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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

FDA's Achievements in Tobacco Control

In 2009, the Center for Tobacco Products was established within the FDA, allowing the agency to regulate tobacco products. In just two years, five historic regulations have ensured that consumers are fully aware of the dangers of tobacco and discouraged the onset of addiction. 

The five historic regulations are:

• Ban flavored cigarettes – in September 2009, the FDA banned flavored cigarettes, helping to limit youth initiation. Research had shown that tobacco companies were marketing cigarettes in various flavors to youth.
• Restrict youth access to tobacco products – in March 2010, the FDA issued a rule restricting access and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to youth. As a result, fewer retailers are selling tobacco products to youth across the country and enforcement of laws prohibiting sales  of tobacco products is stronger
• Ban misleading advertising claims – in June 2010, the FDA banned the use of claims like “low”, “medium”, and “light” on tobacco packaging to communicate that these products are not actually safer.
• Establish new smokeless tobacco health warnings – also in June 2010, the FDA established new smokeless tobacco warnings to advertise health risks.
• Issue new cigarette health warnings – in June 2011, the FDA released new graphic health warning labels for pack of cigarettes.

The FDA’s issuing of new graphic health warnings was the most significant change to cigarette warnings in 25 years. In addition to text, the new labels include large graphic images highlighting the health consequences of smoking. The national quit line number 1-800-QUIT-NOW is also on every pack.  The warning labels are estimated to reduce the number of smokers by 213,000 in 2013.

Partnership applauds the work of the Center of Tobacco Products and its achievements in the past two years to regulate Americans’ use of these legal, but undeniably harmful, products.

Jenna Frkovich
Tobacco Control Team

Posted by: Alyson Hazen Kristensen at 12:00 AM
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Labels: cigarettewarninglabels, FDA, regulate, tobacco

Friday, October 14, 2011

Not All Screening Tests Help Patients

“First, do no harm.” Most of us know that this phrase is the first tenet of medicine.  Unfortunately, health providers can inadvertently harm patients while trying to help them.  We know that certain tests, procedures, and even advice can unintentionally hurt a patient. We also know, from much research, that more health care doesn’t equal better health. 

The draft prostate cancer screening recommendation recently released by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) brings this issue to the surface.  The USPSTF has recommended that healthy men should not be screened for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening test.  Although relatively inexpensive and painless, the USPSTF’s research found that testing for high PSA levels does not save lives.  In fact, many men suffered significant and lasting negative effects (including impotence) from the required follow-up procedures needed to determine if cancer is present.   The research also uncovered that men that are diagnosed with prostate cancer usually die from something else because their prostate cancer grew very slowly. Thus, the USPSTF has issued a D recommendation for routine PSA testing in healthy men, meaning that the harms of the test outweigh the benefits.  It still encourages shared decision-making between providers and their patients, and emphasizes that this recommendation does not apply to men with symptoms that are highly suspicious for prostate cancer.

Preventing disease is necessary for improving our nation’s health. But not all preventive services are effective.  Not all health care, even screening, is beneficial.  We must examine the evidence, carefully evaluate the harms versus the benefits, and follow wherever the evidence leads us, even if it means deviating from the norm.  As the chair of the USPSTF said, “…evidence — rather than tradition — should drive screening decisions.” Partnership couldn’t agree more.

Jason Spangler, MD, MPH
Chief Medical Officer

Posted by: Alyson Hazen Kristensen at 12:00 AM
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Labels: preventiveservices, prostatecancer, screening

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Celebrating National School Lunch Week

October 10-14 is National School Lunch Week, a time to celebrate the federal program that feeds more than 30 million children every day. For some, this school lunch may be the only meal they eat all day. The national school lunch program is often accused of serving unappetizing, unhealthy processed foods. Last year President Obama signed into law the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act to address many criticisms of the program. Schools now must do more to bring school meals in-line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, such as offering non- or low-fat milk, providing free drinking water, and establishing nutrition standards for foods sold outside of the school meal program. ]

Around the country, schools are improving their cafeteria offerings and implementing interesting and innovative programs to help students eat more healthfully. School gardens are gaining popularity as a way to teach students about where food comes from, as well as provide a source of readily available produce for school meals. Salad bars are becoming more commonplace to encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables. To help schools purchase salad bar equipment, Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative runs a grant program. And many schools are stocking their vending machines with bottled water, 100% juice, baked chips, and other healthier snacks, or even turning off the vending machines for portions of the day.  

American children and adolescents are still a long way from getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, and still consume too many sugary drinks. But small, incremental steps to improve the school food environment are moving them in the right direction.

Alyson Hazen Kristensen
Senior Fellow & Program Officer

Posted by: Alyson Hazen Kristensen at 12:00 AM
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Labels: childnutrition, Schoollunch