Tuesday, January 30, 2007

SF suburb pushing smoking envelope

Belmont, Calif., may ban smoking in apartment complexes. and the like.

The LA Times reports:
Twenty years ago, a proposal to prohibit smoking in condos and apartments "would have been a radical and crazy idea," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Today, it's an idea that's gaining growing acceptance, precisely because the science has evolved and changed."

In the late 1940s, '50s and most of the '60s, people could smoke virtually everywhere they went, with a few minor restrictions related to fire hazards, he said. When smoke was recognized at the very least as an irritant and temporary health hazard, segregated smoking and nonsmoking sections cropped up everywhere, from airplanes to offices.

That was during much of the 1970s, '80s and '90s, he said, a period underscored by the idea that "smokers have rights." Then California banned smoking in restaurants and the workplace, and the boundary for permissible smoking tightened. Suddenly it was not OK to smoke indoors in public places.

When Calabasas voted last year to effectively ban smoking outdoors, the boundary moved again. But the city, Banzhaf said, deliberately chose not to address the smoke that drifts from private home to private home in the close confines of apartment buildings and condos — at least for the time being.

Which brings us to Belmont, "which is taking the lead," he said.

It is unclear just what the City Council will do when presented with the first draft of its new ordinance, whether the anti-smoking fervor on display in November will survive, what kind of history will be made, where the line will be drawn.

Expect lawsuits, eh.

In Wales, a smoking ban in public places

It's scheduled to take hold the day after April Fool's Day, April 2.

The health minister says violators will be shot on sight -- just kiddin. Here's what he really said:
“Long term exposure to second-hand smoke can cause lung cancer, heart disease and ban respiratory illness among non-smokers.

“The most compelling reason for introducing the as soon as possible is that experts estimate at least 400 non-smokers die each year in Wales as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke.

“We know that many smokers want to quit but find it extremely difficult. There has never been a better time to give up for good when the ban comes into force in April."


Monday, January 29, 2007

If you want the seed to find purchase, put away the smokes

Smokers are more likely to be infertile that non-smokers, says a doc, citing studies.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

French smoking ban to take effect, stage smoking under fire and would you believe a THIRD of the world population smokes?

The French love to smoke. Almost as much as they love to make love with their faces, as the saying goes.

The big question now is will the country enforce the ban on smoking in public places, which takes effect Thursday. [link].

United Press International, which I thought had gone outta business (since you hardly ever see their wire copy in the papers), is carrying story that says the growing trend of banning smoking may well extend to actors performing on stage. Some get around such prohbitions by employing herbal smokes (presumably not that herb) but even some laws extend to non-tobacco smokes. [link]

According to a guy with an international group dedicated to helping people quit smoking, ONE-Third of the world's population smokes. I'm not sure I believe that. [link]

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Smoking popular in Bulgaria

Look for a lot of people in Bulgaria to get real irritable real soon if that country joins the European Union, whose health commissioner wants new EU-member countries to adopt a smoking ban in public places.

Have you ever met a Bulgarian?

If so, and that Bulgarian happened to be male, chances are he smoked. The ladies there love to smoke, too, but not as much as the fellers.

They are a surly and smelly lot, to be sure. And they don't give a shit. You can cite all the Surgeon General studies under the sun, and they'll keep smokin'. Or shove a shiv between your ribs when you insist they stop.

Bulgaria is scheduled to join the EU this year. Don't hold your breath if this smoking edict passes. On second thought, hold your breath, if you happen to live in Bulgaria, cause it's likely full of secondhand smoke!!

Furthermore, if Bulgaria is one of the places you always hoped to visit before you die, our suggestion is you go there before the smoking ban. It'll be smellier in the cafes, restaurants and transit stations, but the people will be happy -- while they can legally smoke in public.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Blame it on the insula

The part of the brain that may unlock the whole problem of addiction is about the size of a prune,
the NY Times reports.

“This is the first time we’ve shown anything like this, that damage to a specific brain area could remove the problem of addiction entirely,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which financed the study, along with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “It’s absolutely mind-boggling.”


“In a sense it’s not surprising that the insula is an important part of this circuit maintaining addiction, because we realized some years ago that it was going to be a critical platform for emotions,” Dr. Damasio said in a telephone interview. “It is on this platform that we first anticipate pain and pleasure, not just smoking but eating chocolate, drinking a glass of wine, all of it.”

This explains why cravings are so physical, and so hard to shake, he said: they have taken hold in the visceral reaches of the body well before they are even conscious.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

New smoking cure discovered

It's got its pluses and minuses.

On the plus side, you completely lose the urge to smoke.

On the minus side, you must first suffer a stroke

Read More

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I just got off a three-pack bender.

(That's 60 cigarettes, for the uninitiated, but I doubt any readers of this "micro blog" didn't know that. )

My intial thought, as it related to this blog, was to not say anything and continue aggregating the "smoking news," as I call it, since I decided during the relapse I'd get back on the program ASAP (as soon as I had smoked the 3 packs I purchased at a local convenience store (Gold Coast 100 regulars, one of the cut-rate brands.)

Then I realized how stupid and dishonest that thinking was cause, really, what's the use of a no-smoking blog if you don't deal with relapse?

So here I am fessin' up.

Right now, as I type on Wednesday morning, I've entered Day 2.

So what happened on the relapse? Why'd it happen?

The short answer is I got angry.

So I was pissed and decided, fuck it, I need a cigarette!!

Why'd my brain tell me to do that?

Cause it told me I "needed" it, I guess. Cause it'd make it better, I guess? I knew on some level of rationality that this was nonsensical thinking, but on a baser level, that's definitely the message I was experiencing.

The 1st pack wasn't all that great. The 2nd pack was OK. By the third pack, I was enjoying it -- sort of, I think.

When the 3 pack stash was gone, I had a decision to make. It's the same old decision all smokers go through. Do I buy more?

I came close to re-upping, but decided, crap, I'm just delaying the inevitable (and making it worse) by continuing. I guess I better get back on the horse now, before I go another few years without quittin' again.

So here I am on Day II.

Let's get back to the cause of the relapse.

I got angry.

OK, that's something we all do, some more than others. We get angry. It doesn't matter why. (Wait! It does matter why, but that's a whole other topic for another time.)

Anger is an emotion, right?

So it's emotions I have to watch out for, eh, so far as it relates to stopping smoking.

OK, I'll buy that.

But there's something else going on at a different level. It's not just emotion. Or anger. It's fear. Yep, that's what I think goes on with addicts.

It's the fear that, "Oh my God, I won't be alright unless I (fill in the blank)" ... smoke, or whatever your addictive behavior may be ... when actually, I will be alright; I may be uncomfortable for awhile, but in due course, I'll be OK.

I guess that's what I have to keep in mind.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Smoke still gets in their eyes (in their craw) despite anti-smoking law in Baytown, Texas

Bidness is down at Cowboy's Cedar Lounge.

And some say that local waterin holes are being targeted in favor of churches and the like.

It's all over the city's smokin law.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bangor, Maine: Roger Miller once mentioned it in a song

If you're ever driving through Bangor, Maine, and have a child in your vehicle, whatever you do DON'T SMOKE.

Is Obama's vocal magic smoking related?

Our friend Slampo sent us this piece from Slate, which poses the question of whether Sen. Barack Obama might make smoking acceptable again.

Wouldn't it be a trip to see a presidential candidate crushing a stogie under his wingtip and blowing a final gush of gray cigarette smoke out before he assumed the lecturn to weave his magic?

Kinda like a rock star.

The piece makes note of something one our other friends, H. Brute of Sharptown, made note of in a comment the other day, which is how Dylan's voice changed when he tried to quite smoking before he recorded Nashville Skyline.

As for the Slate piece, it says of Obama's rich voice:
There are plenty of reasons for Obama's magic voice: where he grew up, how his parents talked, how he breathes. But perhaps most important is one Obama doesn't want to talk about: cigarettes. Obama is an occasional smoker.

Smoking over time transforms a person's voice by thickening and drying out the vocal chords. The vocal chords vibrate as your breath passes through them, so their texture and shape helps determine what your voice sounds like. David Witsell, who directs Duke University's Voice Care Center, notes that the nodules on Johnny Cash's vocal cords that stemmed in part from his smoking habit helped create his unique sound. "Many famous voices in history have pathologies that are part of their vocal signatures," Witsell says."

Slate poses this question: if Obama gives up his smokes for good, will it negative affect that sexy voice of his? What if he ends up sounding like Urkel? Or talkin' like Dyno-Mite Jimmy from "Good Times"?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Smoking ban sought in Texas

A state senator plans to seek a smoking ban in the entire state of Texas that would include prohibiting firing up in restaurants, bars and workplaces. (link)

This will threaten one of the cornerstones of Texas mythology -- that of the smoky Texas roadhouse, where some o that downhome Americana roots C&W supposedly can be had in any small town.

So, Texas should be a big battleground in the fight over second-hand smoke, but not because of the aforementioned roadhouse myth, but simply cause it's a huge market where a lot of cigarettes are sold, and, of course, where people like to say they have certain inalienable rights -- even if it'll kill them and their nonsmoking fellows!

Texas just tacked on a $1 tax on a pack o' smokes, so addicts are still highly agitated over that. Hell, if I still smoked, I'd be PO'd too! But I quit, what?, 18, 19 days ago! Yippie!! I feel TERRRIFFFFICC!!!! So keep on smokin if'n you want, suckers, but a friendly word of advice -- give some serious consideration to givin' it all up. It's not as difficult as you may think.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Connecting the dots of a lung cancer death

Benny Parsons, famous NASCAR driver

“I smoked my last cigarette way back in 1978,” he told Nascar.com in July, “and since then I’ve hated being around smoking.”


Dead from "complications of lung cancer," the story says.

He was a famous NASCAR driver before NASCAR was NASCAR, so to speak.

"Benny Parsons was born July 21, 1941, in North Wilkesboro, N.C. When he was 19, his family moved to Detroit, where he worked for a gasoline station and taxi company owned by his father.

In 1997, he wrote on a Web site about an incident two months after he arrived in Detroit:

“I met two guys my dad knew who had a racecar,” he said. “I started going to the track, into the pits. Three years later, in 1963, one of these guys stopped by Dad’s station and asked me if I’d like to drive a car. I said I thought so. He said he had a car he’d give to me, a Ford.

“We went to his garage, and the first thought I had was that he had got cheated. It was torn all to pieces. We fixed it, though, and I ran my first race, a figure-8 feature on a quarter-mile dirt track, and spun out. Twelve years later, I was the Daytona 500 champion.” "

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Vonnegut: 84 and still smokin'

Kurt Vonnegut, the writer, is 84 years old and still chain smokes Pall Malls.

He's not particularly proud of it.

As a guest on Imus in the Morning today, he said he didn't particularly want to talk about it, as it might encourage young people to smoke.

Imus, of course, wanted to talk about it, cause he likes talking about addictions since he's a recovering alkie and smoker.

I can understand Vonnegut's reticence to talk about his habit. When you're a smoker, you latch onto fellows like him when one of those uncomfortable "why do you still smoke" conversations come up. You can say, "Hell, look at Vonnegut. He's 84 and smokes like a chimney!!"

I'd usually cite my mother, a smoker since she was a teen-ager, who lived to 83, and her mother, who lived til the ripe old age of 87.

But the thing about longtime smokers is, you rarely meet one who would encourage someone else, say, a young person, to take up the habit. Cause it's expensive, it's a pain in the ass to find a place to smoke these days, and it's definitely a health danger. Non-smokers find it offensive, it makes your clothes smell, and when you run outta cigs and are down to your last few coins, it's quite an unpleasant feeling, knowing you're not gonna feel "well" until you can score a pack. Sorta like being a heroin addict, I suppose.

Anyway, Vonnegut sounded genuinely surprised he was still alive and kicking. He lamented (facetiously, I guess) that cures for so many diseases had been discovered that so many older folks like himself were still around except for the one illness that gives people such as himself a graceful exit from this mortal coil -- namely, pneumonia, in which you basically go to sleep and don't wake up.

Now, after watching my mother die, I'm not sure pneumonia's such a great way to go. She was on a ventilator a couple weeks until they finally were able to take her off it. During the course of that treatment she had a major stroke, which is what eventually killed her.

She smoked up til that last few weeks of her life, so, like Vonnegut, she had a fairly long life for someone who smoked incessantly. 'Course, there are lots of smokers who weren't as fortunate. Which is I guess is why I'm doing this (quitting) again, as I figure I'd like to hang around as long as possible, if for no other reason than to see what happens down the road.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Banned (soon) in France, believe it or not!

To be French is to exude tobacco smoke and smells from your very pores, in more ways than one ...

"The word ``cigarette" is French – the diminutive of cigar. "Nicotine" comes from the name of Jean Nicot, a French ambassador who first shipped tobacco home from Portugal in the 16th century."

Even Pepe le Pew, the smooth-talkin Frenchy cartoon skunk, smoked after sex, did he not? Well, maybe not. If he didn't, I'll be he wanted to ...

But a new day has dawned. Or is about to, it says here.

New quit-smoking drug licensed in Scotland

Here it is, the 16th day of my new quit-smoking campaign, and there's word from Scotland about the licensing of a new drug called "Champix," which
provides relief from withdrawal symptoms by sending a neurological signal to nicotine receptors in the brain.

By stimulating these receptors, smokers are provided with relief from their cravings. However, the drug also partially blocks the same receptors, ensuring that if a patient relapses they will not receive the same level of pleasure from smoking a cigarette.

About 13,000 people die each year in Scotland because of tobacco use, the story says.

Friday, January 12, 2007

This no-smoking thing seems to be catching on

The Associated Press reports:
For the first time in the nation's history, with the November passage of initiatives in Nevada and Ohio, one of every two Americans lives in a place with laws to keep the workplace smoke-free.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Note from a fellow non-smoker

The missus and me used the patch. Two years ago I went from twenty years of a pack a day to zero.

The trick I've used to stay on the wagon? I keep repeating this:

Smoking cigarettes will kill you.

That helps me, hope it does you.

Rob Booth

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pelosi snuffs out smokin' in lobby

The days of smoke-filled rooms in the nation's capital are consigned to the ash tray of history, says the new Speaker of the House. (link)

Whoa, LBJ woulda been PISSED if he wasn't dead.

Remind 'em Bogart died of lung cancer

Nonsmoking kids who saw a large number of movies in which smoking was depicted were three times more likely to later pick up the habit than kids exposed to little on-screen smoking, a new study says.

Monday, January 8, 2007

A shocking disregard for the law

In Islamabad, smokers are flaunting the law that bans puffing on public transportation.

Badar Shukri said that he is hypersensitive to smoke and suffers from headaches all day whenever he is exposed to cigarette smoke. He regrets the times he has had to confront smokers traveling on a public transport vehicle and asked them to put out their cigarettes. “Smokers mostly give me a puckered brow and advise me not to argue and just get off,” Badar said.(link)

This makes me more determined than ever to "kick the habit"!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Day 7: an email from a non-smoking friend

OK, here it is, a week without smoking, and I have yet to commit a homicide, curse a young child or kick someone's pet.

Piece o' cake. Except for moments of thinking, "Hmm, right about now, I'd go out on the porch, light up a smoke and talk to the dogs."

The dogs have been getting less quality conversation time this past week than they're accustomed, but in time that will hopefully be compensated by more walking time (cause I know it's good to walk when combating smoker's anxiety.)

Anyway, a friend and former colleague at the now-defunct newspaper that was called "The Houston Post" sent a friendly email telling me not to get too hung up on counting the days of abstinence and not to "think too much" about the whole smoking cessation thing.

Here's what she said:
I quit smoking in 1991 (oh yes, a long time ago, when the Houston Post made it difficult to run out for a cig) and thought I'd weigh in. Well, it was easy for me to smoke that old wacky tabaccy stuff to compensate for my desire to actually puff on something. Worked pretty well. Still does. I'm thinking you're probably not into using that crutch. It might be kind of a blessing that you're sick, you're right, it will get you a couple days further away from cigs. That is how I started to quit, I got a (another) terrible cold.

Anyway, I never have smoked a cig since, and it's been almost 16 years. Here are a couple things I've kept in mind (or not) over the years:
- It helped me to not think how many days, or weeks, it had been. I just sort of let that the date I stopped drift into the past, and once in a while I'd think of it and realize how long it had been. Now I'm not even sure what the date was, though yours will be easier to remember.
- When you get a nic fit, instead of thinking about how uncomfortable it is, just let it course through your body like a wave and enjoy the ride.
- Of course, stay as far away from smokers as you can for a while. Don't even consider having "just one", because ...
- I read that a recent study said that people who quit cold turkey have the best success quitting.

Good luck, Turkey.

She's right. No wacky tobacky for me. That shit'll make you STUPID.

She sent me an addendum later that said:
In the last three or four years, I have started dreaming that I began
smoking again, and I'd wake up in horror, so angry at myself that I had
backslid into the shit. The dreams became more frequent before I moved back
home to Nameless Midwest City With Awesome and Enviable Baseball Dynasty,
where everyone smokes, and where I had smoked when I last lived here. But
that, too, has passed. And I have gone literally years at a time without the
desire to smoke a cigarette.

I haven't had any smoking dreams. It was nice to hear from an old friend who seemed genuinely interested in my latest foray into smoking cessation. People in general always are very supportive, except for smokers, who usually don't want to discuss the topic. I can understand that. The denial thing, that is.

If I don't post something tomorrow, look for something Monday, and feel free to email me any advice or smoking anecdotes to banjo.jones@gmail.com ... I'll happily withhold your name if you so desire.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Smokers pissed in W. Virginia

When you can't smoke in redneck West Virginia, there's definitely a trend afoot ...
Loren Wamsley puffed on his first cigarette at age 13. He's now 73.
The hard-nosed, razor-tongued Army veteran still smokes, but it's now illegal for him to light one up in his Winfield bar, Silkey's.

A smoking ban in all Putnam County bars went into effect Monday, leaving several business owners like Wamsley and bar patrons, smokers and even non-smokers, fuming over the new code.

Many businesses are complying, but some say they're going to fight to overturn the law someway, somehow.

"I fought to make this country free," Wamsley said. "Now you've got more freedoms in Russia. I've been smoking for 60 years and now they're telling me I can't smoke."

Wamsley became so enraged over discussing the new law he had to walk outside for a smoke.

So move to Russia, redneck!

As a newly minted nonsmoker (Day 6) I can be cavalier about such things. Hey-ooooooo.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Day 5, still alive

A new smoking ban has taken effect in Washington, D.C., but restaurant and bar patrons can still enjoy the comfort of a smoke-filled room by going over to Virginia, which has resisted jumping on the no-smoking bandwagon. (link)

Meanwhile, here I am at Day 5 of my new non-smoking regimen and I'm doing alright. I have either a cold or flu, so that naturally cuts down on the urge to inhale tobacco smoke and send nicotine to my nicotine-starved brain, so I guess a sterner test will come once this illness passes.

But so far so good.

A reader named Jim wrote in on The Brazosport News to alert us to this -- a downloadable program that helps newly abstaining smokers track their progress in money and more-days-above-ground saved.

Thanks, Jim.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Ford gave up pipe to encourage daughter to kick ciggies

Watching TV as President Jerry Ford's casket is being carried to the graveyard, there was one anecdote worth sharing on this blog devoted to kicking the smoking habit.

It seems President Ford, a longtime pipe smoker, was anxious for his only daughter, Susan, to give up her cigarette habit.

Ford told her that if she gave up ciggies, he's give up smoking his pipe.

She took him up on it and they both quit.

(Ford also gave up drinking to support his wife's abstinence from alcohol & painkillers after she went to rehab.)

My smoking daze, a brief history

I'm kinda unusual for a smoker. I didn't start til I was 27 years old.

Oh, I tried it a few times before that, even as a kid when I'd sneak one of my Mom's Winstons and smoke it surreptitiously. But it never took.

For some reason, it took when I was 27. I was married to my first wife at the time. A smoker. We were sitting on the couch, watching TV, when I grabbed her pack of Merit Menthol Ultra Lights.

She said don't do it.

I said I wanted to.

She said I'd regret it.

I said I wanted to.

It was off to the races after that.

I smoked up to three packs a day for a while. In those days you could smoke almost anywhere, including the newsroom.

I quit several times, sometimes for long stretches at a time.

This last relapse occurred some 4 years ago during a particularly troublesome time -- when I got fired by the Houston Chronicle for writing a blog under the pseudonym of Banjo Jones. I'd never been fired before. Not only that, but the media, from The Houston Press to The New York Times to American Journalism Review, was writing about it! Now that's pressure, so it was back to Smoke City for me. I'm not sure how it helped, but if you have a smoker's brain, you're convinced it does.

So now I'm quitting again, hopefully for good this time.


Fear of death, basically.

Oh, I'll die, just like all of you, I know that. But I may not die early of some dread disease like emphysema or lung cancer if I get rid of these cigs once and for all. But I could be wrong.

So far so good so far.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Carrot sticks

This chart says there should be no more nicotine in my body... yet I've come down with a cold. One of the websites says one may develop flu-like symptons upon quitting ciggies ...

Carrot sticks not only are tasty but can serve as handy substitute props for the cigs I no longer wave around. You can hold the carrots between thumb and forefinger, then, when down to the nub, flick it out in the lawn, gutter or some other public place not intended for trash -- just like you used to do with those butts! But, unlike those Marlboro filters that sit there for years, the carrot nubs are biodegradable!

Monday, January 1, 2007

All systems go

It's been 41 hours since my last smoke.

If I'm honest, I can say that I've suffered one "panic attack." I decided to go find some Halloweeen candy out in the garage that I just knew was sitting there waiting for me. But I couldn't find it. Then I asked my wife about some other candy that I knew about that was somewhere in the house. She said she threw it away a few days ago.

"You threw it away!"

"Yes, I threw it away."

"Why would you do that? That doesn't make any sense."

"If it helps you to yell at me, go ahead."

"No, it doesn't help. I just don't understand why you did that."

A text msg was sent to a neighbor, who had some Halloween candy left. I went over and got some and the panic attack passed.

OK, I blame myself for this. I should have been prepared with my own candy. So it's on me.

Other stuff I've been doing to compenate:

Drinking less coffee.
Drinking green tea.
Exercising (a little) when I get real "antsy" (this seems to distract the brain's cries for nicotine)
Drinking more water than normal (which is normally a very small amount)

I think I'll cut up some raw carrots for later today/tonight.