News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 3rd October 2013

James Reilly plans to make Ireland tobacco-free by 2025


A NEW policy to make Ireland “tobacco free” by 2025 – complete with a set of radical proposals was launched by Health Minister James Reilly.

The policy has over 60 recommendations with the overall aim of” de-normalising smoking in Irish society.”

A tobacco-free Ireland would see smoking prevalence reduced to 5pc , he said at the launch in Dublin today.

He said that “to make Ireland tobacco free in 12 years is an extraordinary challenge, but if we work together to de-normalise smoking for young people we can do it.

“And do it we must because for every two young people who become addicted to tobacco one of them will die as a consequence. Let’s not forget that approximately 5,200 Irish people die each year from diseases caused by smoking.

“These are all preventable, avoidable deaths. Protecting children from the harms of tobacco is the key aim of Tobacco Free Ireland”.

He pointed out that ASH Ireland has been working closely with local authorities in implementing smoke-free playgrounds.

It means that 75pc of County Councils and 60pc of City Councils are now on board, he said.

“Dublin City Council is currently working with the HSE in permitting HSE buildings to be utilised to erect large scale QUIT campaign banners.

“I am delighted to hear that both UCD and Trinity are considering plans to make their campuses smoke free and I would encourage other third level colleges to follow their lead. By working together we can achieve our aim of being tobacco free by 2025”.

Household savings primarily used to pay down debt


Irish households are using savings to pay debt or invest without a recourse to borrowing

Irish households generated gross saving of €8.8bn in 2012, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office.

That was down from a total of €9.8bn in the previous year.

The percentage of household savings as a proportion of gross disposable income fell from 11.2% in 2011 to 10.2% last year.

The equivalent ratio in EU households fell from 11.1% to 10.9% during the same period.

Household saving continued to be used primarily to pay down debt in 2012, the study concludes, but was also used to fund the substantially lower levels of investment in property without recourse to borrowing.

Exercise it can be as good as taking pills?


Short, regular bouts of exercise could add years to your life, say experts

Exercise can be as good a medicine as pills for people with conditions such as heart disease, a study has found.

The work in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) looked at hundreds of trials involving nearly 340,000 patients to assess the merits of exercise and drugs in preventing death.

Physical activity rivalled some heart drugs and outperformed stroke medicine.

The findings suggest exercise should be added to prescriptions, say the researchers.

Experts stressed that patients should not ditch their drugs for exercise – rather, they should use both in tandem.

Prescriptions rise

Too few adults currently get enough exercise. Only a third of people in England do the recommended 2.5 hours or more of moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

In contrast, prescription drug rates continue to rise.There were an average of 17.7 prescriptions for every person in England in 2010, compared with 11.2 in 2000.

For the study, scientists based at the London School of Economics, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute at Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine trawled medical literature to find any research that compared exercise with pills as a therapy.

They identified 305 trials to include in their analysis. These trials looked at managing conditions such as existing heart disease, stroke rehabilitation, heart failure and pre-diabetes.

When they studied the data as a whole, they found exercise and drugs were comparable in terms of death rates.

But there were two exceptions.

Drugs called diuretics were the clear winner for heart failure patients, while exercise was best for stroke patients in terms of life expectancy.

Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said that although an active lifestyle brings many health benefits, there is not enough evidence to draw any firm conclusions about the merit of exercise above and beyond drugs.

“Medicines are an extremely important part of the treatment of many heart conditions and people on prescribed drugs should keep taking their vital meds. If you have a heart condition or have been told you’re at high risk of heart disease, talk to your doctor about the role that exercise can play in your treatment.”

Dr Peter Coleman of the Stroke Association said exercise alongside drugs had a vital role that merited more research.

“We would like to see more research into the long-term benefits of exercise for stroke patients.

“By taking important steps, such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and stopping smoking, people can significantly reduce their risk of stroke.”

“Moderate physical activity, for example, can reduce the risk of stroke by up to 27%.”

Ireland need’s to prepare for new ‘clean economy’  focusing on wind energy

says Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte


We need to prepare for new ‘clean economy’, capitalising on wind, saysEnergy Minister Ireland’s Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD,

Today, the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) is hosting its annual conference. Ahead of the day, Ireland’s Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, spoke to Carmel Doyle about his keynote at the Galway event, dubbed ‘Building a Sustainable Energy Future’.

In the following video Rabbitte covers issues such as creating green-collar jobs on the back of wind-farm developments and translating the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey in January into an intergovernmental agreement by 2014.

Trading of excess wind energy between the two islands

The over-arching aim, according to the Minister, is that Ireland can start capitalising on excess wind energy by 2020, so that the country can meet its 20-20 targets under the EU, and avoid having to pay massive fines.

The goal would be that that Ireland can generate 40pc of electricity from renewables by 2020. Rabbitte said this would be achieved mainly via wind.

Allaying ‘misguided’ fears

He also says that he wants to dispel certain ‘myths’ that are circulating in parts of the country at the minute, and said that such speculation is causing unnecessary concern in regions – think the Midlands, particularly amongst community groups.

Rabbitte’s ultimate goal at the IWEA event running today was to talk about pushing Ireland into a new energy era, by helping the country reduce its some 90pc reliance on imported fossil fuels – fuels that are finite.

He also said that he wants to let every person and community. especially the Midlands, have a say before the industry moves form interconnection plans with the UK.

He said that it is not just industry and landowners who should capitalise on wind-farms, but also the social economy – ie people and communities.

Ultimately, it will be about helping Ireland achieve lower energy prices one day, which could spell good news for homeowners, small businesses, start-ups and the larger industry ecosystem on the island of Ireland.

And in using State-owned land in the Midlands (some 200,000 acres), Rabbitte says that he is listening to communities, and trying to allay fears that some people might have about wind turbines and energy.

He wants to make sure everyone benefits from wind farms, not just industry and landowners.

It’s all about “opening up a new sector,” Rabbitte said.

There are fears being stoked up in arts of the midlands that are “unlikely to be affected at all” by the planning process, he added.

Health of our oceans ‘declining fast’


Corals are likely to suffer as a result of the changes to our oceans

The health of the world’s oceans is deteriorating even faster than had previously been thought, a report says.

  A review from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean(IPSO), warns that the oceans are facing multiple threats.

They are being heated by climate change, turned slowly less alkaline by absorbing CO2, and suffering from overfishing and pollution.

The report warns that dead zones formed by fertiliser run-off are a problem.

It says conditions are ripe for the sort of mass extinction event that has afflicted the oceans in the past.

It says: “We have been taking the ocean for granted. It has been shielding us from the worst effects of accelerating climate change by absorbing excess CO2 from the atmosphere.

“Whilst terrestrial temperature increases may be experiencing a pause, the ocean continues to warm regardless. For the most part, however, the public and policymakers are failing to recognise – or choosing to ignore – the severity of the situation.”

It says the cocktail of threats facing the ocean is more powerful than the individual problems themselves.

Coral reefs, for instance, are suffering from the higher temperaturesand the effects of acidification whilst also being weakened by bad fishing practices, pollution, siltation and toxic algal blooms.

Atmospheric threshold

IPSO, funded by charitable foundations, is publishing a set of five papers based on workshops in 2011 and 2012 in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN’s) World Commission on Protected Areas.

The reports call for world governments to halt CO2 increase at 450ppm. Any higher, they say, will cause massive acidification later in the century as the CO2 is absorbed into the sea.

It urges much more focused fisheries management, and a priority list for tackling the key groups of chemicals that cause most harm.

It wants the governments to negotiate a new agreement for the sustainable fishing in the high oceans to be policed by a new global high seas enforcement agency.

The IUCN’s Prof Dan Laffoley said: “What these latest reports make absolutely clear is that deferring action will increase costs in the future and lead to even greater, perhaps irreversible, losses.

“The UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm – but also a roadmap for action. We must use it.”

‘Extinction risk’

The co-coordinator, Prof Alex Rogers from Oxford University has been asked to advise the UN’s own oceans assessment but he told BBC News he had led the IPSO initiative because: “It’s important to have something which is completely independent in any way from state influence and to say things which experts in the field felt was really needed to be said.”

He said concern had grown over the past year thanks to papers signalling that past extinctions had involved warming seas, acidification and low oxygen levels. All are on the rise today.

He agreed there was debate on whether fisheries are recovering by better management following examples in the US and Europe, but said it seemed clear that globally they were not.

He also admitted a debate about whether overall climate change would increase the amount of fish produced in the sea. Melting sea ice would increase fisheries near the poles whilst stratification of warmer waters in the tropics would reduce mixing of nutrients and lead to lower production, he said.

He said dead zones globally appeared to be increasing although this may reflect increased reporting.

“On ocean acidification, we are seeing effects that no-one predicted like the inability of fish to detect their environments properly. It’s clear that it will affect many species. We really do have to get a grip on what’s going on in the oceans,” he said.


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