Saturday, August 11, 2007

Health & Beauty Section

All stories courtesy of Harold Maass of The Week:

* [A] study from the University of Washington suggests that the Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby DVD series actually hinder development in 8- to 16-month-olds. Children whose parents read aloud or told them stories had better vocabularies than the DVD-watchers.

Parents aiming to put their babies on the fast track, even if they are still working on walking, each year buy hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of the videos.

Unfortunately it's all money down the tubes, according to Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"I would rather babies watch 'American Idol' than these videos," he said.

By Amber Dance, Times Staff Writer, and Harold Maass
(Los Angeles Times)
Related: By Monix, RandomDistractions blog:
Human babies are amazing creatures: given normal hearing and average cognitive ability, they progress from 'mewling and puking' to being masters of their mother tongue(s) in less than four years...
* For kids, it tastes better if it's in a McDonald's wrapper
Tots rate food by how it is packaged, study finds

Tuesday, August 7th 2007

CHICAGO - [P]reschoolers [think that] anything in a McDonald's wrapper - even a vegetable - tastes better than the same food in a plain wrapper.

"You see a McDonald's label and kids start salivating," said Diane Levin, a childhood development specialist who campaigns against advertising to kids.

Stanford University researcher Tom Robinson, who conducted the study, said kids' perceptions of taste were "physically altered by the branding."

And it's not just burgers and fries. Carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the the Golden Arches.

The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald's foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test...
Related: As consumer-product firms lose their ability to connect through ads, they are turning to packaging to grab consumers' attention. The average life for a package design has dropped to about two years, from at least seven years in the 1990s. And if temperature-sensitive beer cans and "graffiti"-covered soda bottles aren't loud enough, some companies are looking at making their products talk through computer chips. (The New York Times, free registration required)
* Smoking declines as taxes increase
By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

As Congress weighs the biggest federal cigarette tax hike in history, a USA TODAY analysis finds that higher state taxes on smokers have produced sharp declines in consumption.
The amount of decline in smoking is directly tied to the size of the tax increase, the analysis shows.

Cigarette sales fell 18% in North Carolina last year after the tax was raised in two steps to 35 cents from a nickel. The tobacco-growing state resisted higher cigarette taxes until 2005. Elsewhere:

•Connecticut has increased its tax to $1.51 from 50 cents per pack in 2002. Since then, per capita consumption of cigarettes has fallen 37%.

•New Jersey raised its tax to $2.40 from 80 cents in 2002. Smoking has dropped 35%.

•California raised its cigarette tax to 87 cents per pack in 1999 but hasn't changed it since. Smoking is down 18% since the tax increase.

By comparison, South Carolina has kept its lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax at 7 cents since 1977. Cigarette consumption there has fallen 5% since 2000.

As Congress considers raising the federal cigarette tax to $1 [a pack from 39 cents] per pack, the nation may be about to experience one of the biggest one-time declines in smoking, health experts and economists say. [...] Smoking falls 2.5%-5% for every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, agrees that consumption will fall about 6% if a $1 federal tax is imposed but says the high tax will have negative effects. State governments will suffer a sharp decline in revenue, and black-market sales and thefts will increase to avoid the draconian tax, he says. [Emphasis added.]


Blogger monix said...

If you are interested in children's language development and why video and DVD are no substitute for human interaction, you might like to link to my article on the subject.

August 11, 2007 6:56 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I have to agree with some other commentors that comparing "Baby Einstein" to human interaction is the wrong comparison. The DVDs should be compared to the real alternatives, which are generally not parental interaction.

As for food packaging, my kids aren't affected by McD's packing. But TV shows? Oh yes. For instance, one distinguishes yogurt not by the alledged flavor but by which cartoon character is on the outside. It's never "I want some cherry yogurt" but "I want some Dora yogurt". Any random flavor I pick is OK, as long as Dora is on the outside.

August 11, 2007 7:20 AM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

My heart bleeds for the states and their potential lost sin taxes. On the other hand, lung cancer health care costs should go down too.

August 11, 2007 8:27 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

A dollar per pack of cigarettes sounds high to me. I think that the black market will grow substantially. Organized crime and ATF agents running around isn't very healthy either. I'd rather pay for lung cancer patients personally.

August 11, 2007 4:30 PM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

NYC already levies a ~$3/pack state and city tax, on top of the existing fed tax. The .60 seems marginal (there)(not so much in VA).

August 11, 2007 5:44 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

mike beversluis:

That was exactly the example I was thinking of:

"Thanks to recent city- and state-level tax hikes, New York City now has the highest cigarette taxes in the country—a combined state and local tax rate of $3.00 per pack. Consumers have responded by turning to the city's bustling black market and other low-tax sources of cigarettes. During the four months following the recent tax hikes, sales of taxed cigarettes in the city fell by more than 50 percent compared to the same period the prior year.

"New York has a long history of cigarette tax evasion. Former governor Malcolm Wilson dubbed the city the "promised land for cigarette bootleggers." Over the decades, a series of studies by federal, state, and city officials has found that high taxes have created a thriving illegal market for cigarettes in the city. That market has diverted billions of dollars from legitimate businesses and governments to criminals.

"Perhaps worse than the diversion of money has been the crime associated with the city's illegal cigarette market. Smalltime crooks and organized crime have engaged in murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery to earn and protect their illicit profits. Such crime has exposed average citizens, such as truck drivers and retail store clerks, to violence.

Do we really need a nationwide black market?

August 11, 2007 6:33 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

A fully loaded 53' trailer, (which is now the standard size in trucking), can hold between 650,000 - 675,000 packs of cigarettes.

At a dollar a pack, it's easy to see the appeal for a successful tax-stamp counterfeiter.

As far as New York goes, I'm not at all surprised that sales dropped by 505. I've read that, when buying by the pack, it's $ 7 apiece.

Meanwhile, you can buy genuine Marlboros online, by the carton, for $ 1.90/pack. A person with even minimal entrepreneurial skills could pay for their own habit by selling "discounted" packs to their co-workers, and who's going to bother to make a criminal case against a guy selling a few hundred cartons of "grey market" cigarettes per year ?

But all of those small-time semi-pros add up.

August 12, 2007 10:21 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

50%, not "505", and the above-stated cost per-pack for online cigs includes the shipping costs.

August 12, 2007 10:24 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

My heart bleeds for the states and their potential lost sin taxes. On the other hand, lung cancer health care costs should go down too.

The implicit assertion underlying this nanny-state nonsense is that smokers impose a higher life-cycle cost upon that health care system than non-smokers.

Nonsense. Everyone dies; smokers sooner, on average, than others. By dying of cancer, smokers don't die of something else, which could easily be just as expensive as cancer.

Further, smoking is a positive benefit to Social Security solvency.

It has been a few years, so I can't remember enough to generate a link, but I read a report that, even after stretching a few assumptions, the non-punitive taxation on smoking required to balance the books is about 25 cents per pack.

The rest is the consequence of two things: the totalitarian impulse, and politicians long demonstrated desire to raise revenue by whatever means are available.

A year ago, in response to a budget shortfall (having not heck-all to do with health care), Michigan substantially raised cigarette taxes.

Consequently, smoking went down in Michigan.

However, it also went up in Ohio.

Go figure.

August 13, 2007 9:05 AM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

The ol' "Let them smoke and decrease the surplus population," eh?

If $.25 is the break-even point, then obviously we're way past that, and so I yield the point. I'm curious if states would lower the taxes to move their way up the Laffer curve.

August 13, 2007 7:41 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

The ol' "Let them smoke and decrease the surplus population," eh?

At risk of replying to a tongue-in-cheek comment, no.

Rather, all arguments against smoking, except the "decrease" argument, are glaringly dishonest.

I suspect states, indulging two temptations simultaneously (the totalitarian urge, and slaking that revenue thirst) will go hurtling right past peak revenue, to the point where they have both minimized revenue, and maximized the black market.

Thereby, thanks to their intellectual fraud, hoisting themselves on their own petard.

Whatever that is, it sounds painful.

Anway, governments won't be able to climb down, and we will be stuck with a completely pointless source of crime and corruption.

In other words, government acting as a mafia enabler.

August 14, 2007 9:59 PM  

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