strange, bizarre and kooky holidays in January

January 11 is Cigarettes are Hazardous to Your Health Day

Today is Cigarettes are Hazardous to Your Health Day. Today, this may elicit a resounding,” Duh!” But on January 11, 1964, when Surgeon General Luther L. Terry, M.D. released his report linking smoking to cancer, it was far from accepted wisdom and vehemently disputed by tobacco companies.

The report came after a year-long, comprehensive review by a committee of experts of 7,000 scientific articles about the effects of smoking. Terry chose to release it on a Saturday to minimize any effect on the stock market and maximize coverage in the Sunday papers.

Twenty years later, Terry recalled that the report “hit the country like a bombshell. It was front page news and a lead story on every radio and television station in the United States and many abroad.” Later it was ranked among the top news stories of 1964.

Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General revealed cigarette smoking was responsible for a 70 percent increase in the mortality rate of smokers versus non-smokers. It estimated that average smokers had a nine- to ten-fold risk of developing lung cancer compared to non-smokers; heavy smokers, more than twenty-fold. The risk rose with the duration of smoking and diminished after cessation.

The report also named smoking as the most important cause of chronic bronchitis and pointed to a correlation between smoking and emphysema, and smoking and coronary heart disease. It noted that smoking during pregnancy reduced the average weight of newborns.

On one issue the committee balked: nicotine addiction. It insisted that the “tobacco habit should be characterized as an habituation rather than an addiction,” in part because the addictive properties of nicotine were not yet fully understood.

While the 1964 report lacked concrete recommendations, it had an impact on public attitudes and policy. A Gallup poll conducted in 1958 found that only 44 percent of Americans believed smoking caused cancer, while 78 percent believed so by 1968. In the course of a decade, it had become common knowledge that smoking damaged health, and mounting evidence of health risks gave Terry’s 1964 report public resonance.

Here is a brief, incomplete chronology of events and efforts made to combat tobacco and the companies that peddle it.

Cigarettes in U.S. History

  • 1913 –R. J. Reynolds launched Camel, the first modern mass-produced cigarette made from blended tobacco.
  • 1917 –Free cigarettes were included in the field rations of many American soldiers in World War I.
  • 1928 –Doctors Herbert L. Lombard and Carl R. Doering offered the first detailed statistical data showing a higher proportion of heavy smokers among lung cancer patients than among controls.
  • 1938 –Raymond Pearl demonstrated statistically that smoking shortens life expectancy.
  • 1941-45 –Tobacco was again supplied to American servicemen in World War II.
  • 1946 –Doctors Alton Ochsner and Michael DeBakey published an article in Archives of Surgery linking smoking to lung cancer and citing research articles from several countries.
  • 1950 –The Federal Trade Commission stated cigarette ads that highlight health benefits are deceptive.
cigarettes are hazardous to your health day
  • 1964 –Surgeon General Luther L. Terry issued Smoking and Health.
  • 1965 –Congress mandated health warnings on cigarette packs.
  • 1969-The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act passed Congress, imposing a ban on cigarette advertising on television and radio after September 30, 1970.
  • 1973 –Arizona passed the first state law designating separate smoking areas in public places.
  • 1983 –Lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of death from cancer in women.

cigarettes are hazardous to your health day

  • 1987 –Congress banned smoking on all domestic flights of two hours or less; two years later smoking is banned on all domestic flights.
  • 1988 –Surgeon General C. Everett Koop’s report,  The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction, called nicotine “a powerfully addicting drug.” In a 618-page summary of 2,000 studies, Koop declared, “It is now clear that… cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addicting and that actions of nicotine provide the pharmacologic basis of tobacco addiction.”
  • 1992 –The Environmental Protection Agency placed passive smoke on its list of major carcinogens, making it subject to federal workplace and other regulations.


  • 1994 –Seven tobacco company executives testified before Congress that “nicotine is not addictive.”
    cigarettes are hazardous to your health day

The televised panel, led by Representative Henry Waxman, questioned the executives for six hours.

One executive insisted that cigarettes are no more addictive than coffee, tea or Twinkies.

The difference between cigarettes and Twinkies,” Waxman replied, “is death.


  • 2006 –On August 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued a 1,683-page ruling holding tobacco companies liable for covering up health risks associated with smoking and for targeting children.
    cigarettes are hazardous to your health day
    The judgment ordered the companies to issue “corrective” ads admitting to the deceptive use of terms such as “light” and “low-tar,” among other things.

    The companies appealed for the next 11 years, claiming the findings pertained to the alleged inaccuracy of the companies’ public statements about smoking and health, not to whether anyone in the public was actually deceived by the defendants.

    Perhaps the ad should simply say, “A lie is the responsibility of the person who believes it.” That’s as good a defense of callous (and profitable) disregard for human life as any we may ever hear.

  • 2017 — The companies finally ran out of appeals. In December, Altria, RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA were forced to run ads that stated facts such as, “Cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction” and “More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol combined.”


It’s clear that the work of Dr. Terry and many others greatly affected health. Since 1964, smoking rates in the United States have dropped by more than half. It’s estimated that eight million lives have been saved by tobacco control efforts — yet up to 20 million more have been lost. Until the day we all kick the habit, every day will be Cigarettes are Hazardous to Your Health Day.

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January 24 is Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day

Today is Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day. On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold while building a sawmill for John Sutter in Coloma, California. Those few nuggets ultimately led to the Gold Rush.

This holiday was introduced in 2010 by Chris Jepsen as a “fun way to commemorate an important moment in California history.” Need a quick lesson in Prospector-ese? Watch Jack Starrett speak frontier gibberish in Blazing Saddles.

Then kick up your heels and dance like Walter Huston in Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

We also highly recommend the Frontier Doctor skit on the Dean Martin Comedy Hour. There’s no useful jargon but Foster Brooks is the most convincing Old West drunk we’ve ever seen. We hope you’ll agree.

Congratulations. You’re ready to talk like a grizzled prospector, Get out there and give those dadblamed claim-jumpin’ varmints what for. Happy Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day!

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January 22 is National Hot Sauce Day

national hot sauce day

Today is National Hot Sauce Day. It celebrates the birthday in 1865 of Wilbur Scoville, who created a method to determine a pepper’s spiciness that is still in use today.

Scoville, an American chemist, devised the system in 1912. It measures the concentration of capsaicin, the active component that gives chilies their spicy taste, using Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Ratings range from 0 for a bell pepper to 16,000,000 for pure capsaicin.

Capsaicin content, which causes a burning sensation when it comes in contact with any tissue, is measured by dissolving a pepper in alcohol to extract its capsaicin oil, then diluting the oil in sugar water.

If a panel of five testers detects any spiciness, the mixture is diluted again until three of the five cannot discern any hotness. Heat level is measured by how many dilutions are necessary. Every instance increases the SHU, since hotter chilies must be weakened many times for no heat to be detected.

In 2013, The Guinness World Record for hottest chili pepper went to the Carolina Reaper, a cross between a ghost pepper and a red habanero created by Ed Currie of the aptly named PuckerButt Pepper Company. The Reaper’s official heat level is 1,569,300 SHU but ranges up to 2,200,000. (By comparison, Tabasco sauce has a level 0f 2,500 to 5,000.)

The Reaper was bested in 2017 by Dragon’s Breath, which clocked in at 2,480,000 SHU. Currie surged back with Pepper X, a Frankenstein’s monster at 3,180,000 SHU. Unlike Dragon’s Breath, which will only be used for medicinal purposes, Pepper X is available as a sauce dubbed The Last Dab.

Studies have shown that heat levels evoke the same pain response in spice lovers and haters and everyone in between. So why do so many of us like it? Could it predict other risk-taking behaviors? Check out this TED Ed lesson for answers.



For some serious fun, watch The Hot Ones challenge celebrities, actors, and musicians to eat ever-hotter sauces as they chat. Dave Grohl is especially awesome. But nothing compares to okurrr’s video contrasting Lorde‘s pure enjoyment with others’ abject suffering. It’s guaranteed to make you smile.



Then buy the same sauces from Heatonist to stage your own challenge for friends or maybe people you don’t like so much. There’s even a game called Truth or Dab you can use if you’re into that retro board game kind of thing.

I went to Heatonist’s shop in NYC’s Chelsea Market and told the hot sauce sommelier–if it’s not a thing, it should be–that the only thing I couldn’t put hot sauce on was ice cream. He said, “We’ve got one for that” and turned me on to Hell Yeah, I’m Hot, a blackberry-hibiscus-habanero blend that has become my everyday yogurt topping. I’m on my third bottle.

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Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day

bubble wrap appreciation dayBubble Wrap Appreciation Day, also known as BWAD, is celebrated on the last Monday in January. It was created in 2001 by Jim Webster of Spirit 95.1 FM in Bloomington, IN. In the past, the radio station has sponsored sports, sculpture and fashion design contests.

Sealed Air Corporation’s Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors awarded top honors in 2010 to 13-year-old. Matthew Huber for his invention of Petri bubbles, a cheap and easy alternative to Petri dishes for use after earthquakes, floods, disease outbreaks, and any disaster where access to medical services is desperately needed.

In 2014, Harvard University chemists published a paper stating that “the gas-filled compartments in the packing material commonly called ‘bubble wrap’ can be repurposed in resource-limited regions as containers to store liquid samples, and to perform bioanalyses.” Huber is probably looking at grad schools by now. Give him a call.

bubble wrap appreciation day

The invention of Bubble Wrap began as a failed experiment and became a triumph of the imagination. In 1957, engineers Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding created three-dimensional wallpaper by trapping air between two shower curtains. (Imagine how our interiors might look had their plan succeeded.)

After an unsuccessful effort to repurpose it as greenhouse insulation, Chavannes and Fielding realized that their terrible wallpaper would make excellent packaging material. At that time, the paper products used for packaging didn’t cushion heavy or delicate objects.

They raised $9,000 to fund a developmental production line and incorporated Sealed Air Corporation in 1960. IBM was their first customer, using Bubble Wrap to protect its 1401 business computer’s fragile vacuum tubes during shipping. Customers all over the world have entrusted it with their valuables ever since.

The company continues to innovate, improving its products and creating new ones. In 2015, Sealed
Air announced the creation of NewAir I.B. Extreme (cue air guitar), designed to ship flat, reducing bulk and lowering transportation costs. One truckload is equivalent to 40 truckloads of traditional Bubble Wrap. Customers will then inflate sheets as needed with a custom air pump.

The stuff looks like traditional Bubble Wrap but don’t be fooled: it will not pop, no matter how hard you press, poke, punch, squeeze, sit or stomp on it. Believe me, we’ve tried. We miss that pleasantly startling noise that induces a fight-or-flight response in anyone within earshot. While we can’t replicate the sensation, we can help keep the memory alive with this:

If you no longer use Adobe FlashPlayer, which is going the way of the dodo, don’t worry. Googling “virtual bubble wrap” returns 9,460,000 results sure to keep you amused in perpetuity, or until you get bored, whichever comes first.

Happy Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day!

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