New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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The Soapbox: Smoking ban in France, new economy minister in Argentina, environmental conservation in Spain

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN covering major news developments at NYU’s campuses and study away sites abroad. Global consciousness for a global university.
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The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

In France, government announces national anti-tobacco plan

French health minister Aurélien Rousseau announced a national anti-tobacco plan on Tuesday, which includes a law banning smoking cigarettes on the country’s beaches, or in parks, forest preserves and other public spaces.

France has one of the highest smoking rates in Europe, with around one in four adults admitting to smoking every day. In addition to the ban, Rousseau said that there would be an increase in the price of cigarette packs from the current 11 euros to 12 euros by 2025 and 13 euros by 2027. 

Legislators in the country are also planning to ban vapes, which contain around the same amount of puffs as two packs of cigarettes and currently sell for around 9 euros. Despite an existing ban on the sale of vapes to those under 18 years old and the promotion or advertising of vapes, around one in seven 13-to-16-year-olds report having tried vapes at least once, according to the BBC.

In his announcement, Rousseau claimed that France has had some success curbing tobacco use in the past, with the smoking rate for 17-year-olds having dropped from 25% to 16% from 2017 to 2022. The government’s new laws aim to prevent 75,000 deaths per year, or about 200 deaths per day.

“Beaches, parks, around schools — lots of places had started these experiments and now, it’s true, we’re heading to a general rule to show our determination,” Rousseau said to PBS.

In Argentina, far-right president-elect announces economy minister

Far-right libertarian president-elect Javier Milei said he will appoint Luis Caputo as the country’s new economy minister on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Caputo was previously Argentina’s finance minister, and then central bank minister from 2017 to 2018, under former president Mauricio Macri, according to the Financial Times. Caputo worked as a private banker for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank in Argentina prior to his roles in the Argentine government.

The announcement comes after Milei’s two-day trip to the United States, and just over a week after winning the second round of the Argentine election, which consisted of a run-off between Milei and top candidate Sergio Massa, a center-left economy minister for Argentina’s previous government. Milei ultimately defeated Massa, winning around 56% of the popular vote.

Under Milei’s government, Caputo will be tasked with helping Argentina’s struggling economy. The Economist recently reported that the country’s annual inflation has risen from 54% to 143% in the last four years, and almost four in 10 Argentines are living in poverty. The current government also owes $44 billion to the International Monetary Fund.

Milei’s inauguration is less than two weeks away, giving him little time to form a government. Milei is planning to propose reforms aimed at improving the country’s economic stability the day after officially assuming the presidency.

“I need someone who has an expert financial hand — there is no greater financial expert in Argentina than Luis Caputo,” Milei said in an interview with the Buenos Aires Times.

In Spain, 1.4 billion euro investment to protect Doñana wetland

Spain’s government and the south Andalusian authorities set aside 1.4 billion euros to protect the Doñana wetland, which is considered to be one of the most valuable wetlands in Europe by the World Wildlife Fund, in an agreement on Monday.

In recent years, the wetland has been threatened by climate change, with its largest permanent lagoon drying out under intense heat waves in 2022 and 2023, marking the first time it had done so since the Spanish National Research Council started collecting data in the region. Researchers also said the wetland received the lowest precipitation levels in a decade this past summer, and also saw the highest average annual temperature ever recorded. Four years ago, the European Commission sued the Spanish government for its “failure to protect” the Doñana wetlands, referring the country to the Court of Justice of the EU.

With the investment, farmers in about 14 towns around the wetland will receive financial incentives to stop cultivating crops that rely heavily on water from its aquifers, according to Andalusia regional president Juan Moreno.

The wetland, the fourth largest national park in Spain and an UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, is home to more than 230 species of birds. Carlos Dávila, head of the Doñana Region at the Spanish Ornithological Society, said that although the investment is a step in the right direction, its ecological results will not be immediately clear, according to the nonprofit BirdLife International.

“The success will depend on whether the results will be measurable and sustainable over time,”  Dávila said. “So, this strong economic investment actually means the birth of a new Doñana, abandoning a bipolar state of protection-destruction that the region has endured for decades.” 

Contact Krish Dev at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Krish Dev, Multimedia Editor
Krish is a first-year planning to major in Computer Science and Linguistics at CAS. In his free time, he enjoys posting photos on @krish_dev.creations, obsessing over geography, watching new films with the other Multimedia Editors, taking public transport to new places and letting Arsenal make or break his week.
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