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Australia urged to phase out tobacco smoking



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Researchers from Australia’s University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Public Health have called for a restriction on tobacco sales in Australia as the next step towards phasing out tobacco-related products completely.

The report also noted that phasing out cigarettes would improve the population’s overall health and reduce the cost to Australia’s public health system.

This is contained in a perspective article published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) on Monday.

In the article, UQ School of Public Health associate professor Coral Gartner noted that the focus should be shifted to retail supply when it comes to reducing smoking rates.

“We are now calling on the governments to focus on retail supply, which is the critical link between manufacturers and consumers,” stated Ms Gartner. “It’s time for the government to focus on supply reduction and plan an end date for tobacco retailing.”

The report noted that this would denormalise smoking, prevent young people from becoming new smokers, and also help current smokers quit, the majority of which had reported regretting starting smoking.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 estimated that 11 per cent of Australians over 14 smoked daily, compared with 24.3 per cent in the first survey conducted in 1991.

While smoking rates have indeed fallen over the years, Ms Gartner said stronger regulatory action would be needed to reach the government target of reducing smoking to below five per cent of the population by 2030.

“Consumer reduction measures have dominated tobacco control policy for too long, and it’s time the scales were balanced,” she stated.

The researchers called for an end to the “regulatory exceptionalism” of cigarettes in Australia.

The precedent for total phasing out of cigarettes in Australia existed as the Australian government has progressively taxed tobacco products to ensure they “do not become more affordable over time.”

Recently the government has also banned the retail sale and importation of e-cigarettes.

Further to this, a poll recently published in the MJA showed that 52.8 per cent of some 1,466 respondents supported the eventual phasing out of the sale of cigarettes in Australian retail outlets.

Ms Gartner said the policy had not kept up with public opinion.

“Most governments, including Australia, are lagging behind the significant public support for ending tobacco retailing,” she said.

The most recent study from the Australia Institute of Health and Welfare in 2015 showed that 9.3 per cent of the total burden of disease in Australia was related to tobacco use. 



COVID-19: Botswana confirms 19 Omicron cases



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Botswana Health Minister, Edwin Dikoloti, has confirmed 19 cases of the newly-discovered Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“Such detection should not be confused with Botswana being the country of origin of the strain,” the Botswana health minister said.

Mr Dikoloti disclosed this at a briefing that additional assessments and analyses of other positive COVID-19 samples had revealed 15 more cases of the Omicron variant on Sunday after four foreigners were declared infected.

“We will continue to expand our conduct tracing to ensure that no potential cases go undetected,” Mr Dikoloti stressed.

He further stated that the initial cases of the Omicron variant in Botswana were detected after four foreign nationals, who had briefly visited Botswana, tested positive for COVID-19 on November 11. 

The variant was confirmed as the Omicron variant on November 24.


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Omicron: Philippines launches ambitious vaccination drive



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The Philippines on Monday launched an ambitious three-day vaccination drive to give COVID-19 shots to up to nine million Filipinos amid the threat of the highly mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Thousands of security forces and volunteers were deployed nationwide to implement the campaign, which was being held as the country again imposed international travel restrictions.

“The national vaccination day is very timely and truly a milestone in our COVID-19 pandemic response and mitigation efforts,” Carlito Galvez, the country’s vaccination chief, said. “Inoculating nine million individuals in three days is our most ambitious target so far.”

According to the Department of Health, three million people would be vaccinated a day or nearly four times the average of 813,734 daily doses in the past week.

The department said before Monday, more than 35.78 million Filipinos had been fully vaccinated, or over 32 per cent of the country’s total population of 110 million.

The government aims to vaccinate 54 million people by the end of 2021 and 77 million by next March.

Mr Galvez said with the country’s increasing supply of vaccines, the key was now to “accelerate and expand the capacity” of local government units, especially those outside the capital region of Metro Manila.

The Philippines banned flights from 14 countries, including seven European nations, due to rising COVID-19 cases and the detection of the Omicron variant.

The government also indefinitely delayed a previous decision to start accepting some foreign tourists again from December 1. 


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NiMet warns of dusty haze, thunderstorms across Nigeria



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The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has predicted three days of dusty haze and thunderstorms across Nigeria from Monday to Wednesday.

NiMet`s weather outlook for the three days released in Abuja predicted sunny and hazy conditions over the northern region during the forecast period.

It predicted that Kebbi, Gombe, Kano, Katsina, Dutse, Borno and Yobe would experience slight dusty, hazy conditions.

According to the agency, sunny skies with patches of cloud should prevail over the north-central states on Monday.

“Cloudy skies with intervals of sunshine should prevail over inland and coastal cities of the south. There are prospects of isolated thunderstorms over parts of Cross River, Edo, Delta and Akwa Ibom during the morning hours,” stated NiMet. “Later in the day, isolated thunderstorms are expected over parts of Imo, Ebonyi, Ogun, Bayelsa, Lagos and Akwa Ibom during the afternoon and evening hours.”

Nimet explained that a slight dusty haze was anticipated over the northern region on Tuesday, forecasting sunny skies with patches of cloud over the North-Central states during the forecast period.

The agency predicted that the South’s inland and the coastal cities would be cloudy skies with sunshine intervals during the morning hours.

It stated that there were chances of isolated thunderstorms over parts of Edo and Delta. It predicted isolated thunderstorms over parts of Ondo, Enugu, Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Cross River.

It also stated that slight dusty haze was expected over the northern region during the morning hours on Wednesday. It added that there were chances of moderate dusty haze in the region with localised visibility of less than or equal to 3,000 metres later in the day.

The agency predicted partly cloudy to sunny skies over the north-central region in the morning hours with a hazy atmosphere during the afternoon and evening hours.

It envisaged inland and coastal cities of the south to be cloudy with sunshine intervals during morning hours.

NiMet added that there were chances of isolated thunderstorms over Imo, Abia, Lagos, Cross River and Rivers during afternoon and evening hours. 


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