Today is World No Tobacco Day 2014

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wntd-banner-enToday, 31 May 2014, World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on all countries to raise taxes on tobacco.

The most effective approach to controlling the spread of tobacco use is through policies that directly reduce the demand for it. The most potent and cost-effective option for governments everywhere is the simple elevation of tobacco prices by use of consumption taxes.

On average, a 10 percent price increase on cigarettes could reduce demand by about four percent in high-income countries and by 4-8 percent in low- and middle-income countries, where lower incomes tend to make people more sensitive to price changes.

Article 6 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Price and Tax Measures to Reduce the Demand for Tobacco, recognizes the importance of this policy and calls on governments to implement tax and price policies to contribute to their national health objectives.

The WHO is committed to helping governments design intelligent tobacco tax policy that best satisfies these dual goals of tobacco use reduction and revenue generation. An additional benefit of greater revenues through tobacco taxes is the possibility of generating an additional pool of funding for health, a practice recommended by the WHO and being adopted with increasing frequency by countries around the globe.

Learn more by reading the WHO Technical Manual on Tobacco Tax Administration.

Effective tobacco control could prevent 13 million smoking deaths in China by 2050

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(World No Tobacco Day is on 31 May 2014. This year’s theme is: Raise taxes on tobacco.)

Photo by IamNotUnique on Flickr, Creative Commons license

Photo by IamNotUnique on Flickr, Creative Commons license

Complete implementation of recommended tobacco control policies in China could lead to a reduction of over 40 percent in smoking and prevent almost 13 million tobacco related-deaths by 2050, according to a BMJ study.

These tobacco control policies, mandated by the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), include: surveillance and monitoring of the prevalence of tobacco use, creation of smoke-free environments, treatment of tobacco dependence, taxation on tobacco consumption and other price controls, and enforcement of health warnings on tobacco packages and marketing bans.

The study projected that increasing the tobacco excise tax to 75 percent of the retail price would be the most effective measure, incrementally reducing smoking by 13 percent by 2050.

Comprehensive smoke-free air laws and a well enforced marketing ban also showed potent and immediate effects. Comprehensive smoke-free air laws were projected to yield an almost nine percent reduction in smoking rates by 2015, increasing to about a 10 percent reduction in 2050. A comprehensive marketing ban would reduce smoking rate by about four percent by 2050.

China is the most populous nation in the world, and with over 50 percent of Chinese men smoking, accounts for about a third of the world’s smokers.

Citation:
1. Levy D, Rodriquez-Buño RL, Hu T-W, Moran AE. The potential effects of tobacco control in China: projections from the China SimSmoke simulation model. BMJ 2014; 348: g1134. (open access)

National Hepatitis Testing Day: rapid hepatitis C testing

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The use of rapid hepatitis C virus tests could be a powerful tool for conducting hepatitis C screening, conveying prevention information, and initiating treatment in a population with high prevalence of hepatitis C infection, according to a study of persons at increased risk for infection in Wisconsin.

An estimated 3.2 million persons in the United States are infected with hepatitis C. Most new hepatitis C transmissions occur among injection drug users, often within the first few years of their injection drug use. During 2003–2012, reports of hepatitis C infection increased from 15 to 54 cases per 100,000 among persons under age 30 years in Wisconsin, and 58 percent of persons in this age group with acute hepatitis C reported injecting drugs.

To increase hepatitis C detection, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health piloted a program during October 2012–October 2013 that offered rapid hepatitis C testing to persons with drug dependence. Of these, 20 percent had positive hepatitis C test results—72 percent of the infections had not been reported previously—and 70 percent of those that tested positive had active infection.

The study found that use of the rapid test detected previously unreported infections and raised awareness of hepatitis C. Persons identified with active hepatitis C infection should be referred to medical care and counseled on ways to prevent transmission to others.

Citation:
1. Stockman LJ, Guilfoyle SM, Benoit AL, et al. Rapid Hepatitis C Testing Among Persons at Increased Risk for Infection — Wisconsin, 2012–2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2014; 63(14): 309-311 (open access)

MEDBOX.org: open access healthcare library

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MEDBOXMEDBOX is an open access online library for humanitarian professionals working to improve the quality of healthcare worldwide.

An independent internet platform supported by international agencies and scientific institutions active in humanitarian assistance and development work, MEDBOX collates professional guidelines, textbooks and practical documents on health action and makes them accessible to health workers online.

Access to MEDBOX is free of charge, offering currently around 1,200 documents on all aspects of health action.

MEDBOX is still under development and welcomes more documents, training materials and presentations relevant to improve the quality of healthcare. Submit your questions, comments or contributions to: info@medbox.org.

Chronic kidney disease of uncertain etiology in agricultural communities

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A new form of nephropathy is emerging in poor agricultural communities in developing countries. Chronic kidney disease of uncertain etiology (CKDu) is not attributable to risk factors such as diabetes or hypertension and has particularly targeted young men who work in the fields in Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, India, Mexico, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka.

The New York Times and National Public Radio have covered CKDu in the past couple of weeks.

MEDICC Review has dedicated its April 2014 issue to this topic. Contributing authors from seven countries—including El Salvador’s Minister of Health and the president of the International Society of Nephrology—examine the global reach of CKDu and its epidemiological challenges, as well as the role of nontraditional risk factors and social determinants. All full-text articles are available free online, open access.

World No Tobacco Day 2014 is coming up

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World No Tobacco Day 2014Every year, on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners everywhere mark World No Tobacco Day, highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and is currently responsible for 10 percent of adult deaths worldwide.

For World No Tobacco Day 2014, the WHO is calling on countries to raise taxes on tobacco.

Under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), countries should implement tax and price policies on tobacco products as a way to reduce tobacco consumption. Research shows that higher taxes are especially effective in reducing tobacco use among lower-income groups and in preventing young people from starting to smoke. A tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10 percent decreases tobacco consumption by about four percent in high-income countries and by up to eight percent in most low- and middle-income countries.

Furthermore, increasing excise taxes on tobacco is considered to be the most cost-effective tobacco control measure. The World Health Report 2010 indicated that a 50 percent increase in tobacco excise taxes would generate a little more than US$ 1.4 billion in additional funds in 22 low-income countries. If allocated to health, government health spending in these countries could increase by up to 50 percent.

Learn more about World No Tobacco Day 2014.

How the food industry misleads consumers on sugar

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sugar-coating-science-coverThe food industry uses misleading marketing and industry-supported interest groups to obscure the health consequences of added sugar in their products, according to a new report, Sugar-Coating Science: How the Food Industry Misleads Consumers on Sugar, from the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Companies are going out of their way to promote products with added sugar in them as healthier than they really are,” said Deborah Bailin, lead author. “In many cases, they’re adding sugar to otherwise healthy foods and misleading customers about it. It’s not just soda and snacks, either. Added sugar is in everything from bread to salad dressing and even frozen dinners.”

Medical researchers have linked sugar overconsumption to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Despite these dangers, companies advertise products with added sugar using healthy-sounding language. For instance, Apple Cinnamon Cheerios are marketed as “whole grain,” which they are, but the product also contains 10 grams of sugar—10 times the amount in General Mills’ regular Cheerios.

Since 1970, average daily U.S. sugar consumption has increased from 74.7 grams to 82.1 grams (20 teaspoons). That is more than double the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guideline recommendation of no more than 42 grams of sugar a day. The report documents that eating just a few sugar-added products during the day could easily cause someone to exceed the recommendation level.

The food industry spends nearly $7 billion annually advertising its products. About a quarter of its spending is directed at youth advertising and sugar-heavy products make up the bulk of that spending. GoGurt yogurt, for instance, contains large amounts of added sugar, but has been advertised as healthy because it is free of “high fructose corn syrup.” The report also tracks misleading marketing campaigns for sugar-added products that have been specifically directed at women, minorities and low-income consumers.

Food industry-supported interest groups also play a significant role in misinforming the public, the report finds. Court documents recently revealed that the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) paid Berman and Company to run a misleading ad campaign through the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit run by Berman and Company’s founder. The ads conveyed the message that all sugars—whether from corn, cane, and beets—are “natural” and pose no health concerns. This message is misleading, the report says, because it distracts people from the risks associated with over-consuming sugar in any form. In internal emails, CRA’s then-president Audrae Erickson counseled colleagues to deny that CRA was financing the campaign.

The report makes the following recommendations in order to hold the food industry and its interest groups accountable for their efforts to obscure the science on sugar and its detrimental health effects:

  • The media should publicly call out sugar interests’ misstatements.
  • Scientific experts should disclose all real or perceived conflicts of interest.
  • Investors and citizens should pressure companies to align their public messaging with science and to cease funding to trade and front groups that spread misinformation.
  • U.S. Congress should restore the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to their full capacity to regulate marketing to children so that the agencies can regulate youth-targeted marketing.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should implement a strong rule requiring the labeling of added sugar in nutrition labels as the agency announced it intends to do.
  • Federal, state, and local health agencies should develop aggressive public information campaigns to emphasize the scientific evidence demonstrating sugar’s health impacts and counter the misinformation from sugar interests.

The report is being released at the Science, Democracy, and a Healthy Food Policy forum on integrating public health science into U.S. food policy, sponsored by Union of Concerned Scientists and the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.

Are you swallowing sugar-coated science

Citation:
1. Bailin D, Goldman G, Phartiyal P. Sugar-Coating Science: How the Food Industry Misleads Consumers on Sugar. Cambridge, Mass.: Union of Concerned Scientists, 2014.

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