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Why Is The FDA Seeking To Ban Menthol Cigarettes?

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Why Is The FDA Seeking To Ban Menthol Cigarettes?


The FDA has opened the public comment period for the agency’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. Epidemiology and global health professor Rafael Meza studies data modeling in disease prevention and cancer risk. David Mendez, who studies smoking cessation and tobacco control policies, is an associate professor of health management and policy. These University of Michigan researchers found that, in a 38-year period, African Americans suffered most of the harmful effects of menthol cigarettes. Now the researchers have developed a model to simulate the possible benefits of the menthol ban, based on studies of population trends in tobacco use. As experts on the behavioral and public health aspects of smoking, they explain the role of menthol in smoking-related illness and death.

What are menthol cigarettes?

Menthol is a chemical compound, obtained naturally from peppermint oil or produced synthetically using thymol, a compound in the herb thyme. When added to tobacco cigarettes, menthol produces a cooling sensation in the mouth and throat. Menthol cigarettes have enough of the compound added to give them that characteristic sensation and minty flavor. Instead of tasting like burning tobacco, menthol cigarettes might bring to mind cough drops or strong breath mints.

Why are menthol cigarettes particularly harmful?

Menthol reduces the harshness of cigarette smoking, making it more palatable for those new to smoking. Most of the experimenters are teens and young adults, who are vulnerable to long-term effects of nicotine on still-developing brains. Among youths who are smokers, about 60% smoke menthols, with even higher rates among Black adolescents. Every year, menthol cigarettes increase the number of individuals who become regular smokers. Those who start with menthols often continue with them.

Our research shows that the harm of tobacco use continues as well. In addition to providing youths a more palatable introduction to smoking, the menthol flavor appears to keep them smoking. People who smoke menthol cigarettes smoke longer over their lifetimes and are less likely to quit. That translates into hundreds of thousands of additional premature deaths from lung cancer, emphysema and diseases made worse by smoking, like heart disease. In our study, we estimated that menthol cigarettes were responsible for 377,000 premature deaths among the U.S. population during the past 40 years.

 

Why has there been a backlash to the FDA’s proposed ban?

Some critics have raised concerns about potential unintended consequences of the proposed ban, particularly for African American menthol smokers. One worry is that banning menthol cigarettes could make Black people subject to arrest for buying or smoking them. Another concern is that a ban might create an illicit market for the cigarettes, particularly in African American neighborhoods.

But the FDA ban is on distributing the cigarettes, not buying, possessing or smoking them. The agency has been clear that it cannot and will not enforce the ban on individual consumers of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars. And Canada’s experience with a similar ban suggests that it is unlikely an illegal market would emerge.

Most importantly, any negative consequences would be outweighed by considerable health gains.

How would a menthol cigarette ban help?

Cigarette smoking prevalence has decreased drastically since the 1960s, thanks to tobacco control interventions like cigarette taxes, smoke-free air laws, marketing restrictions and education campaigns. The prevalence of menthol cigarette smoking, however, has remained relatively constant since 2000, which highlights the need for interventions specifically targeting menthol cigarettes.

We recently estimated that banning menthol cigarettes in the U.S. would translate into a 15% reduction in menthol smoking prevalence and prevent 650,000 premature deaths by 2060. The gains among the Black population would be particularly considerable, with an estimated 255,000 premature deaths averted.

Under a menthol cigarette ban, it’s important that menthol cigarette smokers have help to quit smoking, and not just switch to nonmenthol cigarettes.

David Mendez, Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan and Rafael Meza, Professor of Global Public Health, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.





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Multi-State Listeria Outbreak Causes 1 Death, 1 ‘Fetal Loss’

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Multi-State Listeria Outbreak Causes 1 Death, 1 'Fetal Loss'


A Listeria outbreak has caused nearly two dozen illnesses, with most of the patients living in or having traveled to Florida. One person died while a pregnant patient experienced “fetal loss.”

A total of 23 people have been infected with the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak strain as of Wednesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The illnesses were reported from 10 states. Twelve of the cases were reported in Florida, while eight of the patients who did not live in Florida also reported traveling to the state in the month before they got sick.

That said, “the significance of this is still under investigation,” the CDC noted.

Twenty-two (96%) of the patients had to be hospitalized, with one death reported from Illinois. Five of the patients also fell ill during their pregnancy. One of them experienced a “fetal loss.”

As the CDC explained, pregnant people and their newborns, older adults and those who have weakened immune systems are most at risk of getting sick with Listeria. In pregnant people, it may result in miscarriage, stillbirth or premature delivery even though the illness itself may only be mild. Their newborns may also experience a “life-threatening infection.”

While other people can be infected with Listeria as well, they “rarely become seriously ill.”

“The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses,” the CDC explained. “In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.”

Results of whole-genome sequencing suggest that the patients “likely got sick from the same food.” Authorities are still conducting investigations and interviews to determine what the patients may have eaten before they got sick.

“So far, a common food item has not been identified,” the CDC said.

As such, the agency is urging anyone who may have symptoms of Listeria to list the foods they remember eating in the month before they got sick to help “solve the outbreak.”

Symptoms of Listeriosis may be flu-like in pregnant people. In those who aren’t pregnant, the symptoms may include headache, fever, stiff neck, convulsions, loss of balance, confusion and muscle aches. They may also experience food poisoning symptoms such as diarrhea.

According to the CDC, symptoms of “severe illness” typically begin about two weeks after eating the contaminated food. But there are also cases in which the symptoms are reported “as early as the same day or as late as 70 days after.”

“If you are at higher risk for Listeria infection and have symptoms, especially if you recently traveled to Florida, talk to your healthcare provider,” the CDC noted.





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Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Monkeypox?

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Omicron And COVID Boosters: Everything You Need To Know


After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the United States already recorded about 300 monkeypox cases, the U.S. government has decided to roll out vaccines to contain the situation as soon as possible. 

The Biden administration has already confirmed that it will roll out 296,000 doses of the only monkeypox vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, it’s unclear who should be getting the Jynneos vaccine doses amid the outbreak. 

Last month, the CDC issued a warning, saying members of the LGBTQ community have a higher risk of contracting the virus. The disease is technically not transmitted sexually, but initial reports on the outbreak found that gays and bisexual people accounted for most of the cases. 

Since the virus spreads via contact with body fluids and sores, it can be passed to other people through sexual intercourse, intimate contact and even shared beddings. This prompted the public health agency to issue safer sex guidelines earlier this month. 

The CDC encouraged the public not to kiss and have sex if their partner has monkeypox symptoms or recently developed unexplained rashes or sores. The agency also advised against sharing towels, fetish gear, sex toys and other personal items to avoid the spread of the disease. 

Health officials have warned that the main driver of the growing number of monkeypox cases is making close contact, especially sexual contact. They also singled out the people who should be getting jabbed with the monkeypox vaccine to prevent the outbreak from getting bigger. 

Per the CDC recommendations, the following should receive the Jynneos vaccine for monkeypox: people who have had close contact with a monkeypox patient, men who have sex with men, sexually active transgender people, health care workers who have come in contact with the virus and people who have traveled outside of the U.S. to places with confirmed monkeypox activity. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) noted that transgender people and gender-diverse people could be vulnerable in the context of the monkeypox outbreak, so they should get vaccinated. However, the organization pointed out that regardless of sexuality, everyone is at risk of contracting or passing on the virus. 

Since its detection outside Africa in May, the virus has already spread to 48 countries and infected over 3,500 people. In a new study published this week, scientists said the rapid transmission of the disease could be a product of the virus’ “accelerated evolution.”





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US Secures 105 Million Doses Of Pfizer Vaccine For Fall

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Third COVID-19 Vaccine Dose Protection Only Good For 3 Months?


The United States on Wednesday announced an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech for 105 million doses of Covid vaccine for Americans this fall.

The $3.2 billion contract, signed between the companies and the US health and defense departments, includes vaccines for babies, young children, teens and adults, and may include Omicron-specific vaccines, which a panel of government experts recommended on Tuesday.

Delivery will begin in late summer and continue into the fourth quarter, the companies said. The contract gives the US the option to procure up to 300 million doses.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to doing everything we can to continue to make vaccines free and widely available to Americans – and this is an important first step to preparing us for the fall,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

President Joe Biden’s administration has asked Congress for $23.5 billion in additional Covid funding, but a bill has not yet been passed.

As a result, the federal government “was forced to reallocate $10 billion in existing funding, pulling billions of dollars from Covid-19 response efforts” the statement said, with the new vaccines procured through this reallocation.

White House officials have previously said that without new funding, future vaccines might only be given for free to those at highest risk.





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