An International Appeal to Cut Smoking Rates Through Six Policies

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This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.  I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Barbara Klein.  On our program this week, we will tell about an international appeal to reduce smoking rates.  We will also tell about an American effort to find signs of climate change in spring flowers.  And, we will report on a product that can repair itself after breaking.

The World Health Organization is urging countries to follow six policies to prevent millions of deaths linked to tobacco use.  The six policies are known as MPOWER, spelled M-P-O-W-E-R.

The letter M means monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies.  The P is for protecting people by establishing smoke-free areas.  O is for offering services to help people stop smoking.  The letter W means warning people about the dangers of tobacco.  E is for enforcing bans on tobacco advertising and other forms of marketing.  And R is for raising taxes on tobacco.

A World Health Organization report says raising taxes is the single most effective way to reduce tobacco use.  A study found that governments now collect an average of five hundred times more money in tobacco taxes each year than they spend on control efforts.

The report says tobacco now causes more than five million deaths a year.  It predicts this number will rise to more than eight million by the year two thousand thirty.  By the end of the century, it says, tobacco could kill one billion people -- ten times as many as in the twentieth century.

The large majority of these deaths will take place in developing countries.  More than twenty-five percent of all smokers in the world are Chinese.  India, Indonesia, Russia and the United States, in that order, follow China in tobacco use.

The W.H.O. found that only five percent of all people live in countries with protections like national legislation on smoke-free areas or bans on tobacco marketing.  Forty percent of countries still permit smoking in hospitals and schools.

An international treaty on tobacco control came into force in two thousand five.

Tobacco companies face increasingly restrictive marketplaces in many wealthier countries.  The industry is now aiming at the developing world, especially young women.  The report says large numbers of people do not yet know the dangers of smoking.

W.H.O. Director General Margaret Chan notes that tobacco hurts economies in two ways.  One is through reduced productivity among workers who get lung cancer or other diseases linked to tobacco use.  The other way is through high health care costs for treating those diseases.

The W.H.O. report was released in New York City.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has worked hard to restrict smoking in America's largest city.  His aid group, Bloomberg Philanthropies, helped pay for the study.

You are listening to the VOA Special English program SCIENCE IN THE NEWS.  With Barbara Klein, I'm Bob Doughty in Washington.

Volunteers across the United States have begun searching for clues about rising temperatures on Earth.  A nationwide study is seeking volunteers to look for changes in flowers and flowering plants.  They are being asked to keep records of their observations in a database on the Internet.  Study organizers say the information will give scientists a better understanding of climate change.

The study, called Project Budburst, is to continue all year.  This will permit the observation of all plants in different parts of the country.  Plant lovers, students and other people in every state are welcome to take part.

The goal of the study is to help people of all ages understand the changing link between climate, seasons and plants.  It also gives them a way to share their findings with others through the Internet.

The University Corporation of Atmospheric Research is supervising Project Budburst.  The group says thousands of people in twenty-six states recorded their observations during the project's first launch last year.  Scientists received information about hundreds of different kinds of plants.  Volunteers provided details about the appearance of their plant's first bursts of growth for the season.

This is how Project BudBurst works.  Each volunteer agrees to watch one or more plants, usually a flower, plant or tree.  Volunteers can get help from the project's Web site.  It suggests more than sixty trees and flowers with information about each of them.  Volunteers can also add their own choices.

Next, they begin examining their plants at least one week before the usual time when the new flower, or bud, bursts and leaves begin to form.  This is known as budburst.  Volunteers continue to observe their plant or flower for events following budburst.  They look for the first leaf, first flower and later, the spreading of seeds.  When volunteers record their findings on the Web site, they can see maps of other results across the United States.

Sandra Henderson is project coordinator for Project BudBurst.  She says climate change may be affecting our communities in ways that we do not notice.

Many different kinds of plants and animals are affected by climate change.  Rising temperatures cause some plants to extend their growing periods.  Many insects reproduce and develop because of increasing sunlight instead of temperature.  This can cause a difference between the behavior of insects like bees and flowers that open much earlier than the insects expect.  This problem has already been reported across many parts of the world.

Broken rubber bands and flat tires requiring replacement could soon be a thing of the past.

French researchers have developed a new kind of rubber that can repair itself when broken.  The new rubber is made from widely available materials including vegetable oil and a common industrial chemical.  All the materials are considered safe to the environment and can be easily reused.

The best part is the new rubber can be repaired and used again and again without losing its strength or ability to stretch.  When cut, the rubber can be made new again, simply by pressing the two broken ends back together.

The product can be repaired at room temperature, around twenty degrees Celsius.  Other self-healing materials require higher temperatures for repair.

Traditionally, rubber substances are made from huge molecules connected by strong chemical links, or bonds.  The new rubber is made of smaller molecules.  The molecules are linked together using hydrogen bonds.  When connected in this way, the molecules act like one long molecule, forming what is called supramolecular networks.  When the rubber is cut or breaks, the molecules attempt to connect with whatever molecule is near them.  When pressed together, the molecules are able to repair themselves at the molecular level, making the repaired rubber like new.

However, time is an important element in the process.  If the broken ends are not brought together quickly, a repair is not possible.  This is because molecules will form bonds with molecules on their own side.  The inventors say the surfaces of the rubber can be repaired within a week of being separated.

The rubber is the creation of scientists at the Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Education Institution in Paris.  The organization is part of France's National Center for Scientific Research.  The new material is described in greater detail in the research publication Nature.

The possibilities for the new rubber seem endless.  It could lead to clothing that fixes its own tears and children's toys that can be repaired.  It also could lead to inflatable products that do not leak, at least not for long.  A chemical company, Arkema, is already working on using the new rubber in its products.  Products made with the rubber could be available within one or two years. 

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Brianna Blake, Lawan Davis and Caty Weaver.  Brianna Blake was also our producer.  I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Bob Doughty.  Read and listen to our programs at voaspecialenglish.com.  Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Voice of America Special English

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