Netherlands: Total ban on smoking in cafes and bars delayed by three months‏

Plans to reinstate the smoking ban in bars and cafes across the entire hospitality industry in July will not be achieved, junior health minister Martin van Rijn has confirmed.

'In practical terms, it will be very difficult to make it by July 2014,' Van Rijn told MPs. The delay has been caused by the slow processing of the legislation through parliament.

'We are ready to do so and café and bar owners know it is coming,' the minister said. 'I will try and implement it as soon as possible, perhaps by October.'

Study: Even casual pot use causes brain abnormalities

© Shutterstock
Even casual use of marijuana can cause significant abnormalities in two areas of the brain that regulate emotion and motivation, according to a new study.

The findings, published Wednesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, challenge the idea that casual pot smoking is relatively harmless, researchers said.

The study, which was conducted by Northwestern Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and funded in part by anti-drug government agencies, found major abnormalities directly related to the amount of weed smoked each week.

"Some of these people only used marijuana to get high once or twice a week," said the study's co-author, Dr. Hans Breiter. "People think a little recreational use shouldn't cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says this is not the case."

Inside New York City's cigarette smuggling industry


More than 900 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized at a warehouse in the Bronx. Photo: New York Department of Taxation and Finance
Ask for cigarettes at one bodega in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and the owner will open a small drawer behind the counter and pull out your pack of Marlboros, Parliaments or American Spirits.

Why not keep the cigarettes on display? Because the bodega owner -- who asked not to be identified -- didn't buy these cigarettes for the legal price in New York, where high taxes on tobacco have fueled a multimillion-dollar tobacco smuggling industry.

"Every store in Brooklyn," the bodega owner said, buys cigarettes from someone who travels down South to states with lower cigarette taxes. In places like Virginia, North Carolina and Delaware, they'll buy cartons containing 10 packs of cigarettes for around $48 a pop, then come back to New York, where local stores will buy them around $55.

"My guy has 100 different businesses he sells to," the bodega owner said, gesturing across the street at a Chinese restaurant, a laundromat and a barbershop. "All three of those stores buy and sell smuggled cigarettes too," he said.

New Hampshire smokers lose Obamacare coverage over 'technical glitch'

After signing up for coverage and disclosing they were smokers, about 100 New Hampshire consumers, including Terry Wetherby, find their new Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield policies canceled because they were charged incorrect "non-smoker" rates.
© Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Image
Retired New Hampshire nurse Terry Wetherby doesn't hide the fact that she smokes.

She checked the box on saying she uses tobacco and fully expected to pay more for her insurance policy under the Affordable Care Act. "It's not a secret at all," she said.

Wetherby dutifully paid the premium Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield charged her for January and again for February - and believed she had coverage effective on Jan. 1.

Then when Wetherby went to pay her March premium, she was told she couldn't. A check arrived in the mail refunding her February premium with a two-word explanation: "Contract cancelled."

Turns out, Wetherby was among about 100 smokers in New Hampshire caught up in a "technical glitch" that caused them to lose their new health insurance policies because they had been mistakenly charged non-smoking rates, according to the New Hampshire Department of Insurance.

It is unclear if the error affected smokers in other states served by Anthem.

Beneficial tobacco: Monoclonal antibodies derived from tobacco thwart West Nile virus

ASU researchers Qiang "Shawn " Chen and Huafang "Lily " Lai infiltrate a tobacco plant to produce monoclonal antibodies against West Nile virus.
An international research group led by Arizona State University professor Qiang "Shawn" Chen has developed a new generation of potentially safer and more cost-effective therapeutics against West Nile virus, and other pathogens.

The therapeutics, known as monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) and their derivatives, were shown to neutralize and protect mice against a lethal dose challenge of West Nile virus---even as late as 4 days after the initial infection.

"The overarching goal of our research is to create an innovative, yet sustainable and accessible, low cost solution to combat the global threat of West Nile virus," said Chen, a researcher at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute and professor in the Department of TEIM.

West Nile virus is spread by infected mosquitoes, and targets the central nervous system. It can be a serious, life-altering and even fatal disease and currently, there is no cure or drug treatment against West Nile virus, which has been widely spread across the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Let 'em smoke! Why mentally ill people should get e-cigs

mental patient

Cheswick only got his cigs because Jack Nicholson was there to grab ‘em for him

"I want my cigarettes, I want my cigarettes, I want my cigarettes," Charlie Cheswick, an enraged patient in a mental hospital, screams at the sadistically indifferent Nurse Ratched in the classic film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. After several heartbreaking minutes, Jack Nicholson's character, Randle P. McMurphy, breaks a window at the nursing station, grabs a carton of Marlboros and hands it to his deeply relieved comrade.

The history of psychiatric hospitals is one of abuse, neglect and copious amounts of cigarette smoking. Until the 1970s, hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people were warehoused for decades in state mental asylums. There was typically little to do, and going to the supervised smoking room every 15 minutes became an "activity" to break the tedium. Cigarettes rewarded compliant behavior or were taken away to punish noncompliance. The scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest played out daily in hospitals nationwide.

Comment: Give the 'mentally ill' a break. After all, they need something to counteract the zombie-fying effects of antipsychotic medicines.

For more on the benefits of smoking (ideally organic or additive free natural tobacco) see:

5 Health Benefits of Smoking

Health Benefits of Smoking Tobacco

Nicotine Benefits


California again leads the way in anti-smoking laws: San Mateo County proposes banning people from smoking in their own homes

Smoking inside apartments, condominiums and other multiple housing units soon may be a no-no in unincorporated San Mateo County.

Following a study session discussion that touched on the evils of second-hand smoke, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday directed staff to return with a proposed smoking ban by this summer.

A draft of the potential ordinance already had been outlined in a March 7 memo by Health System Chief Jean Fraser and Family Services Director Brian Zamora to the board.

The proposed ban on indoor smoking was suggested by Supervisors Carole Groom and Adrienne Tissier and drew the support of their board colleagues.

"I'm pleased that we're going to look at it," Tissier said. "Having grown up with a smoker in the family and subjected to second-hand smoke, it would be a pleasure not to have that done to others."

During the meeting, Stanford researcher Neil Klepeis explained how cigarette smoke drifts between housing units through vents, ducts, cracks and gaps. A person living next door to a smoker is exposed to high levels of smoke particles, he said.

Fascist West: Ireland follows Britain with smoking ban in people's own cars

© Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Legislation to ban smoking in cars where children are present will be ready in the next number of weeks, Minister for Health James Reilly said today.
Legislation to ban smoking in cars where children are present will be ready in the "next number of weeks", Minister for Health James Reilly said today.

There were "major difficulties" in preparing the legislation because of the many departments involved and a "whole host of issues" which had not been foreseen.

"One last issue" to be resolved was a "finer legal point" which the Attorney General was dealing with, he said. "I think they are nearly there and I look forward to it very shortly".

Doctors, not drug dealers, are responsible for heroin boom

prescription bottle
© Jonny Ashcroft

In 2010, a dentist extracted my wisdom teeth, told me to gargle with salt water, and sent me home with a prescription for a Costco-sized bottle of hydrocodone pills. During the procedure, she knocked me out with propofol - the same drug that killed Michael Jackson - and afterward I felt no pain. After a few hours, I popped one hydrocodone, more out of politeness than need. Weeks later, I still felt fine, but I popped two more, just to see what it was like. Hydrocodone's dreamy, pain-dulling effect was impressive: I bit my cheek hard enough to draw blood, and it didn't hurt at all. But the pills made me woozy. I then put the remaining 57 or so of them into my medicine cabinet, and I have no idea what happened to them after that. Lost in a move, I guess.

Heroin epidemics don't come and go randomly, like the McRib. They have clearly identifiable causes - and in this case, by far the largest cause is doctor-prescribed pills. Every year since 2007, doctors have written more than 200 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers. (Consider that there are 240 million adults in the country.) And about four in five new heroin addicts report that they got addicted to prescription pills before they ever took heroin.

University of Pennsylvania neuroscientists: Quitting smoking weakens brain network connectivity

"Oh yeh? Tell me somethin' I don't already know."
Less than a third of smokers are able to go a full year without a cigarette, even when they're getting help from a nicotine patch or gum. But why is giving up the habit so tough?

Research published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry by neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that it has to do with how well certain brain networks interact during withdrawal.

"The brain is very active at rest, and so we were able to look at changes in that activity at rest in the brain and, importantly, the connections between large-scale brain networks and how those connections become stronger or weaker when people quit smoking," said Caryn Lerman, director of the Brain and Behavior Change Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Lead author of the latest study, she used functional magnetic resonance imaging to detect brain activity in daily smokers.

So, let's see if we've got this straight.

They're telling people to quit smoking, then instructing them to engage in cognitive exercises to try and restore the neural connectivity levels they lost because they quit smoking.
HEL-LO, is there anybody home?!
Obviously, the 'withdrawal' phase with concomitant breakdown of previously stronger brain networks is trying to tell these scientists something!

Can anyone guess what that something might be?...