Study shows low-income New York smokers spend 25 percent of their income on cigarettes; success of pesticide spray against West Nile virus questioned by critics; and tuna in school lunches may contain levels of mercury that are too high.  Read these and more public health news stories for Sept. 21, 2012.

CBS News – 25% of poor New Yorkers spend income on cigarettes: Are tobacco taxes ineffective?

A new study shows low-income smokers in New York spend 25 percent of their income on cigarettes, a finding that led a smokers’ rights advocate to say it proves high taxes are regressive and ineffective.
The American Cancer Society said the study by RTI’s Public Health Policy Research Program using state data shows a need to help more poor New Yorkers quit smoking or never start.

U.S. News and World Report – Heart Deaths Rise With Extreme Temperatures, Study Find

Extreme temperatures during hot or cold spells may increase the risk of premature death from heart disease, a new Australian study says.
The risk of heart disease-related death is higher during heat waves than during cold snaps, according to the study, which was published Sept. 18 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Huffington Post – Pesticide Spray Success Claims Against West Nile-Carrying Mosquitoes Questioned By Critics

Massachusetts boasted a 60 percent kill rate. Vermont claimed up to 69 percent. And, in Texas, a preliminary report suggested that aerial spraying of pesticides eliminated 93 percent of disease-carrying mosquitoes in some neighborhoods.
Over the last couple months, officials from across the country have engaged airplanes armed with pesticides in an attempt to battle mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus, on track to infect more people this year than ever before in the U.S., and eastern equine encephalitis, a less common but generally more dangerous disease. The decisions to spray have often been made under heated opposition from residents and some scientists concerned about what they say is an ineffective and unsafe strategy. Nevertheless, in at least a few cases, officials subsequently reported high success rates and few health complaints.

Reuters – Community program may help some obese kids

Heavy kids who took part in a program hosted at community YMCAs were able keep off some extra weight and improved their quality of life, including relationships with peers and functioning at school.
The six-month program – covering diet, physical activity and “screen time” – was a scaled-down version of intensive, clinic-based treatments that have been shown to help obese kids lose weight but at a steep price.
Researchers hope making such interventions cheaper and more convenient means many more families could benefit. But it’s been unclear if a less-intensive program would still be effective at helping kids and their families make significant lifestyle changes.

FOX News – Tuna too toxic for school lunches?

Is tuna too toxic for kids?  Numerous consumer groups have joined together to recommend that the U.S. Department of Agriculture remove tuna from school menus, USA Today reported.
The proposal was prompted by recent tests, which revealed the canned tuna sold to schools contains variably high levels of mercury – sometimes surpassing the federal limit.

National Partnership for Women and Families – Vinegar Effective Cervical Cancer Screening Method for Low-Resource Countries

A cervical cancer screening method that uses vinegar is a cost-effective option for low-income countries that lack the resources needed to implement more complex screening programs, NPR’s “Shots” reports. At least six African countries have adopted the technique in their public health care systems, and it is also being used in Thailand and parts of Asia, according to “Shots.”