Archive for May, 2011

New News, Old News

Every night I like to spend a little bit of time reading the news from back in my original home land of Aotearoa/ New Zealand, and from around the world. Tonight, I learned a couple of interesting things, one of which was ‘news’ to me, and the other which did not surprise me at all. The first was that today was International Smoke-free Day, also known as World No Tobacco Day. The second thing was that regularly speaking a second language  is extremely good exercise for our brains.

Hmm… I wonder if this means that people who speak a second language are less likely to smoke? I would like to do a survey of people on this point.

Until then, however, I wonder how long it would take for this important day to ‘catch on’ as part of the anti-smoking movement in South Korea. Perhaps it could take another couple of years, or maybe it would take up to a decade. I have always been impressed, however, at how Korean people work together and can achieve enormous social change in a dramatically short time, when it is agreed upon and decreed to be in the best interests of society.

Considering the dangers of second hand smoke, and the negative influence of older people smoking in public in front of younger people, then it is about time that older generations started stopping smoking in public, and helped younger people to quit.

I really look forward to the day when I can cycle and walk around town and not have to smelly the stink of cancer breath all around me, and not feel sorry for all the young people already hooked on this dangerous, dirty, and deadly, destructive drug.

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The freedom to ban, good and bad

There has been an interesting combination of a couple of news articles today, which ironically shared a common theme, despite vast differences in application. In two countries traditionally known for freedom, bans have been passed by authorities, forbidding people to do specific things.

In the USA, and specifically in the city of New York, the city municipal government has passed a local law forbidding people from smoking in outdoor public places, including parks. The New York City Health Commissioner, named Thomas Farley, explains:

“57% of non-smoking New Yorkers have evidence in their blood that they’ve been exposed to second-hand smoke, and …

we can’t protect people from second-hand smoke everywhere, but we can at least protect people from second hand smoke in parks, which are places we set aside for people to enjoy in a healthy way.”

This is, of course, fantastic news for non-smokers, particularly those with children who can now feel safe and comfortable in taking their children to a park, and not have others setting bad examples for their children nearby, which is probably the greater long-term risk than even that of the more immediate second-hand smoke.

This great new development, despite not likely to be enforced directly by any police, still further promotes the giving up of the cancer stick.

Meanwhile, from Denmark comes news today of a nation-wide band. The government there seems to have unfortunately been taken over by right-wing extreme nationalists. I am very surprised to learn that even Vegemite, baby rusks, and now even my favourite marmite have all been banned! This is due to a law passed as long ago as 2004, making illegal any food products with added vitamins.

This news does make me wonder about their motivation. Were they trying to promote their local organics industry? Are they trying to slow down the amount of unnecessary waste from excessive packaging from plastic and cardboard boxes and containers? Are they trying to encourage people to grow their own fresh food?

All of these would be fair reasons, but still invalid as there must be more effective and simply fairer ways of achieving those ends, without passing such a ‘draconian’ measure. If the government is simply trying to promote healthier and more ‘natural’ eating habits, it could simply pass laws promoting foods, such as organics, and taxing processed foods at a higher rate.

It sounds like the current immigration minister in Denmark, named Soren Pind, is a bit conservative, old fashioned, and a bit of a fuddy-duddy. He believes that new people to Denmark should “assimilate or leave.” Some people have noted, however, that he has also instituted boarded checks, and so some people question his real motivation. Perhaps it is just so as to gather revenue from unwary people not knowing the newer law and falling into the trap of having to pay the fines to escape prosecution. … I certainly hope marmite is not actually criminalized there now!

How strange that something so deliciously salty can be banned! Whatever is next? Chocolate?! Perhaps it should be; there is much sugar in chocolate which I would guess has worse health effects than marmite. Potato chips are also worth about zero in nutritional value, and really serve  only to create waste due to the wrappers which must be disposed of carefully.

It seems to me that these two bans, while on the surface sound similar in intention, are actually drastically opposite in purpose. The one in New York city is obviously meaning to protect the rights and the health of non-smokers and maybe even smokers too, as it gives smokers a further strong message that it is no longer sociably acceptable to put one’s self and others at risk. The ban in Denmark, however, does not seem to protect anyone except people who fear anything different from overseas.

It sounds to me more like those particular people have a special type of disease – of the mind – and it is commonly called fear. Unlike fear of second-hand smoke, however, being exposed to simple things of a different culture, such as a mere jar of healthy food, is not necessarily bad.

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