The Brief: What Will Happen to the Homeless During the Pope’s Visit?

Pope Francis | giulio napolitano /

Pope Francis |

1. Organizers say they are carefully considering the needs of homeless people as they make preparations for the Pope’s visit.

The gist: On Monday, Mayor Michael Nutter got in a physical confrontation with a homeless man who said that he was worried about the city’s plans to sweep the Benjamin Franklin Parkway of the homeless during Pope Francis’ visit in September. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that organizers say that is not quite what will happen: Instead, everyone — including the homeless — will be required to leave the Parkway before the Pope arrives for security reasons, but then will be allowed back inside through gates. The World Meeting of Families has also formed a committee whose aim is “to protect the dignity and rights of people who are homeless, to make sure there is no detrimental treatment,” Project HOME’s Will O’Brien told the Inquirer.

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Should Philly Ban Smoking at Bus Shelters?

An academic study found that waiting for the bus is so awful that it can actually compel your mind to lie to you. Every minute that you wait for the bus feels the same as 4.4 minutes actually riding the bus.

That got us thinking: Should Philadelphia ban smoking at bus shelters? After all, being hot-boxed by cigarette fumes must make the wait feel even longer (unless you’re the person lighting up), right? If Philadelphia can make the wait more pleasant by banning smoking at bus shelters, maybe SEPTA will attract more riders.

The bigger potential benefit, of course, is that the measure could discourage smoking just a little bit more. Philadelphia’s smoking rate fell to an all-time low in 2014-15, in part, health officials believe, because of the city’s ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, workplaces, parks and several other locations.

“Looking at the robust literature on the issue, smoking bans not only protect people from secondhand smoke, but also give smokers an additional reason to quit,” said Giridhar Mallya, director of policy and planning for Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health. Read more »

The Brief: Why No One in Philly Smokes Anymore

1. Philly’s smoking rate has fallen to a record low.

The gist: CBS3 reports that “the percentage of adult Philadelphians who smoke has dropped from 27.3 percent in 2008 to 22.4 percent in 2014-15, according to data from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.” Even more impressive: A drop took place among all ethnicities and socioeconomic groups in the city, and it happened after smoking rates went up in 2000 and 2008. Also, the recent smoking rate doesn’t factor in the full impact of Philly’s new cigarette tax, which has likely caused smoking to become even less common. Read more »

Drug Company to Put Up Giant Cigarette Butt in Dilworth Park Friday

Dilworth Park Cigarette Butt (photo illustration)

Photo Illustration, obviously

Every Philadelphian who has passed through the new Dilworth Park since its opening has come away with the same thought: This place could really use a 20-foot-tall cigarette butt.

Stop holding your breath and let out that last drag, Philadelphians: On Friday, GlaxoSmithKline will erect a 20-foot-tall cigarette butt in order to promote their Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ smoking cessation drugs. Hey, Dilworth Park wasn’t cheap.

The event will take place from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. And, to make this mashup of a drug company and a public park even better, Dancing with the Stars’ Mark Ballas — a paid GSK spokesman — will make an appearance to encourage people to quit smoking. Sure, why not? He quit smoking a year ago.

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CDC Warns of Increased Risk for HIV-Positive Smokers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s most recent ad campaign is a series of graphic TV ads called “Tips From Former Smokers” that outline—in gritty detail—the negative effects of smoking. They include Terrie, a 40-year-old woman diagnosed with oral and throat cancer; Amanda, a 30-year-old woman whose smoking during pregnancy resulted in a premature birth; and Brian, a 45-year-old gay man who suffered a stroke as a result of complications from smoking and being HIV-positive. (Check out his video above.)

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Expert Opinion: 3 Things a Philly Doc Thinks You Should Know About E-Cigs



You’ve probably heard the term “vaping” a lot recently. It’s used to describe the use of e-cigarettes and experiencing the inhalation of the “vapors”  from the product. Vape shops are cropping up everywhere in Philly, allowing customers to use e-cigarettes in their venues and tapping into the now billion dollar industry.

No doubt, sudden prevalence of these cafes is strengthening the marketing strategy for e-cigs, but it raises some questions, too. As a physician, it’s important for me to understand lifestyle habits of patients that may place their health at risk. I’ve added e-cigarettes to my history-taking list of questions. From a public-health perspective, here are some answers to some of the concerns:

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