Category: Health Care

Does inflight smoking make you a criminal?

Does inflight smoking make you a criminal?

The prohibition of smoking inside commercial planes has its origins in two legally protected rights: the first one is the passenger and onboard personnel’s health and wellbeing; given that carbon monoxide produced by cigarettes has unhealthy effects in a closed environment. The second is the fact that the operational safety is negatively affected by technical issues related to the pressurization system and the possibility of ignition.

The first normative recommendation was given by the FAA in August of 1974, when the prohibition of smoking inside aircraft lavatories was instituted (given the possibility of a fire starting), the inadequate disposal of still lit cigarettes, which are capable of bursting into flames, or smoking materials that are dropped on top of dry toilet paper or in the hand towel receptacles, or bathroom garbage cans were often confused with the stainless steel cover of an ashtray.

This rule evolved with several amendments made by the FAA themselves,  through the installation of signs on each side of the bathroom door (or adjacent) and to each side of the toilets, with text and symbols that would indicate the prohibition of smoking inside the stall.

Even though this norm comes from the US government and is obligatory for planes that are built and designed in that country, and not in Europe, the European Union through the AESA (State Agency of Air Security, in Spanish) has adopted the same measures on its rulebook.

That’s how we got to the prohibition of smoking inside airplanes, that operates under the rules of the FAA and its equivalent in the European Union and, between them, 83% of the world’s commercial Air Navigation is regulated. Because of the internationality and uniformity of aviation law, it has later been adopted by the national rulings of Latin American countries, the first of them being Colombia, with a resolution founded upon the fact that this is not only a healthy measure, but it also contributes to onboard safety, since cigarette smoke can affect the non-smoking portion of the crew and this represents a risk for air safety. The Argentinian Civil Aviation regulations also adopted the prohibition.

no smoking sign_aviation law_shahram shirkhani
Image courtesy of Jamie McCaffrey at Flickr.com

One of the most common sources of intoxication by carbon monoxide on an aircraft is cigarette smoke. Said smoke has approximately 3% of carbon monoxide, while the smoke of a cigar contains between 5 to 8%. The effect of monoxide can diminish ocular sensitivity and night vision by up to 20%. Tests have shown that carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke can diminish the tolerance of the pilot to heights from 1800 – 1500m.

So the motivation for this regulation is double: One is related to health, contributing to reduce the catastrophic number of deaths caused by tobacco in all of its manifestation that, according to the World Health Organization, is of more than 3 million people every year.  The other one is related to safety, as long as the attention capacity of the crew is not altered and their oxygen levels are not affected, since it is already limited as a consequence of the flight itself. Even though the cabin is pressurized, the characteristics of the breathable air are similar to those between 1800 to 2300 meters above sea level.

As a consequence of the already universal ban on smoking on a plane, several airlines maintain the “no smoking” sign permanently, but as a marketing tool they sell smokeless cigarettes which respect the norm and it’s not necessary to light them up, since they send a small amount of nicotine to the body through inhalation, while giving the feel of a real cigarette. These are not toxic and they’re harmless for the user and the people around them.

In July of 1973 a Boeing aircraft that was on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris had more than 100 passengers aboard. As it was approaching the Parisian airport, the crew noted that the fire alarms were triggered, and the crew members, fire extinguishers in hand, followed the procedures to overcome the incident as they tried to locate the origin of the smoke that would increasingly invade the passenger cabin. The source of the fire was not found and the passengers succumbed to panic and the toxic smoke affected gravely the possibility for them to continue breathing normally.

The smoke reached the control cabin and the pilots decided to make an off-track emergency landing. This maneuver was accomplished without any further consequences in spite of having hit several trees on its final trajectory. The technical crew managed to get out the front door, but unfortunately the passengers didn’t have this opportunity and all of them, except for one survivor, passed away by asphyxiation. As a result, this accident left 123 dead people and only 11 survivors. The French authorities investigated the accident and concluded that the main cause of the accident was a passenger going to smoke inside the lavatory and threw the still lit cigarette in the trash can, which was full of toilet paper, and it originated a fire that got out of control.

This is only one of the cases that led to a worldwide ban on inflight smoking. It is possible to conclude that the accidents are produced when the defenses of the systems that prevent those accidents are broken in relation to three fundamental aspects: the technological, whenever there are flaws in spite of the most sensitive instruments being duplicated or triplicated; the instructional, a lack of an adequate response from the pilots and/or the air transit system when facing an incident, despite their training, which involves contingencies of different gravity and their ways of affronting them; and the regulatory, every time the procedures are not carefully monitored by the pilots and, according to the case that we mentioned before, by the passengers, the instructions and the prohibitions such as refraining from using electronic devices during lift off and landing operations and the prohibition of smoking inside the aircraft’s lavatories. That being said, the value of security on civil aviation is much more rigid and has greater levels of exigence than those of terrestrial transportation, since a flying aircraft does not have the same escape way and it represents a situation far from the protective action of state institutions and security forces.

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Economist Calls for $37 Billion to Fight Superbugs

Economist Calls for $37 Billion to Fight Superbugs

As part of a review of antibiotic resistance being prepared for the UK government, former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill recently suggested the need for a multibillion-dollar investment in the international pharmaceuticals industry in order to stimulate research into developing the next generation of antimicrobial treatments.

Mr. O’Neill’s call for such funding comes at a time of an increasing threat of “suberbugs,” or microbes that are resistant to the most widely available antibiotic medications. According to his analysis, antimicrobial resistance could result in the otherwise preventable deaths of approximately 300 million people over the next 35 years. In economic terms, that translates to between $60 trillion and $100 trillion in lost output by 2050.

In order to head off this humanitarian and economic catastrophe, Mr. O’Neill has estimated that up to $37 billion—mostly expected to come from public coffers—will be needed to encourage the pharmaceutical industry to pursue lines of research into producing new antibiotics. The goal of this massive financing initiative is to boost the diversity of antimicrobial treatments available by spurring the creation of 15 new treatments per decade.

Such an incentive is necessary because drug makers have generally considered antibiotics to be a relatively risky investment of research dollars. This is not without reason: any novel medication produced would rarely be administered as long as existing antibiotics remain plentiful and effective. Obviously, a rarely used medication is not a profitable medication.

Recently, however, microbial resistance to established treatments has been on the rise, and current antibiotics are losing their effectiveness. Moreover, the pipeline of new medications has almost run dry, meaning that there are fewer options available for treating resistant strains of microbes. A major objective of research into antibiotics, then, is to produce treatments now, so that they are ready to use in the future. Unfortunately, this conflicts with the drug makers’ need to maintain short-term profitability.

In order to get around this, Mr. O’Neill’s proposal included paying a lump sum to pharmaceutical companies that currently have high-priority research in the works. This sort of payoff, he explained, is meant to disconnect profitability from sales, thereby motivating drug firms to release these drugs regardless of current demand.

Representatives from the international pharmaceuticals industry have been generally supportive of Mr. O’Neill’s findings. The question is whether the global political will can be found to implement such an ambitious funding plan to find new treatments for drug-resistance microbes.

Hong Kong Medical Fair Highlights Innovations in Senior Health Care

clinic-doctor-health-hospital-largeThe sixth annual Hong Kong International Medical Devices and Supplies Fair wrapped up in May, drawing almost 10,000 buyers and over 250 exhibitors from around the world. Attendance at the medical fair was up by 3.6 percent over the previous year, and two new regional pavilions were added this year for businesses operating out of Canada and Taiwan. This growth at the trade show reflects and expanding worldwide interest in healthcare issues as an ever-growing part of the global population raises its awareness of issues in health and medicine.

The Hong Kong medical fair attracted especial attention from international purchasers focused on senior health care issues. The reason behind this is simple: according to the United Nations, the world’s population in 2050 will include 2 billion people aged 60 or older. That is to say, over one in every five people in coming decades will be facing advanced age and the health issues that accompany it.

Naturally, many segments within the medical devices industry are reorienting business to accommodate this growing “silver market.” Buyers from markets as diverse as Asia, Europe, Canada, and Australia came to the Hong Kong medical fair looking to explore the latest advancements in even basic elder care equipment such as wheelchairs, bathroom aids, and walking devices. Several companies reported leaving the trade show having made significant progress toward establishing contracts with international partners.

The Hong Kong medical trade show also offered manufacturers and industry innovators an opportunity to show off some the new technologies being developed for the medical industry. Hong Kong-based medical robotics company Deltason Medical Limited, for example, demonstrated Rex Bionics, a promising robotic device designed to help spinal cord injury patients to stand and walk.

Among the new products being promoted specifically for the silver market was a unique trampoline-like exercise platform created by Active Fun Company Limited. The new device leverages the benefits of rebound therapy to boost seniors’ physical strength and mobility.

The Hong Kong International Medical Devices and Supplies Fair’s spotlight on senior health issues is likely not unique. As more people around the world join the ranks of the elderly, industry watchers can expect to see an increasing spotlight on senior health care at medical trade shows around the world.

Health Care in the UAE

United Arab Emirates pic Over the past several decades, perhaps no industry in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has enjoyed more significant growth than health care. As a direct result of significant investments in the health care infrastructure, life expectancy in the UAE has reached 76.5 years, which puts it on a par with some of the most developed nations on the planet. In addition to eradicating infectious diseases, such as poliomyelitis, measles, and malaria, the UAE has reduced maternal mortality rates to just 10 per 100,000.

Although life expectancy in the UAE is at an all-time high, lifestyle diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, have emerged as leading causes of death. To address these growing health concerns, world-class medical facilities, such as the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, have sprung up throughout the country. The UAE government has also emphasized disease prevention via campaigns such as the Pink Caravan Initiative, a mobile health-screening unit that reaches thousands of men and women every year.