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Smoking Ban for Apartment Dwellers

This kind of thing doesn't usually bother me too much, but even I'm wondering if the smoking ban coming to Belmont, California, goes too in the tension between your right to make decisions for yourself and my right not to be harmed by your decisions.

From "Smoking ban looms for Belmont apartment dwellers" by Steve Rubenstein in the SF Chronicle:

Belmont apartment dwellers who like to light up in their homes have 14 months to kick the habit, work out a compromise with their nonsmoking neighbors or get out of town.

Under the city's new smoking ban, among the toughest in the nation, apartment residents whose secondhand smoke invades their neighbors' units will be subject to fines of as much as $1,000.

The measure, which the City Council enacted Tuesday on a 3-2 vote, bans smoking in multiunit dwellings as well as in parks, outdoor restaurants and other public places. The apartment provision takes effect around New Year's 2009, while lighting up elsewhere is banned as soon as the law officially takes effect in about a month.

Hardly a loophole exists for Belmont denizens hooked on the weed. For example, the new law allows an actor to smoke onstage during the performance of a play - but only if smoking is an "integral part of the story."

The city says the tenant smoking ban will be enforced only if neighbors complain. It's believed to be the first such law in the country.

Picky Eaters? They Get It From You

An article of the same title in today's NY Times by Kim Severson places the blame for your kids picky-eating habits:

Researchers examined the eating habits of 5,390 pairs of twins between 8 and 11 years old and found children’s aversions to trying new foods are mostly inherited.

The message to parents: It’s not your cooking, it’s your genes.

According to the report, 78 percent is genetic and the other 22 percent environmental.

Most children eat a wide variety of foods until they are around 2, when they suddenly stop. The phase can last until the child is 4 or 5. It’s an evolutionary response, researchers believe. Toddlers’ taste buds shut down at about the time they start walking, giving them more control over what they eat. “If we just went running out of the cave as little cave babies and stuck anything in our mouths, that would have been potentially very dangerous,” Dr. Cooke said.

One of the most interesting aspects of the article is the trickery that Jerry Seinfeld's wife uses with their kids:

Mrs. Seinfeld, the wife of the actor Jerry Seinfeld and the mother of three young children, became fed up with trying to get her children to eat fruits and vegetables. The oldest, Sascha, who is 6, is so picky she used to dictate what the rest of the family ate.

Her new book, “Deceptively Delicious” (Harper Collins), outlines a series of recipes based on fruit and vegetable purées that are blended into food in a way that she says children won’t notice. Half a cup of butternut squash disappears into pasta coated with milk and margarine. Pancakes turn pink with beets. Avocado hides in chocolate pudding and spinach in brownies.

Some experts don’t buy the method...hiding foods doesn’t help a child learn to appreciate new tastes...


Cold Medicines

I've known that cough medicine isn't recommended for very young kids, but an article last weekend in the NY Times by Gardiner Harris reports that they may soon be banned for kids under 6:

Safety experts for the Food and Drug Administration urged the agency on Friday to consider an outright ban on over-the-counter, multisymptom cough and cold medicines for children under 6.

The reviewers wrote that there is little evidence that these medicines are effective in young children, and there are increasing fears that they may be dangerous. From 1969 to 2006, at least 54 children died after taking decongestants, and 69 died after taking antihistamines, the report said. And it added that since adverse drug reactions are reported voluntarily and fitfully, the numbers were likely to significantly understate the medicines’ true toll.

In the case of pediatric over-the-counter medicines, the agency decided decades ago that drug makers could market the medicines for children even though they had only been tested in adults. Back then, it was assumed that children’s bodies were simply smaller versions of adult ones. That assumption has proven untrue. Indeed, a growing number of studies suggest that cough and cold medicines work no better in children than placebos.


Tilting Back the Front Seat

Ever been riding in a car and tilted back the front seat for a snooze?  I certainly have.  Turns out this is quite dangerous, but for some reason the government and automakers are hesitant to make this fact abundantly clear.   The danger isn't much of a surprise if you think about it...but that's the point.  We often do things like this without thinking about...assuming that "if you can recline the seat, it must be safe to do so."

Emily Bazelon has the scoop on Slate: link


Universal Health Care

Not that I'm a policy wonk.  I haven't studied the issue, but the possibility of universal health care is certainly intriguing.  One of the most common criticisms seems to be something like this (e.g, from wizbang politics):

Health care services are not unlimited, so offering "universal coverage" necessarily requires price controls and rationing.

The expected reaction to this argument is, I guess, "price controls and rationing?!?  Heck no!  Homey don't play dat!"  But the idea of universal healthcare is not unlimited universal healthcare.  It is healthcare that is available universally at a certain minimum level.  Those of us with the means, of course, will have options beyond that minimum.  And as far as rationing goes, if rationing is really what is required to make the minimum available to all, then I'm for it.  Rationing is what compassionate people with an interest in the common good do when there isn't enough to go around.  We take a little less for ourselves so that all can at least have some.


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