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Shisha smoking ‘not safer than cigarettes’, and is Britain becoming a nation of pill poppers?

The broadsheets corner the market in health headlines today with a bumper crop in both the Daily Telegraph and The Independent.

The Independent carries stories on why a Big Mac can be healthier than a roast dinner, on Astrazeneca suing the US drug regulator over generic copies of Seroquel and a women who reclaimed the cost of surgery to replace her ruptured PIP breast implants from her credit card company.

We then get to shisha smoking. According to the Indy, the number of cafes offering ‘shisha' tobacco pipes has risen 210% since the smoking ban came into force.

It quotes the British Heart Foundation as warning that many people are unaware of the health risks from smoking the flavoured tobacco, which can be as damaging as cigarettes.

Freedom of information data collected by the BHF from 133 local authorities in large towns and cities shows there were 179 shisha bars in 2007, rising to 556 now.

Dr Mike Knapton, the BHF's associate medical director , said: ‘Contrary to popular belief, shisha is not safer than smoking cigarettes Don't be duped by the sweet smell and wholesome-sounding fruity flavours, if you use shisha you are a smoker and that means you're putting your health at risk.'

Over at the Daily Telegraph, the top health story is on hundreds of patients being forced to wait for more than an hour in the back of ambulances due to a lack of hospital beds.

Data relating to the first seven weeks of 2012 in London on so-called ‘black breaches' showed up to 700 people needing urgent hospital treatment were forced to wait with ambulance staff in the back of the vehicle because doctors and nurses in A&E have been unable to take them.

The data was collected by London Ambulance Service and obtained by the Health Service Journal.

The Telegraph also covers a pill which doubles the length of time that patients with advanced skin cancer can survive and goes on sale in Britain for first time today.

It says vemurafenib, marketed by drugs firm Roche as Zelboraf, will transform the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma, after decades without a major medical advance.

The paper also has a story about a whistle-blowing survey carried out by the Royal College of Nursing which revealed a ‘worrying' lack of clinical oversight of the care of residents with acute conditions.

The survey of 600 nurses - also reported in the Guardian - showed one in 10 nurses did not believe residents in their home were getting good care.

To round off the marathon health coverage today, the Telegraph reports that Britain is in danger of becoming a nation of pill-poppers.

It quotes Professor Sarah Harper, director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, who predicts using drugs to prevent the worst effects of lifestyle illnesses is likely to become more and more common in the future.

Cholesterol-lowering statins are already taken by up to seven million Britons deemed to be at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, while some academics advocate those over 45 should take low-dose aspirin to help ward off cancer, she said in a public lecture yesterday.

She warned: ‘I think we may be entering a world where preventable chronic disease will not be prevented by public health measures tackling lifestyles, but increasingly by drug therapies which will control and reduce symptoms of chronic disease.'


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