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Sweden Approaches ‘Smoke-Free’ Status as Daily Use of Cigarettes Dwindles

Summer is in the air — cigarette smoke is not — in Sweden’s outdoor bars and restaurants.

As the World Health Organization marks “World No Tobacco Day” on Wednesday, Sweden, which has the lowest rate of smoking in the Europe Union, is close to declaring itself “smoke-free” — defined as having fewer than 5% daily smokers in the population.

Many experts give credit to decades of anti-smoking campaigns and legislation, while others point to the prevalence of “snus,” a smokeless tobacco product banned elsewhere in the EU but marketed in Sweden as an alternative to cigarettes.

Whatever the reason, the 5% milestone is now within reach. Only 6.4% of Swedes over 15 were daily smokers in 2019, the lowest in the EU and far below the average of 18.5% across the 27-nation bloc, according to the Eurostat statistics agency.

Figures from the Public Health Agency of Sweden show the smoking rate has continued to fall since then, reaching 5.6% last year.

“We like a healthy way to live, I think that’s the reason,” said Carina Astorsson, a Stockholm resident. Smoking never interested her, she said, because “I don’t like the smell; I want to take care of my body.”

The risks of smoking appear well understood among health-conscious Swedes, including younger generations. Twenty years ago, almost 20% of the population were smokers — which was a low rate globally at the time. Since then, measures to discourage smoking, including bans on smoking in restaurants, have brought down smoking rates across Europe.

France saw record drops in smoking rates from 2014-19, but that success hit a plateau during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — blamed in part for causing stresses that drove people to light up. About one-third of people ages 18-75 in France professed to having smoked in 2021 — a slight increase on 2019. About a quarter smoke daily.

Sweden has gone further than most to stamp out cigarettes, which it says has resulted in a range of health benefits, including a relatively low rate of lung cancer.

“We were early in restricting smoking in public spaces, first in school playgrounds and after-school centers, and later in restaurants, outdoor cafes and public places such as bus stations,” said Ulrika Årehed, secretary-general of the Swedish Cancer Society. “In parallel, taxes on cigarettes and strict restrictions on the marketing of these products have played an important role.”

She added that “Sweden is not there yet,” noting that the proportion of smokers is higher in disadvantaged socioeconomic groups.

The sight of people lighting up is becoming increasingly rare in the country of 10.5 million. Smoking is prohibited at bus stops and train platforms and outside the entrances of hospitals and other public buildings. Like in most of Europe, smoking isn’t allowed inside bars and restaurants, but since 2019 Sweden’s smoking ban also applies to their outdoor seating areas.

On Tuesday night, the terraces of Stockholm were full of people enjoying food and drinks in the late-setting sun. There was no sign of cigarettes, but cans of snus could be spotted on some tables. Between beers, some patrons stuffed small pouches of the moist tobacco under their upper lips.

Swedish snus makers have long held up their product as a less harmful alternative to smoking and claim credit for the country’s declining smoking rates. But Swedish health authorities are reluctant to advise smokers to switch to snus, another highly addictive nicotine product.

“I don’t see any reason to put two harmful products up against each other,” Årehed said. “It is true that smoking is more harmful than most things you can do, including snus. But that said, there are many health risks even with snus.”

Some studies have linked snus to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and premature births if used during pregnancy.

Swedes are so fond of their snus, a distant cousin of dipping tobacco in the United States, that they demanded an exemption to the EU’s ban on smokeless tobacco when they joined the bloc in 1995.

“It’s part of the Swedish culture, it’s like the Swedish equivalent of Italian Parma ham or any other cultural habit,” said Patrik Hildingsson, a spokesperson for Swedish Match, Sweden’s top snus maker, which was acquired by tobacco giant Philip Morris last year.

WHO, the U.N. health agency, says Turkmenistan, with a rate of tobacco use below 5%, is ahead of Sweden when it comes to phasing out smoking, but notes that’s largely due to smoking being almost nonexistent among women. For men the rate is 7%.

WHO attributes Sweden’s declining smoking rate to a combination of tobacco control measures, including information campaigns, advertising bans and “cessation support” for those wishing to quit tobacco. However, the agency noted that Sweden’s tobacco use is at more than 20% of the adult population, similar to the global average, when you include snus and similar products.

“Switching from one harmful product to another is not a solution,” WHO said in an email. “Promoting a so-called ‘harm reduction approach’ to smoking is another way the tobacco industry is trying to mislead people about the inherently dangerous nature of these products.”

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США припинили обмін даними з РФ за ядерним договором

З 1 червня США припинили передавати Росії телеметричні дані про запуски американських міжконтинентальних балістичних ракет (МБР) та балістичних ракет з підводних човнів (БРПЛ). У заяві Держдепартаменту США йдеться, що це рішення ухвалене через призупинення участі Росії у Договорі про стратегічні наступальні озброєння (ДСНО).

Держдепартамент наголошує, що обмін такою інформацією проходив у рамках договору, але Росія відмовилася від участі у двосторонній консультативній комісії, яка мала досягти взаємних домовленостей з цього приводу.

«США не надаватимуть телеметричну інформацію в односторонньому порядку», – вказала американська сторона.

Договір був підписаний тодішніми президентами США і РФ Бараком Обамою та Дмитром Медведєвим 8 квітня 2010 року в Празі та набрав чинності 5 лютого 2011 року. Цей договір прийшов на зміну СНО-I, термін дії якого минув у грудні 2009 року, та Договору про скорочення стратегічних наступальних потенціалів від 24 травня 2002 року.

Договір було продовжено 2021 року на 5 років за взаємною домовленістю сторін.

21 лютого 2023 року президент Росії Володимир Путін оголосив, що Москва припиняє участь у ДСНО, але не виходить із нього. Свої дії він обґрунтував політикою США щодо Росії, особливо підтримкою Вашингтоном України. Путін також наголосив, що, перш ніж повернутися до обговорення питання про продовження роботи в рамках договору, російська сторона має для себе зрозуміти, як у ньому враховуватимуться арсенали не лише США, а й інших ядерних держав НАТО – Великобританії та Франції (при цьому договір був підписаний саме зі США, без участі інших країн).

28 лютого Путін підписав закон про призупинення участі РФ у ДСНО.

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Private Astronaut Crew, Including First Arab Woman in Orbit, Returns from Space Station

An all-private astronaut team of two Americans and two Saudis, including the first Arab woman sent into orbit, splashed down safely off Florida on Tuesday night, capping an eight-day research mission aboard the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying them parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, after a 12-hour return flight and blazing re-entry plunge through Earth’s atmosphere.

The splashdown was carried live by a joint webcast presented by SpaceX and the company behind the mission, Axiom Space.

It concluded the second space station mission organized, equipped and trained entirely at private expense by Axiom, a seven-year-old Houston-based venture headed by NASA’s former ISS program manager.

The Axiom 2 crew was led by retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, 63, who holds the U.S. record for most time spent in orbit with 665 days in space over three long-duration missions to the ISS, including 10 spacewalks. She now serves as Axiom’s director of human spaceflight.

“That was a phenomenal ride. We really enjoyed all of it,” Whitson radioed to mission controllers moments after splashdown.

Ax-2’s designated pilot was John Shoffner, 67, an aviator, race car driver and investor from Alaska.

Rounding out the crew as mission specialists were the first two astronauts from Saudi Arabia to fly aboard a private spacecraft: Ali Alqarni, 31, a fighter pilot for the Royal Saudi Air Force; and Rayyanah Barnawi, 34, a biomedical scientist in cancer stem cell research.

Barnawi was the first woman from the Arab world ever launched into Earth orbit and the first Saudi woman to fly in space, an achievement that came barely five years after women in the Persian Gulf kingdom gained the right to drive in June 2018.

In August 2022, Sara Sabry became the first Arab woman and the first Egyptian to fly to space on a brief suborbital ride operated by the Blue Origin astro-tourist venture of Jeff Bezos.

The ISS stay of Alqarni and Barnawi was also notable for overlapping with that of Sultan Al Neyadi, an ISS Expedition-69 crew member from the United Arab Emirates, marking the first time three astronauts from the Arab world were aboard the space station together.

The Axiom 2 mission, which launched on May 21, was the latest in a series of space expeditions bankrolled by private investment capital and wealthy passengers rather than by taxpayer dollars as NASA seeks to expand commercial access to low-Earth orbit.

Axiom, which sent its first four-member astronaut team to the ISS in April 2022, also has signed a contract with the U.S. space agency to build the first commercial addition to the orbiting laboratory.

California-based SpaceX, founded by Twitter owner and Tesla Inc. electric carmaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the Falcon 9 rocket and crew capsule that ferried Axiom’s team to and from orbit and controlled the flight.

NASA furnished the launch site at its Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and assumed responsibility for the Axiom crew during its stay aboard the space station, orbiting some 400 kilometers above Earth.

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Argentinian Meteorologist Celeste Saulo to Lead UN Weather Agency

The U.N.’s weather service, the World Meteorological Organization, selected Argentinian meteorologist Celeste Saulo Thursday to be the agency’s first woman secretary-general, effective in January 2024.

In a statement, the WMO said Saulo was elected by the organization’s 193 members as part of the World Meteorological Congress being held at the U.N. in Geneva. 

In the WMO statement, Saulo said inequality and climate change are among the biggest threats facing the world, and that “the WMO must contribute to strengthening the meteorological and hydrological services to protect populations and their economies, providing timely and effective services and early warning systems.”

She said, “My ambition is to lead the WMO towards a scenario in which the voice of all members is heard equally, prioritizing those most vulnerable and in which the actions it undertakes are aligned with the needs and particularities of each one of them.”

Saulo has been director of the National Meteorological Service of Argentina since 2014 and is currently the first vice-president of the WMO. She will succeed outgoing Secretary-General Petteri Taalas of Finland, who will complete his two-year term at the end of this year.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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Росія зберігає «невелике виробництво» ракет – Данілов

Секретар Ради національної оборони України Олексій Данілов заявив, що попри санкції, Росія на сьогодні зберігає «невелике виробництво» ракет.

«У нас є розрахунки того озброєння, яке мала і має Російська Федерація. Звичайно, ми кожного дня отримуємо таку інформацію, інформацію про використання. Але майте на увазі, вони не сидять, склавши руки, вони виробляють, не зважаючи на те, що є санкції, є заборона на ввезення тих чи інших компонентів, – у них є невелике виробництво. Більше того, вони можуть підвозити ракети через ті країни, які вони свого часу і постачали», – сказав Данілов в ефірі Радіо Свобода.

За його словами, нині з упевненістю можна сказати, що та кількість ракет, яка була у РФ на початку вторгнення, знизилася «в геометричній прогресії».

«Вони використали дуже багато ракет по території нашої країни. Усі ці розрахунки ведуться кожного дня. Ще раз наголошую, ми розуміємо, що у них є», – сказав Данілов без деталей про власне кількість і клас ракет.

За даними Генштабу ЗСУ, лише протягом минулої доби армія РФ завдала 12 ракетних ударів із застосуванням 10 балістичних та крилатих ракет типу «Іскандер» по Києву та 2 зенітних керованих ракет С-300 – по Харкову.

Раніше в Головному управлінні розвідки повідомили, що Росія продовжує виробляти ракети, попри міжнародні санкції.

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Блінкен: Україна отримає «потужний пакет підтримки» на саміті НАТО

Раніше кілька засобів інформації написали, що союзники по НАТО обговорюють можливість надання Україні деяких гарантій безпеки – за прикладом співпраці США з Ізраїлем

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Призупинення безвізу з ЄС «не стосується людей, які мають тимчасовий прихисток» – Климпуш-Цинцадзе

Країни ЄС нині керуються директивою, яку було відкрито для використання українцями після початку повномасштабного вторгнення Росії, сказала вона

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Namibia Signs $10 Billion Green Energy Deal With Germany’s Hyphen

Namibia’s president recently signed a projected $10 billion deal that calls for Namibia and the German company Hyphen Energy to produce “green hydrogen,” a clean energy source that advocates see as the fuel of the future.

Hyphen Energy last Friday concluded a multibillion-dollar agreement with the Namibian government to construct the project in the Tsau Khaeb National Park.

If a study finds the project to be feasible, Hyphen will build factories, pipelines and ports with the goal of producing 2 million tons of ammonia by 2030.

The ammonia, which could be used as fuel, would be produced using renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. The project would also produce oxygen and electricity for local consumption.

Speaking to the Voice of America, Namibia’s green hydrogen commissioner and economic adviser to the president, James Mnyupe, said Hyphen Energy has made agreements with companies from Germany, England, South Korea and Japan that will ensure buyers for the company’s main products.

The green hydrogen project, he said, will be vertically integrated.

“In other parts of the world you might get one player developing the port, another player developing the pipelines, another player developing the renewable energy and so on and so forth, whereas this project, we are envisioning to do all of that under one umbrella and that is what a vertically integrated project looks like,” he said.

Hyphen’s chief executive officer, Marco Raffinetti, said securing funding for green hydrogen projects is a massive undertaking but the investments are necessary if the world is to reduce the carbon output from fossil fuels which drive climate change.

Raffinetti said alternative sources of power, such as solar energy, were very expensive 20 years ago but have gradually become cheaper. He said green hydrogen might follow the same trajectory.

Namibian political commentators have raised red flags, however, regarding the speedy adoption of the project that is being spearheaded by the presidency. They question whether the project actually has national buy-in.

Speaking to VOA, political analyst Pendapala Hangala expressed some reservations about the project.

“This is a 45-year project, and a 40-year project, and … I don’t think it went through the right due process, and it is not clear what is going on because we are also looking at critical raw material…. It’s a comprehensive project, which is being fast tracked, that is my concern,” he said.

This green hydrogen project is touted as the largest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa.

Other countries such as Morocco are also embarking on green hydrogen projects, and Namibian commentators question what competitive advantage Namibia would have with exports over countries in closer proximity to Europe, which is viewed as the main buyer.

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Російська армія намагалася наступати на двох напрямках в районі Бахмута, безуспішно – ЗСУ

Командування не фіксувало наступальних дій російських військ на Авдіївському напрямку. ЗСУ «відбили усі атаки противника в районі міста Мар’їнка»