Random vignettes


in Daily updates, Oxford, Politics

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UK Pub Smoking Ban

The major reason for which I dislike spending time in most British pubs is apparently soon to be eliminated; I mean, of course, the carcinogenic clouds that seem to be a feature therein. It’s amazing, actually, that people persist in an activity that kills about half a million Americans every year, according to the Centres for Disease Control and World Health Organization. People should consider a pass-time that kills only a tiny fraction of that number: like serving in Iraq. Whatever enjoyment people derive from it, it clearly doesn’t make sense in cost-benefit terms. It demonstrates the extent to which the rational actor model fails in the face of various biochemical and sociological factors.

While my inclinations generally run in a libertarian direction, smoking is largely exempted from the categories of things legitimately subject only to personal choice. Especially in the case of commercial venues, smoking involves exposing other people – including employees who are there night by night – to the myriad dangers involved in the practice. From a personal perspective, it will make it more enjoyable to go to pubs – which is an activity with almost monolithic power, when it comes to the ways in which students relate socially in groups here.

In two words: I approve.

Olympic commentary

Mica informs me that Canada now has eleven Olympic medals. Well done, I say. That said, the only really intense Olympic experience I ever had was during my second year in Totem Park, where the whole undergraduate resident student body became caught up in Canada’s successful race for the men’s and women’s gold medals in hockey. I even watched the game between Belarus and unknown country X (where unknown country X is the one everyone expected to win) where the puck bounced off the goalie’s mask and into the net. Almost all of the time, sports are really boring. Sports and nationalism together: occasionally interesting.

In two words: why not?

Productivity, etc

I finished this week’s Economist today, as well as several of the readings on constructivism for next week’s core seminar. Medium-term projects now include:

  1. Finishing two more scholarship applications
  2. Arranging transport and accommodation for Sarah Johnston’s March 18th wedding in Chichester
  3. Sort out accommodation for next year
  4. Get a wedding gift for Sarah and a birthday gift for my mother

Without a looming essay deadline to motivate, I will need to learn to focus energies on the basis of other kinds of deadlines. While it might require an enormous personal adjustment, it’s just the king of thing that’s necessary in order to exist as a crude proxy of the kind of ‘highly effective people’ whose habits are written about. Thankfully, since my habits are written about almost exclusively by me, nobody need know about the instances where I wander ever so slightly from the path of enlightenment through massive doses of academic prose.

In two words: read more!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

B February 17, 2006 at 8:36 pm

“People should consider a pass-time that kills only a tiny fraction of that number: like serving in Iraq.”

Americans serving in Iraq: about 200,000
Casualties: about 2,000 (over several years)
Percentage: less than 1%

Americans in total: about 300,000,000
Smoking deaths: 500,000
Percentage: 0.16%

Not the best stats you’ve got there, which isn’t to say that smoking isn’t really stupid.

Milan February 17, 2006 at 8:44 pm


That is some bad math.

The ongoing Iraq war began in March 2003: 35 months ago.

Based on 2000 casualties, that’s about 685 casualties a year, among about 200,000 soldiers. That works out to 0.34% per year.

Milan February 17, 2006 at 9:04 pm

Of course, the relevant percentage in the second case would be smoking fatalities as a percentage of smokers. This is data that I don’t have.

In any case, the phrase was meant jokingly.

Ben February 17, 2006 at 11:16 pm

I’ll be looking forward to the end of smoking too…

Anonymous February 18, 2006 at 1:04 am

This still doesn’t count as a photo of people, you most isolated of individuals.

Anonymous February 18, 2006 at 1:14 am

Your photo today reminds me of a stanza from a poem by Staceyann Chin:

“It won’t be long now before Mr. Co-Lynn Powell becomes Colin again
Before we who pay taxes here convince the IMF to forgive the old country
A debt we will never be able to pay
Unless we start selling the darker skinned natives again.”

R.K. February 18, 2006 at 1:29 pm

Here comes the science, you’re in for it now…

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 44.5 million US adults were current smokers in 2004 (the most recent year for which numbers are available). This is 20.9% of all adults (23.4% of men, 18.5% of women) – more than 1 out of 5 people.

Each year, about 438,000 people die in the US from tobacco use: that’s 0.98% of smokers, and a number higher than your yearly Iraq rate. Nearly 1 of every 5 deaths is related to smoking. Cigarettes kill more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined.

Based on data collected from 1995 to 1999, the CDC estimated that adult male smokers lost an average of 13.2 years of life and female smokers lost 14.5 years of life because of smoking.

Anonymous February 18, 2006 at 1:23 pm

“Tuesday’s vote on smoking in public places introduced the toughest form of ban under consideration, forbidding smoking in almost any workplace, including in pubs and private clubs. MPs overwhelmingly rejected softer versions of the law, exempting private clubs or pubs that serve no food, instead passing the more draconian legislation by a margin of 200 votes. Civil-liberties campaigners had muttered that it was not a matter in which the state should intervene, at least where owners of pubs and clubs explicitly choose to allow smokers. But Parliament concluded that health concerns—lung cancer and other diseases caused by cigarette smoke—were more important than the freedom to puff. Britain joins a growing list of countries that have introduced limits to public smoking in recent years.”

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