Smoking: it’s just a bad, bad thing

With this week’s news that Toronto’s City Council (a.k.a. the Keystone Kops) had passed a “compromise” smoking by-law comes a story out of Britain that refutes yet another in the endless litany of smokers’ excuses. A new study shows that despite the claims of many smokers, “kicking the smoking habit does not raise risks for car accidents”.

The study contradicts the findings of previous research, which found that the number of workplace accidents increases on Britain’s national “No Smoking Day.” Close to 2 million British smokers abstain from smoking or cut back on “No Smoking Day”, an annual event in the UK since 1984.

Last year, Britain’s Health and Safety Executive reported that workplace accident rates were significantly higher on No Smoking Day, held the second Wednesday in March, than on either previous or subsequent Wednesdays. The recent study, which examined rates of traffic accidents over 10 years, found no significant change in car accidents while smokers pounded the dashboard on No Smoking Day.

So does nicotine withdrawal raise the likelihood of accidents in general? Now researchers aren’t sure, but anyone who’s either suffered through (or witnessedan acute “nic fit” knows the answer is an unequivocal “yes.”

In a related story, researchers in Austria have concluded that driving and marijuana use can be a “dangerous combination”. Dr. Ilse Kurtzhaler and colleagues at Innsbruck University Clinics have reached the astounding conclusion that “perceptual motor speed and accuracy, two very important parameters of driving ability, seem to be impaired immediately after cannabis consumption.”

The team performed a series of physical and psychological tests on 60 healthy volunteers, who smoked regular cigarettes or cigarettes containing THC, the active agent in marijuana. Lo and behold, the researchers found that “the THC group exhibited a significantly higher impairment of cognitive (intellectual) function” after smoking the drug. Amazingly, the THC smokers also “had trouble remembering experiences from psychological tests run the previous day.”

There is a lesson here for all of us: don’t smoke and drive.