U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports increase of “morning-after” pill consumption in last decade; Californians would support “soda tax” if proceeds are linked to schools, fitness; and what are ramifications of rising Alzheimer’s incidence? These stories and more top public health news on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013.

Chicago TribuneMorning-after pill: More U.S. women using it, government reports
More U.S. women are taking the “morning-after” pill, but generally just once, according to the government’s first report on how the emergency contraception drug has been used since regulators eased access to it in 2006. About 11 percent of sexually active women, or 5.8 million, used the pill between 2006 and 2010, compared to about 4 percent in 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its report released on Thursday. Among those who used the pill during those four years, 59 percent said they took it just once, while 24 percent said they used it twice, the report said. Seventeen percent said they used it three times or more. The CDC’s findings come amid a renewed fight over birth control access as religious groups push back against President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law, which includes a provision requiring health insurance coverage of contraception.

San Jose Mercury NewsNew California field poll shows support for ‘soda tax’
Three months after a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages was trounced by Richmond voters, a new statewide poll has given hope to supporters of “soda tax” measures. According to a new Field Poll, only 40 percent of voters support a soda tax when first asked, but support increases dramatically to 68 percent if the proceeds are earmarked for improved school nutrition and physical activity programs. The poll could help propel efforts in California and other states to put a soda tax on statewide ballots. The survey found support for a tax is especially strong among Latinos, Asian-Americans and African-Americans. The poll also showed that 75 percent of registered California voters, including 85 percent of Latinos, see a link between drinking sugary sodas and a person’s chance of becoming overweight or obese. But fewer voters believe energy drinks or sports drinks carry the same health risks.

USA TodayAs Alzheimer’s rate soars, concern rises over costs
New reports that the number of Alzheimer’s cases in the USA will likely triple to 13.8 million by 2050 are raising concerns about the nation’s ability to afford care. Care for patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia will increase 500% by 2050, reaching $1.1 trillion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This is in 2012 dollars. About 70% of costs for Alzheimer’s care are billed to Medicare and Medicaid.​ Patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia will spend three times more on health care than patients with other types of illnesses, the association says. Medicare patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias spent $43,847 on health care and long-term care services, compared to $13,879 spent by patients without those illnesses, the association said in a 2012 report.

MedPage TodaySmoke-free laws may cut preterm births
A smoking ban introduced in three phases in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium, was associated with a reduction in the risk of preterm birth, researchers found. The rate of deliveries before 37 weeks of gestation consistently fell through successive bans on smoking in public places and most workplaces, in restaurants, and in bars serving food over a 4-year period, according to Tim Nawrot, PhD, of Hasselt University in Diepenbeek, Belgium, and colleagues.