Monday, November 12, 2012

Smoke signs

Now that Obamacare is the law of the land for at least the next 2-4 years, I’m going to make some incidental observations about universal healthcare.

i) Paradoxically, guaranteed healthcare can encourage unhealthy behavior. To take two anecdotes:

I knew an ex-drug attic who used to stand outside the ER when he took Speed. He figured that if he suffered a heart attack from overdosing on Speed, and collapsed on the sidewalk right outside the ER, he’d be resuscitated. That made it safe for him to pop amphetamines.

I have two older cousins who smoke and drink heavily. Both developed heart disease. Both had bypass surgery. Both went right back to smoking and drinking after bypass surgery.

People can use healthcare as a backup system for high-risk behavior.

ii) Universal healthcare leads to official food Nazis. You no longer have the freedom to eat and drink whatever you want, because, if you shove everyone in the same pool, then your risky behavior is costly to others.

Mind you, liberals don’t apply that calculus to sexually risky behavior (e.g. homosexuality).

iii) Apropos (ii), I think the dangers of some allegedly high-risk behavior is probably exaggerated. For instance, there’s a hysterical overreaction to smokers. But I sometimes wonder if the risk of smoking and drinking hasn’t been hyped. To be sure, there are famous cases of smokers and drinkers who died fairly young because they abused their health, viz. Humphrey Bogart, Rod Serling, Edward R. Murrow,  Christopher Hitchens.

But in the nature of the case, we tend to remember those who died as a result of smoking and drinking. What about those who didn’t?

Back when smoking and drinking was glamorous, most folks in the entertainment industry were regular smokers and drinkers. Off-the-cuff, here’s a quick list of some famous smokers and drinkers. Their age of death is in parentheses:

Steve Allen (78)
Milton Berle (93)
Ernest Borgnine (95) 
George Burns (100)
James Cagney (86)
Cab Calloway (86)
Jeanne Calment (122)
Johnny Carson (79)
Claudette Colbert (92) 
Walter Cronkite (92)
Hume Cronyn (91)
Bette Davis (81)
Marlene Dietrich (90)
Greta Garbo (84)
John Gielgud (96)
Lilian Gish (99)
Cary Grant (82)
Katherine Hepburn (96)
Charlton Heston (84)
Bob Hope (100)
Lena Horne (92)
Hedy Lamarr (86)
Clare Boothe Luce (84)
Dean Martin (78)
Groucho Marx (86)
Robert Mitchum (79)
Gregory Peck (87)
Leni Riefenstahl (101)
Arthur Rubinstein (95) 
Bertrand Russell (97)
Frank Sinatra (82)
Barbara Stanwyck (82)
Mike Wallace (93)
Mae West (87)

In addition, some of them are still alive:

Lauren Becall (88-)
Kirk Douglas (95-)
Joan Fontaine (95-)
Zsa Zsa Gabor (95-)
Olivia de Havilland (96-)
Louis Jordan (91-) 
Michele Morgan (92-)
Maureen O'Hara (92-)

This is not a list of teetotalers or heath-nuts. Yet they either had a normal lifespan or lived well beyond the norm. And, typically, the women tend to outlive the men.

It seems to be one of those situations where, if you have good genes, your body can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.

I don’t say this to greenlight heavy smoking or drinking. But it seems to me that there’s a certain amount of scaremongering on this subject.

1 comment:

  1. Back when smoking and drinking was glamorous, most folks in the entertainment industry were regular smokers and drinkers.

    Living here in the LA area, I happen to know a lot of folks in the entertainment industry and I can confidently say that many are still regular smokers and drinkers, though it isn't as glamorous now.