In 2009 the FDA finally acquired the authority to regulate the production and marketing of tobacco. On the marketing front, the tobacco industry fought back with a legal challenge. It claimed the new Congressional law violated the industry’s right to free speech. If cigarette packaging had to feature strong graphic images – one of the provisions of the bill — the industry would required to “stigmatize their own products through their own packaging.”
The lawsuit is still pending, but the results of new marketing requirements have begun to appear. The question remains: Will they be effective?
Scary labels may be counter-production
Martin Lindstrom, a former ad agency executive and expert on the science of marketing, has used neuroimaging to study what makes people buy. In his bestseller Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, he describes a study he conducted on cigarette advertising. He found that especially vivid anti-smoking warnings actually increase a smoker’s craving for cigarettes.
There’s a possible explanation for this in a concept called Terror Management Theory, which includes the idea that a threat to one’s life increases the need for self-esteem. Read more
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a new video on health fraud awareness. A worthy topic. It touches on weight loss products, HIV scams, cures for cancer and diabetes. What’s noteworthy about the video is that it’s SO boring. The inflections of the voiceover are totally inauthentic. It has the pacing of a 1970s newscast. There’s almost no music. It’s not sufficiently interesting to grab and hold anyone’s attention.
News – and not just TV news — has become infotainment. I would be the first to complain that this is a tragedy with major implications. But it’s also a reality. To compete for attention, you need some creativity. The chances that this video had any input from a decent ad agency are slim.
Acetaminophen, whether it’s in Tylenol, Arthritis Pain Relief, Nyquil, or Vicodin, is safe as long as you don’t take too much. The new maximum dose likely to be recommended by the FDA is 2600 to 3250 milligrams a day. That’s ten 325-milligram Tylenols.
Tara Parker-Pope has a question and answer post on the subject in today’s NY TImes. One question is: As a precaution, should consumers switch to other types of over-the-counter pain relief?
Health care reform
(Kennedy-Dodd committee proposal released)
(Is Tylenol (acetaminophen) safe to take every day?)
(Doctors lack training in care of the elderly)
(Michael Jackson and Diprivan (propofol), Jackson’s weight, Jackson’s doctor)
Health care reform
The Senate health committee proposal on health care has been released. Turns out all that fuss over the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report was for nothing, as could have been predicted. The CBO’s report was based on a very incomplete proposal. This roller coaster reporting on health care reform will continue throughout July. Congress would like to wrap things up before their August recess.
There are lots of stories today on the Kennedy-Dodd plan just released. This one from Bloomberg has lots of details. The cost is now $600 billion, not over a trillion. 20 million or 3 percent of Americans would not be covered by health insurance. The previous estimate had been over 30 percent. On the issue of the insurance industry raising premiums for those who become ill:
Health care reform
(Robert Reich; Blaming doctors; Lobbying Congress; Individual mandate)
(FDA and food safety)
Health care reform
Lobbyists who oppose the “public option” component of health care reform are spending big bucks. Robert Reich’s latest blog post on health care documents the dollar amounts: $9.8 million from the AMA since 2000, $6.4 million from Big Insurance in the first quarter of this year, $6.1 million in the first quarter from Pfizer, the world’s largest drug firm. Optimist that he is, he encourages everyone to contact Congress and the White House.
The President can’t do this alone. You must weigh in and get everyone you know to weigh in, too. Bombard your senators and representatives. Organize and mobilize others. And let the White House know how strongly you feel. This is one of those battles that define a presidency. But more importantly, it’s one of those battles that define the state of American democracy.
Here’s a website, Health Care for America Now, that will help you contact members of Congress and connect you to local groups. There’s a rally in Washington, DC on June 25th.
Health care reform
(Obama’s AMA speech; Underlying issues; David Brooks on Obama; Robert Samuelson’s take; WSJ fiction)
(Benefits of alcohol?; Ritalin and unexplained deaths)
(Litigating over free speech; Is the FDA demoralized)
Health care reform
The American Medical Association (AMA) came out last week against any government sponsored insurance plan, but a few days later they back pedaled a bit, saying they’d been misinterpreted and that they were simply opposed to “any public plan that forces physicians to participate, expands the fiscally challenged Medicare program or pays Medicare rates.”
So there was a great deal of anticipation surrounding President Obama’s address to the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago yesterday. Here is a video of the address, compliments of C-SPAN and Kaiser Health News (the clip is about 8 minutes), or if you prefer, you can read the speech as text at the Wall Street Journal.
[T]he president’s speech on Monday was the latest example of an oft-used ploy to press his case: appearing before skeptical audiences, confident of his powers of persuasion but willing as well to say what his listeners do not want to hear. …
“The public option is not your enemy,” Mr. Obama said. “It is your friend, I believe.” Saying it would “keep the insurance companies honest,” the president dismissed as “illegitimate” the claims of critics that a public insurance option amounts to “a Trojan horse for a single-payer system” run by the government. …
Mr. Obama assured skeptics in the audience: “You did not enter this profession to be bean counters and paper pushers. You entered this profession to be healers. And that’s what our health care system should let you be.”
I noted in a previous post (The Altria Earnings Protection Act) that Philip Morris, the major player in the U.S. tobacco industry, was fully supportive of the upcoming Congressional bill that will give the FDA control over tobacco. At the time it seemed to make sense that “Altria,” the newly sanitized name for the same company we used to call Philip Morris, would support the bill, since it gave them an economic advantage against their competitors, who oppose it.
The bill has now emerged from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). In the final rancorous days of disagreement among committee members, the ranking Republican Senator, Mike Enzi, revealed that Philip Morris was not only involved in negotiating the bill, but was actually a co-author. “We need to fight the war on tobacco head on, not sign a peace treaty with Philip Morris, one of the authors and strongest supporters of this bill.” This was not a casual comment where the Senator might have been speaking figuratively. This was in an official post on the HELP Committee website.
Enzi proposed placing tobacco regulation under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where decisions would be made using “science, not politics.” He believed the FDA, concerned with restoring health and keeping the nation’s food supply safe, was not the appropriate organization. Said Enzi: “[The] FDA approves cures, not poisons.” Read more
As I mentioned a few posts back, Altria, the sanitized name for Philip Morris, is the major player in the U.S. tobacco industry. The company spent $12.9 million on lobbying in 2006. And yet they fully support the upcoming bill that gives the FDA control over tobacco, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. All the other big tobacco companies – Reynolds American, Lorillard — oppose the legislation. Why is Altria so supportive?
[B]ecause the firm has read the small print. “This legislation might as well be dubbed the Altria Earnings Protection Act,” says Fortune magazine. For starters, the bill prevents the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from ever banning cigarettes. But just as importantly, the wording makes it extremely unlikely that the FDA will ever approve a new cigarette product because the entrant would have to be deemed “appropriate for the protection of the public health”. So the bill basically featherbeds the dominant tobacco groups’ [Altria’s] share of the market.
Smoking causes lung cancer. We’ve known that for 60+ years. But the regulation of tobacco has happened in slow motion, thanks largely to political lobbying by the tobacco industry. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the FDA could not take it upon itself to regulate cigarettes. It would first need legislative approval from Congress.
With President Bush gone, Congress should finally be voting on FDA regulation of tobacco in 2009. The proposed bill, called the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, was introduced in February 2007 by that health and energy hero, Rep. Henry Waxman. The bill has been out of committee since April 2008. As I mentioned, these things happen slowly.
The proposed bill strengthens restrictions on advertising and youth marketing, and it requires new, stronger warning labels. The Canadians have graphic illustrations of smoking-related diseases directly on a pack of cigarettes. Here’s a whole page of Canadian warning labels. The Canadian graphics are mild compared to the Brazilian warning poster that shows a gruesome case of smoking-related gangrene. The U.S. tobacco bill would presumably usher in Canadian-like labels. It also requires full disclosure of all ingredients in tobacco products and restricts harmful additives. Read more
Roll Call, the daily paper aimed at Washington politicos, gets endorsements such as the following from members of Congress:
Former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.): “Roll Call is a critical and indispensable tool for deciphering the day-to-day maneuverings of Capitol Hill. Roll Call has its finger on the pulse of Congress.”
Former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.): “I get a lot of information from Roll Call that I can’t find in other publications. I have to read it to keep my head above water in this town.”
When you want to send a message to Congress, you can take out a full page ad in Roll Call.
Last year it was tomatoes contaminated with Salmonella. Except not really. After the tomato industry lost $200 million, it turned out it wasn’t tomatoes after all, but jalapeno and serrano peppers from Mexico. Tomatoes aren’t off the hook though. There have been 12 Salmonella-contaminated tomato outbreaks since 1990 serious enough to involve multiple states.
In 2007 it was the bagged spinach food scare, also a Salmonella problem. In 2006, spinach contaminated with pathogenic E. coli was recalled. That was traced by the FDA to a California town where spinach fields were bathed in the runoff from nearby cattle ranches.