Concerns about e-cigarette safety, elevated by an outbreak of illnesses and deaths, continue to roil Washington, D.C.
Leading calls for action have focused upon measures that could stem the rise of vaping among young people. Federal data indicate that 27.5% of high school students now regularly use e-cigarettes. More than 5 million American youths are now vaping, up from more than 3.6 million in 2018, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Continue reading
The Affordable Care Act requires all state Medicaid programs – whether they opted into expansion or not – to help people quit smoking. The law requires at least some counseling and FDA-approved therapies, including nicotine gum and some drugs that assist in tobacco cessation.
How are the states doing? Not great. Continue reading
The use of snuff and other smokeless tobacco products by American high school students is up significantly, even among high school athletes typically more inclined than their peers to be health conscious, federal health officials say.
In fact, athletes are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than their non-athlete classmates, according to a recently published study. Continue reading
People whose socioeconomic status is low are more likely to act in ways that harm their health compared with those higher on the ladder of income and social stature. On average, they smoke more, exercise less, have poorer diets, and more often ignore health advice and fail to comply with treatment. As a group, they are even less likely to use seatbelts.
Researchers have proposed many theories to explain why this is so, and these involve more than the inability to pay for goods and services that promote health.
Investing less in health behavior may be a positive adaptation to socioeconomic deprivation, according to a theory inspired by evolutionary biology. In other words, it’s like deciding to spend little on car maintenance when you live in a neighborhood of rampant car theft. Living under threat of high mortality from outside causes may set a limit on how much energy it is worth to put into lowering mortality from internal causes.
So far, there is no grand unified theory that accounts for all social, psychological and political forces that press on people on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. In an informative review, Fred C. Pampel, Patrick M. Krueger, and Justin T. Denney break down the evidence for and against nine major pathways by which socioeconomic status shapes health behavior. Learn about those pathways.
Last week, I encountered yet another example of why it’s so important to always read the whole study — not just the press release. In this case, it was actually a report, not a study. A press release from Alzheimer’s International with the somewhat misleading headline, “Smoking Increases Risk Of Dementia” arrived in my inbox, citing a new World Health Organization report that put smokers at a 45 percent higher risk for developing the disease than non-smokers.
When I opened the report, I learned that the “news” touted in the press release was actually just a summary of old research. There was nothing new here. Nor was there proof of causation – the cited evidence showed associations.
As I looked more closely at the report, I found an error that appeared to undermine its conclusions and suggest a sloppiness and lack of rigor.
Well-structured, comprehensive health policy can change behaviors according to panelists Susan Kansagra, Manish Sethi and Giridhar Mallya. They have been working to address different health issues – gun violence, smoking, and obesity – and shared their strategies at Health Journalism 2013.
Giridhar Mallya, director of policy and planning at Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health, helped launch a campaign to combat obesity there and, after decades of rising obesity rates, the city is seeing declines. The key, Mallya said, was in treating the issue as an environmental disease rather than in individual problem, and that meant altering the environment to give people a chance at being healthy.
“Changing the context is really the sweet spot of public health,” Mallya said. “Change the context so people can default to healthy decisions.” Continue reading