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The Smoking World

By Meghan Harper, on 10 June 2010

There are many reasons that people start smoking, even though the health risks and the struggle to quit are well documented. Even President Barack Obama has struggled to quit. So how can one quit for good?

Tobacco kills 5.4 people world wide, making it the strongest heath risk in the world, but nearly all of these deaths are preventable. With 1 in 5 English adults as smokers, UCL professor Robert West has a potentially huge group of people to help quit. However, for most quitting is hard, and even after once one has decided to quit, research shows following through may be even more difficult. There are approximately 9,400,000 smokers in England, 3,489,000 will attempt to stop smoking and of those, only 174,4500 will succeed.

West also offers a lot of hope to those who are seriously looking to quit. Evidence shows that the most successful way to quit is to use some of the support that the NHS offers in forms of nicotine replacement therapies, pharmaceuticals, or simply using group or one-on-one support.  The issue is constantly keeping the motivation not to smoke, such a heath reminders and working to develop an identity as an ‘ex-smoker’ above the motivation to smoke. And the younger one can successfully quit, the better. After the age of 30, every attempt to quit will take 3 months out of every year off your life.

However, the discussion regarding the use of tobacco cannot simply be seen as a heath issue according to Ok Panneborg, former Chief Health Advisor of the World Bank Group. It is also a matter of agriculture, economics, finance and trade. The issue of tobacco usage is global, and usage is up among many developing countries. A number of global actors are fighting to decrease usage including World Health Organization, the World Bank, CDC, the White House, and the Bloomberg Company.

I thought that this lecture was particularly good, well presented and full of interesting information. It stressed to me what a complex issue quitting smoking is, for both the individual and from the bigger picture of agriculture, economics and trade. The audience discussion included participation from both people who identified and smokers, and those who didn’t, and I thought that Professor West’s insistence on helping smokers, not demonizing them was especially important. It definitely gave me a lot to consider about the issue as well as giving me tools that I can share with those I know who are trying to quit smoking.

To find out more information about quitting, please visit the following website: NHS Smoke Free

Welcome to Cheltenham!

By Meghan Harper, on 9 June 2010

All of the students receiving bursaries to attend this week just had a meeting with Mark Lythgoe, one of the Festival Directors here at the Cheltenham Science Festival. As he described it, his day job is serving as the Director of the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging at UCL, but has been coordinating the Cheltenham Science Festival since it started 9 years ago.

Cheltenham is home to four major annual festivals, with the science festival being the newest, debuting in 2002. The first science festival had about 2,000 attendees, and started as a way for scientists to share their work and hear about what was going on in the scientific community here in the UK. This year, the festival looks very different! Having only opened yesterday, over 25,000 tickets have been purchased already to attend one of the over 90 different talks, many given some of the foremost experts in the field. The range of topics alone is staggering- from discussing the science of chocolate (yes, I am definitely attending that one!) to discussing sustainability of the London 2012 Olympic games. Dr Lythgoe let us know that audience participation is also a huge part of the festival; he wants people to be able  to interact, debate, and just be really involved in their experience.

Over 15,000 people attend the free and family events alone! Today I saw quite a few school groups who were getting really involved in enjoying their experience, and were very enthusiastic about learning.

So for now, all the tents are up, lecturers and audiences have arrived and it appears that the Cheltenham Science Festival 2010 is under way!

What’s going on this year…

By Rachel Lister, on 4 June 2010

Mark LythgoeListen to Dr Mark Lythgoe, Director of UCL’s Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging and Cheltenham Science Festival Director, talk about this year’s theme of decadence, who’s making an appearance from UCL and just how good chemist Andrea Sella really is at demos…