Opponents of smoking have a good case: smoking does increase health risks. Nonetheless, many people continue to smoke. According to non-smokers, they are addicted to nicotine. Is that so?

Many smokers have given up their habit. They managed to surmount the obvious difficulties more easily than people who try to give up overeating. The comparative case hardly suggests anaddiction-unless by addiction we mean an ingrained habit and not an ineluctable physical craving, in which case “addiction” becomes a facon de parler.

If they are not addicted, why do the remaining smokers not stop, in view of the known health risks? Perhaps some do indeed continue because they have come to crave the effects of how much nicotine in a cigarette. They really have become addicted and suffer physical difficulties when they stop smoking. However, that is not the case of all smokers. I think it is the case of only a few. Probably most people smoke regardless of, and some even despite, nicotine. I smoke cigars, because I like smoking them. Actually the nicotine annoys me. It prevents me from smoking as many cigars as I would like: doing so would make me too jumpy because of the nicotine. I don’t smoke in the evening because the nicotine interferes with my sleep. I would smoke more if someone invented cigars that taste as good as the ones I currently smoke, without the nicotine I’m presumed to crave.

How about alcohol? Like nicotine, alcohol has physiological effects. Many people drink for the sake of these effects, which they like. They want to be relaxed” by alcohol, or to get drunk. However, I like the taste of wine, beer, liqueur. If someone invented a drink with the taste of these but without alcohol, I would drink far more than I do now. Alcohol does nothing for my mood other than making me tired. (I don’t care to get drunk.)

Nobody knows how many smokers smoke despite and not because of what does nicotine do, how many drinkers drink despite and not because of the inebriating effects of alcohol. Why assume that most smokers or drinkers want mainly nicotine or alcohol?

If it is not, at least not always, the nicotine or the alcohol, why do people smoke or drink? Why do babies suck their thumbs? Surely not for nicotine or alcohol. Since being weaned from their mothers’ breasts, most people like to put something in their mouths. Some of us satisfy that longing by eating or drinking even when there is no physical need, or by smoking. Some just chew gum. One may exhort smokers to stop because of the health risk. But it is silly to label them addicted because they won’t stop. After all, people habitually take many other health risks-in driving, or crossing the street, or eating the wrong foods-without being alleged to be “addicted.”

Cui Bono?

Addiction is an overextended concept. It appears now to describe any habit we disapprove of, perhaps because “addiction” enables us to disapprove of habits without blaming the person who develops them. A seductive idea: we can blame the dealer or manufacturer who makes a profit (horrors) while conveniently exonerating our friends. They suffer from a disease for which they cannot be blamed, although they volunteer. Not least, there are many juicy jobs for researchers and professionals who will treat, if not cure, addicts for the volitional weakness euphemistically depicted as a disease. They have a considerable stake in the thing.

Perhaps it is too hard for optimistic and rationalistic Americans to face the fact that many people who smoke or drink too much do what they want, even though it is bad for them. Some are self-destructive. Others indulge short-term satisfaction despite long-term risks. Still others are semi-addicted. Sigmund Freud knew that his cigars aggravated his oral cancer. He gave them up for six months but couldn’t write. So he resumed. Was it the nicotine? Would nicotine injections have satisfied him? Or was it the act of smoking and the taste of cigars? Advanced alcoholics are a special case. Often they no longer are able to develop the will power to stop, to resist the temptation to satisfy the need they have developed and which kills them. This is true of those addicted to somedrugs too. They have to be detoxified before they can stop-if they want to. Even for smokers it becomes progressively more difficult to shake the habit. But, unlike alcoholics, smokers are addicted in a largely metaphorical sense. Perhaps the flesh is weak; temptation is hard to resist. But it may also be that the spirit is not altogether willing.

Real addicts who want to be helped should get all the psychological support-such as Alcoholics Anonymous-we can give. But there is no use pretending that every persistent smoker is a nicotine addict, even though it makes the non-smokers feel better to think so, or that everyone who likes to drink is an alcoholic. Nor is it sensible to believe that either is necessarily sick and cannot help himself. On the contrary, he cannot be helped by others unless he really wants to help himself. Their help consists of supporting his decision. He may not want to make that decision. Those who try to change the habits of the smoker or drinker who does not want to stop may themselves be “addicted” to telling others how to live and die.

P.S.: As we all know, Japanese live longer, on the average, than Americans, probably because the Japanese eat little meat, hardly any dairy foods, and lots of fish and rice. (Might one say Americans are addicted to meat and dairy food?) The Japanese also smoke more than Americans do. This does not show that smoking prolongs your life. It does demonstrate, however, that smoking shortens life less decisively than diet does.

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These suggestions to make life easier at home, both for the young and old.

Compensating for reduced range of motion

* Move electrical switches and thermostats no higher than 48 inches above the floor and electrical outlets no lower than 27 inches.

* Use Lazy Susans, rolling carts under counters, pull-out shelves with cut-out bowl holders and height-adjustable cabinets and closet shelves.

* Use bathroom and kitchen sitting stools, fold-down stools in the shower, cut-out spaces under counters and sinks and grab bars in the bathroom.

* Vary the height of countertops to place some counter space within reach of all household members sitting or standing.

Compensating for reduced strength

* Adjust tension to assist with opening and closing storm, screen and some cabinet doors. Place rolling storage carts under counters.

* Install C- or D-shaped loop handles on drawers and cabinets. Use easy-gliding hardware for drawers, and use spray attachments with extra-long hoses for sinks.

Aids for mobility and agility

* Build more aesthetically pleasing berms instead of ramps.

* Widen and rebuild doorways with lower thresholds, swing-clear door hinges and levered handles.

* Use sidewalk curb cut-outs and high-density, low-pile carpeting. Transform downstairs rooms into bedrooms, add roll-in showers and handheld shower heads to ground floor bathrooms.

Balance and coordination help

* Secure the corners and edges of area rugs and remove throw rugs.

* Install extended dual handrails and use lowered beds and raised chairs and toilet seats. Secure support objects near chairs, toilets and beds.

* Strategically placed handles on countertops and enhanced lighting are also helpful.

Home Improvement

The Moogerfooger Mf-108M Cluster Flux is to a standard chorus – top rated flanger pedal what the Saturn V is to a bottle rocket. Powered by a NOS Panasonic bucket-brigade delay chip, and boasting a six-waveform LFO, the Cluster Flux doesdeliver truly righteous analog chorusing, flanging, and other classic modulation effects—but its extraordinary control capabilities, including continuous control over nearly every parameter via external MIDI and CV sources and up to five optional expression pedals, place it into a unique orbit all its own.

The Cluster Flux’s LFO generates sine, triangle, square, saw, ramp, and random waveforms, which alone can produce an almost unlimited variety of modulation effects—from smooth and subtle to angular and asymmetrical to downright disturbing. Add to that the ability to vary parameters such as feedback and LFO rate and delay time in real time using expression pedals, and to tap in the LFO rate with the onboard footswitch, and you have one mean liveperformance or recording machine. And that’s not to mention the myriad possibilities made available by connecting the Cluster Flux to a MIDI keyboard or other controller, other CV-enabled gear (including the other seven Moogerfooger pedals), or your DAW’s sequencer. Besides syncing LFO speed to track tempo via MIDI Clock, the latter option allows you to automate parameter changes via Control Change messages, and even access “hidden” functions, such as multiplying the delay time as many as eight times and subdividing it using 11 different note values. Whoa!

In fact, the Cluster Flux has such a robust feature set that it isn’t possible to even mention everything here, but a few standouts are the Feedback control’s ability to generate positive and negative feedback (for hollowed-out and “throughzero” flange effects), the ability to double the range of the LFO rate (to .025Hz-100Hz) using an expression pedal, a MIDI note “Spillover” effect for creating ringing comb-filter and drone effects, and a TRS Feedback Insert for processing the feedback signal with an external device such as another pedal.

I tested the Cluster Flux in mono into a Rivera Venus 6 combo, and in stereo into a Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II (note: the Right output may be configured for four types of stereo operation using internal DIP switches). In all cases the pedal sounded beautifully rich, fat, and warm—though, not surprisingly, the most dramatic effects were achieved in stereo. There can be a big difference between analog and digital chorusing and flanging, especially when the analog sound is produced with an old-school BBD chip such as this one. Besides the increased depth and dimensionality, there is an organic quality to the sound that is quite satisfying and musically inspiring. With lots of experimenting I was able to conjure up nearly every classic flavor of modulation effect, including ’60s-style psychedelic tape flanging, A/DA and Mutron-type sounds, and even Lexicon Prime Time II-style square-wave modulation jumps. Of course, the Cluster Flux is as much about creating exciting new sounds as it is about revisiting the past— but it is nice to know that it can do both. This is a unique – top chorus pedal with unparalleled capabilities, and a worthy addition to the venerable Moogerfooger line.

Home Improvement

Imagine a school that turns fog into drinking water, an apartment building equipped with solar panels that move to follow the sun’s trajectory, or a building that can produce more energy than it uses. in fact, there’s no need to imagine. Buildings like those–“green” buildings–already exist and are becoming increasingly common.

Smart Classrooms

Lately, more and more schools are going green, and with good reason. “A green building … is designed and built to make the best use of everything that goes into it,” explains Rachel Gutter, senior Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) sector manager with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). More than 70 percent of school districts with green schools reported a drop in student absences as well as improvements in student performance, according to a 2005 survey conducted by Turner Construction. The USGBC suggests that such results are no coincidence. Green schools, it says, have clean air, which cuts down on sick days, as well as good acoustics and use of natural lighting, which enhance classroom learning.

At St. Catherine’s Montessori School in Houston, “the building itself is a learning tool,” says Principal Judy McCullough. She credits teachers, who researched the effects of natural lighting on learning, with the decision to include a lot of windows. “Children learn better in natural light,” McCullough asserts. Another benefit: The school uses less electricity.

At St. Catherine’s, all the energy comes from renewable sources. Recycling bins collect paper, plastic, wood, metal–even leftovers from kids’ lunches (the food is composted and used as fertilizer). Last summer, students constructed a “sustainability shack” that produces solar power to operate tools.

The school is “awesome,” says 13-year-old Marissa E. “It’s really cool knowing that we are going to a school that is saving energy.” Classmate Aubyn L, 14, points out that the building is only part of the learning process. “My teachers, who care so much for the environment … have given us ideas on how to help and how to act.”

Make the Best Use of Everything

Growing concerns about energy use and the environment are driving the green building movement. Such a structure uses natural resources wisely–not just fuel, but also land, water, wood, and other building basics. Moreover, Gutter says, “it helps keep the people who use it healthy and comfortable, saves money for the people paying the water and energy bills, and protects the environment.”

A building’s true “greenness” lies in how it is designed, built, and operated. Does the ventilation system help ensure that people breathe clean air? Do paints or finishes emit unhealthy fumes? Were the building materials transported from halfway around the globe–burning gas and polluting the air–or from nearby locations? Is the building only as large as it needs to be, using only as much energy–and as many resources–as its purpose requires?

One useful evaluation tool is the USGBC’s LEED certification system. It awards buildings points for things such as recycling construction debris, conserving water, reducing energy use, and controlling soil erosion. There are four LEED rankings–certified, silver, gold, and platinum–and separate programs for new construction, existing buildings, homes, and schools. When this issue of Current Health went to press, more than 675 elementary and secondary schools had registered seeking LEED certification, and 78 U.S. schools–including St. Catherine’s–had received it.

Only a handful of schools have been LEED-certified platinum. One of them, the Chartwell School in Seaside, Calif., features three small fog collectors that produce fresh water for classroom experiments, according to Douglas Atkins, the school’s executive director. The school also features a solar energy system. “There are days when we generate more electricity than we need,” Atkins says. Indeed, the electric meter sometimes runs backward, and the school gets a credit on its energy bill.

Hitting Home

For home owners, LEED certification is something of a status symbol. As this issue was going to press, only 56 U.S. homes had been awarded the highest ranking, platinum. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has reportedly purchased an apartment in a New York City building that has been certified gold, the second-highest honor. The building boasts twice-filtered air, rotating solar panels that track the sun’s movements, and rooftop landscaping that manages storm water while it shades and insulates the building (keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter). Because plants absorb carbon dioxide and airborne pollutants, the roof also helps improve air quality.

Other home owners are following suit. In Stone Ridge, N.Y., 16-year-old Calum M. has helped his parents build a solar greenhouse. They’ll use it to grow pesticide-free produce–safeguarding their health while cutting food and gas bills. They’ve also installed a super-efficient woodstove that can heat their entire house with just one load of wood a day. “I’ve been chopping a lot of wood,” Calum laughs. A solar panel heats the family’s water. “I think it’s important for everybody to do everything they can to combat global warming,” he says.

The Need for Green Buildings

In this country, buildings are responsible for

12%  of the potable (drinkable) water use.
39%  of the carbon dioxide (C[O.sub.2]) released into the atmosphere.
39%  of total energy use.
70%  of the nation's electricity use.

Steps You Can Take

How can you make your home or school greener? For starters:

* Make small changes that add up. Switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Turn off lights and appliances when they’re not being used. Hang laundry on a clothesline instead of using a dryer.

* Waste not, want not. Learn how to compost leftover food, and see whether your school cafeteria can do it too. You can use collected rainwater for washing vehicles and watering plants, instead of turning on the tap. Wherever possible, opt for recycled or repurposed materials, such as recycled paper. Use reusable bags for lunch and shopping.

* Shop smart. Urge your parents and school staff to use “green cleaning products that don’t harm people or the environment.

* Renovate wisely. Is your school or home being revamped? Ask for green options wherever possible. For example, by including a shower stall instead of a bathtub, you’ll help save water. You can also ask for solar-powered lighting or geothermal heating.

CLEAR BENEFIT

There’s an upside to the frequent foggy days along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The Chartwell School in Seaside, Calif., uses fog collectors made of nylon mesh to catch condensation in the air. The water trickles into a tank, where it is saved for use in classroom experiments, says executive director Douglas Atkins.

When the weather is sunny, the school can generate so much power with its solar energy system that it sometimes doesn’t need any extra juice from the electric company. For innovations such as these. Chartwell has earned the highest ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council.

SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY, SOUND BUILDING

Health-care facilities such as the Franklin Woods Community Hospital  in Johnson City, Tenn., are also going green. That hospital is being built according to environmentally progressive standards to save money while creating a healthier environment for patients and employees. Among the “green” guidelines suggested for health-care facilities by the group Health Care Without Harm are eliminating mercury (found in thermometers and other hospital equipment), serving healthy food. banning the burning of hospital waste, and using materials that won’t trigger asthma attacks or increase the risk of cancer. Those steps can safeguard the health of people and the planet.

 

They Make House Calls

Each summer in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, some teens and young adults help people cut their energy use. Trained by the Rising Sun Energy Center, they make free house calls, installing energy-efficient lightbulbs, water-saving faucet heads, and retractable clotheslines while dispensing energy-saving tips. Jodi Pincus, currently the center’s executive director, learned about the program in 2002 when two young energy specialists told her she needed attic insulation. She followed their advice and now says, “I hardly ever need to use my heater.”

Program participant Corey C., 16, finds his job rewarding. “Every single thing we do impacts the environment in a positive way and helps people save money on their energy and water bills,” he exclaims. The job may even change Corey’s career path. “Now that I have learned how much energy efficiency will impact the world and the future, I realize this is a good field to pursue,” he declares.

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