Harm Reduction

One of my extended family members is a former smoker. Nagging him to stop did little good. Warning him against its health dangers produced similarly poor results. He was addicted, and he appeared to like smoking, anyway. 

Then e-cigarettes came along. After giving them a try, he quit cigarettes for good. No nagging was necessary. He received the same kick from vaping minus all the nasty smoke that makes cigarettes so dangerous. His blunted sense of smell and taste returned to normal and breathing became easier. 

His story is not unique. Many former smokers credit e-cigarettes with changing their lives for the better. A study in the journal Tobacco Control concluded that...

If you are over the age of 50, your doctor has most likely advised you to get a colonoscopy- the gold standard procedure for early detection and removal of growths called polyps, that can potentially turn into deadly colorectal cancer (CRC).  But despite its proven effectiveness, the idea of getting a colonoscopy invokes dread and apprehension in many people.  Understandably, no one looks forward at the thought of drinking a gallon of gag-inducing bowel-prep and spending hours running to the bathroom, which is prelude to having a tube inserted through the rectum and snaked through the intestinal tract, while a camera looks for suspicious growths.  But it is actually not as terrible as it sounds.  In fact, the preparation is more unpleasant than the actual procedure which is done once...

A new paper seeks to inform concerns about e-cigarettes, purportedly used as harm reduction and smoking cessation techniques, being a gateway to smoking.

The conclusion by Hongying Dai and Jianqiang Hao is that e-cigarettes, and especially flavors, do lead to both cigarette smoking and an unwillingness to quit. There is just one problem - there is no data showing that. (1)

Pediatrics is a good journal to be addressing this issue. The American Council on Science and Health has long shown that smoking is a pediatric disease. Like many other habits, if we prevent them in youth, we can prevent them throughout life. But we also...

"Merciless In Seattle: Untreated Pain, Misery, And Suicide" (November 2nd) examined the tragic suicide of Seattle resident Denny Peck, who had the misfortune of being dependent upon opioid drugs to manage his intractable pain that resulted from an accident that crushed part of his spine in 1990. When the pain clinic that had been treating Peck abruptly closed, he could not find a doctor who was willing to prescribe the drugs that made his life bearable. Two days following Peck's desperate, but futile call to 911, during which he maintained that he couldn't bear the pain anymore, Peck committed suicide by shooting himself in both side of his head. What happened to Peck is...

Topical Sunless Tanner

With daylight a little less plentiful each day in the Northern Hemisphere until the Winter Solstice arrives, some sun worshippers are scrambling to maintain their precious, but fading, tans.

Traveling to sun-splashed islands continues to be a one (costly and time-tested) option. Meanwhile, sliding onto a tanning bed -- relatively cheap and very affordable by comparison -- remains another (dangerous and foolish) one. Use of these glowing menaces is flat-out unsafe (see our story: Stay Out of That Tanning Bed) so we urge you to stay away from them.

However, there's another artificial option, which while seeming contrived is actually considered safe -- provided that the consumer uses the product...

There exists a long list of reasons not to take drugs: addiction, decreased productivity, deleterious health effects, damage to personal relationships, and the chance of fatal overdose are just a handful. To this tally of negative consequences, researchers have added another: an increased risk of suicide.

A team of Iranian epidemiologists searched the literature for papers on substance use disorder (SUD) and suicide. Because the researchers were primarily concerned with drugs other than alcohol, they excluded papers that did not separate the effects of alcohol from other drugs. They also excluded data on accidental overdose deaths. After applying these and other criteria, the team selected 43 papers (which represented a total of 870,967 participants) and performed a meta-...

In a recent article, actor Ben Stiller chronicled how early diagnosis of prostate cancer - by a routine Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test - saved his life; as such, he urged all men over 40 to discuss the PSA test with their doctors.  There is no doubt that the testimony of a high-profile individual such as Mr. Stiller will cause many men to consider getting a PSA test yet we at the American Council on Science and Health and many others have been critical of it, so it is fitting that we review where science stands on the issue.

The PSA is a blood test that measures...

Yep, cautions abound about having your attention focused on your phone while walking, driving, or supposedly taking notes in class. Some such situations can obviously result in grievous bodily harm — walking into an open manhole or driving into a tree, for example.

Others, not so much. And now there's yet a new condition for all you inveterate texters out there — text neck. Haven't heard of this yet? Well, neither had we, until we were alerted to a website run by chiropractor Alan Mandell. According to "Dr." Mandell, the forward head posture typical of texters can result in: disc herniation, bulging discs, arthritis, bone spurs, shoulder pronation and on and on. And not only that, hunching forward doesn't allow...

While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it is the long term exposure to inhaled smoke - and its toxic constituents - that adversely impact the lungs. 

One such harmful mechanism is inflammation of the airways, which progressively damages and ultimately impairs lung function.  Nowadays, there are several ways one can give up the harmful toxicants of cigarette smoke while minimizing nicotine cravings.  Nicotine replacement is available in gums, patches, sprays, and electronically vaporized liquids. Proponents say that the latter, which they call electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), may be particularly more appealing, and therefore more beneficial in reducing cigarettes, because of their ability to simulate the mechanics of cigarettes.

But what...

Wednesday, Sept. 21 will mark another mixed-emotion anniversary for the family of the late Nils Bohlin, a celebrated inventor and design engineer whose work and landmark signature creation is widely credited with saving more than 1,000,000 lives. 

On that day in 2002, Bohlin was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his work in the late 1950's developing the three-point safety belt, which is standard equipment in cars everywhere and since its adoption has significantly reduced automobile fatalities around the world. 

On the same day, however, Bohlin passed away at the age of 82. So when he posthumously took his place among the world's all-time great inventors -- Thomas Edison (electric lighting, phonograph), Orville and Wilbur Wright (flight) and Enrico ...