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Author: Edited by David Dale and Sacha Molitorisz
Date: 12/09/1996
Words: 1463
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: NEWS AND FEATURES
Page: 24
HERESIES

WARNING: anti-smoking measures may be dangerous to your health - at least, if you're a psychiatric patient. In the latest Medical Journal of Australia, a group of mental health researchers reveal that between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of neuropsychiatric patients are smokers, while the rate of smoking in the general population is around 28 per cent. The researchers, led by Professor P. R. Sandberg of the Division of Neurological Surgery at the University of South Florida, make a plea for cigarettes to be perceived as part of therapy. They write: "There is evidence emerging that some anti-smoking measures may produce negative socioeconomic and health-related consequences for those suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders".

In particular, they question the use of taxation as a method of deterring smoking (and raising government revenue). At the moment, about half of what a smoker pays for a pack of fags is tax. "We have found in our ongoing study in Melbourne that people who are schizophrenic who smoke are typically consuming 40 cigarettes per day at a cost of approximately 35 per cent of their income. Thus, relatively meagre resources remain for recreation, self-presentation and other positive activities. In effect, further taxation increases may be economically disastrous for these individuals and could compromise their capacity for independent living."

The researchers also question the idea of smoke-free psychiatric units in hospitals. Suddenly deprived of nicotine, the patients may suffer "insomnia, inattention, anxiety, depression, irritability, restlessness and weight gain along with changes in heart rate (which) can aggravate pre-existing psychiatric conditions and could lead to problems in making the correct diagnosis". Further, there is a theory that nicotine may improve attention and cognitive functioning in people with schizophrenia and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, so some mental patients may be "self-medicating by obtaining nicotine through smoking".

The researchers do not go so far as to suggest that cigarettes should be available on prescription, but they warn that public anti-smoking policies must pay more attention to the needs of "vulnerable individuals". We can conclude:

1. Knowing what tobacco does to you (makes you smelly and cancerous), you'd have to be mad to smoke.

2. Since all smokers are therefore, by definition, mad, they may need nicotine to help them function in society.

3. Cigarettes should be available free to all people who can prove they are mad, ie, all those who are already smokers.

REASSESSMENTS

THE Australian Broadcasting Authority has interviewed 117 Sydney, Melbourne and Perth schoolchildren on their TV preferences and concluded that they mainly enjoy American shows aimed at much older people. The ABA report says the five- to 12-year-olds use Lois & Clark, Baywatch, The Simpsons and Neighbours as "social glue in the school playground". They even lie about whether they have seen a program in order to commune with their peers.

Australia Associated Press reports that the children expressed their preference for programs by such measures as "don't go to the toilet", "sick (good)" "rad" and "feral". Children aged 11 and 12 gave these accolades to Lois & Clark, Baywatch, Beverly Hills 90210, Home and Away, Gladiators, The Simpsons and The X-Files. Those aged 9 and 10 preferred The Brady Bunch, The Simpsons, Home and Away and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Those aged 6 and 7 nominated Bananas in Pyjamas, The Simpsons, The Brady Bunch, A*mazing and Blinky Bill. But children as young as five were keen to seem older, shrugging off programs they had outgrown, describing Play School and Paddington Bear as "boring". They said they liked seeing children their own age up to adults in their early 20s.

On the issue of whether they preferred programs made in America or Australia, "a strong sense of location and place ... was not stated by children as their main reason for enjoying a program", the report said. The ABA researchers asked Sydney grade 3 and 4 children how they would feel if there were no more children's TV programs made. Their reactions included: "Kill them"; "Sue them"; "Sue their pants off"; "I'd tell someone to tell the President or someone".

They also claimed to be unconcerned whether characters were good looking ... up to a point. As a Sydney 11-year-old pointed out, Superman could not be short and fat, because "how would he be able to fly?"

WHAT'S HAPPENING

TODAY is September 13, birthday of English scribbler J(ohn) B(oynton) Priestley (1894), unexpected Welshman Roald Dahl (1916), Lithgow Flash Marjorie Jackson-Nelson (1931), impossible missionary Barbara Bain (1934), deep actor Jacqueline Bisset (1944), Aussie waxhead Bernard "Midge" Farrelly (1944) and Croatian ace Goran Ivanisevic (1971). Today in 1788, New York was declared the first federal capital of the US; in 1900, the world's first full-length film, a religious epic called Soldiers of the Cross premiered in Melbourne.

THE Red Cross Blood Bank will be at Jannali High School from 9 am to 2 pm today. At 7 pm the bank announces Youth Donor Awards at UTS on Broadway. 9291 4105.

IMMIGRATION Minister Philip Ruddock is guest at a community Open Day at The Migrant Resource Centre, level 6, 169 Macquarie Street, Parramatta, 11.30 am. 9687 9901.

SINGER Grace Knight helps the Sydney casino celebrate its first birthday at 7.30 pm. 9362 3223.

SOCOG's new symbol for Sydney 2000 will be launched at Cockle Bay, in Darling Harbour, at 5 pm tomorrow.

FLORIADE, Canberra's annual flower spectacular, opens tomorrow. 1800 020 141.

THE Community Aid Abroad Freedom From Hunger Doorknock begins tomorrow and runs till Sunday week. Call 1800 034 034 to volunteer, or with your knock-knock joke. Mike Smith of Frenchs Forest wins a $50 voucher from the One World Gift Shop for: Knock Knock! Who's There? Avon. Avon Who? Avon Calling - Your Doorbell's Broken.

ON Sunday, Fred Nile celebrates his 62nd birthday and 15 years in Parliament.

ON Monday at 11 am, NSW Health Minister Andrew Refshauge opens a new child protection centre called the Central Sydney Scarba Service at 155 Pitt Street, Redfern. 9241 1011. But most of Sydney's media will probably be at the press conference at which Danny DeVito launches his new children's film, Matilda, based on a Roald Dahl story and starring DeVito's wife, Rhea Perlman.

GOSSIP

TASMANIAN Green Senator Bob Brown made himself few friends yesterday when he used Senate Question Time to mount an assault on a cherished perk of federal politicians - first-class air travel. Noting that Ansett had flagged its intention to switch to a two-class system (business and economy), he asked Assistant Treasurer Senator Jim Short why the Government did not eliminate first-class travel for pollies and senior bureaucrats. Short ducked and weaved, eventually noting he himself had tried to set an example for several years by going business class, "but I found myself so lonely I came back to first class".

WHAT happens when your local Labor MP packs up and leaves Campbelltown for the convenience of the North Shore? Now that Olympics Minister Michael Knight lives at East Roseville, the Premier's office, it seems, has become a bit confused. A Carr staffer wrote recently to Charlie Lynn, addressing him as "Shadow Member for Campbelltown". Lynn is an Upper House Liberal MLC with an office out west.

AFTER embarking on a music career with his guitar band Lurch, Home and Away star Nick Freedman denies that he is taking the cliche soapie-to-pop star route pioneered by Kylie Minogue. "I'm up against silly prejudices that say you can only be recognised creatively in one field - which is usually just a manufactured image anyway," Freedman, 27, told the British Press Association. "But Lurch's music is bigger than nonsense like that." In the soap, Freedman plays Alex Bennett, the squeeze of Shannon Reed, played by Isla Fisher. He also happens to be a trained classical guitarist, and his mouthpiece says he played in various bands for nine years before "poverty got the better of him and he accepted a role in Home and Away". Freedman's character was written out of Home and Away two months ago, so now, it seems, poverty has again raised his head. Lurch will perform at two Sydney pub dates later this month.

THE audience who turned up to hear Babe producer George Miller deliver the 1996 Larry Adler Lecture at the Regent Hotel on Wednesday night were surprised that Miller didn't gossip about Hollywood. Instead, Miller concentrated on Mad Max, pigs and censorship. But during his closing remarks, David Williamson dredged up one anecdote. Williamson said that Miller's LA house had been robbed, twice, and that the experience had left Miller and his family spooked. He was even considering moving back to Oz. To calm his nerves, his movie studio organised to have a helicopter pick up a replica police car from its lot and dump it in Miller's driveway as a deterrent to future thieves. Miller stayed in LA.

DEPUTY Opposition Leader Gareth Evans may complain of Relevance Deprivation Syndrome, but his successor as Labor's Senate Leader, John Faulkner, is thriving as he sets about landing punches on Liberal Ministers. Faulkner's background as a schoolteacher got the better of him this week. Having grilled Social Security Minister Jocelyn Newman over the abolition of the Commonwealth Dental Health Scheme, which aided pensioners, he put out a press statement reminiscent of a student's essay. The statement itself was only seven paragraphs long, but it ended with three footnotes, one of which continued for two-and-a-half pages. Faulkner has not yet learned about the attention span of journalists.

AUSTRALIA'S TOP RENTING VIDEOS
1. Jumanji
2. Heat
3. Sabrina
4. Leaving Las Vegas
5. * Vampire in Brooklyn
6. An American President
7. * Sense and Sensibility
8. Get Shorty
9. Bridges of Madison County
10 Devil in a Blue Dress
* First time in
Source: Video Trader Magazine Survey
 
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