Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, according to a new report published by Oxfam today to mark the annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos. Oxfam’s report, ‘An economy for the 99 percent’, shows that the gap between rich and poor is far greater than had been feared. It details how big business and the super-rich are fuelling the inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages and using their power to influence politics. It calls for a fundamental change in the way we manage our economies so that they work for all people, and not just a fortunate few.
A new special issue of the journal Addiction examines the state of knowledge on regulating alcohol marketing. In an overview, Maristela Monteiro, Thomas Babor, David Jernigan and Chris Brookes summarize three key themes in these papers: alcohol marketing causes harm to vulnerable populations; industry self-regulation is ineffective in protecting vulnerable populations; and alternatives are available to address the problem. They conclude that renewed action by governments to control alcohol marketing is needed.
Just as the sugary beverage industry supports initiatives to increase physical activity, the gun industry has found a new cause: suicide prevention. The Associated Press reports that a new initiative by the National Sports Shooting Foundation, the trade association of gun manufacturers, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, seeks to use gun stores and shooting ranges to reach people at risk of suicide. “As with most relationships, we had to get to know one another a bit. We had to see that they were serious, and I’m sure that they had to see that we were not going to be gun control activists,” said Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We’re interested in not taking guns away, but in limiting access by those who have serious mental health problems and are at risk.” It’s all about practicing safe storage, he said.
Coca-Cola Co. was sued by activists who compare the beverage giant’s advertising tactics to the tobacco industry’s past efforts in minimizing the health effects of its products and targeting children to replenish the ranks of its customers, reports Bloomberg. The nonprofit Praxis Project seeks to stop Coke and the Washington-based American Beverage Association from deceptive advertising of sugary drinks, particularly to children, and for the disclosure of documents related to their impact on health. Studies have linked sugary drinks to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the group said. A copy of the lawsuit is available here.
Ten years ago, writes Kelly Henning from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Health program in the Health Affairs blog, the world was a different place when it came to tobacco. Fewer than twenty developing countries in the world had even one strong tobacco control policy in place. The tobacco industry was beginning an aggressive ramping up of nefarious activities to grow their market share in vulnerable developing countries. And although advocates for tobacco control measures had a major public health victory in passing the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first public health treaty, little financial or technical help was available to support countries that wanted to put life-saving, proven tobacco control policies in place. Early in 2007, the tobacco control landscape was changed dramatically when Michael R. Bloomberg, then in his second term as mayor of the City of New York, donated $125 million through his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, for a two-year commitment to reducing global tobacco use. Now ten years and a total of $600 million later, Bloomberg recently committed another $360 million over six years to this life-saving work, bringing his total financial commitment to nearly $1 billion. In that time, nearly 100 countries worldwide with a total of more than four billion people have passed at least one strong tobacco control law—and fifty-nine of these countries with nearly 3.5 billion people have received Bloomberg support.
In a landmark settlement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports, that Volkswagen agreed to spend up to $14.7 billion to settle allegations of using “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests and deceive customers. Volkswagen will offer consumers a buyback and lease termination for nearly 500,000 model year 2009-2015 2.0 liter diesel vehicles sold or leased in the U.S., and provide additional compensation to consumers, at a cost of up to $10 billion. In addition, Volkswagen will spend $4.7 billion to mitigate the pollution from these cars and invest in green vehicle technology. Together, these actions will restore clean air protections and make our auto industry cleaner for generations of Americans to come.
OxyContin is a dying business in America. With the nation in the grip of an opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, the U.S. medical establishment is turning away from painkillers. Top health officials are discouraging primary care doctors from prescribing them for chronic pain, saying there is no proof they work long-term and substantial evidence they put patients at risk. Prescriptions for OxyContin have fallen nearly 40% since 2010, meaning billions in lost revenue for its Connecticut manufacturer, Purdue Pharma. So the company’s owners, the Sackler family, are pursuing a new strategy: Put the painkiller that set off the U .S. opioid crisis into medicine cabinets around the world. This report is the third in a three part series in which the Los Angeles Times explores the role of OxyContin in the nation’s opioid epidemic. In another post, the journalists who reported the story describe their investigatory methods.