Federal Judge Strikes Down Mandatory Cigarette Health Warning Labels

This week a federal judge ruled in favor of tobacco companies challenging a FDA requirement that would force cigarette manufacturers to place graphic warning labels on their products. “The government has failed to carry both its burden of demonstrating a compelling interest and its burden of demonstrating that the rule is narrowly tailored to achieve a constitutionally permissible form of compelled commercial speech,” U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said. The ruling stems from a 2009 law passed by Congress that required the FDA to enforce new warning requirements, which included manufacturers placing color labels on their products which covered at least half of the packaging space, as well as on 20 percent of print advertisements for cigarettes. Last summer, the FDA unveiled nine warning labels – among them, photographs of charred lungs and corpses – that were expected to be placed on all cigarette packages in the United States by September 2012. Last year, Judge Leon allowed a preliminary injunction which prevented the mandatory warnings from being placed on tobacco products, a decision challenged by the Obama administration and currently awaiting a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling.

Did the FDA Ignore Earlier Reports of Elevated Arsenic Levels in Juices?

When Consumer Reports publisher Consumers Union announced its findings related to an investigation of arsenic levels in several popular fruit juices last month, the uproar was instantaneous. Released just two months after an episode of “The Dr. Oz Show” brought the issue to the public forefront, the Consumer Reports investigation aroused a nationwide debate, raising questions about the safety of juice products as well as Food and Drug Administration standards. What remains mostly unpublicized, however, is that several groups contacted the FDA about elevated arsenic and lead levels in fruit juices earlier this summer – a full two months before “The Dr. Oz Show” episode about arsenic levels in apple juices originally aired. “Right now, there are no standards for juices for arsenic at all, or even heavy metals,” said Judy Braiman, founder of the Empire State Consumer Project,  an advocacy group established in 1986. Braiman’s organization conducted an independent study analyzing heavy metals levels, including arsenic and lead, in several juice products in July, which found arsenic levels higher than the FDA’s established standards for drinking water in several apple juices and sauces.

30-Proof Whipped Cream Spikes New Health Concerns

On the heels of the fight to keep caffeine-packed alcoholic “energy drinks” out of the hands of young people, a new health concern is emerging over a new product — whipped cream with a twist. Cans of flavored alcohol-infused whipped cream, yes whipped cream, with names like Cream and Whipped Lightening have been popping up on local liquor store shelves. Much like the alcoholic energy drinks that the Federal Drug Administration threatened to ban in November (the maker of the controversial Four Loko brand has agreed to remove caffeine and two other ingredients, guarana and taurine), the toppings come in flavors like raspberry, German chocolate, cherry, Amaretto, caramel and vanilla flavors, which are especially inviting to young people. Similarly these so-called “whipahols” also pack a powerful punch at 15 percent alcohol, about 30-proof. Depending on how much is consumed, some experts contend, that can be about three times the amount found in beer.

FDA Bans Energy Drinks with Alcohol

The federal government has ordered beverage companies to stop selling drinks that combine caffeine and alcohol in U.S. markets.  The drinks with names like Four Loko, Joose and Moonshot, are often nicknamed ‘Cocaine in a Can’ or ‘Blackout in a Can’ by teens and young adults.  USAToday.com reports the companies that produce these drinks, including Phusion Projects and United Brands, have 15 days to comply or the FDA may seize their products. The fruit flavored drinks have deceptively high alcohol content and produce what some experts call a ‘wide-awake drunk’ that police link to accidents and illnesses across the country. In Georgia, activists like the Cobb Alcohol Taskforce have been pushing for a ban. Coordinator Cathy Finck told JJIE.org, “When you mix a depressant like alcohol with a stimulant like caffeine it confuses the nervous system in the body… Binge drinking is more likely to occur with this potent mixture. One brand in particular has 12 percent alcohol in just one can.

FDA Panel Rejects Plan to Curb Teen RoboTripping

Cough medicines containing dextromethorphan will continue to be sold over-the-counter, despite concerns that some young people are using it to get high.  A panel of Food and Drug Administration experts has voted against a proposal that would require a doctor’s prescription to buy Robitussin and 140 other cough medicines. Medical News Today reports some panel members were concerned the move would create too much paperwork for pharmacists and clinics. When taken in high doses, cough medicines can cause euphoria and hallucinations. Teens abuse it because it’s cheap and easy to get.  But sometimes the trip goes bad, with nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat and numbness. How big is the abuse problem?

Girls in Detention: HPV Vaccinations

The FDA recommends that all teenaged girls get vaccinated against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a common STD that can lead to cervical cancer.  Researchers at Brown University say the juvenile justice setting provides a unique opportunity to administer the HPV vaccine to a high-risk, medically underserved population. They surveyed youth detention facilities in all 50 states.  They found 39 state offer the HPV vaccine to teen girls in juvenile justice facilities.  But in Georgia facilities the practice is inconsistent. ScienceDirect summarizes this study to be published in the Journal of Adolescent Health