Nicotine's relationship to spinal disordersRecent Food and...


August 31, 1996

Nicotine's relationship to spinal disorders

Recent Food and Drug Administration plans to regulate the use and marketing of tobacco products has once again brought to the forefront some of the health hazards associated with cigarette smoking.

What many people are unaware of is the strong relationship between nicotine and degenerative disorders of the spine.

Millions of people in this country suffer as as a result of degeneration of the spine. Symptoms of these disorders include pain, numbness or weakness in the neck, back, arms or legs.

It has been estimated that 80 percent of Americans will seek out a health-care professional at some point in their lives with these complaints.

Many billions of dollars are spent each year on medical care and lost wages as a result.

Although not all of the factors contributing to these symptoms have been completely identified, one association is clear. Those individuals who smoke have a much higher incidence of spinal discs contributing to their degeneration. These discs are the key ''shock absorbers'' located throughout the spine and are necessary for normal and pain-free function.

Also, many studies have shown that the result of both non-surgical and surgical care of these disorders is significantly less successful in smokers.

The debate over the role our government plays in the regulation of tobacco products will continue. Educating the public on just how nicotine affects our bodies should be one of its highest priorities.

Roy E. Bands Jr., M.D.


The writer is an orthopedic surgeon.

Providing comfort to dying patients

I applaud The Sun's coverage (July 28, "Physicians learn the practice of comfort") of the efforts being taken in medical schools to enhance physicians' ability to provide comfort care and alleviation of pain to dying patients.

Reasons which may explain why ''many patients die in pain, isolated and alone'' include the dominance of the technological imperative in medical culture, a principle that emphasizes only treatments aimed at cure; the perception that an inability to cure a disease represents failure; and the discomfort physicians have when caring for dying patients. This discomfort may be attributed to physicians' own fear of dying, a fear that studies have shown is higher among physicians compared with the general population.

In an effort to stimulate discussion on the practice of comfort care, the Medical Humanities Hour at the University of Maryland Medical System is devoting monthly seminars this fall to issues involved with comfort care and pain relief of dying patients.

The first presentation, at 4: 30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, will feature Dr. Joan Harrold, a lead investigator of the George Washington study mentioned in the Sun article. For further information, call 706-6250.

Henry Silverman, M.D.


The writer is an ethicist for the University of Maryland Medical System.

Drug use related to women working

On Aug. 21, I read with shock and dismay that teen-age drug use increased 105 percent in the three-year period from 1992 to 1995.

When I turned to the editorial page (Aug. 21, "Better jobs for women"), I read, ''The time when women's work was in the home is long past in this country."

Could there be some connection?

Selma Pollack


Schmoke contract not with city agency

I would like to bring to your attention an inaccuracy in your Aug. 20 editorial, ''All in the family.'' Neither Dr. Patricia Schmoke nor the firm with which she is associated, Metropolitan Eye Associates, has a contract with the Baltimore City Health Department.

Metropolitan Eye Associates has a contract with Baltimore Medical System Inc., a not-for-profit organization, to provide eye care for clients in its facilities. Because of Dr. Schmoke's involvement, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has recused himself from any actions regarding BMS that are presented to the Board of Estimates.

Peter L. Beilenson, M.D.


The writer is commissioner of health for the city of Baltimore.

Democrats put on a phony show

Christopher Reeve's appearance at the Democratic convention and his speech show what the president and the Democratic National Committee are all about.

Showmanship, and sleazy showmanship at that.

The president and the committee must have a poor opinion of the intelligence of the voter.

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can recognize trickery.

Kathryn Newkirk


State subsidies should be ended

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Now we have Joe De Francis saying that since the state built a ball park and will begin construction on a football stadium, he should get a new race track. Always the story is the same, the jobs that go with the project.

Where do you draw the line? I say enough is enough. When are the wealthy (De Francis is no peasant) going to gamble with their own money to promote their own financial interests?

Richard L. Lelonek


State harness racing hit hardest, first by Delaware slots

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