Quit spreading germs – and rumors.
Maybe mom wasn’t always right.
Maybe mom wasn’t always right.
On Wednesday, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will ban smoking in all of the nation’s 1.2 million public housing units. HUD Secretary Julián Castro said his main concern is cutting down on the dangers of secondhand smoke: “We have a responsibility to protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, especially the elderly and children who suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases.”
One major problem with this policy is it seems to single out low-income people for a problem that is universal — secondhand smoke can kill anyone who’s around it. While HUD’s jurisdiction is limited to public housing, the criticism is fair.
But there’s an easy solution to that: Indoor smoking should be banned everywhere — inside bars, restaurants, your home. Full stop. Smoking remains an enormous public health problem, and smoking bans actually do work to curtail the detrimental effects of one of the world’s most dangerous habits.
Although it gets considerably less press than it previously did, smoking remains a huge threat to public health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent data, smoking kills 480,000 people each year. Secondhand smoke alone kills nearly 42,000 people. To put that in perspective, that’s around 8,000 more people than die to either car crashes or gun violence.
So we’re clearly dealing with a major public health crisis. And the research shows that smoking bans can help, particularly with eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke.
In Florida, law enforcement officials said the drug led a man to run naked through a neighborhood, try to have sex with a tree, and claim to be the mythical god Thor. In New York State, a local agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration called the drug “rat poison.” That drug is flakka, the synthetic drug reportedly linked to deranged behavior in several states around the country — and at the center of the latest drug hysteria.
“It actually starts to rewire the brain chemistry. They have no control over their thoughts. They can’t control their actions,” Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Fort Lauderdale, told the Associated Press. “It seems to be universal that they think someone is chasing them. It’s just a dangerous, dangerous drug.”
But these assertions are unfounded to the people who study new psychoactive drugs, which have been increasingly synthesized by chemists in secretive labs over the past few years. Bryce Pardo, a drug policy expert at the University of Maryland (UMD), said, “I scratch my head at these [claims]. … How do you figure? Because no one has actually established the harms.”
Peter Reuter, another UMD drug policy expert who’s co-writing a paper on synthetic drugs with Pardo, said the media often exaggerates the risks of new drugs. “It is well-known that every new drug is the most dangerous drug that ever came along,” he joked. “This is a fear of the unknown. I’m sure a lot of these are nasty drugs, but nastier than methamphetamine? That’s a high standard.” He added, “These tend to be niche drugs that fade away pretty quickly.”
Warranted or not, the public concern is very real. It seems like six months no longer go by without the media highlighting new fears about an exotic drug that could make us all crazy. Just a couple of years ago, the media drummed up concerns about new psychoactive substances when a man, who turned out to not be on synthetic drugs, allegedly tried to eat someone’s face while on bath salts. And synthetic marijuana — also known as “spice” — has reportedly contributed to a rise in emergency room visits and poisonings, according to the New York Times’s Alan Schwarz.
Part of that is rooted in the fact that different synthetic drugs are coming out more often as chemists use new techniques and sophisticated computer models to craft substances. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, which tracks these drugs, has found a steady rise in new psychoactive substances over the past decade:
Dozens of new substances are introduced into the market every year. Most of them come and go without any media attention. But when a drug like flakka, which is apparently cheap and easily attainable, allegedly leads to some erratic behavior in a state like Florida or New York, the media quickly jumps on it.
White middle-aged Americans are dying at an increasing rate, a new analysis of government data shows, a startling turnaround suggesting a rising toll of addiction and mental-health issues is reversing decades of gains in longevity.
Suicides, alcohol and drug overdoses, and death from chronic liver diseases largely drove the reversal, which occurred between 1999 and 2013, according to the analysispublished Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The turnaround occurred primarily among men and women between the ages of 45 and 54 with no more than a high-school education, but rates of those causes of death rose for wealthier middle-aged whites as well as whites in other age groups, according to the study.
By contrast, death rates declined for blacks and Hispanics in that age group over the same period, the study found.
No other rich country has experienced a similar turnaround in mortality rates, said the authors, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who are economics professors at Princeton University. Mr. Deaton won the Nobel Prize in economics this year for work that has involved improving the rigor of data on consumption, poverty, health and other measures that underpin public policy.
The findings reveal an under-examined public health crisis and illustrate tragic ways in which many people are responding to physical and mental pain, adversity and changing life situations, the researchers say. The behaviors they have turned to—drinking, drugs and suicide—are so widespread that they have offset declines in other major causes of death in midlife, such as lung cancer, according to the study.
“What we see here is a group that’s in quite a lot of distress,” said Ms. Case, an expert in development and health economics.
Dozens of Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon are temporarily closing due to an outbreak of E. coli. Health officials have linked 19 cases in Washington and three in Oregon to Chipotles in those states. Eight people have been hospitalized: Seven from Washington, one from Oregon.
According to the Washington State Department of Health, though the outbreak appears to be connected to food served at Chipotle, the specific source of contamination has yet to be determined and is still under investigation. The restaurants have closed voluntarily while awaiting updated information.
In a statement, State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist implored anyone who thinks they may have fallen sick from eating at Chipotle within the past three weeks should consult a healthcare provider, particularly “the elderly and very young children,” who “are more likely to become severely ill from this kind of E. coli infection.”
The investigation is being conducted by local and state health officials along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Washington State Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.