Where there is Smoke there is Fire: Smokers and Substance Abuse

  2006       2002-2006      2006

It’s no revelation that the majority of people in the United States who smoke cigarettes began as teenagers. Here are some revealing statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2006 National Survey on Drug Use & Health on the fires beneath the smoke. 

25% of all cigarette smokers, over age 12, use illicit drugs verses 5% of non-cigarette smokers.

43% of cigarette smokers binge drink verses 16% of non-cigarette smokers.

From 2002 to 2006 10.7 million people began smoking cigarettes for the first time. 7 million, or 65% of these new smokers, were under age 18.

The next time you see four high school aged kids smoking cigarettes know that, according to current statistics, one of them uses illicit drugs and two of them binge drink.

The good news is they can quit, but what these numbers don’t reveal is why they start.   

Looking back at my own teenage experience, these numbers seem accurate.  In my memory those who were heavy drinkers and those who smoked whatever they could get their hands on, wanted to feel something. They wanted to feel connected while they passed through a twisted age of disillusionment. Many of them were smart, they could see through the hypocrisy in adults and their minds never stopped trying to figure out solutions to their problems. Unfortunately they were often treated with disdain, taught double standards, and left to fend for themselves by parents who were emotionally absent.  

Of course I’m generalizing. There are plenty of teenagers who don’t experience any of this and make it to adulthood just fine.  Yet, I wonder if you can look at your kids and see their future? Can you tell which one is most likely to be the kid who smokes, drinks, and uses drugs? If you think you can tell, or if you can’t tell, what are you going to do? What are you going to change about yourself, today, to make a difference? What is the trade off?

Smoking is not the end of the world but it is a sign of greater fires below. Help your children so they don’t grow up dowsing their flames of sorrow and anger with alcohol or whatever else the piper is peddling.

To Wiki or Not To Wiki?

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Can Wikipedia be trusted? This is not a new question. It should be asked of every encyclopedia.

Encyclopedias are touch stones, introductory references, telescopes peaking into much larger worlds. Sometimes the lenses of our printed guides are blurred. Ink alone does not endow words with factual authority. Printing and binding only guarantee a higher delivery cost. The entries may be factual, but good luck verifying the sources. If you have access to the sources you probably would not bother looking it up in an encyclopedia; unless that encyclopedia is Wikipedia.

If you know a subject well, the best place to begin is Wikipedia. If the First Barbary War is one of your specialties, go to Wikipedia and see if the article is accurate. If it’s not, make corrections (The current article does not meet Wikipedia standards). As a contributor you can clear the way for other observers.  

Here is an example. I’m familiar with the events surrounding the murder of Joseph Standing in 1879 and Wikipedia had a stub (A short article marked for expansion) about his life. In July 2007 I made a major revision of the article. I adhered to Wikipedia’s three content policies; maintain a neutral point of view (NPOV), provide verifiable sources, and do not use original research. Since my revision there have been around 30 minor edits, made by other users, and with only two exceptions every edit has been an improvement.

This kind of real time editing can not be done in the world of paper. I recently found two errors in a history book that has been on the market for over a decade. I submitted corrections to the publisher earlier this week and while they were pleased to receive accurate information, it will probably take a year or more before the book is updated.

As Erin McKean says, sometimes paper is the enemy of words. The book is not the best shape for an encyclopedia. At the same time, I’m not yet converted to belief in a paperless world. I simply love books. Well referenced, indexed books. But from my non-neutral point of view Wikipedia and its volunteer army of Wikipedians, of which I am one, are headed in the right direction. Now let’s Wiki.