kiss.

Level 2
(x) Are/been in love.
(x) Been dumped.
(x) Shoplifted.
() Been fired.
(x) Been in a fist fight.

Most recently (late 1990s) dumped by e-mail.
Shoplifted gum when I was eight or nine; got caught; mortification.
I’ve been in about five fist fights, but it was almost always brought to me.

Level 3
(x) Had a crush on an older person.
(x) Skipped school.
(x) Slept with a classmate.
(x) Seen someone/something die.

Heck, went out with a couple of older persons.
I had perfect attendance from 3rd to 11th grade. Senioritis then struck.

Level 4
() Had/have a crush on one of your friends who is now on Facebook.
() Been to Paris.
() Been to Spain.
(x) Been on a plane.
(x) Thrown up from drinking.

At a party drinking Polish vodka, feeling very lucid. Ran out, switch to some Johnny Walker something, got drunk and sick in about two minutes. Lesson: don’t mix alcohol.

Level 5
(x) Eaten sushi.
() Been snowboarding.
() Met someone BECAUSE of Facebook.
() Been in a mosh pit.

Don’t really LIKE sushi. My wife does.

Level 6
(x) Been in an abusive relationship.
(x) Taken pain killers.
(x) Love/loved someone who you can’t have.
(x) Laid on your back and watched cloud shapes go by.
(x) Made a snow angel.

In high school, I had this father confessor role, where people, mostly female, would tell me their problems. One young woman told me about her boyfriend problems; I had a massive crush on her, but never let that show.

Level 7
(x) Had a tea party.
(x) Flown a kite.
(x) Built a sand castle.
() Gone mudding (offroading).
(x) Played dress up.

I had two sisters; of course, I played dress up.

Level 8
(x) Jumped into a pile of leaves.
() Gone sledging.
() Cheated while playing a game.
(x) Been lonely.
(x) Fallen asleep at work/school.

I don’t recall cheating in a game, unless you mean throwing it to a three-year old.

Level 9
(x) Watched the sun set.
(x) Felt an earthquake.
() Killed a snake.

There have been at least two earthquakes that one could feel in upstate NY. The last time, I thought a huge, overweight truck must be rumbling down the street.

Level 10
(x) Been tickled.
(x) Been robbed/vandalized.
(x) Been cheated on.
(x) Been misunderstood.

I’ve lost baseball cards, LPs, my coin collection, a boom box, a half dozen bicycles. And that’s without really thinking about it.

Level 11
(x) Won a contest.
() Been suspended from school.
(x) Had detention.
(x) Been in a car/motorcycle accident.

I won a racquetball tournament in 1989.

Level 12
() Had/have braces.
(x) Eaten a whole pint of ice cream in one night.
(x) Danced in the moonlight.

The ice cream was undoubtedly related to affairs of the heart.

Level 13
(x) Hated the way you look.
(x) Witnessed a crime.
() Pole danced.
(x) Questioned your heart.
() Been obsessed with post-it-notes.

Called the police on some jerk hitting a woman.

Level 14
(x) Squished barefoot through the mud.
(x) Been lost.
() Been to the opposite side of the world.
(x) Swam in the ocean.
(x) Felt like you were dying.

I liked swimming at Jones Beach on Long Island when i was a kid, and in the Caribbean when Carol and I went to Barbados in 1999.

I thought I’d die on a mountain in Utah in 1994.

Level 15
(x) Cried yourself to sleep.
(X) Played cops and robbers.
(X) Recently colored with crayons/colored pencils/markers.
() Sang karaoke.
(x) Paid for a meal with only coins.

Broke in Schenectady, 1978 – talking about nickel and diming someone. And I paid the tip with a check, because I didn’t have enough change.

Level 16
(x) Done something you told yourself you wouldn’t.
() Made prank phone calls.
() Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose.
(x) Kissed in the rain.

Done something…more than once.

Level 17
(x) Written a letter to Santa Claus.
(x) Watched the sun set/sun rise with someone you care/cared about.
(x) Blown bubbles.
(x) Made a bonfire on the beach or anywhere.

I love blowing bubbles. I find it to be a great stress reliever.

Level 18
() Crashed a party.
() Have traveled more than 5 days with a car full of people.
(x) Gone rollerskating/blading.
(X) Had a wish come true.
() Slept with a member of the same sex.

Never was very good at rollerskating, or ice skating, for that matter.

Level 19
(X) Worn pearls.
() Jumped off a bridge.
() Screamed “penis” or “vagina”.
() Swam with dolphins.

When I was a kid, used to wear my mother’s. They probably weren’t real pearls.

Level 20
() Got your tongue stuck to a pole/freezer/ice cube.
() Kissed a fish.
(x) Worn the opposite sex’s clothes.
(x) Sat on a roof top.

Halloween, 1978.

Level 21
(x) Screamed at the top of your lungs.
() Done/attempted a one-handed cartwheel.
(x) Talked on the phone for more than six hours (in one day).
(x) Recently stayed up for a while talking to someone you care about.

Talking on the phone with my sisters.

Level 22
(x) Picked and ate an apple right off the tree.
(x) Climbed a tree.
(x) Had/been in a tree house.
(x) Been scared to watch scary movies alone.

I always wished I had had a treehouse.

Level 23
(x) Believed in ghosts.
(x) Have had more than thirty pairs of shoes (not necessarily all at once).
(x) Gone streaking.
(x) Visited jail.

Well, if you count sneakers…

Not only did I visit a jail (friend Alice in May 1972), I WORKED in a jail as a janitor (summer 1975) and visited Greenhaven prison in the early 1970s.

Level 24
(x) Played chicken.
() Been pushed into a pool with all your clothes on.
() Been told you’re hot by a complete stranger.
() Broken a bone.
(x) Been easily amused.

I can still be easily amused by things no one else gets.

Level 25
() Caught a fish then ate it later.
() Made a porn video.
(x) Caught a Butterfly.
(x) Laughed so hard you cried.
(x) Cried so hard you laughed.

Laughing and crying – always reminds me of the actors’ muses.

Level 26
() Mooned/flashed someone.
(x) Had someone moon/flash you.
(x) Cheated on a test.
(x) Forgotten someone’s name.
(x) French braided someone’s hair.
(x) Gone skinny dipping.
(x) Been kicked out of your house.
() Tried to hurt yourself.

Cheated on a bio test in 9th grade. Didn’t work for me.

Level 27
(x) Rode a roller coaster.
(x) Went scuba-diving/snorkeling.
(x) Had a cavity.
() Blackmailed someone.
() Been blackmailed.

When I was a kid, we loved rollercoasters. I’d ride with my sister Leslie, my father would ride with my sister Marcia. My mom would hold our glasses; the great fear was that they’d somehow fly off.

Level 28
(x) Been used.
(x) Fell going up the stairs.
() Licked a cat.
(x) Bitten someone.
(x) Licked someone – not in private places.

Haven’t we all been used at some point?

Level 29
() Been shot at/or at gunpoint.
() Had sex in the rain.
() Flattened someone’s tires.
(x) Rode your car/truck until the gas light came on.
(x) Got five dollars or less worth of gas.

But I’ve seen someone else flatten someone’s tires because the driver was taking up two parking spaces. This was a matter of “justice”.



There was this front page story, below the fold, a couple months ago After tobacco ban, where there’s smoke there’s ire; As hospitals prohibit smoking, employees begin puffing away off-campus, irritating neighbors. I was thrilled to see this piece, because I experienced the same thing. I even wrote a letter to the editor in response, which didn’t get published. But I DO have a blog:

I walk past the cigarette-smoke gauntlet that is St. Peter’s Hospital regularly. Ironically, the best place to walk to avoid the poisoned stench is through the St. Peter’s New Scotland Avenue parking lot, right past the area where the smokers used to be able to congregate. Of course, I have to negotiate past the moving cars, but that beats walking out onto the busy street.

At least one St. Peter’s employee regularly uses the bus kiosk at the corner of New Scotland and South Allen Street as his personal smoking emporium. I’ve also seen Albany Med employees smoking in the bus kiosk across from the hospital, at New Scotland and Holland.

I appreciate the hospitals wanting to make their campuses smoke-free, but personally, I’d rather let them go back to the designated locations.

I discovered subsequently that St. Peter’s has torn down a building that was behind the hospital where people used to smoke. Alas.

I have my bona fides as almost virulently anti-smoking. Yet why is it, when someone comes up to me and asks if he or she can “borrow” a cigarette, almost inevitably I say something along the lines of “Sorry, I don’t smoke” or “I’m afraid I don’t smoke”? I’m NOT sorry that I don’t smoke; moreover, I’m HAPPY that I don’t have the means to shorten someone else’s life. So, why do I often sound so damn apologetic? Maybe it’s some Piscean need to please.

Anyway, today is the Great American Smokeout, where people are supposed to quit smoking. I hope they do, but failing that, please keep that cigarette away from my family and me.

25 things

Tosy has got me sussed.

1. I’ve come to realize that my last kiss… was probably done perfunctorily.

2. I am listening to… a lot of Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and the B groups they used to be in.

3. I talk…more often than not with a filter of appropriateness.

4. I want…a couple more hours per day to read and play. I need to play.

5. My best friend(s)…with a few exceptions, don’t live around here, so I see them rarely.

7. The weather is… wet, but pleasantly so.

8. I hate it when people…are inconsiderate. My current pet peeve involves the bus kiosks around two of our hospitals, St. Peter’s and Albany Med. The hospital employees use the kiosks to smoke their cigarettes during their breaks, then go back work.

9. Love is… as strong as death. That’s a lyric in a church anthem, from the Song of Solomon, and it always gets to me.

10. Marriage is… not for the meek.

11. Somewhere, someone is thinking… someone stole my invention. In all likelihood, it didn’t happen.

12. I’ll always… remember the things I should have done more than the things I did do.

13. I have a secret crush on… oh, golly, any number of people. However, I haven’t watched a program because a person was on it since I watched Sisters for Sela Ward.

14. The last time I cried was… watching Flashpoint last week. It was a CBS News special about reporter Kimberly Dozier’s near death experience in Iraq from an IED. Her soundman and cameraman died, as did a soldier and his translator.

15. My cell phone is… missing.

16. When I wake up in the morning… I start ruminating about what needs to be done. Then I end up doing a list of things not on the list at all.

17. Before I go to bed… I often play Internet backgammon.

18. Right now I am thinking about… caffeine.

19. Babies are… statements of optimism in a sometimes miserable world.

20. I go on MySpace… almost never, even though I have a page.

21. Today I… answer a bunch of question about a blog I helped initiate last week.

22. Tonight I… hope to watch one of those episodes from six weeks of Scrubs, Earl or the office. That was on my list LAST week; saw one Earl.

23. Tomorrow I… go play racquetball in the morning, if the three-year old and I get out of the house in time.

24. I really want to… get a massage.

25. Someone who will most likely repost this? I haven’t a clue; Eddie could.
Don’t steal beer in Montana
“I know I don’t know most celebs in real life, and therefore shouldn’t go throwing haterade at them left and right … but man, I cannot stand Paris Hilton.” – Jen Hubley, About.Com. Haterade – I like that.