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WHO Says Too Few Countries Taxing Tobacco Products Enough

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This Tuesday, July 15, 2014 photo shows the tobacco in cigarettes in Philadelphia. A study ties a host of new diseases to smoking, and says an additional 60,000 to 120,000 deaths each year in the United States are probably due to tobacco use. The study by the American Cancer Society and several universities is published in the Thursday, Feb 12, 2015 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. It looks beyond lung cancer, heart disease and other conditions already tied to smoking and adds breast cancer, prostate cancer and even routine infections to the list. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

This Tuesday, July 15, 2014 photo shows the tobacco in cigarettes in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

TERESA CEROJANO, Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Taxing cigarettes up to 75 percent of their retail price is among the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, but too few governments levy high enough taxes, according to a World Health Organization global report released Tuesday.

The WHO’s 2015 report on the global tobacco epidemic said more than half of the world’s countries — encompassing about 2.8 billion people — had implemented at least one of six sets of agreed-upon tobacco-control policies. The figure is up from 2.3 billion when the previous report was released in 2013.

But it said many nations continue to have very low tobacco tax rates or no taxes at all. The report and officials said tobacco taxation could be a key source of funding to implement health and development goals.

Around 6 million people die each year from tobacco-related diseases, and the number will rise to more than 8 million a year by 2030 unless strong measures are taken, the WHO said.

“Raising taxes on tobacco products is one of the most effective — and cost-effective — ways to reduce consumption of products that kill, while also generating substantial revenue,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement. “I encourage all governments to look at the evidence, not the industry’s arguments, and adopt one of the best win-win policy options available for health.”

The tobacco-control policies introduced seven years ago under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control include monitoring and preventing tobacco use, protecting people from tobacco smoke by implementing a comprehensive smoke-free law, offering to help tobacco users quit the habit, warning people about the dangers of tobacco, enforcing bans on tobacco advertising and raising tobacco taxes.

Raising taxes is the least implemented of the measures, with only 33 countries having sufficiently high taxes, the report said, adding that it is also the measure that has seen the least improvement.

WHO Western Pacific regional director Shin Young-soo said the report was released in Manila to salute the Philippines for its success in signing a sin tax bill into law in December 2012. He said it meant an additional $1.2 billion in revenue within a year, enabling the government to expand health coverage.

Philippine Health Secretary Janette Garin said since sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol were implemented, smoking among the poorest sector of the population decreased from 38 percent in 2012 to 25 percent in 2014.

The report said research from high-income countries generally finds that a 10 percent price increase will reduce overall tobacco use by between 2.5 and 5 percent. Most estimates from low- and middle-income countries show a 10 percent price increase will reduce tobacco use between 2 and 8 percent, it added.

In China, research suggests that raising taxes on cigarettes to 75 percent of retail prices — up from 40 percent in 2010 — would avert nearly 3.5 million deaths that would otherwise be caused by cigarette smoking, the report said.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Greenlining Institute and RePower LA Coalition Applaud Gov. Newsom’s Relief Plans

Unpaid Utility Bills Threatened Hundreds of Thousands with Shut-Offs


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Gov. Gavin Newsom/Wikimedia

With utility shut-offs for hundreds of thousands of California families struggling with COVID-19-related economic hardships, The Greenlining Institute praised Gov.  Gavin Newsom’s announcement on Monday. The California Comeback plan outlines the administration’s commitment to relieving families burdened by mounting water and energy bills.

“With millions of Californians either unemployed or with greatly reduced incomes due to the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of households face having their electricity, gas or water shut off June 30 without bold state action,” said Carmelita Miller, Greenlining’s senior director of Climate Equity. “This proposal, along with vitally needed help for renters, will help keep struggling families afloat as our economy revives. We’re glad the governor listened to LAANE, Greenlining and other advocates who pushed for this help, and it’s critical that the legislature move quickly to adopt these proposals in its final budget.”

The RePower LA Coalition, anchored by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and SCOPE, has been working with leaders on the ground in Los Angeles on issues of energy justice.    

Utility debt has long been a concern for low-income ratepayers, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities. As of November 2020, residential customers of LADWP had over $469 million in arrearages for water, power, and sewage bills. 

This is impacting over 500,000 customers in Los Angeles, the majority of them being low-income ratepayers. Similar scenarios have been playing out up and down California with more than 800,000 households at risk of service disconnection statewide.

“LAANE and our coalition partners have been uplifting the issue of utility debt since the beginning of the pandemic. Low-income communities and communities of color are most impacted by utility debt,” said Agustin Cabrera, the director of RePower LA, “We heard from our partners on the ground that utility debt was a growing concern for many low-income Angelenos, and that’s why we started our campaign. We realize that there are limitations on publicly-owned utilities, like LADWP; additional resources are especially important. We are eager to work with the State Legislature and the governor to move this proposal quickly.”

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Bay Area

Healthy Alternatives, Familiar Items at Black-Owned Grocery Store in Downtown Oakland

14 Street Market is open seven days a week, from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.  It’s your neighbor market with groceries, snacks, drinks and more.

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Photo Credit: Auintard Henderson

Owner Oscar Edwards stands in front of his “14 Street Market” located at 416 14th St. in Oakland, which opened on March 6.  Edwards says he “. . . built his grocery store to give access to his community and provide healthy alternatives and still have things they know as well.”  He adds that “Black press for him is the voice that helps to bring my ideas and expressions full circle to the people.”

14 Street Market is open seven days a week, from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.  It’s your neighbor market with groceries, snacks, drinks and more.  

Follow them on IG:  https://instagram.com/fourteenthstreetmarket  Photo credit:  Auintard Henderson.

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Ex-NBA Coach Spreads the Word About Rare Heart Disease Affecting Blacks

A defensive specialist, Chaney won an NBA title with the Celtics in 1969 and 1974. After he retired in 1979, he spent 22 years coaching, including 12 years as a head coach in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, and New York Knicks.

Don Chaney learned to play basketball while growing up in Baton Rouge, La. He became a skilled baller and played the game at the University of Houston. Then, he went on to have a successful career as a point guard — and later a coach — in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

      At 75, when Chaney was retired and ready to settle down and enjoy his newfound leisure when he had to acquire knowledge about an issue that has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with healthy living. 

     In 2019, Chaney was diagnosed with hereditary Transthyretin Amyloid Cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM), a rare but life-threatening disease that can lead to heart failure. It disproportionately impacts African Americans.

     Now, Chaney looks at raising awareness about the disease as a new style of coaching. He said the rare disease is something that “the average Black family” should take “extremely seriously.”

      “It is a process. Every time I have an opportunity to bring it up and spread awareness about the disease, I try my best to do it,” Chaney told California Black Media (CBM) during a virtual interview. “The biggest thing is that the Black community has the highest rate of heart disease in the United States. Doctors are seldom aware of the fact that this particular disease exists. They don’t look for it. So, if you’re not looking for (ATTR-CM) you’re not going to get the correct diagnosis.”

       ATTR-CM is an underdiagnosed and potentially fatal disease, according to the American Heart Association, the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. 

     The disease is characterized by deposits of amyloid protein fibrils in the walls of the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart. ATTR-CM, the amyloid protein is made of transthyretin, a protein found in the blood that transports important body fluids.  

      The amyloid protein deposits cause the heart walls to become stiff, resulting in the inability of the left ventricle to properly relax, fill with blood and adequately squeeze to pump blood out of the heart. 

       Dr. Kevin Williams, the chief medical officer for rare disease at the biotechnology company Pfizer, says his research shows that ATTR-CM’s symptoms are similar to those of more common causes of heart failure such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling in the lower legs.

     He also said that the symptoms are not commonly perceived to be linked to a heart condition —‌ like carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness, tingling, or pain in the fingers), bicep tendon rupture, gastrointestinal issues (constipation, diarrhea, and nausea), and lumbar spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the open spaces in the lower spine). 

     “All of these factors can lead to delays in diagnosis or misdiagnosis,” said Williams, who is a Black medical doctor. “In the African American community, it’s important to fully explore the underlying cause of these conditions with the help of a cardiologist.”

     After his collegiate days at the University of Houston expired, Chaney was selected the 12th pick in the first round of the 1968 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. The Houston Mavericks of the American Basketball Association also drafted him that year.

     A defensive specialist, Chaney won an NBA title with the Celtics in 1969 and 1974. After he retired in 1979, he spent 22 years coaching, including 12 years as a head coach in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, and New York Knicks.

     Since 2004, Chaney has relatively enjoyed retirement, but his heart condition was always a concern. Fatigue, palpitations, shortness of breath, and swollen ankles were something he thought was years of physically playing the game of basketball. He learned it was much deeper than the sports.

     “I was dealing with all these issues, but I hadn’t really made all the connections,” Chaney told CBM. “I just assumed all the symptoms were from my years of pounding on the floor in professional basketball. I thought it was normal. If I had known this, I could have started treatment earlier.”

     While he made numerous visits to the doctors to attend to his medical issues, Chaney said he started to “put the pieces” together after he began to share his family’s past with cardiologists.

     Chaney’s mother and grandmother passed away due to heart disease. Back when they were alive, he recalled them complaining about having the same symptoms – fatigue, shortness of breath, swollen ankles and knees – he was experiencing. 

    “The symptoms are similar,” Chaney said. ‘When you throw in carpal tunnel syndrome along with fatigue and palpitations… that pushes you into another category. So, I had some tests and found out the scary part that it was hereditary. We went on to try to manage it from that point on.”

    There are two types of ATTR-CM, wild-type, and hereditary. Wild-type is thought to be the most common form of ATTR-CM and is mostly associated with men over the age of 60. 

     Hereditary ATTR-CM is inherited from a relative and is due to genetics, affecting both men and women. In the U.S., the most common genetic mutation associated with hereditary ATTR-CM is found almost exclusively in people of African or Afro-Caribbean descent.

      It took more than 10 years to receive the right diagnosis despite knowing his family’s history of heart failure and experiencing heart-related symptoms, Chaney said.

     “It’s probably because African Americans don’t tell doctors everything that’s going on with them,” he said. “I’m guilty of it, too. They gave me some medicine but that didn’t really help much until they did further testing. It went beyond that. I actually had heart disease. You just have to tell your doctors everything.”

      Awareness of ATTR-CM among both patients and some doctors remains low, which in Chaney’s case and many others, could lead to delayed or misdiagnosis. But if symptoms seem unrelated it is best to visit a primary care doctor or an experienced cardiologist to discuss ATTR-CM, Chaney said.  

     In the United States, hereditary ATTR-CM occurs in African Americans (prevalent in approximately 1 in 25) and in older patients who may be misdiagnosed with high blood pressure-related heart disease.

     Chaney said he is “stressed to a degree” because he also has been spending time to get his family into testing mode since the disease is hereditary. His sister’s and daughter’s tests came back negative. He’s still waiting on his sons to go through the process.

     “They may not have it. But the disease is still present (in the family) and you could pass it down to your children,” Chaney said he has told members of his family. “I’m still going to press the issues to get them tested.”

While managing his ATTR-CM symptoms, Chaney spends time taking his grandchildren to NBA games in the Houston area. He also restores antique automobiles, participates in horseback riding, and is constantly testing his fishing skills. 

     His wife, Jackie Chaney, is now his primary caregiver and she is the one that calls the shots, he said.   

     “I do a lot of things within reason,” Chaney said. “I used to jump out of airplanes. But I don’t do that anymore. My wife monitors my condition, makes sure I see the doctor, and sees to it that I take my medication. I get a lot of help from a lot of people around here. I’m really enjoying my life.”

 

 

 

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