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Barack Obama failed to give a straight answer when asked on a Meet The Press yesterday whether he had managed to quit smoking.

The United States, where cigarettes are responsible for one in five deaths and smoking costs tens of billions of dollars in health care, The President elect has been under pressure to set an example by giving up his reported two-decade-old habit. Hard to believe that he is able to play basketball as well.

Interviewer Tom Brokaw told Mr Obama he was ducking answering the question.

Noting that the White House was a no-smoking zone, Brokaw asked Mr Obama, “Have you stopped smoking?”

“I have,” Mr Obama replied, smiling broadly. “What I said was that there are times where I have fallen off the wagon.”

“Wait a minute,” Brokaw interjected, “that means you haven’t stopped.”

“Fair enough,” Mr Obama said. “What I would say is that I have done a terrific job under the circumstances of making myself much healthier. You will not see any violations of these rules in the White House.”

Mr Obama was often observed on the presidential campaign trail chewing Nicorette gum, which helps ease the craving for nicotine. He has tried several times to quit.

The 47-year-old president-elect, who takes office on January 20, works out daily at the gym and sometimes plays basketball. His doctor said in May he was in excellent health, often jogged three miles a day and was fit to serve as US president.



Smokers with lung disease require more than brief smoking cessation interventions to successfully quit, researchers in the Oregon Health & Science University Smoking Cessation Center report.

Quitting smoking can be difficult for some and almost impossible for others. The reason — your genes — New research has found that a certain gene can make the difference as to whether or not someone will start smoking and then become addicted to the nicotine. In two studies featured in this month’s American Psychological Association’s journal of Health Psychology, researchers discovered that people carrying a particular version of the dopamine transporter gene are less likely to start smoking before the age of 16 and are more likely to be able to quit smoking if they start.In their article, ”Evidence Suggesting the Role of Specific Genetic Factors in Cigarette Smoking,” psychologist Caryn Lerman, Ph.D., of the Georgetown University Medical Center and her co-authors demonstrated for the first time that a link exists between smoking behavior and the dopamine transporter gene. In their study of 289 smokers and 233 nonsmokers, they found that individuals with a that specific genotype were less likely to be smokers than individuals without that gene. Furthermore, those with that gene started smoking later and were able to quit for longer periods oftime than other smokers.

Although many smokers attempt to quit at some point in their lives, only 20 percent actually succeed in quitting, say researchers. In their article, ”A Genetic Association for Cigarette Smoking Behavior,’‘ Dean H. Hamer, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute and colleagues found from examining 1,107 nonsmokers, current smokers and former smokers that the above mentioned gene was associated with certain personality characteristics that influenced a person’s susceptibility of being able to start and stop smoking.

A person with that genotype was found to have lower novelty seeking traits than a person without this genotype, according to the study. And because novelty seeking has been associated with a desire to smoke, said Dr. Hamer, ”a low level of novelty seeking could be a predictor of smoking cessation. Indeed, average novelty seeking scores were found to be significantly lower in former smokers than in current smokers. Those with low levels of novelty seeking have an easier time giving up cigarettes than those with high levels of novelty seeking.”

”We found that individuals who have the SLC6A3-9 gene were one and a half times more likely to have quit smoking than individuals lacking this gene,” said Dr. Hamer. ”However,” he cautioned that, ”the SLC6A3-9 gene is not a strict determinant of the ability to quit smoking, but rather an influence on an individual’s general need and responsiveness to external stimuli, of which cigarette smoking is but one example. Hopefully, with more of an understanding of the genetics of cigarette smoking behavior, we can develop more effective, targeted pharmacological and psychoeducational cessation strategies that will take these individual differences into account.”


I wonder if this latest news was created by Big Tobacco?

A study by an award-winning cancer expert shows that cell phone use could kill more people than smoking, it is reported.

According to the U.K.’s Independent newspaper, the study, headed by Dr. Vini Khurana, shows that there is a growing body of evidence that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer.

Khurana — one of the world’s top neurosurgeons — based his assessment on the fact that three billion people now use the phones worldwide. That is three times higher than people who smoke. Smoking kills some five million globally each year.

He warned that people should avoid using handsets whenever possible and called on the phone industry to make them safer. France and Germany have already warned against the use of mobile phones, especially by children, it is reported.

The study is said to be the most damning indictment of cell phone use. According to the Independent, cancers take at least 10 years to develop, which has influenced earlier cancer studies showing relative safety when using cell phones.


“Earlier this year, the French government warned against the use of mobile phones, especially by children. Germany also advises its people to minimise handset use, and the European Environment Agency has called for exposures to be reduced.

Professor Khurana – a top neurosurgeon who has received 14 awards over the past 16 years, has published more than three dozen scientific papers – reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of mobile phones. He has put the results on a brain surgery website, and a paper based on the research is currently being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.

He admits that mobiles can save lives in emergencies, but concludes that “there is a significant and increasing body of evidence for a link between mobile phone usage and certain brain tumours”. He believes this will be “definitively proven” in the next decade.

Noting that malignant brain tumours represent “a life-ending diagnosis”, he adds: “We are currently experiencing a reactively unchecked and dangerous situation.” He fears that “unless the industry and governments take immediate and decisive steps”, the incidence of malignant brain tumours and associated death rate will be observed to rise globally within a decade from now, by which time it may be far too late to intervene medically.

“It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking,” says Professor Khurana, who told the IoS his assessment is partly based on the fact that three billion people now use the phones worldwide, three times as many as smoke. Smoking kills some five million worldwide each year, and exposure to asbestos is responsible for as many deaths in Britain as road accidents.

Late last week, the Mobile Operators Association dismissed Khurana’s study as “a selective discussion of scientific literature by one individual”. It believes he “does not present a balanced analysis” of the published science, and “reaches opposite conclusions to the WHO and more than 30 other independent expert scientific reviews”.

Reading news like this almost gives smokers a new reason to keep smoking. Or better yet, why don’t they just smoke and talk on their cell phones at the same time?

Despite the well-known dangers of tobacco, more than a billion people worldwide still smoke cigarettes. On Thursday, in its first report on global tobacco use and control efforts, the World Health Organization helped shed light on why the number of smokers remains so high. Though tobacco is the world’s leading preventable cause of death—killing an estimated 5.4 million people a year (more than tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined)—the WHO report found that, while 152 countries have pledged to implement recommended tobacco-control policies, only a handful have taken strong action already. Governments around the world still take in, on average, more than 500 times as much from tobacco taxes as they spend on tobacco control.

—can governments help turn the tide?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

HARRISBURG — In his 27 years working in Atlantic City casinos, Vinnie Rennich developed lung cancer and a passion for protecting casino workers from the dangers of second-hand smoke, which was everywhere.

His cancer now seems to be arrested, but he had to have part of one lung removed, he told a House-Senate conference committee yesterday that is working on legislation to ban smoking in most public places in Pennsylvania.

He also got fired by his casino after he filed a lawsuit last year alleging negligence toward workers and testified at the New Jersey capital of Trenton that 100 percent of a casino floor should be smoke-free.

Currently, 25 percent of a New Jersey casino floor may allow cigarette smoking, he said yesterday, but the smoke often drifts across onto the nonsmoking section, so the limit of 25 percent isn’t effective.

“Every worker,” in clubs, bars, restaurants, taverns and casinos, “has the right to be protected from second-hand smoke,” he said.

While casinos often say they will lose business if smoking is banned completely — because gamblers will find a casino in another state to gamble in — Mr. Rennich contended that smoke-free legislation “is not an economic issue. It’s a health issue.”

He testified at the first of two hearings being held this week by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, one of the six House-Senate conferees trying to write a smoke-free bill that can win approval from both the House and the Senate.

After a second hearing is held on Thursday, the committee will meet privately for two weeks and then, Mr. Greenleaf hopes, adopt its version of a smoking ban bill on March 31.

He’s hoping for approval of Senate Bill 246 by the full Senate and House by the end of April, but other legislators, looking at the complexity and controversial nature of the issue, think it will take longer.

“As scientific evidence continues to demonstrate the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, and the public grows increasingly supportive, each year we see additional cities, states and nations move to limit smoking in public places,” he said.

State Health Secretary Calvin B. Johnson said 22 states have enacted smoke-free laws, including many bordering Pennsylvania, such as New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. He said there are numerous studies linking secondhand smoke with illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

Three major issues remain before a compromise bill can be reached, however:

• Should all public places be declared smoke-free, or should some smaller taverns, private clubs and casinos at least be allowed to have smoking sections?

• Will the Legislature allow towns and counties to enact their own tougher smoking bans, even after Senate Bill 246 becomes law, or will the state pre-empt localities from having their own bans? Currently, only the state can enact legislation, which is why Allegheny County’s ban got knocked out last year. Philadelphia is the only city by law now allowed to have its own smoking ban, and it does.

• Who will enforce the ban — counties, towns or the state? Only a few larger counties have health departments, said Lebanon County Commissioner Larry Stohler, and there will be an added cost for counties to crack down on bars that continue to allow smoking, if all smoking is banned.

If city or county health departments enforce the ban, they should be allowed to keep all the fines they impose, he argued.

If county health departments don’t enforce a ban, then some state agency, perhaps the Department of Health, should do it.

Even if a ban is enacted, it may not take effect for 180 days to give authorities time to decide who will enforce it.

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