Selling Cigarettes by Selling Thinness

You might think the tobacco industry was in serious trouble. Public health campaigns to reduce smoking have resulted in cutting smoking rates in the U.S. from a peak over 60% in men and 40% in women to the current rate of around 20% (where, incidentally, it’s been stalled for several years). Government intervention has resulted in exposing deceitful practices designed to produce a more...
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Still Smoking After All These Years

Today’s New York Times ran a story by reporter Lizette Alvarez on “The Holdouts” – professionals who, in defiance of increasingly menacing health warnings, spend their breaks dashing to an elevator, descending to the concrete canyon below, trudging to an area that meets the minimum requirement of being at least 25 feet from the skyscraper where they work, however inclement the weather, in...
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Okay, What If You Gain Ten Pounds?

In Life After Cigarettes, I mentioned my one-time wish to create a website to which a woman smoker could upload a current photograph.  The idea was to use age-progression software—what the police use to visualize how someone who has been missing for several years might look now—to project two different outcomes: how she would look in ten or twenty years if she continued to smoke, vs how she...
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Light Smokers: Quit While You’re Ahead

On July 20, Jane E. Brody, in her New York Times column on Personal Health, gave a painful and moving account of her husband’s intractable addiction to cigarettes despite numerous efforts to quit. Although he finally succeeded at the age of 61, his 50 years of smoking eventually took their toll in the form of a decade of suffering from emphysema and finally death from lung cancer.  He...
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An Open Letter to Michelle Obama

Dear Michelle Obama, A New York Times article published on July 8 highlighted our national failure to reach “Healthy People 2010” goal of reducing high school smoking to 16%. The decline in smoking rates among high school students from 34.8% in 1995 to 21.9% in 2003 had led to earlier optimism that this trajectory would continue, but recently progress has stalled, with high school cigarette...
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Mother’s Day Musings

Today is Mother’s Day, the day we set aside to think about and honor our mothers, and to let them know how much we appreciate their love and devotion.  Two days from now, May 11, marks the 45th anniversary of my own mother’s death.  I miss her still.  I regard it as one of the tragedies of my life that just on the verge of forming an adult relationship with my mother, I lost the...
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Smoke-Free Michigan – Everybody Wins

Today – May 1, 2010 – my home state of Michigan becomes smoke-free, joining 38 other states that have already enacted some version of this policy.* Fittingly, the new measure is named for the late Dr. Ron Davis, a tireless supporter of this legislation and a friend to all who care about the public health. Rest in peace, Ron. For me, as for most nonsmokers, this change is cause to celebrate....
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Salt Worse than Smoking? Here We Go Again

You saw it on webmd.com – you know, the folks who pride themselves on “bring[ing] you the most objective, trustworthy, and accurate health information on the web. “ Cutting salt, shouts the headline, is “as good as quitting smoking.”  “Half a teaspoon less salt a day,” they continue, “would prevent 92,000 deaths, 99,000 heart attacks, 66,000 strokes.” Hmmm, you may be asking...
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Electronic Cigarettes

When I visit the Life After Cigarettes Facebook fan page, I sometimes see ads for electronic cigarettes.  Please be aware that I am not in any way endorsing these products. If you’re a Facebook user, you probably know from the ads that appear on your own wall that Facebook uses demographics and the contents of your messages to pair ads with posts.  If you mention your cat in an e-mail,...
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What Color Are Your Lungs?

No one on Facebook could have missed it – a rash of status reports saying “black,” “beige,” “nude,” “white (ho-hum),” and even “green with pink rosebuds.”  “Not telling,” said one friend. What was that about?  Well, somebody somewhere had fired off a message to a group of women friends asking them to post the color of their bra in their status box, all in the name of...
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