Taxing Soda and Booze Can Spark Healthy Spiral, Research Says

Taxing Soda and Booze Can Spark Healthy Spiral, Research Says

  • Tool to reduce ‘death and suffering’ can help the poor
  • Experts call for effort to stem obesity, disease costs

Nobody likes taxes, but new research shows they can be good for your health.

Taxing products such as soda, alcohol and tobacco can steer consumers toward healthier choices and avert a ruinous tumble in which obesity fuels disease and medical costs push people further into poverty, data from countries ranging from Chile to India show. The analysis was published Wednesday in The Lancet medical journal.

A tax on unhealthy goods “is probably the single-most important measure that can be taken to reduce death and suffering,” Larry Summers, the U.S. economist and former Treasury Secretary, said in an interview. “That’s why I think it’s important.”

Summers’s commentary accompanied the Lancet report, which focused on ways to curb illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer that can be blamed for 38 million deaths each year. A research group pulled together five studies and found that taxes on unhealthy products can work without disproportionately harming the poor.

New MilkyBar

When it comes to sweet drinks, more countries are willing to test taxes to tackle obesity along with budget deficits, potentially hurting companies such as Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc., according to Bloomberg Intelligence. The U.K.’s own sugar tax experiment is scheduled to take effect Friday.

Wealthier households usually shoulder more of the tax burden because they spend more on alcohol, sodas and snacks, the researchers said in the Lancet. Poorer families also tend to reduce consumption more in response to higher prices. Such taxes work best if some of the revenue is used to fund programs for the poor, they found.

Companies are responding by working to cut sugar and calories. Nestle SA has started selling slimmed-down Milkybar chocolates in Britain and Ireland in the first implementation of a new technology that promises the same sweetness with 30 percent less sugar.

In Mexico, the introduction of a soft-drinks tax resulted in a 17 percent decrease in purchases among lower-income groups, and almost no change in higher-income groups, the Lancet report said.

Obesity, once seen as a problem plaguing only wealthier nations, is now on the rise in lower-income regions too. Countries must tackle it in the same way as malnutrition, said Summers, who chairs a task force on fiscal policy for health with Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-04/taxing-soda-and-booze-can-spark-healthy-spiral-research-says

Why November Means Unsafe Air in India’s Capital: QuickTake Q&A

For the third straight November, thick toxic smog has enveloped India’s capital, New Delhi, forcing schools to shut down, halting traffic and sending residents scurrying to buy air purifiers and filtration masks. United Airlines briefly suspended service to the city, the Indian Medical Association declared a public health emergency, and India’s Supreme Court slapped a ban on selling fireworks ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the metropolis that’s home to 20 million people, has called New Delhi a "gas chamber." It’s not even India’s worst city for pollution.

1. What causes the smog?

Mostly it’s the burning of crop stubble, which continues unabated despite being banned in the surrounding states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. Farmers in those regions traditionally clear their fields by burning in preparation for the winter season. Contributing to the pollution are vehicle and industrial emissions, road and construction dust, and fires lit by the poor for domestic use. Compounding the problem: The trough-like topography of the north Indian region means polluted air lingers in colder months.

2. What is the point of stubble burning?

After rice, wheat or other grain is harvested, the straw that remains is called stubble, and it must be removed before the next planting. It once was used as cattle feed, or to make cardboard, but harvesting by combine (rather than by hand) leaves 80 percent of the residue in the field as loose straw that ends up being burnt. Disposal of the stubble by means other than burning — such as plowing it into a fine layer of field cover — costs time and money, two things that farmers say they can’t afford.

3. How serious is the health risk?

The World Health Organization warns that increasing air pollution in many of the world’s poorest cities is driving up the risk of stroke, heart disease and lung cancer in vulnerable populations. The World Bank estimated that 1.4 million people in India died prematurely due to air pollution in 2013, the latest year for which data is available. (Pollution has worsened since then.) The most dire threat to humans is from PM 2.5, the fine, inhalable particles that lodge deep in the lungs, where they can enter the bloodstream. World Health Organization guidelines say exposure to PM 2.5 above 300 micrograms per cubic meter is hazardous. New Delhi’s recent readings have exceeded 1,000, as they did last year.

4. Why not enforce the ban on burning?

Farmers are a strong electoral constituency. Getting them to change their ways is no easy task, particularly as labor shortages bite and push up the costs of removing stubble manually.

5. Does the problem end when the burning stops?

The worst of the pollution typically dissipates as spring begins, but New Delhi’s air remains dirty all year. On every day in 2017, PM 2.5 readings exceeded the level deemed healthy by the WHO (up to 50 micrograms per cubic meter). And there were 39 days when readings topped 300, according to U.S. embassy data through Nov. 20.

6. Then what action is India taking?

New Delhi takes temporary measures, such as restricting traffic on alternate days or attempting to prevent the burning of waste. The federal government has accelerated the timeline for stricter emission rules; oil refiners plan a 288 billion-rupee ($4.4-billion) outlay on upgrades to comply with a local equivalent of European emission standards by April 2018.

7. Why hasn’t more been done?

The chaotic nature of Indian democracy doesn’t lend itself to coordinated action. Unlike in China, where the one-party government has directed a concerted nationwide anti-pollution drive, India’s various levels of government have failed to make meaningful progress on an issue that sprawls across political jurisdictions run by rival parties. At the same time, pollution hasn’t become as important an issue at the ballot box as, say, inflation or employment.

8. Where else in India is pollution a serious problem?

India accounted for 19 of the 35 worst-polluted cities in the world, as measured by PM 2.5, in WHO’s 2016 rankings. The Indian cities of Gwalior and Allahabad ranked second and third, behind only the Iranian city of Zabol, which is beset by dust storms. New Delhi, ranked 11th, was behind Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh for most polluted capital city.

9. What’s the impact on the economy?

The World Bank in 2013 estimated the annual cost of environmental degradation in India at $80 billion. According to a study by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, pollution-related illnesses drag down productivity and reduce annual economic output by as much as 2 percent in developing economies.

10. What can India do?

To start, it could implement measures it’s already approved. That means enforcing the ban on burning crop stubble, holding to stricter emissions targets for 2020 and forcing construction sites to stick to rules on creating dust. Phasing out diesel cars and adopting cleaner fuels like compressed natural gas would also help, as would strengthening the public transport system to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

The Reference Shelf

    Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-23/why-november-means-unsafe-air-in-india-s-capital-quicktake-q-a

    Gordon Ramsay is in for some unsavory comments for dissing Indian snack

    Image: GETTY IMAGES

    Ace chef and television presenter Gordon Ramsay, who’s known for his sharp tongue, was left with a bad taste in the mouth when he tried to humor an Indian Twitter user.

    The bloke, Rameez, tweeted to Ramsay asking him to ‘rate’ his food photo. Just like many users do to invite supposedly hilarious insults from the celebrity chef.

    But what ensued in this case was, umm, unsavory.

    First, the user’s tweet.

    Medu Vada is a popular breakfast dish in southern and western India.

    It consists of spiced lentil batter fried in doughnut-shaped dumplings, and is served with yellow sambar (lentil curry) and white coconut chutney (made of coconut pulp ground with other ingredients such as tamarind and green chilies.)

    Then, came Ramsay’s acerbic reply.

    The dig was possibly made at the utensil on which the dish was served.

    But it rubbed Indians the wrong way. Angry reactions surfaced in no time.

    Ouch! That escalated fast.

    WATCH: This spinach leaf is actually a tiny, beating human heart

    Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/04/07/gordon-ramsay-insult-indian-snack-twitter-outrage/

    World’s First Awake Cardiac Bypass & Valve Surgery, India

    Visit www.whosp.com – Dr Vivek Jawali, chief cardiovascular surgeon along with his team at Wockhardt Heart Hospital at Bangalore have set a global benchmark by performing the first coronary bypass surgery along with an aortic valve replacement without using general anaesthesia or ventilator support while the patient was on a heart lung machine.The technique of high thoracic epidural analgesia is a highly precision based methodology which involves injection of micro doses of local anaesthetic in the epidural space around the spinal cord which anaesthetises only the chest region while the rest of the system is fully awake.

    This technique is a boon for patients having multifaceted medical complications, required a bypass surgery and an aortic valve replacement. His lung condition did not permit the use of a ventilator and he was high risk for general anaesthesia. With his surgery being rejected at various centres before he came to us, his best chance of survival was an open heart surgery without general anaesthesia, in other words, an awake heart surgery. We give him that chance using the technique of high thoracic epidural analgesia and a new direction in heart surgery has been unveiled,' recounted Dr Jawali.

    Dr Vivek Jawali and Dr Murali Chakravarthy, chief cardiac anaesthetist of Wockhardt Heart Institute are the national pioneers of awake coronary bypass surgery on beating heart through full chest incisions and over the last few years have performed more than 500 awake heart surgeries and have ten international publications on this topic in the leading journals of the world to their credit.

    Skynews of UK profiles in this film a patient undergoing a painless awake heart cardiac bypass surgery that is safe for patients who are high risk for general anaesthesia. and this now throws open the possibility of cardiac surgery for many patients (many in their most productive years) who are termed inoperable,' explained Dr Jawali. wockhardt Heart Hospital at Bangalore, India is now a preferred destination for cardiac patients not only in India but also from all over the US, UK, Canada, Middle East and Africas. It is also a teaching center for clinicians from the sub-continent. For more details visit www.whosp.com

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