Charlie The Smoking ChimpVia Reuters:

JOHANNESBURG — A chimpanzee once hooked on smoking by visitors offering it cigarettes has died at a South African zoo at the relatively advanced age of 52, officials said on Wednesday.
“He appears to have died of old age,” said municipal spokesman Qondile Khedama. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death.

“Charlie the smoking chimp” used to put two fingers to his mouth to mimic smoking and reach out with his other hand to bum cigarette butts from visitors at Bloemfontein Zoo. But when videos of him puffing away circulated globally a few years ago, zoo officials moved to cut off the supply of smokes.

The nickname stuck even though the cigarette habit faded.

The life expectancy for chimps in the wild is about 15 years and only 7 percent of wild chimps live past 40, a Harvard University report published in 2007 said.

This is an article from 2006 that I found while trying to research the actual ingredients in cigarettes. Robert N. Proctor writes in the New York Times:
Nuclear Pack

When the former KGB agent Alexander V. Litvinenko was found to have been poisoned by radioactive polonium 210, there was one group that must have been particularly horrified: the tobacco industry.

The industry has been aware at least since the 1960s that cigarettes contain significant levels of polonium. Exactly how it gets into tobacco is not entirely understood, but uranium “daughter products” naturally present in soils seem to be selectively absorbed by the tobacco plant, where they decay into radioactive polonium.

High-phosphate fertilizers may worsen the problem, since uranium tends to associate with phosphates. In 1975, Philip Morris scientists wondered whether the secret to tobacco growers’ longevity in the Caucasus might be that farmers there avoided phosphate fertilizers.

How much polonium is in tobacco? In 1968, the American Tobacco Company began a secret research effort to find out. Using precision analytic techniques, the researchers found that smokers inhale an average of about .04 picocuries of polonium 210 per cigarette. The company also found, no doubt to its dismay, that the filters being considered to help trap the isotope were not terribly effective. (Disclosure: I’ve served as a witness in litigation against the tobacco industry.)

Pigs Smoking?The Daily Telegraph reports:

Cigarettes may contain traces of pig’s blood, an Australian academic says with a warning that religious groups could find its undisclosed presence “very offensive”.

University of Sydney Professor Simon Chapman points to recent Dutch research which identified 185 different industrial uses of a pig — including the use of its hemoglobin in cigarette filters.

Prof Chapman said the research offered an insight into the otherwise secretive world of cigarette manufacture, and it was likely to raise concerns for devout Muslims and Jews. Religious texts at the core of both of these faiths specifically ban the consumption of pork.

“I think that there would be some particularly devout groups who would find the idea that there were pig products in cigarettes to be very offensive,” Prof Chapman said.

Janet Raloff writes in Science News: The tobacco in cigarettes hosts a bacterial bonanza — literally hundreds of different germs, including those responsible for many human illnesses, a new study finds. “Nearly…

Here’s the perfect excuse to back out of your new year’s resolution.



For smokers under pressure to give up in 2010, it will seem like the ultimate excuse: quitting smoking appears to increase the risk of diabetes.

Smokers are on average 30 per cent more likely than non-smokers to develop type 2 or adult-onset diabetes. Now a study of 10,892 adults over 10 years has found that, in the first six years after giving up, former smokers are 70 per cent more likely than non-smokers to develop the disease.

Hsin-Chieh Yeh and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, found that the risk of diabetes is highest straight after quitting and gradually reduces to that of non-smokers. This is most likely because quitting makes people more likely to put on weight, which is known to increase the risk of diabetes.

The results shouldn’t discourage people from quitting, but former smokers should gradually increase the amount of exercise they do, suggests Martin Dockrell of the UK anti-smoking charity ASH.

Journal reference: Annals of Internal Medicine, vol 152, p 10

Surprising news from the Centers for Disease Control, reported in U.S. News & World Report: After decades of progress, the number of Americans who smoke hasn’t budged over the last five years…