Live Long and Prosper

NimoyMr Spock, Leonard Nimoy, has been diagnosed with lung disease, at the age of 82. He says that he gave up smoking 30 years ago, in his fifties, say. Presumably, like many people, he’d started in his youth, so he probably had at least a 30-year smoking career.

But the statistics say that immediately you give up, your risk of smoking-related diseases starts to decline. By 82, Nimoy probably wasn’t much more likely to get chronic pulmonary obstructive disease than a lifelong non-smoker.

On the other hand, Nimoy has spent his entire life in Los Angeles, and that can’t be healthy. Here’s how I know.

I did part of my pilot training at Long Beach airport, in the greater LA conurbation. One morning, I got up and looked out the window, and the famous “Holywood” sign on the hillside was unusually clear and sharp.

I got in my plane, a Socata Tampico, and set off on a training flight eastward, over Anaheim and Corona, toward the rough, desert-like lands east of the mountains. And suddenly, visibility declined, as if I’d flown into a slight mist. A smear of greasy, yellow stuff began to collect on the front windshield and roll off upwards with the airflow.

I climbed up a few hundred feet into clear air. It was obvious what had happened. Weather conditions had temporarily blown the LA smog away from the city, and through the valley in the mountains where the Santa Ana river flows (and the Riverside freeway). The yellow gunge was what was going into the lungs of the city’s inhabitants every day.

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