Smoking costs the NHS five times as much as previously thought

Smoking costs the NHS five times as much as previously thought,
researchers have calculated.
Treating diseases directly caused by smoking produces medical bills of more than £5bn a year
in the UK. In 2005, smoking accounted for almost one in five of all deaths and a significant
amount of disability, the Oxford University team said. The British Heart Foundation who
funded the research said tighter regulations were needed on the sale of tobacco. Previous
estimates have put the burden of smoking on the NHS at £1.4bn to £1.7bn, the researchers
reported in Tobacco Control.
Drawing on their previous work on other lifestyle issues, he added that smoking cost five
times more than lack of physical activity, twice the cost of obesity and about the same as an
unhealthy diet. A separate paper published by the team in the Journal of Public Health found
that alcohol consumption costs the UK NHS £3bn.
Betty McBride, director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This is money being drained
out of the NHS as a direct result of something we have the power to prevent. Yet the true
tragedy is the lives that are cut short or ruined as a result of smoking. This study shows
exactly why we need the strongest possible measures to control the sale of tobacco."
However, Simon Clark, from the smoker's lobby group Forest, said the figure in the report
was only based on guessing, and should be treated with contempt. Mr Clark said it was
preposterous to suggest that the cost of smoking to the NHS had risen dramatically, as
smoking rates had been falling for 50 years. He said: "Even if it was true, smokers still
contribute twice that amount to the Treasury in tobacco taxation and VAT. Far from being a
burden on society, smokers make an enormous financial contribution."
Online push in California schools
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has unveiled a plan to save money
by phasing out school textbooks in favour of internet aids.
Gov Schwarzenegger wants to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in state spending each year.
He says converting to online study will also help keep pupils more up-to-date. He also
believes internet activities such as Facebook, Twitter and downloading to iPods show that
young people are the first to adopt new online technologies, and so the internet is also the best
way to learn in classrooms.
From the beginning of the next school year in August, maths and science students in
California's high schools will have access to online texts that have passed an academic
standards review. The governor says digital textbooks can be updated easily - so learning
keeps pace with progress. But our correspondent says the real reason Gov Schwarzenegger
wants the change is money.
Last year California spent $350m on textbooks and can no longer afford it. Authorities will
have to make deep cuts to tackle the budget deficit. Educationalists fear that the next step will
be online education to substitute teachers. They say that good education is expensive, and the
budget problems will lead to a minor quality of teaching.
Shell settles Nigeria deaths case
Royal Dutch Shell has agreed a $15.5m (£9.7m) out-of-court settlement in a case
accusing it of complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria.
It was pursued by relatives of nine anti-oil campaigners, including author Ken Saro-Wiwa,
who were hanged in 1995 by Nigeria's then military rulers. The oil giant strongly denies any
wrong-doing and says the payment is part of a "process of reconciliation".
The case alleged that Shell was complicit in murder, torture and other abuses by Nigeria's
former military government against campaigners in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Ken Saro-Wiwa
and the eight others were members of the Ogoni ethnic group from the Niger Delta. They had
been campaigning for the rights of the local people and protesting at pollution caused by the
oil industry. They were executed after being convicted by a military tribunal over the 1994
murder of four local leaders. The activists' deaths sparked a storm of international protest.
Ken Wiwa, 40, son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, said his father would have been happy with the result.
He told the Associated Press that Shell's settlement represented a "victory for us". Shell has
not accepted any liability over the allegations against it. Speaking after the settlement was
announced, Shell official Malcolm Brinded said it "admits that, even though Shell had no part
in the violence that took place, many people in the area have suffered." It is clear that Shell
officials helped to supply Nigerian police with weapons during the 1990s. The company also
participated in security sweeps in parts of Ogoniland and hired government troops that shot at
villagers who protested against a pipeline.
Manchester United agree to sell Ronaldo
Spanish football giants Real Madrid are ready to buy world player of the year Cristiano
Ronaldo for a record $130 million. This comes a few days after Madrid set the previous
record of $92 million for Brazilian star Kaka. Real Madrid have been after Ronaldo for
several years. Their interest in the Portuguese star has led to frosty relations between the
Spanish team and Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester’s manager, repeatedly
warned Madrid that Ronaldo was not for sale. He once told reporters he wouldn’t even sell a
virus to the Spanish team.
United officials announced the transfer news by saying that Ronaldo “has again expressed his
desire to leave” and that Real Madrid has permission to talk to him. Ronaldo joined United
from Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon in 2003. Despite his huge success with Manchester, Ronaldo
never hid his desire to play for Madrid, his childhood heroes. He constantly told the press it
would be a “dream move” to play for Real Madrid.
Ronaldo enjoyed huge success while playing for Manchester United. This season he finished
as the club’s top scorer and was voted European and world player of the year. He also helped
the English side win the Champions League and several English Premier League titles. United
supporters will have mixed feelings about his departure. They will certainly miss his goals
and skill, but they know his heart was never really in English football