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England going smoke-free by 2030 depends on No 10 willpower | Smoking

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While much has been made recently of the danger posed by soaring obesity levels, tobacco remains the biggest public health threat the world has ever faced.

Despite its risks being known for decades, 1.3 billion people globally still use tobacco products. They kill 8 million people every year, and more than one million of whom die from exposure to second-hand smoke.

In an effort to finally stamp out its use, and eradicate its associated harms, many western countries have announced bold tobacco policies with the aim of going smoke-free before the end of this decade. Some are going further and faster than others.

New Zealand is one of those leading the race after it announced it will outlaw smoking for the next generation, so that those who aged 14 and under today will never be legally able to buy tobacco.

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The legislation means the legal smoking age will increase every year, to create a smoke-free generation of New Zealanders. Other measures aimed at reaching its goal of making the country smoke-free by 2025 include: reducing the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products to very low levels; reducing the number of shops where cigarettes can legally be sold; and increasing funding to addiction services.

In England, health officials are considering radical ways to reduce the number of smokers from the estimated total of 6 million. On Thursday, an independent review commissioned by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, and led by Javed Khan, a former chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s, will be published.

The Guardian understands the recommendations could include raising the legal age of smoking to 21 and introducing further taxes on tobacco companies. The review is also likely to recommend the NHS increase efforts to encourage smokers, particularly among pregnant women, to switch to vaping and e-cigarettes.

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The minimum age for tobacco purchases was last raised from 16 to 18 in England, Scotland and Wales in 2007. Smoking in enclosed public spaces and workplaces was made illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the same year. Scotland brought in legislation in 2006.

The Khan review into smoking was commissioned to provide independent, evidence-based advice to the government to help reduce inequalities linked to smoking. Khan was also tasked with identifying the “most impactful interventions” to cut uptake of smoking and support people quitting. The government announced in 2019 its ambition to go smoke-free in England by 2030.

Some sources have suggested the review, which was commissioned in February, is “political cover” for Javid to prevent the risk of Downing Street ditching the 2030 target, amid fears the Conservatives may be accused of trying to implement a “nanny state”.

David Canzini, the influential deputy chief of staff in No 10, has advised Boris Johnson to scrap as many policies as possible that may be unpopular with Tory MPs or traditional Conservative voters. The Conservatives will also be keen not to lose the ground made with red wall voters, something they may fear would be at risk if tight tobacco policies are suddenly thrust on them.

Javid, who quit smoking after becoming health secretary last year, is understood to be in favour of significant changes to the government’s tobacco policy. He is said to have examined policies in the US, where the legal age is 21, as well as countries such as New Zealand, and considered tightening rules on sales.

But there is scepticism among other members of the cabinet and Johnson about raising the legal age, or introducing new taxes.

Cancer Research has previously warned that England is expected to miss its target of being smoke-free by 2030 because so many poorer people are still using cigarettes. Whether or not England can hit the target will depend not on the size or shape of the policies recommended on Thursday, but on whether the government is prepared to implement them.

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‘It’s absolute hell’: a paramedic in England on why he backs strike | Emergency services

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Ambulance workers across England have voted to strike over pay and staffing levels, and action is expected before Christmas. Thousands of 999 call handlers, ambulance technicians, paramedics and others working for ambulance services are expected to take part. Joshua, a paramedic in northern England, shares why he’s striking.

“I’ve been a paramedic since 2016 and it’s absolute hell doing this job currently. I genuinely believe most of the public have no idea how bad the situation is. We’re being pushed beyond limits, constantly [having] dispatchers pleading for crews to come through. A massive part of the issue is that ambulances are just sat at hospitals for hours on end.

“We’re going to patients who have waited for 12-13 hours. Ambulance crews are seeing [patients die] day in and day out. I think to myself, god, please don’t let any of my family members need an ambulance. It’s terrifying.

“The cost of living is astronomical, as everyone well knows. [We’ve had] real-terms pay cuts year after year. I’ve gone from living a relatively comfortable life to just counting every penny that I have. I feel sick [when I] have to spend fuel on the car.

“I’ve seen co-workers crying, single parents who can’t afford to do this job any more. So many people are leaving because we’re treated [badly] and not paid anywhere near enough.

“Patient safety has fallen through the floor, paramedics can’t reach them in time, there’s simply not enough staff to get to those patients. If the government wanted to do something about that, they would pay paramedics properly and then people would see it as a good job that’s rewarding and consider doing a career in [it]. Patient safety is directly linked to pay. People are quitting at a time where staffing is below critical.

“The issue is absolutely systemic across the entire NHS. Staff going off sick with burnout, stress and suicidal thoughts is endemic across the ambulance service. I feel completely burnt out currently – I’ve been considering calling in sick every night shift this week. I don’t want to come to work because you don’t know what you’re going to come across. It’s stress beyond stress. We’re finishing hours late every shift. And the government is saying you don’t deserve to be paid properly.

“The GMB has a policy of no harm to patients. And there’s already catastrophic harm being done to patients by the government. [The ballot gives a mandate for full strike action but the form it takes will be decided by a committee of GMB ambulance members, according to the union.]

“No one [in the NHS] wants to walk away from patients. We’re in a caring profession for a reason. But we’re not listened to by [people] with no idea of the reality of what it’s like out on the road.

“Most paramedics don’t want to strike. We want a government that respects us, values our work and cares about the public we look after.”

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China’s failure to vaccinate makes giving up on zero covid a huge risk

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Widespread protests against China’s zero-covid policy have led the country to ease some restrictions, but its failure to vaccinate older people means this could lead to millions of deaths



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| Analysis

1 December 2022

There have been protests against China’s strict covid-19 restrictions in cities including Beijing and Shanghai

JEROME FAVRE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In response to protests in many parts of the country, China is easing some of the draconian measures it imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But the government’s failure to vaccinate the most vulnerable people means that the relaxation of restrictions risks causing a vast number of deaths.

A big wave of infections in the country could lead to between 1.3 million and 2.1 million deaths, according to UK science analytics company Airfinity. …

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How Blacks and Jews can come together again – New York Daily News

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We have just finished an election that underscored sharp division in our country. Among those divisions have been race-based attacks on both Blacks and Jews. We have all received an earful of the controversy concerning the ignorant statements made by Kanye West and the misguided social media post of Kyrie Irving. Both are emblematic of what is wrong with the discourse surrounding Blacks and Jews. Both controversies center around a divisive, distorted and flat-out incorrect characterization of history. We believe our nation will be served by setting the record straight and healing those divisions.

One of us, Markus Green, is Black, the other, Victor Schwartz, is Jewish. We have worked together on challenging civil justice problems for over a decade. We devote most of our professional time toward prevention of unjust liability claims. More important than our professional link is our friendship based on unyielding mutual respect. It cannot be broken.

Our experience in life and our study of history strongly suggests that Blacks and Jews in general should foster such feelings. They have had both adversity and success.

Both Blacks and Jews have suffered the ignominy of slavery. For nearly 400 years, millions of Africans were forcibly placed on slave ships and sent to America. The Bible tells us that the Jews were slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. Each Passover holiday, Jews relive that history and celebrate their liberation. That story was a powerful one for enslaved African-Americans, who sung the spiritual, “Go Down Moses.” Harriet Tubman is said to have used that song to announce her arrival when she helped people escape on the Underground Railroad. Tubman herself is referred to as the “the Moses of her people.”

Blacks and Jews have a shared history of being attacked because they are considered different. For a long time, the United States ignored its founding premise of “Equal Justice for All.” But even after the Civil War ended slavery, for generations, Blacks had essentially no civil rights. Jews can relate to the horrors of post-Civil War Black experience in America. Jews fled other countries to escape death from Nazi concentration camps only to experience continued anti-Semitism in America.

Fortunately, many of these barriers have been overcome. Joint efforts by Blacks and Jews have been part of those accomplishments. Jews were allies with Blacks in the fight for civil rights. Several Jewish people were among the founders of the NAACP and Jewish lawyers helped successfully battle Jim Crow legislation.

Martin Luther King Jr. recognized the mutual interest of Blacks and Jews.

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“My people were brought to America in chains,” King said in a 1958 speech to the American Jewish Congress. “Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility.”

In 1965, the Civil Rights Act outlawed many forms of discrimination in public places and in employment, but racism and anti-Semitism persist. Both Blacks and Jews understand that prohibiting blatant discrimination is only a partial victory. Today, racism toward Blacks and Jews takes place in many more subtle ways.

Blacks and Jews have seen so-called spokespersons utter remarks against each group. But such folks are a minority in a minority. Without a doubt, both of us as lawyers know that legal battles won for Blacks have helped Jews, and legal battles won for Jews have helped Blacks.

Finally, and often overlooked, is the fact that Black and Jewish culture can be a bond between the two groups — one that includes humor, emotion and love of family.

So at a time where many are planting and growing seeds of division, we ask that Black and Jewish leaders, and ordinary men and women in each group, build a united wall of mutual respect. After all, racism and anti-Semitism racism are two ugly cousins. Anti-Semitism is racism and racism is anti-Semitism. Jews and Blacks must be united against hate and bigotry.

Jews and Blacks have far more in common than we will ever have differences. Both have suffered and survived monumental atrocities and the aftershock is still being felt. We both understand survival and perseverance. But most of all, we both understand the power of love in the face of hate. We are one people. Unity, not divisiveness, is our path forward.

Green is vice president and assistant general counsel at Pfizer. Schwartz is a former law professor and law school dean, and current co-chair of the public policy group of the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P.

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