Monthly Archives: April 2015

Weight Concerns May Be Keeping More Female Smokers From Quitting, University of Chicago Research Finds

Yoga pose, Abstract color background
National surveys indicate that more than 50% of American adults want to lose weight, but it’s not surprising that women are dedicated to the cause much more than men — and according to a new study by the University of Chicago regarding smoking trends, women may actually be putting their health in jeopardy by refusing to quit simply because they don’t want to gain weight.Many women go to extreme measures to take the extra weight off, and they do so at an alarming rate compared to men. Women, for example, are more likely to get cosmetic surgical procedures — they make up 91% of all patients at cosmetic treatment offices, while men only make up a measly 9%.

It’s hardly a secret that women have a harder time quitting smoking than men do, causing health workers and marketers to tailor messages and resources toward strictly female audiences.

Recently, a University of Arizona research team created an Android pilot app called “See Me Smoke-Free,” which was created to give women some extra motivation to put down the cigarettes. The app comes with inspirational messages that remind women to prioritize their health over the numbers on the scale, and extra features like a daily “Money Saved” calculator reminders users that cigarettes don’t just take a toll on their health, but also their bank accounts.

However, many women still see smoking as an effective tool for weight loss, and this often negates any other anti-smoking messages that reference cost and long-term health.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a 2015 study of Illinois counties found a correlation between the counties with the highest obesity rates and those with the highest number of ex-smokers.

When cigarette prices were raised by 10% in the U.S. recently, 6% of women who believed that smoking did not help weight loss decided to attempt to quit, while there was no increase in the number of women attempting to quit if they believed that it would hinder weight loss.

Although smokers are likely to gain more weight after they quit, researchers still note that smoking won’t necessarily cause a person to lose weight, and developing positive coping habits can reduce a person’s risk for weigh gain after quitting. There are also other benefits such as better sleep patterns and feeling more rested.

Chicago Market Research Firm Says That Seafood is the New Frontier for Fast Food

Fresh salmon
Fast food and other popular American dining options have begun to shift in recent years, with many consumers paying greater attention to healthier options — and a number of brands adapting or failing to meet this trend. Now, a Chicago-based market research firm has issued a report which suggests that seafood might be the next step in fresh, fast and affordable food. Will this study cause more restaurants to invest in wholesale seafood to take advantage of this apparent trend?According to Technomic, Inc., 62% of consumers reported eating meals without beef, pork, chicken or turkey at least once a week, and 69% of consumers said they eat a seafood entree at least once every 90 days. Nearly three-fourths of consumers who ordered more seafood entrees over the past two years stated that they did so to eat more healthfully. However, while the study showed that consumers perceive seafood, vegetarian and vegan dishes as more healthy than meat and poultry, about half of the survey participants indicated that they found seafood dishes to be just as satisfying as meals with meat.

With this shift towards healthier options, and millenials representing a sizable portion of food service customers, Technomic says that restaurants need to make these items a priority on their menus. The study showed that around half of consumers said they would like restaurants to offer a wider variety of seafood, vegetarian and vegan entrees. Consumers also reported that mango, cilantro and sesame were the most popular flavors for seafood, while feta cheese, cilantro and pesto were well-liked when it came to vegetarian and vegan dishes.

The most popular type of fish, meanwhile, was salmon, a sensible choice when you consider that nearly half of the world’s sockeye salmon production comes from an American harbor: Bristol Bay, AK, which produces 38 million salmon per year. However, Technomic says that cod is quickly catching up on both limited and full-service menus.

However, despite this popularity, Technomic points out that restaurants are catching onto the trend slowly, with only 6% of seafood entrees on American menus found in fast-casual restaurants. There are exceptions, with chains like Pret A Manger, Au Bon Pain and Panera Bread having introduced options containing shrimp or lobster within the last year, while a few fast-casual restaurants like local eatery Da Lobsta have made a name for themselves by specializing in seafood. However, with few casual dining chains equaling the popularity of Long John Silver’s and Captain D’s, the market is still relatively open. Will restaurants take this opportunity to prioritize healthy options, expand their menus and find a wholesale seafood retailer? Only time will tell.

Chicago Company Facing Over $170K in Fines for Workplace Safety Violations

Motion Blur Stretcher Gurney Patient Hospital Emergency
A Northwest Side Chicago manufacturer of industrial dryers is facing $171,000 in fines after an inspection last year revealed “multiple serious violations” at the Chicago Dryer Co., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced in April.

“Hundreds of thousands of workers suffer finger, hand or foot amputations and other serious injuries each year in the United States because dangerous machines with moving parts lack proper safety mechanisms,” read a release put out by the U.S. Department of Labor. “Despite these dangers, one Chicago-based manufacturer ignored safety requirements and put workers at risk for debilitating injuries.”

At Chicago Dryer, OSHA investigators found that operators were endangered by unguarded press brakes, earning the company a citation for a willful violation (defined as one that is committed with informed disregard for the law or indifference to employee safety).

“When a press brake lacks safety features, one slip and a worker can lose a hand,” Angeline Loftus, area director of OSHA’s Chicago North Area Office in Des Plaines, explained in the release.

Twenty additional serious violations were cited as well, bringing the total to 21. Damaged crane slings (some carrying 3,000-pound cylinders) and industrial machines were still being used at Chicago Dryer, railings were not installed on open stairs, exit routes were blocked and exit doors were locked, investigators reported. Agency inspectors also found that there were electrical safety hazards and training concerns.

Workplace injuries of varying severity are perhaps surprisingly common in the United States, with 3,007,300 reported in 2013, the year before the inspection at Chicago Dryer took place. OSHA violations are considered “serious” if serious physical harm or death could occur due to a hazard that an employer either knew about, or should have known about.

The OSHA inspection of Chicago Dryer was carried out after an employee filed a complaint. OSHA is the agency tasked with enforcing workplace safety laws pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and other legislation; workers are encouraged to contact OSHA if they feel that any of their working conditions are unsafe.

As of press time, Chicago Dryer had not publicly responded to the citations.

Chicago-Area Resident Wants Kids to Literally Try On Better Attitudes

Paul Dolan, a resident of Chicago’s Roger’s Park neighborhood, was tired of kids having bad attitudes. So he came up with a unique solution: T-shirts banning bad behavior every school day, from “No moaning Monday” and “No tears Tuesday” all the way to “No fussing Friday.”

“There’s no reason you should complain,” Dolan told the local CBS station regarding his motivation behind the shirts. “Things aren’t so bad.”

Dolan says that he hasn’t received any negative feedback, and that parents apparently can’t wait to purchase these wearable punishments for bad behavior. The only complaint he’s gotten is that the shirts aren’t sized for older kids or adults.

“Message t-shirts are used all the time to spread a message; lighthearted, political or otherwise,” explained Elise Harding, president of Tee Compressed. “It is just important that the person wearing it understands and is in support of the message on the shirt.”

Shame as a Parenting Tool
Perhaps relatively few parents are going to order printed t shirts in response to a tantrum or two. But Dolan’s approach highlights a bigger issue in the parenting world: whether or not it’s ever appropriate to shame children.

Julie Nise argued in an article for Yahoo! Parenting just this month that “Without guilt and shame, your child is probably unable to tell right from wrong and bad from good. … It may sound harsh, but it’s true: A child without shame for their poor actions is one that is headed down a path to true adult recklessness.”

But other childrearing experts disagree, making the point that while discipline — defined as a healthy enforcement of boundaries — is good for children, shame isn’t.

According to widely respected parenting expert Peggy Drexler, that’s because children can’t distinguish between their actions and their person; so while an adult might see a T-shirt condemning a child’s tantrum, that child might just see a T-shirt condemning them.

CBS reporter Wendy Widom mentioned to Dolan that her daughter “would be upset if I got her a T-shirt calling out her less-than-desirable actions, in a color that reminds me of Orange is the New Black.” But Dolan responded that the shirts aren’t intended to be a “scarlet letter,” just a gentle reminder that we’re all comparatively lucky and it’s important to retain a sense of humor when communicating that to children.

Smoking Doesn’t Aid Weight Control, but Believing It Does Makes It Harder to Quit, Say Chicago Researchers

Woman smoking with electronic cigarette
For years now, a myth has persisted that smoking helps people, especially women, control their weight. But a new study out of the University of Illinois at Chicago is busting that misconception and revealing some trends that should make female smokers think twice about their tobacco habits.

According to the study’s lead author, Ce Shang, women in the United States who believe smoking helps control their weight are less likely than other female smokers to quit, despite higher cigarette prices and anti-smoking messages around the country.

“We found that concerns about weight are a significant barrier to quitting among U.K. smokers and U.S. female smokers who believe smoking helps them manage weight,” said Shang, who is a senior research specialist in the University’s Institute for Health Research and Policy.

Researchers analyzed data from about 10,000 smokers in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia, all of whom took part in surveys conducted between 2002 and 2007.

For women who don’t believe that smoking helps control weight, the 10% increase in cigarette prices in those years was associated with just a 6% increase in attempts to quit. Yet for the portion who believe that smoking does keep weight down, there were no significant increases in attempts to quit.

Those who saw a 10% increase in anti-smoking messages were 12% more likely to attempt quitting, but only if they weren’t depending on smoking to control their weight. Again, the researchers saw no increase in attempts to quit for those using smoking to control weight despite the warnings about the dangers of cigarettes.

However, because the data is from 2007 at the latest, it could be missing a crucial smoking cessation method today, which is the use of electronic cigarettes. Those who “vape” with e-cigarettes experience fewer health risks than they would with tobacco while still getting the physical sensation of smoking.

In recent years, the use of alternative tobacco products, including the many unique vaporizers and hookahs on the market, has risen 123%. Meanwhile, with their popularity, teen smoking rates have also decreased, down 25% since last year and 42% since 2011.

No matter what smokers use, however, whether they’re tobacco cigarettes or other products, Shang warns that health officials need to take the misconception of weight loss while smoking into consideration when developing anti-smoking measures.

“Policymakers should take weight concerns into account to enhance the effectiveness of existing policies that promote quitting smoking,” Shang said.

Additionally, heavy smokers turned out to be more likely to be overweight, according to the Shang, “so the idea that smoking helps control weight is really unfounded.”

Chicago Mobile App Company Moves to New Office

multitasking in hands

A mobile app development firm specializing in business apps has recently moved to an office near Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Lextech, formerly in Lisle, has now moved into a 24,000 square-foot office in another Chicago suburb, Downers Grove. Their office, which is roughly 20 miles away from downtown Chicago, will serve has the company’s headquarters and is capable of accommodating 140 people, although the company currently has only 50 employees.

“We needed space for our current team and to expand,” said Alex Bratton, CEO. He said that over the last few years, Lextech has grown by an annual rate of 40%.

The company focuses on making mobile apps for businesses. They developed six apps, for example, for a car dealership client of theirs. The dealership employees use the apps on their smartphones and iPads to aid in the tasks that go with buying a car, including searching lots, running a credit check, and drawing up a contract. The dealership says that the apps have allowed them to cut their selling time from three hours to 45 minutes.

The office has more in common with Cupertino and Mountain View than Chicago in that its design invokes the latest trends of technology company offices. The office features bright colors, glass walls, open spaces, wide hallways, “thinking rooms,” game rooms, and a media wall, according to Bratton.

“Our new space brings a Silicon Valley feel to Downers Grove,” he said. “The space is a physical representation of our culture and core values, and speaks to our focus on collaboration and teamwork. Our passion and energy come through clearly in the color choices and lighting that flow throughout the space.”

“We have a little bit of Silicon Valley but not all the silliness,” he continued, although his employees are able to drive in scooters and electric go-carts around the office.

Lextech’s focus on mobile apps reflects a greater trend in the web design and development fields to make apps and websites more accessible to mobile users. Accessing the Internet on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is rising throughout the world. One study, in fact, found that nearly 13% of total world Internet traffic comes from mobile devices.

Draft Town Coming to Chicago

Football player making a catch

There’s a tiny, temporary suburb coming to Chicago. The National Football League is taking over Roosevelt College’s Auditorium Theatre and part of the Windy City’s Grant Park to build a 900,00-square foot “Draft Town.”

As its name implies, the event will celebrate the NFL’s draft. The organization will construct a series of open air structures that will host attractions, museums, and seating for people to watch the draft go down, the first three rounds of which will be inside the historic Auditorium Theatre, with the final round taking place in “Selection Square.”

These open-air, temporary structures are a great idea, as similar fabric structures are quite weather resistant, offering wind load rating from 75 to 120 miles per hour, and snow load or live load ratings ranging from 12 to 40 pounds per square foot. In other words, Draft Town will happen, regardless of what the weather has to say about it.

Renderings of Draft Town show long, open-ended arched structures that will be put over Chicago’s streets, with areas set aside for team tents. Buckingham Fountain serves as the event’s background, and will be lit up with each team’s colors as their respective selections are announced.

Draft Town will have several other attractions. The Chi-Chef’s kitchen will offer fans a sampling of Chicago-style eats from a variety of the Windy City’s best restaurants. The Combine Corner will give sports lovers the chance to try out NFL combine drills, like the vertical jump or the 40-yard dash. The Sweetness Simulator is a wind tunnel skydive simulator that lets participants float in the air. There will also be NFL Play 60 private youth clinics, family football clinics, flag football tournaments for both youths and adults, and even a Super Bowl museum.

As for the actual draft, the Chicago Bears, who walked from the 2014 season with a 5-11 record, have the seventh draft pick. CBS Sports predicts the team will choose Nose Tackle Danny Shelton.

Chicago-Area Groups Sending Military Care Packages Honored with Gift from Military Base

African American military man, horizontal
Beyond helping others, donating food, clothing, and other necessities to the needy can have its rewards — as one Chicago-area grocery store found out recently.

The Fairplay store in Worth, IL, received a special gift from the 108th Sustainment Brigades: an American flag that had flown at their base in Kuwait. The flag flew over the base on Sept. 11, 2014, and was then shipped to the store at the end of February.

The flag was presented to the store’s manager, Sam Nicastro, as a thanks for donating foods and other goods to active duty troops in the Middle East over the past decade.

The presentation also honored two local volunteer groups — AdoptaPlatoon of Hickory Hills and Twisted Sisters of Palos Hills. These two groups represents several others in the community whose mission is to help military personnel overseas feel appreciated for their sacrifices.

For the past decade, both groups have been sending care packages each month to soldiers, marines, seamen and airmen — some of whom don’t receive any other mail. Shipping costs for the care packages are covered by donations.

Jim Kruse, the head of AdoptaPlatoon for Hickory Hills, said that the Fairplay store has been “instrumental in procuring items” for troops over the past decade. The store collects and donates the items regularly.

Especially popular are donations of non-perishable food items, books and other reading material, small toiletries and clothing. Each year Americans donate 14.3 million tons of clothing, which help individuals, families, and U.S. military members worldwide.

In addition to donations that pick up at home or are dropped off, the groups also send religious items and books from various denominations. Cards and letters written by local schoolchildren are also included in the care packages.

The most popular item, according to Kruse, is candy.

“We send chocolate from September through March before the temperatures reach 100+ in the areas where the troops are,” Kruse said.

The 25 to 30 regular volunteers from Twisted Sisters (and Twisted Brothers) have also been including these items and something special for the past 10 years: homemade cookies, says group leader Judy Bernaciak.

Kruse’s organization is part of the nationwide AdoptaPlatoon program and is assisted by the city of Hickory Hills, St. Patricia Catholic Church and St. Patricia’s Holy Name Society.

“These items have been sent to units, ships, and chaplains each month,” said Kruse. “Mr. Nicastro has stated that is Fairplay’s resolve to help our local neighbors who need it.

Twisted Sisters is an organization that works through the Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Palos Hills, along with the parish’s Holy Name Society, Council of Catholic Women and Senior Fun Club.

Illinois’s Medical Marijuana Program Fights Setbacks

While medical marijuana was legalized in Illinois in 2014, the process of instituting the change has been an uphill battle for many. For example, in January, the state missed a self-imposed deadline to award dispensary licenses to businesses and growers, rendering the 600 patients who had been approved for medical marijuana cards unable to legally buy cannabis. Additionally, recent reports show that a number of top doctors are reluctant to begin prescribing the treatment, a fact which may be further slowing the program’s progress. However, despite these roadblocks, many patients in Illinois are still determined to access medical marijuana: recently, it was reported that residents had petitioned the state to add another 20 conditions to the program’s list, including anxiety, migraines, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder.Under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, the Associated Press was able to access 269 pages of petitions that had been submitted to Illinois’s medical marijuana program. While the state blacked out the petitioners’ names to protect their privacy, their emotional pleas revealed them to veterans of the Vietnam and Iraq, as well as sufferers of a variety of conditions currently unapproved for treatment.

“I am a Vietnam Vet and can only imagine how things would have been,” one petitioner with PTSD wrote. “While visiting in Colorado I had the benefit of trying cannabis in candy form…. and I felt wonderful. No thoughts of violence, self-deprecation, or hopelessness. My life would be different today.”

“Cannabis would cause my mind to stop obsessive thoughts and it could help me conquer my fears,” another petitioner wrote, describing their experiences with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia. However, Illinois’s program reportedly has some of the strictest requirements. While the state allows medical marijuana usage for a number of conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS, this list is shorter than other states’; California, for example, allows doctors to issue a medical marijuana card for patients with migraines, arthritis and “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.” The Illinois Department of Public Health must approve any new additions to the state list with the help of an advisory board consisting of patients, nurses, doctors and a pharmacist, which promises to be cautious and conservative in their judgement. Patients can submit petitions in January and July. The next public hearing for these petitions is scheduled for May 4.

The advisory board has previously stated that wants to prevent those in the marijuana industry from using the approval process for its own gain, as a broader list would create a bigger market in the state. However, most of the petitions seem to come from patients themselves, who have requested approval for bipolar disorder, autism, psoriasis, chronic back pain, gout and osteoarthritis. Some even admitted to using marijuana illegally to find relief or help their conditions.

However, it is unclear how approval would help, due to the current state of Illinois’s program. Even if businesses do receive dispensary licenses, patients still have to receive approval from a doctor with whom they have a ongoing professional relationship. However, many are reluctant: a private company called Good Intentions, which connects patients with doctors who are sympathetic to the cause and helps them apply for medical marijuana cards, as many as 900 of their 1,300 clients have had doctors refuse to make recommendations.

To make matters worse, the U.S. is experiencing an ongoing doctor shortage, with general practitioners and rural doctors in especially short supply. For this reason, many patients are turning to the 20,000 urgent care doctors who practice urgent care medicine for their various medical conditions; in a system that increasingly relies on this form of medical care, how can potential medical marijuana patients find a doctor at all, much less one that believes in this nontraditional treatment?

However, the petitioners and medical marijuana industry as a whole may have found a source of hope in the state’s medical advisory board: while cannabis studies in the U.S. are often hampered by federal constraints, the board chair, Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple, says the group will take these limitations into consideration when considering new appeals. “Where science is lacking we must factor in our compassion more heavily,” Temple, a suburban Chicago doctor, said.

Chicago Teens Are Knit Together


In North Lawndale, Illinois, two very different sets of students are learning similar lessons. Both disadvantaged public-school students and students at North Lawndale College Prep have immersed themselves in the wonderful world of knitting. Each group works under the supervision of a teacher and sells their knitted wares.

At North Lawndale College Prep, students’ items are purchased by their teacher, Dorothea Tobin, with her own money. She then sells the items online for the same price as she purchased them, often to other faculty members. The students have found that knitting gives them something to do to relieve the stress of high school, while encouraging them to participate in their community and make friends.

Elsewhere in North Lawndale, Better Boys Foundation CEO Mary Visconti founded KnitLAB, a fiber arts workshop for teens. Funded by the Chicago Community Trusts Arts Infusion Initiative and After School Matters, teens are paid stipends for the items they create within the 10-week program. Each student keeps one item, and the rest are sold to pay for yarn and other supplies. Each session has approximately 15 students, and they are given the option to re-enroll at the end.

Much of the yarn used in both programs is donated, often made of wool or silk, common materials for scarves, Oriental rugs, hats, and other products. Students in each group feel pride in their creations, and enjoy being able to express their personal style in new and exciting ways. Additionally, yarn crafts have been shown to release dopamine.

Although it may still have a reputation as an activity for older folks, knitting is gaining popularity with younger people, as well — a 2014 study conducted by the Craft Research Council found that 18% of knitters and crochets are in the 18 – 35 age bracket. With endorsements from celebrities such as Amanda Seyfried, Dakota Fanning, Kate Middleton and even heartthrob Ryan Gosling, and programs such as the ones being pioneered in North Lawndale, knitting could soon become very hot with the Gen Y crowd.