Smoking and Drinking!

The good old days.

Once upon a time it was common for people, mostly men, to smoke in the office and have a few drinks for lunch. Foster Brooks, who neither drank nor smoked, made an entire career out of satirizing the phenomena. Good times. But, as time marched on and science bit into the fallacies being used for promotion, those habits died out. You can’t smoke within fifteen feet of most buildings, let alone inside of them, and drinking booze for brunch will get your fired quicker than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. That’s assuming you were still sober enough to try saying supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. That’s not to say people have stopped smoking and drinking, far from, but the former is waning and the latter tends to be done more responsibly. At least in theory.

Alternatives have cropped up to allow people to still enjoy the social implications tied to both habits. Lite beers, less potent alcohols, vaping and e-cigarettes, are all touted as safer ways to imbibe.

They weren’t, and still aren’t, but here we are.

The Surgeon General has this to say about vaping;

Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including:

  • ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
  • flavorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
  • volatile organic compounds
  • heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead

The American Lung Association adds this;

Even though we know that diacetyl causes popcorn lung, this chemical is found in many e-cigarette flavors. It is added to “e-juice” liquid by some e-cigarette companies to complement flavorings such as vanilla, maple, coconut and more. So while diacetyl was swiftly removed from popcorn products since it could cause this devastating disease among factory workers, e-cigarette users are now directly inhaling this harmful chemical into their lungs. In fact, researchers at Harvard found that 39 of 51 e-cigarette brands contained diacetyl. The study also found two similarly harmful chemicals—2,3 pentanedione and acetoin—present in 23 and 46 of the 51 flavors it tested. And roughly 92 percent of the e-cigarettes had one of the three chemicals present.

Popcorn lung is just what it sounds like. The air sacks in your lungs harden and pop rendering them useless. Enough of them do that and you die. That is one of the things causing deaths in young people who vape.

Lighter alcohols have their own issues. The Greatist sums it all up nicely.

Before ordering a light draft over regular, it’s important to note the differences between light, low-carb, and low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beers. Light beer has been brewed to be lower in alcohol, lower in calories, or lower in both (depending on the brand), while low-carb beer has only been brewed to remove carbohydrates (but could have the same alcohol content). And since higher levels of alcohol means more calories, there is little difference in calorie content between low-carb and regular beersTrusted Source. Similarly, if a light beer is lower in alcohol, people may knock a few more back than if they’d stuck with the original— in the end, consuming more calories and possibly more alcohol.

In addition, light beer— albeit lower in calories— is only lower in comparison to a brewery’s leading brand of regular beer. Even when comparing Bud Light to Coors Light, Bud Light has 110 calories and 6.6 grams of carbohydrates per 12 oz. versus. Coors Light with 102 calories and 5.0 grams of carbohydrates. So the meaning of “light” varies between brands.

I’ll save you some trouble here. Drink regular beer, do so in moderation, and have fun. This applies to all alcoholic beverages.

As to vaping, America’s number one vaping company, JUUL, is recalling it’s mint line of vaping juice since it’s wildly popular with teens as young as thirteen, and not so hot for adults.

So what’s a poor hedonist to do?

Sarah Harrison, over at WIRED, reports on one option.

Last month, a new tobacco product made its American debut. The sleek, oblong devices made their premiere in minimalist cases at Atlanta’s Lenox Square mall; a few weeks later, they went on sale at another Georgia mall. This is Iqos, and it likely won’t be long before it expands across the country.

Not an e-cigarette, but also not quite a combustible cigarette, Iqos is a heat-not-burn tobacco product and the newest nicotine technology to vie for the lungs of Americans. The idea behind it is to limit the amount of harmful particles smokers inhale. By warming—not burning—the tobacco, and mixing it with other solvents, Iqos creates an aerosol that lets smokers inhale a more pure form of nicotine and avoid the tar that can contribute to lung disease. At least that’s the theory.

The Iqos arrives in the US just as the backlash against e-cigarettes has reached new heights. On Friday, US representative Mark DeSaulnier, a Democrat from California, will introduce a bill that would institute the first nationwide ban on e-cigarettes. It would also pull all e-cigarettes off the market until the products are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. “Until the FDA goes through its due diligence and makes sure that it’s safe, we shouldn’t be allowing these things to be sold,” says DeSaulnier.

But FDA approval is no guarantee that new nicotine products are safe. Unlike e-cigarettes, the Iqos device has been reviewed (but not approved) by the agency and so can be legally sold. But tobacco researchers question just how safe it really is, and public health advocates now worry the US will see more respiratory illnesses and a rise in youth nicotine users too.

“The fact that FDA gave it a green light is pretty troubling,” says Erika Sward, a spokesperson for the American Lung Association. “I want to see the FDA have a heck of a stricter standard when it comes to looking at what’s appropriate for the protection of the public health.”

A quick side bar here, the FDA ha been under tighter and tighter restrictions as to what it can, and cannot, do. The impetus now is to get stuff into the market sooner rather than later so tests are limited. To be polite.

Long story short, this new cigarette alternative uses chemicals that humans have never ingested before. So they could create mutants not seen outside of horror movies, just kill people quicker, or be fine as spring rain. We just don’t know.

Sarah goes on.

But scientists say the FDA’s logic is flawed, in part because Iqos may present unique dangers that aren’t measured in traditional toxicity tests. “Because it has glycerin that’s been heated, it’s actually putting stuff out that no cigarette ever put out and that hasn’t really been studied very well,” says Robert Jackler, a tobacco researcher at Stanford.

What’s more, other research suggests the devices do present many of the same risks as regular cigarettes. Stanton Glantz, a professor at the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, analyzed the Philip Morris data and concluded that Iqos’ toxicity is “indistinguishable from a cigarette.” An independent study from researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland found that Iqos contains the “same harmful constituents of conventional tobacco cigarette smoke.” Another study suggested the devices could cause more damage to the liver than regular cigarettes.

You can bet real scientists, unencumbered by by the restrictions shackling the FDA, are going to have more to say about this.

But what about booze?

I’ve got some good news on that front.

Adam Rogers, also hanging out at WIRED, brings us this happy thought.

In 2017, Stafford Sheehan was a chemist working on artificial photosynthesis, coming up with metal-based catalysts that’d mimic the way living things acquire energy from the Sun. He did not expect to create a martini that could save the planet.

Sheehan had an invention, a box that could electrolyze a burst of carbon dioxide and a dose of water. Run all that over a metal catalyst to goose a biochemical reaction, and, presto: renewable fuel made from air. One of the fuels he was making was ethanol, C2H6O, a molecule you might also recognize as the thing that makes you drunk. “I had taken to purifying the ethanol that I pulled out of our little electrolyzer, and I made a few beverages out of it,” Sheehan says. “It was always kind of a joke. Me and the other scientists in the lab would be like, ‘Let’s distill some of this and drink it at the party tonight.’ It was like a gag.”

Then Sheehan met Greg Constantine, a music promoter working for Smirnoff—the vodka label, part of the transnational booze company Diageo. And Constantine didn’t think that joke was funny. No, no, no. What Constantine and Sheehan realized was that with some tweaks, they could take that ethanol output and turn it into something people would pay good money to drink: a high-end vodka that goes on sale today, called Air. A vodka whose manufacturing process also slurped planet-killing greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere.

A lot of companies claim the stuff they sell also helps the environment. Sometimes it’s true; sometimes it’s greenwashing. Capitalists gonna capitalism. But if Air has done the molecular math right, this booze actually kills climate change—a little.

That’s right, vodka made by eliminating carbon pollution is a thing and you can get it now. AIR Company‘s vodka is a carbon negative product. This means there is less carbon in the air after the product is made than there was before.

Make enough of this stuff and you stop global warming.

Of course, you’d need to make enough to keep about four billion people hammered twenty-four hours a day, so that’s not realistic. But, it’s still a nice start to killing two birds with one potent libation.

And, now that the basic tech has been worked out, this could applied to alternative fuels, medical products that rely on alcohols, and many other products.

So that’s nice.

If you want to help the planet but don’t need any vodka, you can still create water from ambient air quite easily. The process is becoming more common now in rural areas all over the world and there’s no reason you can’t join the fun.


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