Have a Tax Rate That Disincentivises Cigarette Smuggling: Farmers' Body

New Delhi: Farmers' body FAIFA on Monday asked the government to have a taxation policy that disincentivises cigarette smuggling in India, ahead of a crucial meeting of the GST Council later this week.

The Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA), a non-profit organisation representing farmers across states such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat, said cigarette smuggling has hit tobacco farmers supplying to legitimate manufacturers in India.

It urged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley "to protect the interests of Indian FCV tobacco farmers through balanced and uniform taxation under GST".

"We appeal to the government to have a taxation policy that disincentivises cigarette smuggling in India," FAIFA General Secretary Murali Babu said in a statement.

He further said GST is an opportunity for the government to ensure illicit trade is eradicated from the country by removing distortions and address tobacco taxation in India.

It will bring back lost livelihood opportunities of the tobacco farmers, he added.

FAIFA said a steep increase in excise duty in the recent past has led to growth of smuggling of cigarettes in India due to the high tax arbitrage.

Illegal cigarette trade is more than 20 per cent of the cigarette industry in India, making the country the 4th largest and fastest growing illicit market in the world, it claimed.

It has resulted in revenue losses of approximately Rs 9,200 crore and is growing annually, it added.
A shift in consumption to smuggled cigarettes has affected Indian tobacco farmers adversely as the illegal cigarettes do not use Indian tobacco, FAIFA said.

The demand of the farmers' body comes ahead of the meeting of the all-powerful GST Council to be held in Srinagar on May 18-19, where it is expected to give final nod to four rules and also fix GST rates for major commodities and services.

The four rules pertain to how input tax credit is to be calculated and claimed, valuation of supply of goods and services, method for intimation for opting for composition levy and transitional rules.



Ageing is “a good thing” for the world – World Health Organisation

Ageing on the whole is “a good thing” for the world, and governments should not see it as a “threat”, Dr Paul Ong, Technical Officer, Innovation for Healthy Ageing at the World Health Organisation, tells GovInsider.

Ong believes that there’s a need to shift current perceptions of ageing as a burden to society – being old is, in fact, a sign of “successful development,” he says. “It means that a majority of people are now living to a much older age.”

“Fertility rates have dropped because our babies are now surviving, rather than families having lots and lots of babies to ensure that they have a few children who make it to adulthood,” Ong continues. “We now have this opportunity to enjoy the life that I think all human beings deserve.”

Shifting perceptions of ageing

With a 2015 report on ageing and health, WHO wants to encourage governments to tackle ageism in three ways. First, they must reorient the language surrounding ageing. “Shifting the language from viewing ageing as essentially a cost to society to something that needs investing in, is one of the key actions you need to take.”

Secondly, governments need to reorient healthcare systems to be more age-friendly, with greater focus on chronic disease management. Ong notes that in the early development stage of societies, contemporary healthcare systems were developed to treat individual diseases and acute medical episodes. As populations age, chronic illnesses become the norm, and this presents a challenge for the healthcare systems of today.

“We know from studies in Sweden and Australia that by the time people are 70 or 75, nearing 80, they will have multiple chronic illnesses,” shares Ong. “Tackling chronic illnesses just simply as individual diseases, trying to cure these things – and many of them are not exactly curable – it’s not the most useful approach.”

Governments then need to adopt an approach where they can best manage these “baskets” of chronic conditions, enabling the elderly to be active as much as possible. “Just because I have arthritic pain does not mean that going to the church, temple or mosque is not important me.”

Age-inclusive environments for the future

Finally, governments need to look beyond encouraging the population to embrace healthy ageing – it is time that the environments the elderly live in also reflect age inclusivity. In European cities like Geneva, trams and buses have steps that can be lowered, and the city boasts ramps and walkways that enable wheelchair-bound citizens to get around. “In Japan, even the ancient castles and monuments have lifts so that older people basically can enjoy these icons of cultural heritage,” Ong says.

Age-inclusive design, he adds, is not just about older people – it’s also about “encouraging important technology” that will compel both creative and economic growth, and spur new industries in the future. “In the same way that a self-driving car is a very interesting piece of technology, it is actually good for older people, and potentially a very important part of age-friendly technology and environments,” Ong notes.

For all of these key factors to come together, governments must remember that ageing is a “multi-sectorial” issue, Ong notes. After all, environments are made up of multiple sectors, whether that be sanitation or transportation, agriculture, and governments will need to look at how these intersect together so that they can best design environments for the elderly.

“Like any other person, older people need to have decent nutrition, live in sanitary environments, and get around – just that specifically in each of these areas, they have more challenges that need to be attended to,” Ong concludes.

Soon, the future could very well bring driverless cars and specially-equipped trams that make our cities a little bit friendlier for the silver generation.



Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to take part in WHO malaria vaccine pilot programme

Brazzaville, 24 April 2017 - The World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) announced today that Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will take part in a WHO-coordinated pilot implementation programme that will make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in selected areas, beginning in 2018.
The injectable vaccine, RTS,S, was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum. RTS,S will be assessed in the pilot programme as a complementary malaria control tool that could potentially be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention.

“The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine”, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa,” she added.

Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide. Global efforts in the last 15 years have led to a 62 percent reduction in malaria deaths between 2000 and 2015, yet approximately 429,000 people died of the disease in 2015, the majority of them young children in Africa.

The WHO pilot programme will assess whether the vaccine’s protective effect in children aged 5 – 17 months old during Phase III testing can be replicated in real-life. Specifically, the pilot programme will assess the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS,S, the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths, and its safety in the context of routine use.

WHO recommendations and RTS,S

RTS,S was developed by GSK and is the first malaria vaccine to have successfully completed a Phase III clinical trial. The trial was conducted between 2009 and 2014 through a partnership involving GSK, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), and a network of African research sites in seven African countries—including Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.

RTS,S is also the first malaria vaccine to have obtained a positive scientific opinion from a stringent medicines regulatory authority, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which approved RTS,S in July 2015.

In October 2015, two independent WHO advisory groups, comprised of the world’s foremost experts on vaccines and malaria, recommended pilot implementation of RTS,S in three to five settings in sub-Saharan Africa. The recommendation came from the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization and the Malaria Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC), following a joint review of all available evidence on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. The World Health Organization formally adopted the recommendation in January 2016.

Pilot implementation

The three countries were selected to participate in the pilot based on the following criteria: high coverage of long-lasting insecticidal-treated nets (LLINs); well-functioning malaria and immunisation programmes, a high malaria burden even after scale-up of LLINs, and participation in the Phase III RTS,S malaria vaccine trial. Each of the three countries will decide on the districts and regions to be included in the pilots. High malaria burden areas will be prioritized, as this is where the benefit of the vaccine is predicted to be highest. Information garnered from the pilot will help to inform later decisions about potential wider use of the vaccine.

The malaria vaccine will be administered via intramuscular injection and delivered through the routine national immunization programmes. WHO is working with the three countries to facilitate regulatory authorization of the vaccine for use in the pilots through the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum (AVAREF). Regulatory support will also include measures to enable the appropriate safety monitoring of the vaccine and rigorous evaluation for eventual large scale use.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNITAID, are partnering to provide US$49.2 million for the first phase of the pilot programme (2017-2020) which will be complemented by in-kind contributions from WHO and GSK.

Global tobacco death toll still climbing


The percentage of men and women who use tobacco every day has dropped in most nations since 1990, but the total number of smokers and tobacco-related deaths has increased, a consortium of researchers reported Thursday.

Mortality could rise even further as major tobacco companies aggressively target new markets, especially in the developing world, they warned in a major study, published in the medical journal The Lancet.

One in four men and one in 20 women smoked daily in 2015, according to the Global Burden of Diseases report, compiled by hundreds of scientists.


That was a significant drop compared to 25 years earlier, when one in three men and one in 12 women lit up every day.

But the number of deaths attributed to tobacco — which topped 6.4 million in 2015 — went up by 4.7 per cent over the same period due to the expanding world population, the report found.

"Sadly, all those deaths were preventable," senior author Emmanuela Gakidou from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington told AFP.

"The deaths of all the people who will die next year and the year after that, and so on, are also preventable."

More than 930 million people smoked daily in 2015, compared to 870 million in 1990 — a seven per cent jump.

Smoking causes one in 10 deaths worldwide, half of them in just four countries: China, India, the United States and Russia.

Together with Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Japan, Brazil, and Germany, they account for fully two-thirds of global tobacco use.

"Smoking remains the second largest risk factor for early death and disability" after high blood pressure, Gakidou said.

Some countries have seen sharp reductions in smoking driven by some combination of higher taxes, education campaigns, package warnings and programmes to help people kick the nicotine habit.

Brazil was among the leaders over the 25-year period examined, with the percentage of daily smokers dropping from 29 to 12 per cent among men, and from 19 to eight per cent among women.

But Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines — where 47, 38 and 35 per cent of men smoke, respectively — saw no change from 1990 to 2015.

In Russia — where tobacco control policies were not put into place until 2014 — the percentage of women who smoke climbed by more than four per cent over the same period.

Similar trends are emerging in much of Africa, the authors cautioned.

The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that the number of men and women smoking in sub-Saharan Africa will go up 50 per cent by 2025, compared to 2010 levels.

"Future mortality in low- and middle-income countries is likely to be huge," John Britton from the University of Nottingham's UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies wrote in a comment, also in The Lancet.

Responsibility for the global tobacco epidemic lies mainly with a handful of multinational companies based in rich countries, he said.

"The modern tobacco industry profits from enslaving children and young people in poor countries into a lifelong addiction, and ultimately taking their lives for profit," he told AFP.

The global response — including a 180-nation "tobacco control" treaty inked in 2005 — has focused mostly on users and not the supply, he added.

The WHO has noted that "tobacco is the only legal drug that kills many of its users when used exactly as intended by the manufacturers".

It is estimated that half of daily smokers will die prematurely due to their tobacco habit unless they quit.

Failure to stop the epidemic means that "scarce resources will be used to treat tobacco-caused problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancers and chronic respiratory disease," Gakidou said.

Happy World Health Day

Happy World Health Day!

But is it ‘happy’, considering that today starts a year-long focus on depression, with the Depression: Let’s Talk campaign launch?

It’s a multi-billion dollar organisation, so what on earth could we get the WHO as a present? Surely, at nearly 70, with a lifetime spent tackling conditions such as HIV and Ebola, we really should give the WHO a little something? Right?

Depression is the worldwide leading cause of disability and ill health with over 300 million people living with it.

And, rather depressingly, that is up almost 20% in the last 10 years. Of the few people that are diagnosed with depression, only a minority receive adequate treatment - studies show that as little as 1 in 27 in low or middle income countries, and 1 in 5 in high income countries.

So there has been a focus on improving mental health diagnosis and treatments recently - there was a five Year Forward View paper published by the NHS last year, and a Governmental response to it this year.

Aside from the obvious benefits of investing more in the treatment of depression, there are also significant financial incentives. For every US$ 1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of US$ 4 in better health and ability to work, according to research.

So we know that we need to start doing things differently. We are starting to do things differently. There are many admirable efforts with charities, organisations and healthcare professionals to end the stigma associated with depression and mental health conditions, and to provide help for people affected by them. And these are making progress.

I know you’re busy, but please, take a few minutes to watch these videos from the WHO. Pretend it’s Instagram if you have to. They explain depression in a way that might help you spot it those around you, or maybe even in yourself.

And as you do so, look around. 1 in 4 of us will have a mental health disorder in a year. It’s a pretty good idea to be aware of the signs of depression, as if you’re looking at 3 people, odds are someone will be affected. Don’t forget to count yourself.

So maybe this is the gift we can give the WHO. It is actually a gift we give to each other and ourselves. We can increase our understanding of depression, our ability to recognise it, and our awareness of how to get help for it. We can increase the conversations we have about it, and the support we give to those who are affected by it.



World Health Day - ‘depression, let’s talk’

WORLD Health Day, celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO), provides an unique opportunity to mobilise action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world.

The theme of 2017 World Health Day campaign is “depression - let's talk”.

Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. It causes mental anguish and impacts on people's ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends and the ability to earn a living. At worst, depression can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-old people.

Yet, depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.

Living with someone with depression can be difficult. Here are some tips on what to do to help someone you live with who is depressed, while taking care of yourself at the same time.

What you should know

  • Depression is an illness and not a character weakness.
  • Depression can be treated. What treatment is best and how long the depression lasts depend on the severity of the depression.
  • The support of carers, friends and family facilitates recovery from depression. Patience and perseverance is needed, as recovery can take time.
  • Stress can make depression worse.

What you can do for people who are depressed:

  • Make it clear that you want to help, listen without judgement, and offer support.
  • Find out more about depression.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help when available. Offer to accompany them to appointments.
  • If medication is prescribed, help them to take it as prescribed. Be patient; it usually takes a few weeks to feel better.
  • Help them with everyday tasks and to have regular eating and sleeping patterns.
  • Encourage regular exercise and social activities.
  • Encourage them to focus on the positive, rather than the negative.
  • If they are thinking about self-harm, or have already intentionally harmed themselves, do not leave them alone. Seek further help from the emergency services or a health-care professional. In the meantime, remove items such as medications, sharp objects and firearms.
  • Take care of yourself too. Try to find ways to relax and continue doing things you enjoy.

Life changes which come with aging can lead to depression - to prevent and treat the elderly:

  • Depression is an illness characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.
  • In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
  • Depression among older people is often associated with physical conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic pain; difficult life events, such as losing a partner; and a reduced ability to do things that were possible when younger.
  • Depression is treatable, with talking therapies or antidepressant medication or a combination of these.



Measles outbreak spreads across Europe as parents shun vaccinations, World Health Organisation warns

Major measles outbreaks are spreading across Europe despite the availability of a safe, effective vaccine, the World Health Organisation has warned.

Anti-vaccine movements are believed to have contributed to low rates of immunisation against the highly contagious disease in countries such as Italy and Romania, which have both seen a recent spike in infections.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said it was “of particular concern that measles cases are climbing in Europe” when they had been dropping for years.

Preliminary data for February indicate a sharp rise in measles cases, up from the 559 reported across the continent in January, said the WHO.

“Today’s travel patterns put no person or country beyond the reach of the measles virus,” said Dr Jakab. ”Outbreaks will continue in Europe, as elsewhere, until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect their populations.”

In Italy, an alarming resurgence of the disease has been blamed on the anti-vaccination stance of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), which took a quarter of the vote in the country’s 2013 general election, reported The Guardian.

More than 700 cases of measles have been registered so far this year, according to the Italian health ministry, compared to 220 in the same period last year.

Measles is six times more contagious than the flu and complications arise in one in five cases including ear infections, pneumonia, deafness and even death.

In 1998 the British doctor Andrew Wakefield published a controversial and since-discredited study in The Lancet, which purported to show a link between the MMR vaccine – for measles, mumps and rubella – and autism in children.

Exhaustive scientific research, including a comprehensive 2014 review using data from more than 1.2 million children, have since concluded that no relationship between vaccination and autism.

Dr Wakefield was struck off the medical register after his report was found to be fraudulent.

However, many parents still choose not to vaccinate their children, with around 24,000 children in England each year at risk of measles, mumps and rubella because they have not been immunised against the diseases, according to Public Health England.

It is recommended that at least 95 per cent of the population is vaccinated against measles to ensure good protection against outbreaks of the disease.

But coverage is estimated to be lower than this in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine.

Just 85.3 per cent of Italian two-year-olds were given measles vaccinations in 2015, down from 88 per cent in 2013, according to The Guardian.

Isabelle Sahinovic, the WHO’s Vaccine Safety Net co-ordinator, has said that “dangerous” misinformation about vaccines continues to spread online.

“Every day, misinformation about vaccines continues to proliferate on the internet,“ she said. ”This is dangerous.

“We need to make sure that all parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals can easily access accurate and trustworthy information about vaccines.“



HIV-TB infections on the rise, European health officials find

The number of people developing and dying from tuberculosis (TB) is falling in Europe, but among the most vulnerable — including migrants, prisoners and people who are HIV positive — there have been worrying increases, data showed on Monday.

Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Europe regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) showed new TB cases and deaths in the 53 countries of the WHO's European region fell each year by 4.3 and 8.5 per cent respectively between 2011 and 2015.

But new co-infections with TB and HIV together increased by 40 per cent from 2011 to 2015, showing that efforts to control the disease need to be far more focused on high risk groups.

"The general downward trend in reported TB cases is encouraging," the ECDC's acting director, Andrea Ammon, said in a statement. "But some groups are not benefiting from this trend and we need to target our efforts better if we want to end the TB epidemic."

She said providing testing to all TB patients for HIV, and vice versa, followed by counselling and rapid treatment, could reverse the negative co-infection trend.

Global figures released last year by the WHO showed that in 2015, some 1.8 million people died from TB. Of them, 400,000 were co-infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.

People with HIV are more vulnerable to TB because their immune systems are weakened. Experts estimate the risk of developing TB is between 26 and 31 times greater in HIV patients than in HIV negative people.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's European regional director, said the flare-up of TB/HIV co-infections, coupled with persistently high rates of drug-resistant TB, were a serious threat to international efforts to control the disease.

source: http://www.cbc.ca/