The ethics of tobacco packaging

It’s a surreal moment when you realise that packaging is an ethical issue. Where does the packaging end up after you have consumed the product (landfill or recycled or exported to become someone else’s problem)? Did the advertising on the packaging influence your choice of one food brand over another?

The choices you made, and your government allowed, affect your environment & your health. But I’m not about to tell you about improved food labelling on packaging to combat obesity. This is the week of the World NO Tobacco Day (31st May) and this blog addresses tobacco packaging: the use of standardized packaging to further reduce consumption and address the world's leading agent of death…tobacco.

Cigarette

 

Despite the  WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,  taxation policies and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, MORE needs to be done.

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Angry and sad at Xmas: victims of adolescent bullying

FACES_Tiny_with_creditThere have been far too many stories recently of desperate teenagers committing suicide, and an unknown number of families today will be reeling from the discovery that their teenager is seriously self-harming because of bullying. Mobile phones and social networking sites have exacerbated an age-old problem so that there is nowhere to hide. 

Poison-pen letter writers are no longer adults in detective stories. They have been brought right up-to-date, and are alive and well reincarnated in teenagers. Incapable of empathy with their victim, remote bullying via texts, phones, videoclips and the internet makes it so easy & so much more devastating, reaching  beyond a school, covering entire towns & counties,  and as its not face-to-face, even less likely for the teenage bully to empathise.

There also seems to be more serious consequences to bullying these days:  beyond loss of confidence, our society is experiencing a rise in self-harming and suicide amongst teenagers. Is it because teenagers these days are so interested in relationships & celebrity, following soaps avidly, that they are posting the minutiae of their lives online for all to see as if they were part of a soap opera?

What is the research evidence available to understand what’s going on?

I took a look and discovered to my horror that being bullied in primary schools can set you up to self-harm when you are a teenager in your next school.  Being Bullied During Childhood and the Prospective Pathways to Self-Harm in Late Adolescence ,  was co-authored at Warwick University, UK. Their press release reveals that 16.5% of 16-17 year olds had self-harmed in the previous year, and 26.9% of these did so because they felt as though they ‘wanted to die’. Those who were subjected to chronic bullying over a number of years at primary school were nearly five times more likely to self-harm six to seven years later in adolescence.[see press

Furthermore, other research shows being both the bully and the bully-victim is linked to an increased risk of suicide or mental illness. I also discovered that self-harming is a very difficult habit to break.

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Epigenetics: epi what?

Pity the poor editor on BBC’s news programme  “Breakfast” (11 jan 2011) subtitling, as Professor Robert Winston and others discussed the possibility of gender selection to "complete your family in the way you desire" i.e. to finally achieve that longed for girl or boy.

Throughout the discussion the text editor had kept up admirably, coping with explanations of these gender selection techniques:

  • at fertilisation (by enriching for male sperm)
  • pre-implantation (by removing a cell from a fertilised embryo to check the sex.

 (Both techniques are tried and tested. Sperm enrichment is used for cattle breeding and pre-implantation tests are used to select healthy embryos without a gender-linked genetic defect)

 In vivo fertilisation was rendered accurately too, which just shows how much the public has come to know and understand about IVF since it was first introduced all those years ago.

Then Professor Winston mentioned in passing “epigenetic influences” which was transcribed rapidly onto my TV screen as “EDGE THE GENETIC”!

Clearly the editor hadn’t a clue. So I’ve decided to define (& explain) for you the term “epigenetic” so that you will.  Along the way, I hope, you emerge fascinated…

 

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Not much fun being Roma

  
3774606072_dfd3cdf013copyright: Adam Jones PhD

It's always struck me as ironic that a number of Hollywood film stars are happy to be credited with being 1/4  (1/8, 1/16th…) Native American but its not so positive to be more full-blooded Native American,  in terms of your social status, health or life opportunities in the US.

And if you substituted gypsy or Roma or “traveller” (a UK term) into those same actors’ ethnic mix, you wouldn’t even get claims for 1/8.

AS part of its fight for human rights, the Anne Frank museum, Amsterdam, which I visited 2 weeks ago, featured the plight of Roma in Hungary who are being pressured by Far Right groups, in their interactive debate for visitors. Daily, visitors are presented with current TV news items, linked to human rights, and asked to vote yes or no to a proposition.

I was in Amsterdam to attend EUPHA 2010. A speaker, Daniela Bobokova, presenting in the Health Inequalities session, dispelled thoroughly another preconceived idea about Roma…that they are drunks. “In Central Europe, it is thought that Roma drink more, smoke more and generally have more risky behaviour”, she said. Her talk focussed on binge drinking, comparing Roma and non-Roma adolescents in Slovak Republic, a country where Roma make up 7% of the population.

 

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