By Bill Smith
May 10, 2014
Let us take this opportunity to do a current events type article.
— On the disease front, the first confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has been identified in an American. The person had recently returned from Saudi Arabia, where he was a health care worker. While the condition belongs to the same family as common colds and SARS, almost one third of the people who get it die. It is not as contagious as the flu or measles and there is no vaccine or cure. This is just the latest example of how connected the world really is.
— The spread of polio has risen to the level that it has been declared an international public health emergency. What is compounding the problem is the outbreak is occurring in countries that are involved in civil war and unrest. Syria, Somalia and Iraq are examples and it should be noted that they were previously free of polio. It appears that Pakistan may be the worst of the lot. Amazingly, dozens of polio workers have been killed over the past two years because Pakistan militants accused them of spying.
— The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has published its rule on regulating products that meet the federal statutory definition of tobacco products. This would include certain dissolvables, gels, hookah tobacco, electronic cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco. Some control advocates are unhappy that some other areas were not addressed, like banning flavorings in cigars or electronic cigarettes that appeal to youth, restricting marketing and online sales, and requiring electronic cigarette packaging to note the recent surge in nicotine poisoning cases. While electronic cigarettes are touted as being safe, the vapors have been found to have carcinogens. Places that have banned tobacco use would still be off limits to electronic cigarette users, but if just smoking is prohibited, then they are allowed. Of course, owners have the right to ban them from their property.
— Speaking of tobacco, the state is again experiencing a shortfall in revenue. A certain portion of the state legislature that is opposed to Medicaid expansion, removed earned income credit and decreased unemployment coverage, is also opposed to any tax increase. So where are the teachers to get a raise that has been promised to them? North Carolina has the seventh lowest tax on cigarettes. If the tax were increased by $1 it would generate $338 million that could be directed toward resolving the issue. It would also prevent 10,400 North Carolina children from becoming regular smokers this year. It would reduce health care costs and increase productivity. It would adversely affect the poor and lesser paid individuals who tend to smoke more but there has been very little concern for this crowd anyway. Of course, there may be collateral damage to the profits of the tobacco industry, which is really the determining factor.
— The Board of Commissioners is reviewing a Comprehensive Plan with a Health and Wellness Component. The Planning Board discussed this over seven meetings and its input has made an excellent land use document. It can be viewed at robesoncompplan.net. One of the new expressions that has surfaced recently is “food deserts.” Note this is not a dessert, but rather a description of areas that have no healthy or fresh foods available for sale to the public. Corner stores and convenience stores are being encouraged to have fresh fruits and vegetables made available.
— Along with diet, we always have to bring up exercise. Congratulations to the Lumber Lady Pirates soccer team that is going to the state tournament for the 12th year in a row. They are guaranteed a home game this week due to being a No. 1 seed and a nice crowd is anticipated. If you have not been to the new soccer field it is an excellent example of a school and a community pulling together to accomplish something to be proud of. I would suggest you come half an hour early and walk the track around the football field — that will help make everyone a winner.