Health Scan: Hot facts about cold turkey

In the US, where the smoking rate is lower than Israel’s 22.8%, only 8.8% who quit required behavioral therapy to do so.

June 27, 2010 02:20
4 minute read.

smoking [illustrative]. (photo credit: Channel 10)

Most smokers who kick the habit do it on their own without help from counsellors, medications, nicotine gum or patches, according to a new Australian study. The research was published in PLoS Medicine (of the US Public Library of Science). Authors Simon Chapman and Ross McKenzie of the School of Public Health of the University of Sydney wrote that there is too much “medicalization” in smoking cessation today, and that even 20 years ago, when such medications were introduced, twice as many smokers stopped without such pharmacological help. Now, prescription and over-the-counter drugs and smokingcessation classes are included in Israel’s basket of health services.

In the US, where the smoking rate is lower than Israel’s 22.8%, only 8.8% who quit required behavioral therapy to do so. Instead, most went “cold turkey” or gradually reduced the number of cigarettes smoked each day. The American Cancer Society reported in 1986 that over 97% of the 37 million Americans who quit smoking since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of tobacco gave up by themselves.

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Israel Cancer Association (ICA) directorgeneral Miri Ziv said “really wanting” to kick the habit is the main factor in succeeding. Large studies conducted before the medications were introduced showed that 53% of those who quit by themselves felt it was “not as hard” as they thought it would be; just 27% maintained it was “quite hard” and 20% “very hard.”

Ziv added that half of the studies of efficacy of nicotine patches financed by the pharmaceutical industry found them effective, while only 22% of those studies not financed by the industry showed this technique was effective.

The journal Addictive Behavior last year publishing findings that raising cigarette taxes, laws to restrict smoking in public places and educational campaigns to stress its dangers are much more effective in getting people to quit than other factors.

A new ICA study carried out by Geocartography of a representative sample of 500 Israeli Jews found that most are “very troubled” about health damage caused by tobacco, and three-quarters know that smoking even one cigarette a day is enough to harm health.

The same specifications for the quality of water drilled from the aquifer will be set for bottled mineral water, the Health Ministry’s new director-general, Dr. Ronni Gamzu, decided on Wednesday. Until now, there were no standards for mineral water quality. Not long ago, a committee had discussed setting standards and made recommendations, but the issue was raised practically only recently when the Mei Eden company on the Golan Heights announced irregularities in certain components of its mineral water. Gamzu invited ministry professionals to discuss the matter and decided on the spot to set the same standards as for water from drilling.

Tel Aviv University researchers have used calculations to analyze the structure, mobility and function of the protein hCTR1, which transmits copper ions within the cell.

It might seem unimportant to the layman, but this discovery will, they say, make it possible to better understand the way that chemotherapy drugs fight cancers. Prof. Nir Ben-Tal, doctoral student Maya Shoshan and master’s degree student Yariv Barkan of the biochemistry and molecular biology department – working in cooperation with Prof. Turkan Haliloglu from Istanbul – studied the human copper transporter 1 protein, located in the fatty envelope surrounding all bodily cells.

It not only supervises the movement of copper ions, but also transfers to the cell the active chemotherapy drug cisplatin.

The new discovery, just published in theProceedings of the (US) National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), could lead to the development of more effective anticancer drugs, said Ben-Tal.

Copper ions are needed in low concentrations by cells for the activity of various enzymes, and participate in vital activities such as blood coagulation, protection against oxidants and oxygen exchange. If copper-binding enzymes are harmed, it can trigger anemia, hemophilia, diabetes and heart disease. However, copper ions alone are very reactive and tend to quickly produce oxygen free radicals, which are harmful. Evolutionary processes caused the ions to be handed in a chain from one protein to another, and hCTR1 is one of the proteins. The TAU research has expanded understanding of the unique functions of hCTR1 and how the cell succeeds in absorbing the vital copper ions while controlling their destructive potential, Shoshan added.

Beware of damage to eyesight from handheld laser pointers. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a letter recently from doctors at Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Manchester Royal Eye Hospital describing the case of a teenager who suffered from dark spots in the center of his vision after he bought a green diode laser pointer and shone the beam into his eyes while playing with it.

His visual acuity was poor and tests revealed burns to the surface of the eye and disturbances to the retina, the lightsensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

Two months later, the man’s visual acuity improved but some retinal damage remained. The authors warn that, although lasers may cause only a transient afterimage, shining one into the eyse can lead to permanent visual loss in later years.

The UK Health Protection Agency has received no previous reports of such injury from laser pointers, they write. It advises that laser products sold to the public should be restricted to devices of less than one milliwatt, in accordance with the British Standard, and be accompanied by sufficient information on their safe operation.

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