Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Scotland Takes Steps Towards a Tobacco Free Society

The use of tobacco products continues to be a worldwide issue. In the U.K. the phase shift has begun with Scotland. Major steps have been taken here to limit the use, and dampen any future use of tobacco products.

The Steps Taken Thus Far

Scotland is blazing the trail towards a tobacco free society. In fact Scotland was the first member of the U.K. to implement a public smoking ban in 2006. Since that time the country has further restricted the tobacco industry and the way tobacco is marketed to the public.
A recent restriction that has been seen is the standardization of cigarette packaging. As explained by Dr. Harpal Kumar, the U.K.’s Cancer Research chief executive, Scotland would replace, “…glitzy, brightly colored packs that appeal to children with standard packs displaying prominent health warnings…” These health warnings and simple packages discourage the purchase of cigarettes, however, it is unclear whether these rules will also apply to related products such as chewing tobacco and the electronic cigarette.

In addition to standardized packaging, more legislation has been passed to further inhibit tobacco distribution. The Tobacco and Primary Medical Services Act of 2010 banned the sale of cigarettes in vending machines throughout Scotland. This act however, received much resistance from the Imperial Tobacco manufacturer, which caused its implementation to be delayed. Never the less the act was passed and made effective immediately for large retailers, yet allowing smaller retailers to comply by 2015 without penalty.

Although these past action have proven effective in reducing smoking, Scotland has taken this battle a step further. This year the country has put into effect a ban on any display of cigarettes in public retailing stores in hopes of further reducing the country’s smoking rate. The goal: a smoke free Scotland by 2034. Many retailers are up in arms stating that the display of cigarettes does not influence the purchasing decisions of individuals. Regardless of the outcries the Scottish government is determined to enact every policy possible to realize a smoke free society. In fact, the Scottish government has announced plans to ban smoking on hospital grounds by 2015.

The Reasoning Behind the Ban

In Scotland, over 13,000 deaths and 56,000 hospital admissions are seen each year due to smoking. Smoking is the most prevalent cause of preventable death in this country and in many other countries as well. These numbers have caught the eye of the Scottish government and have spurred them to action.

The governments main reasoning behind these bans is the hope of reducing the amount of youths that smoke. National educational marketing programs are being financed to enable youths to see the dangers of smoking.  By influencing the younger generations, the Scottish government hopes to see an increase in the health of the overall population in the coming years.

Scotland, however, is not the only country to set their sights on these proactive goals. New Zealand hopes to be tobacco free by 2025 and Finland plans to follow suit by 2040.

These are progressive times, and all across the world actions are being taken to decrease smoking rates in hopes of creating better habits and healthier populations. Scotland is on track to meet their lofty goal, however, we will have to wait and see if they can accomplish what they have set out to do.

Schools to Begin Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing

It is no secret that high school is a time when kids will begin to determine the course of their lives. It is a time that can be full of hard decisions and peer pressure, mainly the pressure and opportunities to use drugs and alcohol. Recently, certain high schools across America have begun to implement more stringent testing of students for drugs as well as alcohol.

Restrictions Common in Past Years

Alcohol and drug control on campuses have always been a commonly occurring issue in public school systems. Limiting time between classes, requiring see-through backpacks, and even bringing in the occasional drug dog has been typical of most schools throughout the nation. However, districts are now feeling the need to take further action.

In some school systems such as Pequannock Township High School in New Jersey, a new type of test will be administered to students. This test is called the ETG urine test and can detect traces of alcohol consumption up to 3 days after the fact. Other schools will conduct hair sample tests in order to detect traces of drugs, such as marijuana, in addition to alcohol. While these test will determine whether a student has used drugs or alcohol it cannot determine if tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, were used.

This new testing policy has stirred up different types of reactions from many individuals.

Reasons for the Testing

School officials believe that by implementing random drug and alcohol tests they will reduce the risk of illegal usage by students. By giving students a legitimate reason to say no kids will be empowered to make better decisions. 

Furthermore, if a student tests positive for any substance, the schools have made it clear that they will not discipline the individual. Instead, the school will offer counseling programs that will aide the student in becoming substance free. Parents of the student will also be informed and the course of action will be left for them to decide.

This push for alcohol testing is being made mainly due to the fact that drunk driving is responsible for the deaths of around 2000 underage kids per year. This is a number that is hard to ignore, and school officials feel that it is their duty to take action.

Resistance to New Policy

Although these actions are being carried out with the best intentions they lie in an area of moral ambiguity. The American Civil Liberty Union argues that this type of testing is an invasion of privacy and an infringement on constitutional rights. In addition, many students and parents believe that it is not the job of the school to monitor what a student does on the weekend.

Also in question is the accuracy and validity of the ETG tests. Although theses tests can detect alcohol 3 days after consumption they have been known to test positive if substances other than alcohol, such as vanilla and hand sanitizer, are present. This could lead to innocent individuals being victimized and could create unnecessary problems.

It is understandable that schools want to ensure that their educational environments remain untainted, however, the boundary of how far officials should be allowed to go is a topic that needs to be clarified.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Up in Green Smoke: E-cigarettes Evade Pollution from Toxins Found in Traditional Cigarettes

When most people think of the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes, they typically only take into account the smoker. However, the deadly toxins evaded from secondhand smoke in cigarettes are just as deadly. A cleaner, safer alternative to smoking has millions questioning quitting the deadly habit, as well as benefiting those around them and the environment.

The Risks Associated with Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is similarly dangerous to non-smokers as it is to those inhaling the toxic carcinogens. Secondhand smoke delivers over 4,000 toxic substances to a passive smoker. Known as environmental tobacco smoke, the carcinogenic compounds and inhalation of the smoke hospitalizes approximately 15,000 children per year in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency conducted numerous studies showing that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in passive smokers. This passive smoking causes the death of over 3,000 lung cancer patients each year who have never smoked a cigarette day in their life.

The continuous exposure to secondhand smoke also heightens the risk of heart disease, especially in women. Children are especially more susceptible to secondhand smoke, because their bodies are still developing and have elevated breathing rates than adults. A household where the parents smoke around their children can trigger asthma symptoms that were nonexistent prior to the presence of secondhand smoke.  In infants, the risk of sudden infant death is heightened by secondhand smoke. Children under the age of six years are at an increased risk for respiratory problems such as pneumonia or bronchitis and ear infections.

The smoke that is projected from cigarette smokers increases the risk of cardiac disease by 30% and is held accountable for over 35,000 deaths in the United States each year. The government has made valuable efforts in preventing these deaths through reduced exposure programs such as the Clean Indoor Air Act. In California alone, a similar Act has been associated with saving the lives of over 59,000 non-smokers between 1989 and 1997, as well as a decrease in hospital admissions linked to acute myocardial infarction.

One would think that passive smokers have a very low chance of acquiring the same health problems as smokers.  While the dosage of smoke being delivered to non-smokers is 100 times less than what the smoker inhales, the health problems associated with smoking have similar diagnosis rates. The risk of heart disease in a smoker is 1.78 compared to 1.31 in a non-smoker that inhales cigarette smoke passively. These numbers are close in proximity.

A Cleaner Alternative

The toxins in traditional cigarettes are linked to millions of deaths globally on an annual basis. The secondhand smoke evaded from them also accounts for unnecessary deaths each year. While quitting smoking is one of the hardest habits to deter, a new product offers ease in the process. Electronic cigarettes, booming universally, are helping thousands of quit smoking. Beyond the beneficial health aspects to the smoker themselves (electronic cigarettes are a concoction of water vapor, nicotine and flavoring), the smoke evaded from them is purely water vapor. There are no toxic chemicals or compounds that harm passive smokers when they inhale.

By eliminating the 4,000 plus toxic compounds emitted from traditional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes are becoming more beneficial to a smoker’s and non-smoker’s health, as well as eliminating the pollution of the environment.