Apr 23 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: April 23

Supreme Court Lets FDA Move Forward with Graphic Cigarette Warnings and Other Tobacco Regulations
The Supreme Court yesterday announced that it will not hear the tobacco industry's appeal of a March 2012 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on graphic cigarette warnings and several other tobacco regulations. That decision allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move forward in developing graphic cigarette warnings allowed by a 2009 law that gave the FDA sweeping new authority over tobacco, and other recent court rulings.

The 2009 law requires graphic warnings that cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs and 20 percent of cigarette ads. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a tobacco control advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., the graphic warnings are needed to better inform Americans about the deadly consequences of smoking. According to Tobacco-Free Kids, the current, text-only warnings which are printed on the side of cigarette packs haven’t been updated since 1984 and often go unnoticed.

The appeals court ruling also upheld other key provisions of the law that:

  • Tobacco companies are prohibited from making health claims about tobacco products without FDA review
  • Several forms of tobacco marketing that appeal to children would be banned, including brand name sponsorships; tobacco-branded merchandise such as caps and t-shirts; and free samples of tobacco products
  • Tobacco companies are prohibited from making statements implying that a tobacco product is safer because it is regulated by the FDA.

In a statement released yesterday, Tobacco-Free Kids Executive Director Susan Liss said: “The FDA should move forward aggressively to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use, which is the nation's number one cause of preventable death.” Read more on tobacco.

Task Force Finds Insufficient Evidence for Universal Suicide Risk Screenings
While the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s latest draft guidelines stated that there is not enough evidence to support universal screening to identify people at risk of suicide, it’s still critical for health care professionals to be wary of certain signs, said David Grossman, MD, MPH, a member of the Task Force. "Although we did not find enough evidence to say ‘here are the right questions and tools to find the people who may be at risk for suicide,' doctors should be screening for depression and alcohol abuse disorders in their primary care population," he said. Top risk factors include depression and alcohol abuse. There are approximately 37,000 cases of suicide in the United States each year. Read more on mental health.

Poll: Nearly 1 in 4 High School Students Have Abused Prescription Meds
Approximately 24 percent of high school students have abused prescription drugs, according to a new poll from by Partnership at Drugfree.org. With about 5 million kids admitting to the medication abuse, the rate is up 33 percent since 2008. About 13 percent say they’ve experimented with Ritalin or Adderall, both of which are used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. At the heart of the problem is the misconception by both kids and parents that misusing prescription drugs is not as dangerous as taking other drugs. "The key here is that kids and often their parents are buying into the myth and misunderstanding that prescription drug abuse is a safer way to get high, a safer alternative to street drugs, and that they can control it," said said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO at the Partnership organization. "And it's very important to note that, on this, kids and parents are in the same place. Kids say that they don't think that their parents are going to be upset if they know about this, and parents are essentially saying the same thing." Read more on prescription drugs.

Tags: Public health, News roundups, Tobacco, Mental Health, Prescription drugs