Sunday, 19 January 2014

Cigarettes more dangerous than ever: US health report

  Cigarettes more dangerous than ever: US health report

Top US health officials gathered at the White House to announce the latest Surgeon General's findings on the health consequences of smoking, five decades after the first landmark report of its kind alerted the public that smoking caused lung cancer.
Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death in the United States, killing nearly half a million Americans a year.
"Amazingly, 50 years in we are still finding out new ways that tobacco maims and kills people," said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Thomas Frieden.
"Tobacco is even worse than we knew it was." Active smoking is now known to be a cause of 13 different cancers, as well as diabetes and age-related macular degeneration, said the report.
Smoking can also cause tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction, facial clefts in babies, ectopic pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, impaired immune function, and worsens the outlook for cancer patients and survivors.
Those who do not smoke but are exposed to second-hand smoke face an increased risk of stroke, said the report.
More than 20 million people in the United States have died from smoking related diseases and illnesses caused by second-hand smoke.
Another 16 million people suffer from smoking-related conditions. "Enough is enough," said Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, warning that modern cigarettes are more potent and more dangerous than ever.
"Smokers today have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than they did when the first Surgeon General's report was released in 1964, even though they smoke fewer cigarettes," said Lushniak.
"How cigarettes are made and the chemicals they contain have changed over the years, and some of those changes may be a factor in higher lung cancer risks."
Smoking rates are way down in the United States. Eighteen percent of people here now smoke compared to 42 percent five decades ago.
But if the current smoking rate does not drop further, one in 13 children alive today will be felled by a disease linked to smoking, the report added.
"We have made a lot of progress," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
"But we are still a country very much addicted to tobacco." The cost of smoking in America is more than $289 billion a year in direct medical care and other economic losses, the report said.
It blamed the epidemic on the "aggressive strategies of the tobacco industry, which has deliberately misled the public on the risks of smoking cigarettes."
Previous Surgeon Generals' reports have found that nicotine is addictive, that smoking impacts nearly every organ of the body, and that there is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke.
In all, smoking has been found to cause more than a 13 different cancers and even more chronic diseases.
US research released last week showed that despite a cut in the smoking rate globally, the number of smokers in the world has climbed from 721 million in 1980 to 967 million in 2012 due to population growth and the gaining popularity of cigarettes in the developing world.

Unlikely friendship explores humanity in Gitmo film 'Camp X-Ray'

In "Camp X-Ray," which premiered on Friday at the Sundance Film Festival and is a contender in the festival s U.S. drama competition, Stewart plays young military officer Amy Cole on the suicide watch team at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The U.S. prison is located in Cuba and has been condemned internationally for holding enemy combatants for years without trial.
The role was a new direction for Stewart, 23, who is best known for being the lead in the teen vampire "Twilight" film franchise, but has been taking riskier choices, such as 2012 s "On the Road," to break out of the "Twilight" spotlight.
The actress said that while "people are a little bit afraid of doing movies about current issues," writer-director Peter Sattler had created a character in Cole that reflected most young women today.
"It s a story about a girl who is really simple and really relatable, and just like probably most girls across the entire country. She s a really normal, simple-minded girl from Florida who wants to do the right thing and ultimately doesn t feel like she is," Stewart told Reuters.
While observing detainees every three minutes to make sure no one has harmed themselves, Cole bonds with detainee 417, otherwise known as Ali (played by Payman Maadi), who constantly asks for the final installment of the Harry Potter novels.
The seemingly simple request generates laughs on the surface, but deeper down, unearths Ali s own desperate search for how both Harry Potter and his own story will end.
"When you involve people from very different backgrounds and differences of opinions, there s something there that never goes away but you re both human, even though you may be in a position where you re pitted against each other," Stewart said.
The biggest challenge that Stewart said she faced was to make sure she looked the part, and trained hard to represent a military soldier.
"Even though I walk in circles and this job becomes very mundane, I still had to look like I had learned everything. You sort of have to breathe in and it changes your entire physicality. I wanted to represent them right," she said.
Stewart s performance has already been gaining buzz early in the festival, and the film garnered a positive response from the audience at Friday s premiere. In an early review from The Hollywood Reporter on Friday, film critic David Rooney called the film "riveting," and Stewart s performance "her best screen work to date."
Sattler, who makes his feature film debut with "Camp X-Ray," said he wanted to avoid making a political comment on Guantanamo Bay, and instead focus on something that he felt would connect with audiences - a friendship.
"I m always fascinated by movies and art that takes extraordinary and difficult subjects but focuses on some of the unexpected, more mundane aspects of it," Sattler said.
"I was really interested in the idea of how to explore the subject matter in a different way, through characters, not through politics."
The result is an intimate drama that is littered with lighter moments such as the young U.S. officers bonding off duty, that quickly inhabit darker undertones, be it Cole s attempt to understand her place among her peers or Ali s eager and often rash attempts to understand humanity.
"There s something very uplifting in a sense about that, even though the movie has darker notes and bittersweet moments, there is this really human connection that exists in this movie," Sattler said.


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