Smoke-Free Campuses

In just a few months, the University of Missouri will jump aboard the no smoking train and institute a policy essentially making the entire campus smoke-free (http://mizzouweekly.missouri.edu/archive/2011/32-26/smoking-ban-to-expand/index.php).

On a personal level and with opinions about the policy’s enforceability aside, I think this is great because I like smelling smoke about as much as I like smelling vomit.

However, according to our textbook (Mr. Gordis), “A major role of epidemiology is to serve as a basis for developing policies that affect human health.”   

So, on an epidemiological side this policy is…well, let me think that one out. 

The effects of smoking have been beaten to death.  See http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/ETS or http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/secondhandsmoke.html or http://www.no-smoke.org/getthefacts.php?id=13 or http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/secondhand-smoke/CC00023 or…need I go on?  

Basically, anyone with half a brain and a little education knows smoking is bad for you.  

So, the University’s decision to ban smoking on campus (except in parking lots and on the very tippy tops of garages) was obviously based on some research.  I don’t have an exact number but I would bet that hundreds of studies have been conducted over the years to look at the effects of smoking and secondhand smoke and this policy is a reaction to those studies. 

However, the goal is to decrease the rates of smoking on campus, and I’m not so sure how effective it will be (http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2011/4/12/next-step-mus-smoke-free-policy-approaching/).  The article I just linked says surveys have shown that smoking rates increase in college, and apparently many other campuses have already gone smoke-free, but it doesn’t mention anything about research showing that making a smoke-free campus decreases the prevalence or incidence of smoking among college students. 

Just a reminder, Gordis says that, “a major role in epidemiology is to serve as a basis for developing policies.”  Sounds like epi is still needed in this case to tell us if this really decreases smoking. 

A quick internet search reveals some statistics of smoking rates on campuses where no smoking policies have already been developed (http://www.lungusa.org/stop-smoking/tobacco-control-advocacy/reports-resources/tobacco-policy-trend-reports/college-report.pdf) but I don’t see any real research studies.  As I now know from class, just because a prevalence rate decreases, that doesn’t mean it can be attributed to the factor in question.

In fact, the article I just referenced admits that more research about how to target smoking rates on college campuses is needed. While this method of making campuses smoke-free may be effective, there isn’t enough hardcore research to prove anything just yet.

We need to know, from a reputable study, if other campuses can attribute their decreases in smoking rates to having a smoke-free campus and we need to know if the study/studies were generalizable (meaning the results can be extended beyond just that one campus).  If this doesn’t really help, we probably shouldn’t be using a bunch of money to institute it.

So, once again, on a personal level, I’m excited about the prospect of a smoke-free campus because that means more clean air for me!  But on an epidemiological level, I’m not sure I’m completely convinced this will be effective at getting people to stop smoking.  However, since it’s already been approved, let’s hope it is!  

If nothing else, it’ll help those of us who don’t want to smell smoke breathe a little easier :)

Gordis, Leon. (2009). Epidemiology 4 ed.. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

Dirty beds, Touched Plates, and Getting Your Germs on Me

Oh to be young and naïve again. 

When I was younger, I took for granted that the comforters in hotels were freshly cleaned just before my arrival.  But, as it turns out, comforters—or duvets for my more cultured readers—are not always washed between guests. (Here’s an article, albeit from 2005 that talks about hotels and washing: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/dirty-laundry)

 

Let me repeat this, they are NOT always washed before you take over the room.  Yes, you did pay 80 bucks for that room.  No, you do not want to share a bed with some stranger who may or may not have been clean when they sprawled on the bed.  Nor do you want to lay face flat on a bedspread that little Johnny and Jane jumped on the night before while their parents left them unattended to go out to eat.

But alack and alas, unless you go to one of the (um, few) hotels that promise to wash their comforters after each guest’s departure you may be sleeping on a dirty bed.

So I wonder how many germs are actually on those comforters that we’d prefer not to have passed on to us.  Is it really that gross to sleep on a bedspread a stranger slept on the night before?  I’d say yes.  Of course.  Absolutely.  But really, is it that bad?  I sit on couches in public all the time without giving it a moment’s notice.    

Have you ever been to one of those restaurants where they already have wine glasses or appetizer plates on the table when you get there?  If you don’t order wine they take them away.  My question is this: do they actually wash those glasses before they put them back out?  What if you don’t order an appetizer?  Do they reuse the plates or assume you may have touched them even though they remain stacked in the corner where they began?  My guess is most places assume you didn’t touch them (or the wine glasses) and put them back out.  My first thought: sick.  Some people have some nasty fingers and under no circumstances do I want them touching my plates. 

My second thought: is it really that bad?

Do people get sick because they ate off the plate that John Doe brushed his finger against the hour before?  Do people get sick from sleeping in the same bed as Jane Doe who hasn’t showered in two days?  Is her dirt and grime lurking on the covers 5 hours after she was there and if so, could they affect me?  I don’t actually know.  They say what you don’t know can’t hurt you, don’t they?

I can’t say I’ve ever been sick from staying in a hotel, and I’ve stayed in my fair share throughout my 23 year life.  I also don’t think I’ve gotten sick from a restaurant.  I’d like to see a study done about this.  Something like, “Is there a dose response relationship between hotels not washing comforters and occupants getting infectious illnesses?”  Or, “Do germs left behind on shared restaurant plates cause infectious disease?”  Maybe a study would make hotels and restaurants realize they need to clean more often. 

Or maybe it would prove that they don’t need too…  Yuck.

On Health and Having a Good ‘Tude

While I haven’t gone through the study yet myself, the following seems to have a cool message about the positive impacts of having a positive attitude.  

Researchers at Duke University have just released a study finding that optimism increases lifespan (fatal accidents prohibited, I’m sure).  You can read about it here.  

Guess it goes to show we should be less stressed and more positive about life!

:)  

Not only is some research bad.  So are some weight loss ads.

Not only is some research bad.  So are some weight loss ads.

Bad Breath

I was trying to do some reading for class and got a little sidetracked looking up ways to know that research is bad.  Normally search engines these days are pretty dang good at coming up with legit sites for the the random stuff I type in, but in the case of “reasons you know your research is bad,” Google may have slightly misguessed what I was getting at.

Since I’m taking Epidemiology I don’t need Google to tell me how to know if research is bad ;)  But maybe Google knew that.  Maybe instead it thought I might like to know how to test my the smelliness of my breath.  Do I ever.  I’ll share my findings below.

"There are ways you can objectively smell your own breath. However, you have to take a slightly indirect route.

Try this technique. Lick your wrist, wait about five seconds while the saliva dries somewhat, and then smell it. What do you think?

That’s the way you smell. Or, more precisely, that’s the way the end of your tongue smells (your tongue’s “anterior” portion). How was it? Did you pass this first check?Bacterial coating scraped off tongue.

Now try this second experiment. It will check the odor associated with the back portion of your tongue (your tongue’s “posterior” aspect).

Take a spoon, turn it upside down, and use it to scrape the very back portion of your tongue. (Don’t be surprised if you find you have an active gag reflex.) Take a look at the material that has been scrapped off, usually it’s a thick whitish material. Now, take a whiff of it. Not so bad? Pretty nasty? This smell, as opposed to the sampling from the anterior portion of your tongue, is probably the way your breath smells to others.”

-http://www.animated-teeth.com/bad_breath/t1_halitosis.htm#testing.breath

Dogs and Bed Bugs

Which is cooler?  A dog that can balance a ball on it’s nose? 

Or a dog that can sniff out bedbugs?

I first heard about this after my hubby told me he knew someone training her dog to find bedbugs.  I’ve got to admit, I had my doubts.  But this article seems to make a good case for how they train dogs to find ‘em.

Too bad our dog Cosmo couldn’t do this.  Honestly, I think he’d be scared of the bugs. 

Update

To those wondering, my cold is mostly gone.  I’m now blaming this persistent runny nose on the cold Missouri weather!!

Also, here’s a game where you can be the opposite of an epidemiologist…

http://www.addictinggames.com/madvirus.html

This is SO rad. Megabytes!
Anonymous

Thanks Ted :)

How is your cold

Is your cold gone? Mine usually linger on for about three weeks!

Who's views does it officially represent? (T. Reno)
Anonymous

Haha, I guess it represents mine :)