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secondhand smoke

8/21/12 10:55am

Secondhand Smoke Kills Kids' Cough Reflexes


Kids need to cough. Photo via

Secondhand smoke can impact a child's vital cough reflex, new research finds, which could affect an estimated 18 million US youth ages 12-19, and 60% of children ages 3-11, who are consistently exposed to cigarette smoke. The new study, which appears in Tobacco and Nicotine Research, followed 38 healthy 10-17 year-olds, 17 of whom were regularly exposed to smoke and 21 who were never exposed. The children were then made to inhale concentrations of capsaicin—the chemical in chili peppers that will trigger a cough—from a nebulizer. Though adult smokers are known to have a less sensitive cough reflex compared to non-smokers, parents were also tested by measuring how much capsaicin it took to make the adults cough twice. The study found that the youth who were exposed to secondhand smoke needed twice as much capsaicin to trigger a cough reflex as compared to the non-smoking exposed kids, and the findings were mirrored in the parents. This means that the children exposed to smoke were less sensitive to environmental irritants: “Cough protects our lungs from potentially damaging environmental threats, such as chemicals and dust,” says study lead Dr. Julie Mennella, from Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. “Living with a parent who smokes weakens this reflex, one of the most vital of the human body.” The study may help explain why diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis are more common among children of smokers. According to study co-author Dr. Paul Wise: “This study suggests that even if an exposed child is not coughing, his or her respiratory health may still be affected by secondhand smoke,” 

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By Valerie Tejeda


8/21/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: August 21, 2012


41% of men still smoke in the world's poorest
countries. Photo via

By May Wilkerson

Spending cuts

8/20/12 5:50pm

Philly Feels Pain of Recovery House Cuts


Residents and staff at a recovery house in
Philly Photo via

Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett dropped the social programming equivalent of a nuclear bomb on the addiction recovery community in Philadelphia earlier this month, when he eliminated the welfare funding that pays for the vast majority of recovery housing in the city. General Assistance—a small monthly welfare cash payment of $205 for temporarily disabled single adults with no dependents—has for decades provided some relief to Pennsylvania's poorest of the poor. Philadelphia’s recovery houses—sober living spaces for homeless addicts coming off the streets—have long used GA payments coupled with food stamps (now called SNAP) to provide room and board for people whose only alternatives are homeless shelters and abandoned buildings. As The Fix reported, Philly recovery houses aren’t exactly posh, and their strict enforcement of abstinence and heavy 12-step regimens might rankle with some. But they provide a crucial service of last resort to many desperate people who would otherwise be out on the street. Except that now they are out on the street. Because with the elimination of General Assistance, this vast network of roughly 400 sober houses just blinked out of existence.

Social workers, legal aid attorneys and city human service agency staff have been meeting frantically for months in anticipation of this day, pregaming the possible outcomes of a massive hemorrhage of unstable, newly-recovering addicts back onto the streets. Does this blow up the city’s homeless shelter system? Does it spike crime during an already violent and chaotic summer? Maybe that's why the Philly Police Department has begun sweeps through Kensington—the neighborhood with the city's highest concentration of IV drug users—arresting addicts en masse? It's hard not to wonder cynically if this transfer of poor addicts from recovery house cots to jail cell bunks is really something Corbett is doing by accident. 

Killing GA was at least unproductive, if not inhumane. It saves very little money in the short term, and will have huge mid-term costs: once spat out of recovery housing, addicts in early recovery will utilize far more expensive resources like homeless shelters, emergency rooms, hospital beds, detox beds and psych units, as well as prisons. Right now the situation is in flux, and it's unclear just how bad the outcome will be. But Philly's addiction professionals, who now have nowhere to send their clients who are coming out of detox, fear the worst.

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By Jeff Deeney

crystal meth

8/20/12 5:02pm

Kids Flock to Buy Breaking Bad-Style "Meth Candy"


Either way, it'll rot your teeth. Photo via

Fans seem to consume the show Breaking Bad almost as voraciously as its characters make, sell and smoke meth—and America's addiction to the show already may be lending itself to some bad decision-making. The owner of an Albuquerque candy store has started selling blue-tinted sugar rock candy that resembles crystal, an idea she got after watching the show's star Bryan Cranston show off a bag of "candy meth" on The Late Show With David Letterman. "Crystal meth … yeah isn't the best thing in the world, it's not the best thing to replicate,” admits Debbie Hall, owner of The Candy Lady, where customers can purchase the meth-inspired treats for $1 a bag. But even if it's not the "best thing" to sell in a store geared towards children, the rock candy is a huge hit. And just like in the real meth trade, the bottom line wins. “We’ve gone through probably several hundred bags,” says Hall.

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By May Wilkerson

Rock 'n Roll

8/20/12 4:20pm

The Darkness Believe in a Thing Called Sober


Out of the darkness, into The Darkness.
Photo via

British glam rock band The Darkness has been resurrected, after cocaine and drug-induced paranoia drove them apart, according to bassist Frankie Poullain. "We had too much fun really," he says. "No one can have that much fun for that long. Everyone was on coke and paranoid, suspicious.'' Lead singer Justin Hawkins adds: ''Our career was built on the ridiculous and it fell apart in the same way.'' The band's dramatic separation in 2006 ended with Hawkins in rehab, and drummer Ed Graham battling a serious illness brought on by alcoholism. But the "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" hit-makers, who claim they "play better sober," seem to have made amends for the past and are making a comeback. The Darkness will be opening for Lady Gaga on her world tour later this year and their new album, Hot Cakes, is out today.

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By May Wilkerson

college drinking

8/20/12 3:24pm

Binging Students Feel "Richer and Whiter"


How binge drinking may make you feel
Photo via

Binge drinking makes college students feel rich and powerful—regardless of background or social status—which translates to feeling "happier," according to a report released at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver. The report was based on a study of the social standing and boozing habits of over 1,595 students at a small, predominantly white liberal arts college. They found that the "higher status" students (wealthy, white, male, heterosexual and/or participating in Greek life) were reportedly happier than their lower-income, female, non-white, homosexual and/or non-Greek-affiliated classmates. But when the "lower status" students engaged in binge drinking (four drinks at once for female and five drinks for males) they reported feelings of "social satisfaction" more similar to those of the "higher status" students. “Binge drinking is a symbolic proxy for higher social status in college and is correspondingly related to greater social satisfaction,” concludes Carolyn Hsu, the lead study author. Dr. Mark Jaffe, a psychiatrist at Cliffside Malibu Drug Detox Program, agrees: “For the price of a six-pack or two of beer, a minority or poorer student can feel as if they have become a member of the Beverly Hills Country Club.” He says that knowing this will help experts develop “better ways to change the social and cultural pressures that exist in colleges that cause binge drinking to occur.”

Still, some doctors have reservations about the accuracy of the study's findings. “Since [the study] is descriptive and not experimental, the two end points may not be linked,” says Dr. Fulton T. Crews, director of Alcohol Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. Dr. Richard Saitz, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University is also skeptical: “This does not mean that the alcohol is what leads to the satisfaction,” he points out. “Imagine a school where it is the norm to wear a T-shirt with the sports team’s logo and most students report doing so. Would it be a surprise to find out that those who wore the shirt were more socially satisfied? I don’t think so. Would the shirt be causing social satisfaction? Probably not.”

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