The Independent's Features Writer Simon Usborne discusses the biggest stories of the day.
Study recommends paying pregnant smokers to quit
Financial incentives will stop pregnant women smoking and save the money NHS, the study claims.
A Scottish study published in the British Medical Journal says pregnant women who smoke are more likely to stop if they are financially incentivised to do so.
The study, co-authored by the Universities of Glasgow and Stirling, claims paying pregnant smokers could save lives and would be cost-effective for the NHS.
More than 600 women were involved in the trial, making it the largest study to date investigating the use of incentives. It found than smokers paid up to £400 in shopping vouchers were more than twice as likely to quit than those who were given no monetary motivation.
Smoking while pregnant is thought to be responsible for around 5,000 miscarriages, 100 still births and more than 100 infant deaths every year. It is though to cost £87.5 million for the NHS to treat the after-effects of smoking during pregnancy.
The trial gave 306 pregnant women £50 to enrol in a programme to help them quit and subsequently offered more vouchers if they continued to abstain during their pregnancy. Under these conditions, 69 women quit smoking. This was compared against a group of 303 women who were simply offered a standard quit-smoking service with no financial incentive. In this group, only 26 quit.
The study is already proving controversial.
Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said: “We have said before that incentivising public health behaviour change through monetary reward is not ideal…Can we afford to incentivise behavioural change when the amount of potentially damaging lifestyle choices that people make could be almost limitless?”
US storm forecast was overblown, admits National Weather Service
Forecasts of a “potentially historic blizzard” in New York City were inaccurate, the US National Weather Service admitted yesterday.
Writing on their Facebook page, the NWS said: “Rapidly deepening winter storms are very challenging to predict
"The storm has moved further east and will be departing faster than our forecasts of the past two days. The result is much less snow than previously predicted for the western half of our region.”
The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, was forced to defend claims that he had overreacted to the storm. A state of emergency was declared, a driving ban was temporarily imposed and the subway was shut.
It was the first time the subway had ever been shut because of snow.
New Yorkers woke on Tuesday morning to find the conditions much better than expected and many blamed de Blasio for overhyping the storm.
Mr de Blasio said he had responded to the information he had been given, saying: "Would you rather be prepared or unprepared? Would you rather be safe or unsafe?"
World’s most expensive tea costs £180 a pot
What is thought to be the world’s most expensive tea is on sale at the Royal China Club in central London.
Da Hong Pao, the tea, costs £180 for a pot which serves four people.
The tea leaves retail for more than £650,000 per kilo and are wiped with goat’s milk as they grow. They are left for up to 80 years to gain flavour.
The tea leaves come from the same bush that are rumoured to have cured the ill mother of a Ming dynasty emperor.