Monday, December 22, 2008

How Many People Die From Happiness?

Answer: None, zip, zero. Happiness is what keeps us alive.

The Cause of Death book blog is closed for the holidays and will be back live in 2009. Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, December 15, 2008

How Much Would Legalizing Marijuana Reduce the Federal Deficit?

ANSWER: Not Much

Although legalized marijuana would provide an additional "sin tax" revenue stream, along with tobacco and alcohol, the estimated $27.9 billion collected in 2010 ($11,030 million from alcohol, $10,700 million from tobacco and an estimated $6,200 million from marijuana) would be less than 1% of the projected federal receipts of $2,931,348 million that year. But, then, every little bit helps! For more info see the GAO 2009 budget.

HISTORY - It was during World War II (1939-1945) that then President Franklin D. Roosevelt made tobacco a protected crop after America's consumption of tobacco rose 2 1/2 times between 1930 and 1940. Roosevelt had already overseen the repeal of the 18th amendment in 1933, which had outlawed alcohol in 1919. The $1.2 billion in revenue from "sin" taxes in 1940 rose to $3.7 billion in 1947 and helped move the country towards a post-war budget surplus after running at a deficit from 1934 through 1946. But as a % of all federal receipts, excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco has declined each decade from a high point in 1940, when alcohol and tobacco excise taxes exceeded the individual income tax by 5%, to 1% or less from 1990 through a projected 2010.

TOBACCO - Tobacco is estimated to kill 440,000 annually in the U.S. and 2.1 million worldwide. It causes 30% of all cancers and is the primary cause of the rise in cancer death rates around the world.

ALCOHOL - According to the CDC, alcohol was responsible for 21,634 alcohol-induced deaths in the U.S. in 2005. If not used in excess, however (no more than 8 ounces daily), alcohol has been proven to be good for you.

MARIJUANA - Weed accounts for 0 to 2 annual deaths in the U.S. This does not count the possible deaths from smoking-related causes or from driving stoned. Because it is illegal, there is no excise tax revenue and the cost of policing it is high. According to a recent report cited on About.Com, the U.S. spends about $7.7 billion per year in state and federal enforcement expenses and loses another $6.2 billion in potential excise tax revenue on marijuana. As with alcohol, there are many documented benefits from the safe use of marijuana. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, December 12, 2008

When Death Has A Name

Tropical storms and atomic bombs share two things: They are each given names and they can be very deadly.

So how does the deadliest cyclone compare to the deadliest atomic bomb explosions? Mother nature, at least so far, has been more destructive.

In November 1970, Cyclone Bhola struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and killed an estimated 500,000. With a Bangladesh population in 1970 of 67,403,000 people that's a death rate of 741.8 per 100,000. (That's about the same death rate as the 65 to 74 year olds who died from all types of cancer in the U.S. in 2005 (742.7 per 100,000 persons in that age range)).

In August 1945, the bombs Littleboy and Fatman were exploded by the U.S. in Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan during World War II killing 214,000. With a Japanese population in 1945 of 71,998,104 that's a rate of death of 297.2 per 100,000. (Slightly more than the death rate for 65-74 year olds who died from lung cancer in the U.S. in 2005 (259.6 per 100,000 persons age 65-74)).

Interestingly, the population of Japan in 1945 (72 million people) was higher than the population of Bangladesh (67 million) and Pakistan (66 million) in 1970. That has changed. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Bangladesh is projected to have 160 million people by 2010, Pakistan 171 million and Japan a mere 127 million as the world careens from a 1970 population of 3.7 billion to a projected 6.8 billion in 2010.

For more on atomic bomb names check out this Geoscience website from the Australian Government.

For more on the naming of storms, the World Meterological Organization has a great website. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cancer, Tobacco and The Movies

Recent news at YAHOO is predicting Cancer will overtake heart disease as the world's top killer by 2010. As of 2002, it was already the #1 premature cause of death in the U.S. and the #3 cause of premature death in the world (per Cause of Death). The primary reason for cancer's growth in developing countries around the world is tobacco. For a great tobacco timeline check out

Unlike developing countries such as India and China, where smoking is on the increase, the trend in the U.S. for both incidence and death rates from cancer is down per the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer primarily due to three factors: a) a decline in smoking, b) a reduction in the use of hormonal replacement therapy and c) an increase in colon cancer screening. But cigarette smoking still accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths in the U.S. and involves not only the lungs but also the mouth, larynx, esophagus, stomach, bladder, pancreas, liver, kidney, uterine cervix and blood.

Smoking in the U.S. increased during the Great Depression (1929-1939), then increased even more during and following World War II (1939-1945). By 1949, 44-47% of all adult Americans smoked. The increase was apparent not only by the number of actors smoking on the movie screen but in the way those same movie stars would later die. The number of deaths by cancer of the top 10 actors and top 10 actresses by decade rose from 4 of the 1930s stars to 6 of the 1940s stars to 10 of the 1950s stars. Wouldn't it be nicer if we could all go the way of Katharine Hepburn, a top 10 star in both the 1930s and the 1960s who died of natural causes at the age of 96? Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How Deadly is Neglect?

Question: Are you more likely to die if you are a neglected child or if you neglect to go to the dentist?

Answer: Neglecting your teeth will kill you more

In 2004, 230 died in the U.S. from tooth decay and gum disease; more female (144) than male (86). 187, or 81% were age 60 or older. During that same year, 202 died from neglect, abandonment or other maltreatment; 50% under the age of 1. 117 were males versus 85 females.

Parents, take care of your babies and teach them to brush their teeth! Sphere: Related Content

Friday, December 5, 2008

Child Abuse and Murder: Spare The Rod And Spoil The Child?

Answer: The exact opposite is true.

The San Francisco Chronicle and recently reported the tragic story of an abused teenager who was shackled and repeatedly beaten in Tracy, California before he escaped. The woman charged with his kidnapping and torture admitted she beat the boy, partly because she had been told that was how to discipline him.

The misguided notion of beating weakness out of a child has Germanic roots going back to before Hitler was born, which Swiss psychotherapist Alice Miller explored in an article published in the Journal of Psychohistory 1998. One could say the misguided child rearing techniques espoused by Dr. Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Schreber were partly to blame for World War II.

We can all thank Dr. Benjamin Spock from saving the world from more victims of child abuse. Although he specialized in pediatrics, he studied psychoanalysis for six years which made him the only practicing pediatrician of his time with that combination of training. In 1946 his book The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care was first published by Pocket Books for 25 cents (Pocket Books is also the publisher of Cause of Death: A Perfect Little Guide To What Kills Us) and included the ground-breaking notion that holding and showing affection to children would not only make them happier it would make them feel more secure.

The opposite effect of a happy childhood is exposed in the excellent book Base Instincts - What Makes Killers Kill? In it Dr. Jonathan H. Pincus, M.D. points out "it is the interaction of childhood abuse with neurologic disturbances and psychiatric illnesses that explains murder." In the 150 murderers Dr. Pincus observed, 94% had experienced severe physical and sexual abuse as children.

If not for Spock, and other more recent good writers on better child rearing techniques, we might be experiencing a lot more murders in the U.S. than the 18,124 homicide deaths in 2005. Perhaps a good book on child rearing might be the perfect gift for anyone expecting a new baby in the New Year. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Man Eating Tigers

In 1937 Colonel Jim Corbett famously shot and killed a man-eating tigress in India who had killed and eaten 436 people. Her appetite for soft, slow moving flesh was the result of a bullet that damaged her teeth so maybe she was just getting back at her attackers. It is estimated 3 out of 1,000 tigers will attack people versus the 12.5 out of 1,000 humans who were involved in violent crimes in Wayne County, Detroit, Michigan, the city with the highest murder rate in the U.S. in 2005.

In 1986, the Indian government issued masks to groups of workers to thwart tiger attacks. Because tigers almost always attack from the rear, the thought was a mask worn on the back of the head would confuse the tigers enough to prevent attacks. This worked for awhile, until the smart cats figured it out. Of all sub-species of tiger, it is the Bengal which has gained the worst reputation as a man-eater. Approx. 80% of them live in India. According to this great website, if things continue as they are it is predicted the Royal Bengal tiger could be extinct by 2010, ironically the next 'Year of the Tiger.'

My wish would be that as much effort as goes into fixing Detroit's problems can be applied to saving the tiger.

Photo courtesy of Sphere: Related Content

Face It. We Can Go Anytime. But In So Many Different Ways!

Cause of Death is a great reference tool for writers, entomologists (some insects kill a lot of people) and anyone interested in health and death-related information. After all, we will all bite the dust, check out, buy the farm and kick the bucket but where we live, our sex, race, age, genetics and habits will ensure we will exit in our own unique way.

I can see this book being useful for people creating fiction where they need somebody to die, and fast.” - Cause of Death book review 'Where To Find Ingredients For Your Next Death Scene'

Death By Numbers

A Book In the Hand