Truth in Packaging

le fin d'amour   dugg

... so last week, my brother and i were down
in Toronto for a few days. we spent a lot of time
at this hospital, which is an interesting place to pass one's time anyway, but perhaps especially so the last few days of the year.

one of the traditions of year's end is to look back
on the past year and reflect on what's gone on,
and i can tell you that doing this at a hospital
where everyone either has cancer or is working to save their lives definitely adds a real  je n'sais quoi to that process.

there is something strange about spending your waking hours in a place where cancer is normal.




it's a kind of "bring your own hope" affair.

Princess Margaret Hospital

my brother had 3 sessions of chemo day care lined up, there was a lot of blood to be collected and we had a big meeting with his doctor and the stem cell care team coordinator...

...plus several conversations
with different hospital pharmacy staff that were almost successful in acquiring all the necessary drugs the doctor
prescribed upstairs.

it's a life and death process, one that combines physical pain with stress, discomfort, boredom
and fear.

when my brother wasn't in line or hooked up
to something, we would slip outside for a smoke. better yet, two smokes.

...which is where the CITY TV crew found us.

one of the new warnings

the reporter asked what we - as smokers - thought of the new "health warnings" that were now legally required on packages of cigarettes.

my brother said most people who smoked already knew it wasn't good for them, so he didn't see the new packaging changing very many people's lives.

the old warnings

i agreed with him, and suggested that making the packages more ghoulish was just the sort of thing non-smokers did to feel good about themselves.

i further suggested that these new packages were probably the last step before smokers would have to wear a large red 'S' on their clothing when they went out.

she asked me if i felt persecuted by non-smokers.
i said no, that it was more like petty harassment.


i also said i'd like it if people got carbon credits too.
i don't drive at all and i use public transit only when where i'm going is too far to walk, so i could use my credits to smoke with.

non-smoking people could use their carbon credits for their SUVs, or their snowmobiles, or their chainsaws or to fly around...

if they needed extra credits,
they could buy them from homeless people, or pedestrian smokers like me.

this idea didn't make the final cut for the story, but we got a couple of licks in. it was nice to be asked. talking about things always helps...


i wonder if there have ever been any studies about how many people keep smoking partly because they find non-smokers more toxic than tobacco?

i doubt it.

but there have been a lot of studies about smoking and people with mental disorders. here's what they generally have to say...

• In 1998 451 billion cigarettes were consumed in the United States.

• Individuals with a mental illness consume 44.3% of the cigarettes in the United States annually.

• Studies indicate a smoking rate among individuals with a mental illness from 58% to 88%.

when pressed by non-smokers, Frank Zappa used to say "Look. To me, these are food".

for some, it seems they are meds.


i looked up the stats on this when i got back from Vancouver in the fall. the big news there was a new bylaw against smoking in city parks.

"nice work" i thought to myself "you just banned people with mental disorders, like me, from 'your' parks. that should help."


let's not even open up the whole "class" thing.

the old inadequate warning - 50% on each side

i'm too old to be surprised by these Puritans anymore... so what's left?


You who mix the words of torture, suicide,
and death
With scotch and soda at the bar,
We’re all real decent people, aren’t we.
But there’s no time left for talk.
Let’s not chat about despair.

       ~ Diamanda Galas

... and if it's not Diamanda haunting my reflections, it's the voice of William S., reading his "Thanksgiving Prayer"...

Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed
to mind their own business.
Thanks for a nation of finks.
Yes, thanks for all the memories
   -- all right let's see your arms!
You always were a headache
and you always were a bore.
Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal
of the last and greatest of human dreams.


i also thought that if these labels are a good idea, and if they do help people change their ways and live better lives, then isn't it almost our duty to extend this good idea to other potentially harmful products?

like coffee?

WARNING: consumption of caffeine can lead to caffeinism: a dependency with unpleasant physical and mental conditions including nervousness, irritability, anxiety, tremu- lousness, muscle twitching (hyperreflexia), insomnia, headaches, respiratory alkalosis,
and heart palpitations.

Caffeine Intoxication may include restless- ness, nervousness, excitement, euphoria, insomnia, increased urination, gastrointestinal disturbance, muscle twitching, a rambling flow of thought and speech, irritability, irregular or rapid heart beat and psychomotor agitation.

In cases of much larger overdoses, mania, depression, lapses in judgment, impaired long- term memory, disorientation, disinhibition, delusions, hallucinations, and psychosis may occur, and rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of skele- tal muscle tissue) can be provoked.

and health food?

High consumption* of tofu** has been linked with cognitive impairment, the development of Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer and kidney stones. Consumption can suppress thyroid function and cause goiters in healthy people, especially elderly subjects. In men, soy has been shown to lower testosterone levels, lower sperm counts and reduced sex drive.

Soy is one of eight foods responsible for the majority of food allergies, and one of five foods most commonly associated with food allergies in children. 100 grams of any soy product has the estrogenic content of a contraceptive pill.

* 2 or more servings of tofu a week

** and other unfermented soy products

and while we're at it, we might as well do away with those pretty labels on the wine bottles. talk about enticing people to make unhealthy lifestyle choices...


whatever. it's coming round to short time on this topic anyway. this horse will soon be dead, and some other demographic will  soon find itself in the
do-rights' sights.

who will it be? meat eaters? mental cases? the morbidly obese? the excessively perfumed?

short people?

don't speak to soon
for the wheels still in spin...


it's not surprising that people get emotional about all this, really. it is a matter of life and death... but maybe not in the usual sense...

when people used to ask Kurt Vonnegut why he smoked, he would say "I'm committing suicide. Slowly."

There some of that truth in every smoker, and perhaps in every other negatively-addicted person out there.

the Wild Party - Posadas

Like my brother said, people who smoke know it's not good for them. Lighting up these days, on some level, is looking Death in the face and saying "whatever".

Smokers and their ilk remember their own mortality over and over, every day. Lighting up is in no small part a strange affirmation - an acknowledgment that Death walks with each and all of us, and no one knows the number of their days...

but such days as one has will be lived according to one's choosing.

How could this be anything but a profound affront to anyone eating right and working out and doing whatever else is done these days in the name of life extension?

Even leaving aside old notions about demonic possession and such, the last thing anyone desperate for more days wants to see is someone hinting that the game might not be worth the candle...

...or reminding them that in the end, there is nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide.

12 Years 3 Months 21 Days    dugg

"If the wheel is fixed, I will still take a chance,

If we're walking on thin ice,
then we might as well dance.

     ~ Jesse Winchester

- 30 -


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