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anti smoking

5/25/12 4:11pm

Indonesian Child Smokers Spark Lawsuit


Indonesia has the world's highest percentage
of child smokers. Photo via

Anti-smoking advocates in Indonesia plan to file a class action lawsuit this month, using cases of child smokers to back their claims. The suit, filed against the tobacco companies and the Indonesian government, argues that half-hearted regulation has left children perilously vulnerable to the risks of smoking. According to Arist Merdeka Sirait, head of the National Commission for Child Protection, "There are ... kids who have fallen victim to the impact of cigarette companies and smoking. They are addicted. In the context of people's rights, the society has been disadvantaged by the tobacco industry." But anti-smoking activists face an uphill battle in a country where there is a seemingly insatiable appetite for cigarettes, which the tobacco industry relies on to compensate for declining sales elsewhere. The Indonesian government gives tax incentives for the manufacture of hand-rolled cigarettes because it provides a key source of employment in east Java, where the local firms congregate. Currently, one in three Indonesians smoke, and tobacco products are the number two household expense, after rice, according to the statistics bureau. Cigarette firms are expected to contribute $8.45 billion in tax revenue in 2012, according to the finance ministry. Government authorities are loath to tighten regulations and risk losing funding. Tutus Abaci, a member of Indonesia's National Commission on Tobacco Control, says: "Every time you want to make a regulation, it is very difficult because on every level of the bureaucracy they have been bought by the cigarette industry."

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By Sarah Beller

party crashers

5/25/12 3:01pm

Cows Crash Party, Drink All the Beer


These cows were hell-bent on getting tipsy.
Photo via

A party in Boxford, Massachusetts went a little sour when it was crashed by the worst types imaginable—the type of party-goers who reek, physically intimidate guests and steal everyone's drinks—cows. About a dozen young adults were having a backyard get-together when six cows wandered in from the road, amusing some of the guests and causing others to scream. But when it became apparent the cows weren't just passing through, the partygoers abandoned their picnic table and beers, not wanting to start any beef with the bovines. This didn't end the festivities though, since the cows seemed determined to milk the party for all it's worth—knocking over cups and slurping beer and leftover drinks. One cow even tipped over the recycle bin and drank the cocktail that spilled out. “They seemed to prefer the Bud Light,” observed Lt. James Riter. By the time police arrived on the scene, the cows had left the party, but Riter found “evidence” confirming they had been there—the kind you wouldn't want to step in. He tracked them down to the front yard of the house where the cows' owner came to claim them, and together they were able to nudge the cows back to their field. Whether the cows tipped themselves after the party remains unknown.

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By Bryan Le

Race and drugs

5/25/12 1:50pm

Newark Mayor: "NJ Drug Policy Targets Black Men"


Cory Booker takes a stand. Photo via

New Jersey has a great line in outspoken politicians right now. Newark mayor Cory Booker—who first made national headlines this year for rescuing a neighbor's daughter from their burning home—has come out and said that the drug policies in his state unfairly target black men. His comment was made in response to a proposed state bill to make possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana punishable by a $150 fine instead of jail time. When there was uncharacteristically no response from New Jersey's high-profile Governor Chris Christie—who advocates mandatory rehab for nonviolent offenders—Booker took to his Twitter page to sound off. "In NJ blacks are about 15% of population but over 60% of prison population and DRUGS fuels much of the incarceration," he wrote to one of his followers. "So yes we need to radically change the conversation from INCARCERATION to what will really end this national nightmare." And while Booker doesn't advocate the legalization of all drugs, he supports medical marijuana. "I fear legalizing it all would lead 2 more addiction," he tweeted to another follower. "Last thing I want is giving more power 2 govt. But I'm with you on medical marijuana. And NJ should do more to make it real for those who need it." According to Republican State Senator Christopher "Kip" Bateman, it costs about $343 million a year to house the Garden State’s 7,000 nonviolent drug offenders.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Celebrity Roundup

5/25/12 12:52pm

Celebrity Roundup: May 25, 2012


Lucky to survive the show Photo via

The long-running medical drama House saw its titular doctor, played by British actor Hugh Laurie, taking an extraordinary amount of drugs; the show continued down that path with its final episode, which aired this week. The finale featured Dr. House strung out on heroin in a burning building, yet somehow managing to escape to fake his own death—a storyline which, we hate to say, kinda strains plausibility.

Troubled star of MTV’s Teen Mom Amber Portwood has had a spectacular number of legal foibles over the last several years, from domestic violence charges to drug infractions—and now, she says, she’s had enough with the drug court system that's meant to help keep her out of jail. In court Thursday, she told the judge that she hasn’t been staying clean, calling herself a “bad girl”—and that she’d prefer a prison sentence to her court-mandated abstinence. We’ll see how she feels after a few days in the pokey.

Teen dreamboat Lane Garrison has been in the headlines lately for domestic violence accusations lobbied against him by his girlfriend, Ashley Mattingly, which saw him charged with battery for the incident. This follows his 2007 arrest for vehicular manslaughter and DUI, when he had cocaine in his system and a BAC level at twice the legal limit. Now, his lawyers have committed that Harrison will attend AA while he’s out on bail awaiting trial later this summer.

The ultra-strong anesthetic Propofol entered common parlance when it played a significant role in the death of Michael Jackson—and now, it’s set to get a lot more use in the state of Missouri, where the Department of Corrections has announced its intention to switch over to the use of propofol as the sole drug used in lethal injections. The drug's deadly credentials are certainly well-established.

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By Sam Lansky

Alcoholism Cures

5/25/12 12:03pm

Weight Loss Surgery Linked to Boozing Less


Gastric bypass comes with unexpected
benefits. Photo via

People who receive weight loss surgery find one side-effect is that they crave less alcohol, new research shows. Weight loss surgeries have become a popular choice for people trying to lose weight by decreasing their stomach size, through procedures such as Roux-en-Y surgery—commonly known as gastric bypass. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio followed 80,000 weight-loss surgery patients, and found that those who received gastric bypass drank fewer alcohol beverages afterwards. (People who received other weight loss surgeries saw no change.) Wanting to dig a little deeper, the research team performed the gastric bypass surgeries on rats who were bred to crave alcohol, and found that they also then quit drinking. "It's a real phenomenon," says lead researcher John Davis. His team believes the drop in alcohol use to be due to a hormone called GLP-1, which is produced in the digestive tract—the repositioning of the stomach, causes the hormone to be produced more often. "GLP-1 travels through the blood to get to the brain, where it is thought to stimulate an aversion to food," says Davis. He believes this hormone plays a role in how much food we eat, and may similarly effect booze consumption because many alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories. These results fit those of another study performed by Carel le Roux at Imperial College London who said, "the surgery makes you less bothered about your favorite 'sin', whether this is food or alcohol".

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By Valerie Tejeda

alcohol advertising

5/25/12 11:02am

Hard Liquor Ads Hit the Small Screen


Frankel's "Skinnygirl" Margarita ads will soon
be appearing on TV. Photo via

After abstaining for decades, many well known hard liquor labels are now returning to TV advertising. Until recently, booze advertising on TV was mainly dominated by beer, but TV viewers are gradually coming around to accepting liquor as well, despite the potential impact of these ads on children. Jagermeister, Captain Morgan, Ketel One and 1800 Tequila are some of the familiar brands who will soon be making their way to the small screen. "There has been no push-back," said Frank Coleman of the Distilled Spirits Council of the US. "So it's seen as an opportunity. If you're going to take beer ads, you're going to take spirit ads...A standard serving of beer, wine and spirits all contain the same amount of alcohol."  Beam Inc.—one of the world’s largest spirits companies—increased it’s spending on small screen ads from 34 to 43 percent in one year alone, and also nailed down TV spots for Jim Beam, Devil's Cut, Red Stag, Maker's Mark, Pucker Vodka, and Hornitos Tequila. Former The Real Housewives of New York City star Bethany Frankel recently launched a huge TV ad campaign (titled "Drink Like a Lady") for her calorie conscious alcoholic beverage brand Skinnygirl, airing on networks such as Bravo, the Food Network, and HGTV. Gregg G. Raduka, director of prevention/intervention for the Council on Alcohol and Drugs, believes this surge in booze marketing could cause trouble for children and young adults. "In my mind we're so bombarded by alcohol advertising by various media avenues that anything that could reduce that bombardment would be positive," he said. While no federal laws have restricted liquor from television, it’s no secret that the ads do have an effect on children: back in March, a UK study found that more kids recognized Smirnoff vodka and Carlsberg beer than recognized Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. 

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By Valerie Tejeda


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