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secondhand smoke

10/01/12 3:39pm

Secondhand Smoke Kills 42,000 Americans a Year

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Killer breath Photo via

New figures provide stark evidence of how the decision to smoke doesn't affect the smoker alone. Secondhand smoke kills 42,000 non-smokers in the US each year, including 900 babies, according to researchers at the University of California San Francisco. That's 600,000 years of total life lost—an average of 14.2 years knocked off the life of each non-smoker who died early as a result of someone else's habit. Smoking also hurts economically (besides impoverishing poorer individuals who spend up to 25% of their income on smokes): all these premature deaths from secondhand smoke add up to $6.6 billion in lost productivity. And as if all this news weren't bad enough, the researchers say it's even worse than it seems: their figures are likely an underestimate, due to inherent problems in using statistical estimates of populations. In any case, the numbers are far too high, despite the efforts of health authorities. "It is true that smoking is banned in many public places and workplaces," says Wendy Max, a professor of health economics at UCSF. "However... people are still being exposed more than we realized. Much of this may be at home, but not all. Studies show that even small amounts of secondhand smoke exposure may have a negative impact on health, particularly for people who are vulnerable for various reasons." Will this convince the one in four smokers who told Gallup that secondhand smoke is “not too harmful or not harmful at all”?

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By Bryan Le

choking hazard

10/01/12 1:18pm

LiLo "Choked and Thrown" by GOP Aide

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LaBella probably wishes he spent the
weekend wrestling political issues instead.
Photo via

Perpetually troubled actress Lindsay Lohan has found herself mixed up in the law again, but in a wholly new and surprising way: this time she apparently got choked by a congressional aide rather than booked by cops. The Mean Girls star was partying it up with Christian LaBella, an Illinois Republican, before the two headed back to her room at the W Hotel Union Square with some friends. Lohan became upset after discovering LaBella had sent pics of her partying to his friends, and started trying to delete them. LaBella then demanded she return his phone and, when Lohan refused, allegedly began throwing her around the $500-a-night room. First, Lohan claims, he threw her on the bed and scratched her. She then hid in the bathroom for a while, she says, before the tussle moved from the 15th floor suite into the hotel hallways—where LaBella allegedly threw her to the ground and choked her before someone pulled him off. Lohan then pulled the fire alarm for help and ran away. Police arrived and the GOP's man was arrested, but ultimately released without charge.

Everyone has plenty to say about the incident. “We think it's both distressing and outrageous,” says Lohan's publicist. “Lindsay was assaulted and there needs to be a consequence for that.” Meanwhile, LaBella's uncle thinks Lohan is just exerting her celebrity to frame his nephew: “He’s a decent kid who met her at a nightclub and she invited him back to her hotel room with other people,” he says. “And now she’s using her celebrity to launch a full-scale witch hunt against him just to be relevant again.” Lohan's dad, Michael, is more succinct: “Wait till I get this guy.”

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By Bryan Le

Drug laws

10/01/12 12:00pm

Prop. 36 Could Rescue Cali's 3-Strike Addicts

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Prop. 36 brings hope for imprisoned addicts.
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Proposition 36, seeking to overhaul California's draconian "three strikes and you're out" law—which requires third-time offenders to serve mandatory prison sentences of 25 years to life—will appear on a state ballot next month. And most of the people who would be directly affected are addicts. Californians now overwhelmingly believe—by a margin of more than three to one—that the system should change, a new poll reveals. A recent comprehensive review of inmate reports by California Watch and the San Francisco Chronicle  shows that a large majority of third-strike convicts are addicts: 70% of them show a high need for substance treatment. It found that the state imposes especially lengthy sentences on felons with substance abuse problems, who haven't necessarily committed violent offenses and pose no greater public safety threat than non-three-strikes inmates.

Many corrections system officials believe that rehabilitation services like substance abuse treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy should be the MO, rather than longer prison sentences. “Consider second- and third-strikers… we’re not providing nearly enough rehabilitation… so how are they going to get better?” says California corrections secretary Matt Cate. The study also offers compelling evidence that early substance abuse treatment can prevent some repeat offenders from becoming third-strikers. "If they came in once or twice and you treated their substance abuse, the likelihood of them being a third-striker goes down substantially," says Daryl Kroner, a criminology professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and former prison psychologist. The three-strike law was enacted in 1994 and has since locked up 8,800 people for 25 years to life. Under the proposed changes, life terms for drug offenders and other nonviolent criminals would end—they'd instead be treated as if they had only one previous strike, which calls for double the standard prison term for their most recent crime. Inmates already serving 25 to life for drug and other nonviolent crimes could also get sentence reductions, if a judge deems them not to be a safety threat.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Recovery events

10/01/12 11:05am

Vancouver's Addicts Rally for Recovery

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The recovery rally was held at the Vancouver
Art Gallery on Sunday. Photo via

The Vancouver Art Gallery was chock-full of hundreds of recovering addicts and their families and allies on Sunday afternoon, rallying to show support for addicts who have not yet received treatment and to push the government for more substance abuse programs. As part of Canada's first ever Recovery Day, recovering addicts shared their personal stories with the crowd, many of whom donned sweaters that said “sober” and some carrying posters reading “recovery saved my life.” “The message is: recovery works,” said rally organizer David Berner. “If you or someone in your family is in a disaster of addiction and alcoholism, get yourself to a program because millions of people are cleaning up.” The rates of teen drug use in British Columbia are alarming, much like in the US, with statistics suggesting that young people who struggle with substance abuse are first experimenting with drugs and alcohol as early as 11 years old. “Youth addicted to drugs... are disproportionately likely to commit crimes. From my personal research and my time in policing of 31 years, this is quite evident and it continues to be a significant problem that we are not addressing,” said former Solicitor General Kash Heed who is a strong proponent of implementing recovery programs for youth. “The monetary value of saving one high-risk youth from a lifetime of crime puts the number [up to] $2.6 million to $4.4 million." Statistics show young people who remain in treatment for longer than four months have an 80% chance of staying off drugs in the future.

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

10/01/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: October 1, 2012

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By The Fix staff

drug nostalgia

9/28/12 5:01pm

Cocaine for Snowblindness—and Other Antarctic Remedies

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Chilling out after hitting (geographic)
bottom. Photo via

Before Facebook existed, those in search of adventure were known to strike out for the South Pole—but their carry-on bags may have included some items not unfamiliar to a modern-day drug user, according to Gavin Francis, a modern Antarctic enthusiast and writer. In his piece in the most recent issue of Granta, Francis writes that the men of Ernest Shackleton's 1907–1909 Nimrod expedition brought along an array of now-illicit drugs—not for recreational purposes, but for first aid. They cleared “snowblindness” by dripping cocaine into their eyes, stopped diarrhea with “chalk ground up with opium,” and cured colic (better known today as gallstones) with a “tincture of cannabis” mixed with a “tincture of chili pepper.”

Unsurprisingly, the effectiveness of these remedies was limited. Whisky, which they brought along for warmth, didn't protect the explorers from the harsh weather; one injured adventurer even went to his death by walking outside so his handicap wouldn't slow down his team. And when scientific curiosity alone wasn't enough to keep them trudging through the snow, they'd pop a “Forced March”—a pill made of blended cocaine and caffeine taken hourly. The only antidotes they stowed that are considered remotely medical today were aspirin and morphine. But despite carrying a smorgasbord of substances, documentation suggests they were rarely tempted to overdo it—in fact, they erred on the side of abstinence, even when it proved painful. In 1912, Robert Falcon Scott, commander of the doomed British expedition to the South Pole, refused morphine before starving and freezing to death in his tent. “[M]ust be near the end,” he wrote in his journal shortly before he died. “Have decided it shall be natural.”

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By Bryan Le

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