Two Hat-Tips and an Oddity

H/T Harley for news that NYC’s smoking rates are moving back up.

Via the Daily News, the increase in smokers has come about in part because while the city’s campaign was effective at getting heavy and long-term smokers to quit, it failed to target the kind of people who only smoke when they drink and never buy packs themselves but instead subsist by bumming the occasional smoke off someone else. In other words, the kind of people who make up literally 90% of the people I know. Because, seriously, even without this official data, it’s been pretty clear anecdotally that more and more people are sneaking (or, actually, not even sneaking) a cigarette or two or three a day without developing a full-blown pack-a-day habit.

I suppose it’s not too surprising after the departure of Mayor Michael Bloomberg – like a sofa recovering its shape after a fat man gets up off it. But the downside of it is that they’re probably bumming their smokes off Walt and MikeF. From NY Daily News:

Smoking rate inching back up in NYC; 16.1% now identify as smokers

The rate had hit a low of 14% in 2010 under Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The latest rate, which is based on 2013 figures, raises the number of smokers to more than 1 million for the first time since 2007. Health officials blame the spike on several factors, including the city slashing its tobacco control budget.

But is it “inching” back up? NYC adult (over 18) population in 2010 was 6,409,306, and 14% of that gives 897,302 smokers.  By 2013 adult population had risen to 6,590,176, and 16.1% of that is 1,061,018 smokers. So the ratio of the population of smokers in 2013 to the population of smokers in 2010 is 1.1825. That means that there’s been an increase of over 18% in the number of NYC smokers in just 3 years.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that a smoking epidemic has broken out in NYC.

Speaking of which, H/T Brigitte, who’s discovered that Romano Grieshaber was making the very same comparison between the ebola epidemic and the “tobacco epidemic” that I was making yesterday. She is promising to translate it into English.

And finally a rather odd thing that happened to me this morning.

I keep several of my mother’s framed oil paintings in my flat. They were all painted in Brazil about 50 years ago, and they serve as a reminder both of her and of Brazil. They’re also quite nice pictures. She had her own distinct style.

And this morning when I woke up, I found myself looking at one of them, on the wall opposite my bed. It was of  a little house by the sea, with a few fishermen among boats pulled up on a beach, with the sea behind them, and distant blue mountains on the horizon. I pass the picture every day without noticing it, but today I examined it more closely.

Most likely my parents had stopped off near this place on the coast, and my mother had got out her oil paints and started sketching. And then taken the sketch back home to Rio de Janeiro to complete it. That was the way she painted. And I wondered whether the tree on the left had been a late addition, and wasn’t actually present on the scene, because it looked like the sort of tree my mother drew when she imagined trees. She was perfectly capable of embellishing her pictures with trees that hadn’t actually been there.

After a while spent looking closely at the painting, I got up and made some tea, still thinking about my mother (which I don’t do very often). I blearily wondered what day it was and whether there was anything I was planning to do, or that needed to be done. And this was when I realised, with a shock, that it was 17 September 2014.

Which happens to be my mother’s birthday.

And I also quickly realised that if she had still been alive it would have been a very notable birthday indeed – because she would have been exactly 100 years old.

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18 Responses to Two Hat-Tips and an Oddity

  1. Some other Tom says:

    Happy birthday to your mother! As for the smoking rates going up…. I’ve always thought that the whole concept of ‘social smokers’ throws a complete wrench in the gears of the mechanism claiming that smoking (or nicotine) is more addictive than heroin… Which is it? If people can literally pick and choose times and places they smoke and are not ‘addicts’ than it clearly cannot be equated with heroin or opiate addiction of even thought of in the same light…

    That’s the fun thing about lies, I suppose, eventually you have to contradict yourself, and the more you tell, the more you have to create until no one can plausibly believe any of them… Lovely

    • Some French bloke says:

      “[lies] the more you tell, the more you have to create until no one can plausibly believe any of them”

      In spite of that, the Big Lie as regards smoking and lung cancer (from 1947 to 2014!) is taking an excrutiatingly long time to die out!

      “a smoking epidemic has broken out in NYC.”

      Furthermore, given that temperatures during the City’s long Winters usually hover below freezing, anyone should agree that, for *obvious* pulmonary health reasons, NYC foxy smokers should never be exiled to the outdoors:

  2. waltc says:

    Not to get too Freudian but I think we do subconsciously remember deathdays as well as birthdays. Years after the fact I would find myself unaccountably sad on May 25 and then later remember it was the long-before date of my father’s death.

    On the topic: I suspect everything the DOH/ CDC says. To start with, I doubt that the smoking rate was ever as low as 14%; it’s just that as time went by a larger % of people lied to interrogators and continue to lie, as they now lie to doctors and on medical forms. The “denormalization” has just driven most smokers underground and made them wary of Public Health (as well they should be). Further, attempting to measure # of smokers by # of cgts sold in the city would be futile since, as we know, over 50% are black market. Then, too, they’ve expanded the definition of “smoker” to include the once a week bummers who a) would be most likely to say/ have said that they “don’t smoke” and b) were they suddenly honest, would then suddenly swell the numbers and indicate a false uptick. I think the whole thing is just part of a TC strategy to get more money for itself. Look! A crisis! Considering that the rate not that long ago was about 30% and earlier about 50%, I’d hardly call 16% a problem.

    As for bumming them from me, on occasion, and always to real smokers who’ve temporarily run out, I’ll give but if I sense it’s a part-timer who’s in denial about smoking and who likely agrees, at least fashionably, that it’s a “dirty habit” and that the air in bars is now “so much nicer,” I tell them to buy their own.

    • prog says:

      The bummers and other occasional smokers contradict TC’s claim that nicotine is highly addictive. That’s why they keep quiet about them. Same for most cigar smokers

    • roobeedoo2 says:

      25th May is my birthday. It’s also Towel Day:

    • Some French bloke says:

      “as time went by a larger % of people lied to interrogators and continue to lie”

      The new concept of ‘social non-smoking’ would sound like an appropriate description of the phenomenon. Most probably, people simply adjust their responses according to the varying circumstances, medical or otherwise, e.g. from routine check-ups to the more stressful situations. Possibly, then, the high percentage of smokers (between 40 and 50 %) reported to be organ donors, notably in cases of double lung transplants, could be considered a reasonably accurate reflection of a given country’s smoking rates.
      And as for smoking doctors, they’re evidently under enormous pressure to ‘lie to themselves’, and to each other, and I’m doubting whether the smoking prevalence among US doctors really is, as I remember reading somewhere, down to less than three percent.

  3. carol2000 says:

    I’ve been trying to find out if the EPA has a research funding search page like the NIH’s page. Apparently not. This unhelpful response is all I got:
    We have responded to your inquiry.

    Thank you for your patience while we have been researching your question.

    To satisfy your request, we ask that you submit a Freedom of Information Act request through EPA’s FOIA Online database webpage. The link is provided link below. This direct link will let you sign up for an account as well as submit a request. Signing up for an account will also allow you to track the request during the process.

    Again, thank you for your patience and we hope this information will be helpful to you.
    The “Freedom Of Information Act” request is where they take their sweet time about responding, and maybe it’s complete or maybe it’s not.

  4. harleyrider1978 says:

    Ive been learning more about internal Scotland in the last 2 days than I ever cared to know!

    They say its pretty much a leftist leaning country or a welfare state. Its only source of real income is from the big banks there and north sea oil and gas. I don’t no how much of that is all true but I suppose it is. When the oil runs out what then another Bolivia…………..We all know the leftist economic agenda doesn’t work and they will only destroy whats left of it in short order then massive cutbacks of government services like welfare and NHS services if it even survives.

    But then maybe Scotland just might get it right and get back to basics with a clean slate.

    Create an atmosphere of work so business will come there………..But I doubt it when these folks vote they vote for free stuff not the right to work but for the demand of government to provide for them………

    That’s not to say they all think that way for I truly don’t know but from the way its been preached on the telly the scots are all welfare queens for the lib dem party!

    • Rose says:

      Harley, well we should know better than most that we see written about us in the newspapers or broadcast on TV is often very far from the truth.
      It all depends which angle the report is coming from and where it is being reported upon.

      Might be a good idea to make some popcorn though, it could get interesting.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Ya I agree American TV is really beginning to cover this Scottish Independence vote now and the accusations and fear mongering are flying everywhere…………

        I have no idea what Scotlands politics are Ive never been there. I have been to London a few times while in the Navy but they were just lay overs at heathrowe and one weekend so that’s not even fair to make opinions on.

        • harleyrider1978 says:


          That this is so reflects horribly badly on the “No” campaign which has been run with such ineptitude and complacency that it wasn’t until a fortnight ago that it woke up to the possibility that it might lose an argument it had long lazily accepted it would win hands down.

          But it hardly speaks better for the ugly campaign conducted by the “Yes” lobby. While it may be true that in psephelogical terms it has been tremendously successful, in moral terms it has been unconscionable. Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party have run a campaign on a prospectus so riddled with lies, exaggerations and half-truths that if this were business or finance rather than politics they would all likely be serving jail sentences.

          And that’s before you even get on to the sheer nastiness, the bullying and aggressive nationalism with which they have conducted it: the veiled threats to Scottish institutions (from business to academe) tempted to speak out for the “No” vote; the harrying of everyone from journalists such as the BBC’s Nick Robinson to prominent Scots such as author JK Rowling (monstered on Twitter for daring to speak up for the Union); the graffiti and bricks-through-windows; the rent-a-mobs more redolent of, say, Venezuela under Chavez than of the birthplace of the European Enlightenment

        • Rose says:

          Harley, the people no one is asking is the English.
          If the majority didn’t know about it before, they know about it now.

          For your further perusal.

          The Barnett Formula

          My funding formula for Scotland is a ‘terrible mistake’, Lord Barnett admits – Labour

          “Lord Barnett says his formula, which gives Scotland higher levels of funding has become a ‘national embarrassment’, should be scrapped”

          “The formula was introduced in 1978 when Lord Barnett was a member of the Callaghan government, and was originally intended to be used for a “year or two”.

          The West Lothian Question.

          What is the West Lothian question and why does it matter?

          “When Scotland and Wales won devolution in 1999, English Tory MPs were aggrieved that Labour could – until its defeat at the 2010 election – rely on scores of Scottish and Welsh MPs to push through unpopular England-only measures at Westminster.

          It rarely mattered, since Labour’s majority in England was usually large enough. There were two incidents when loyal Scottish and Welsh Labour MPs were needed to vote through Labour government policies because so many of their English colleagues rebelled.

          In a vote to set up foundation trusts in the English NHS, Blair’s majority was cut to 35 because many English Labour MPs rebelled or failed to vote; Blair needed 67 Scottish and Welsh MPs to push the trusts through. Blair needed similar levels of loyalty in January 2004 to introduce tuition fees, a policy firmly rejected in Scotland.”

          Smoking out the big question – 2005

          “Health campaigners are furious that – thanks to what they see as a classic government fudge – English pubs could soon be the last refuge for smokers in the UK.”

          “But what is really getting up the nose of some MPs – apart from the smell of stale cigarette smoke – is that the architect of this policy, former health secretary John Reid, represents a Scottish constituency, Airdrie and Shotts.

          “John Reid’s constituents are going to get comprehensive protection against secondary smoke on 26 March next year but he’s telling me that people in the Rother Valley are going to have a lesser one and I find that very difficult to accept and many other Labour backbenchers do as well,” fumed Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron, who chairs the Commons health select committee.

          Some Labour MPs are even threatening to rebel against the smoking bill in an attempt to prevent it becoming law.

          Two Labour backbenchers, David Taylor and Lynne Jones, who want a complete ban, have tabled a Commons motion, calling for MPs to be given a free vote on the issue.

          Awkward question

          But at least one Old Labour firebrand is permitting himself a wry smile at the unfolding row.

          “It is the West Lothian question in excelsis,” says Tam Dalyell.

          The former Linlithgow MP and father of the House of Commons, who stood down at this year’s general election, made a career out of asking awkward questions.

          And the West Lothian question, with which he became synonymous, was possibly the most awkward of all – namely how was it right after devolution that a MP representing a Scottish constituency could continue to be allowed to vote on issues affecting just England?

          “It is absolutely extraordinary; indefensible. It makes a mockery of accountability,” says Mr Dalyell”
          http: //

          If Scotland became independant.

          How would the parties be affected?

          “Based on the 2010 election, Labour, which won 41 Scottish seats, would be the hardest hit, followed by the Liberal Democrats, who took 11. The Conservatives would lose only one seat. Meanwhile, the SNP would lose all six of its Westminster MPs.”

          “All other things – that is, the situation in the rest of the UK – being the same, yes. Rather than having to form a coalition with the Lib Dems, David Cameron would have had a majority of 21 seats in the Commons, according to the BBC’s Political Research Unit.”
          http: //

          So you can see that Labour MP’s fervent campaigning for a NO vote, may not be entirely altruistic and Cameron may not want to go down in history as the PM who lost Scotland.

  5. carol2000 says:

    Elizabeth Whelan of the American Council on Science and Health died.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Thanks Carol for putting that up she fought but still accepted to much of the Nazis claims.

      Still admirer her for what she did do though during the dark times………

  6. Manfred says:

    Stats on smoking are fundamentally unreliable – over reported by the zealots and GP practices (because their life-style ‘management’ is often linked, amongst other things to remuneration ie. reporting a patients smoking status to the MOH) and because of under-reporting by those that enjoy, knowing they will be viciously excoriated. Not dissimilar from alcohol consumption, the professional assumption is that everyone understates. In the meantime, as a health professional I have encountered young university students, having just returned from a gasper with the associated obvious perfume, and asked, ‘so you’re a smoker?’, they reply, ‘oh no, I’m not a smoker, not me. It’s just a hobby, a recreational past time’. Wry smile.

  7. jaxthefirst says:

    “Which happens to be my mother’s birthday.

    Oo-er, Frank! All a bit “twilight zone” don’t you think??

  8. Marie says:

    I am very moved by your story about your mother, Frank. To have a mother, who did painting (which I do myself) must be very inspiriting. My own mother used to be a great reader, now she can’t read anymore. Next week, 24. September, we are going to celebrate her 101 years birthday. She is still alive.

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