Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The GOP turns back the clock on women

By Bob Gaydos
Donald Trump, "debating."

     North Korea announced recently that it was moving its clocks back 30 minutes, thereby creating its own time zone a half hour behind Japan and South Korea, for whom North Korea has no love. 
    Not to be outdone, the Republican Party in the UnIted States revealed that it was turning its clocks back 60 or 70 years, creating a world in which women’s lives, health -- indeed their very dignity as human beings -- does not matter if it means losing votes in the party’s presidential primaries.
     Since North Korea has never really left the Cold War era, the world will survive its time change with little inconvenience. It is not so easy, however, to dismiss what is happening with the Republican Party. Never mind Lincoln, this is no longer even the party of Eisenhower, Reagan or Bush the senior.
     What was billed as a presidential debate, turned out to be an all-out misogynistic effort to cast women as second-class citizens, or less. Donald Trump, who has made himself the mouth and face of today’s Republican Party, has received much of the post-debate criticism for his crude remarks about women in general and debate moderator Megyn Kelly in particular.
     Kelly dared to question Trump about his at various times calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals” and wondering what a women contestant on his TV show, “The Apprentice,” would “look like on her knees.” Kelly asked him if this was the kind of person who should be sitting in the Oval Office. He replied that he had no time for “political correctness.’’
      After the debate, Trump called Kelly a “bimbo” on Twitter, saying she “behaved very badly” and some of her questions “were not nice.” He also said in a post-debate interview, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out her wherever.” 
     This, of course, is Trump and, predictably, he does not apologize for anything he said. He mistakes common decency for political correctness. He is a bully and an embarrassment as a presidential candidate for a major party, but an embarrassment created by the very Fox News network for whom Kelly works. And he gets applause and laughs from Republican audiences who come to hear him say what many of them apparently believe.
       But not one of the other nine men on stage with Trump on Thursday saw fit to call him out for being a sexist pig. In fact, most of them had their own fuel to add to the anti-female furor. There was Sen. Marco Rubio insisting that women who were rape or incest victims should carry their pregnancies to term and Gov. Scott Walker refusing to make an exception on abortion if the woman’s life were at risk. Even after the debate, not one of the 16 other Republican candidates for president could simply say straight out that Trump’s remarks were crude, offensive, or, at the very least, inappropriate.
      Even the lone female candidate, Carly Fiorina, relegated to the junior varsity debate of seven candidates that preceded the main event, couldn’t call Trump out by name. She only managed to say, “It’s not helpful to call people names” or “engage in personal insult.” Fiorina is a graduate of Stanford, Maryland and MIT and ran Hewlett Packard for six years. If Trump were one of her executives at HP and said the things he has said about women, you can believe he would have heard, “You’re fired!” loud and clear. But she’s running for president as a Republican and so she apparently feels she can’t afford to insult the people who show up to listen to Trump say whatever comes into his mind. By the way, she also opposes paid maternity leave.
       There’s more. There’s Jeb Bush insisting that the federal government spends too much money on women’s health care and the willingness of several GOP candidates to shut down the federal government to avoid funding for Planned Parenthood, which is a vital source of health care for millions of women and, although attacked routinely by Republicans as a source of abortions, is, in fact, a major force for reducing the number of abortions.
       Some Republican “strategists” say the media focus on Trump and his penchant for insulting large groups of people (Mexican immigrants are “rapists and murderers,” Sen. John McCain is “no war hero” because he was captured), will not do any lasting harm to the party because Trump will not win the nomination. That is absurd.
       Whether he is the eventual candidate or not, Trump has already shown the GOP for what it is -- a party driven by fear. There is a pathological fear of offending the ultra-conservative, white, mostly male, “Christian” moralists who threaten to reject any Republican candidate who does not share their fears of people who are different from them, be they non-white, gay, non-Christian, young, immigrant, or even a president of the United States who happens to be black.
        Now, it’s women. More than half the population of the country. Without strong support from women, no candidate can be elected president. In every presidential election since 1988, women have supported the Democratic candidate. Yet not one Republican candidate for president this year has something to offer females as a reason for deserving their votes. It is a cavalcade of clowns (Trump, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal), con men (Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul), bullies (Chris Christie), religious zealots (Rick Santorum), phonies in the pocket of PACS (Bush, Walker, Rubio) and fear-mongers (too many to list).
        North Korea changed its time zone because it hates Japan. However impractical the move, it won’t do serious harm and North Korea actually has some history to help justify it (World War II). Why Republicans are behaving as if they hate women is incomprehensible and possibly suicidal. And they can’t blame it all on Donald Trump.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

E-cigs: Way to quit smoking or new way to get hooked?

Addiction and Recovery
By Bob Gaydos

Is it a Catch-22 or a smoke screen? Are e-cigarettes the most promising product to come along to help smokers quit their nicotine addiction, or are they a clever, new way to get non-smokers hooked? Or, are they both?
At this point, no one can say for sure, but there appears to be an informal and growing consensus that electronic cigarettes represent a real health benefit for longtime smokers. That’s because e-cigs do not contain tobacco and the many harmful substances that are released and inhaled when cigarettes are smoked. At the same time, there is concern that too little is known about possible negative health effects on e-cig users and bystanders of chemicals that are released when their vapor is inhaled.
That is an important health issue, but the purpose of this column is to discuss addiction. In that regard, again because of the newness of the product, there is too little information to know if e-cigs, as widely touted, can actually help smokers break their nicotine addiction. Even more significantly, as the Food and Drug Administration says on its web site, “It is not known whether e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.”

As public health campaigns against tobacco products have
sharply reduced sales of tobacco products in the United States, e-cigarettes have quickly blossomed into a $2-plus billion industry that shows no signs of slowing down.
Cities and states have scrambled to pass laws regulating where e-cigs can be used. New York City bans using them wherever smoking is banned. (You must be 18 to buy them.) In an effort to provide uniformity to the law, the FDA is poised to extend some or all of its regulations for tobacco products to electronic cigarettes. That has a lot of smokers upset, saying the government shouldn’t make it harder for people trying to quit smoking by vaping -- the term for using e-cigarettes.
E-cigs use a battery to heat and vaporize nicotine that is mixed with water, flavoring and a base (two types) to carry the mixture. Unlike traditional cigarettes, cigars and pipes, there is no combustion -- the source for the health problems. For e-cig users, it’s more like inhaling fog, with a shot of nicotine (in varying doses), while enjoying the same hand-to-mouth, tactile experience of lighting up. Smoking without the smoke.
Again, that sounds like a sensible way to help longtime smokers avoid the serious health risks associated with using combustible cigarettes, while still getting their nicotine fix. It says nothing about that fix -- the addiction to nicotine. Some studies have raised concerns about the addictive power of the nicotine used in e-cigs, even at lower doses.
Meanwhile, many anti-smoking groups and health experts pose this question: If e-cigarettes are being sold as a way to reduce the harm of smoking tobacco for longtime smokers, why are they also being marketed in such a way as to attract thousands of young users who have never smoked traditional cigarettes? (It is worth noting that big tobacco companies are also big sellers of e-cigarettes.)
The fear, cited by the FDA as well as public health advocates, is that electronic cigarettes may act as a gateway product, luring young users into trying tobacco products.
A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association lends weight to that fear. The report noted that, in a recent study, 16 percent of 10th-graders reported using e-cigarettes. The study said that the group of teenagers included those who had smoked before (43 percent) and those who had not and that, in follow-up studies, the teens who had never smoked before were more likely to try smoking traditional cigarettes after trying e-cigs. Curiosity? Suggestibility? Peer pressure? Being a teenager?
Among those who suffer from it and those who treat it, there’s a saying: Addiction is a disease of more. In other words, if I can feel this good with just a little nicotine, how good can I feel with even more? Or, if this is such a cool experience -- making believe I’m smoking even though I’m not inhaling any nicotine -- how cool can it be with the real thing?
Sukhwinder Singh and his wife, Satnam Kaur, own Smokers Heaven, an e-cigarette shop in the Town of Wallkill in upstate New York. He says 75 percent of his customers are trying to quit smoking. “They’re trying to go from smoking thousands of chemicals, to one, nicotine.” He says many have been advised by their doctors to switch to e-cigs.
Singh says he only sells flavorings made in the United States (not China) because there are more controls on the ingredients, another concern for the FDA. “I don’t push nicotine on anyone,” he adds, saying that he tries to steer younger non-smokers who are curious about the product to non-nicotine mixtures. He and his wife sample the choices of hundreds of appetizing-sounding flavors -- without nicotine -- so they can tell their customers what they are like.
The fact that e-cigs are also cheaper than combustible cigarettes -- many more puffs per buck -- adds to the argument that they are a sensible, harm-reduction, health product.  But the FDA says there is as yet no proof of that. If they came under FDA control, e-cig makers would have to pass scientific muster to gain approval for sale. That could be expensive and time-consuming.
But even if producers eventually do offer scientific evidence of harm reduction, e-cigs are still delivery devices for a highly addictive substance -- nicotine. For this reason, the FDA is being urged, at the very least, to make e-cigarettes subject to the same regulations that prohibit companies from advertising and marketing tobacco products in ways designed to appeal to young consumers.
Are e-cigs safer for some? Maybe so. Time will tell. But even time won’t erase one question: If there’s no addiction to quit (no harm to reduce), why risk creating one?

E-cigarettes and the FDA
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn chemicals, including highly addictive nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user. Most e-cigarettes are manufactured to look like conventional cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble everyday items such as pens and USB memory sticks.
Only e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes are currently regulated by the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Currently, the FDA Center for Tobacco Products regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco.
FDA has issued a proposed rule that would extend the agency’s tobacco authority to cover additional products that meet the legal definition of a tobacco product, such as e-cigarettes.