September 25th, 2009 10:27 EST
Menthol, Soda, Flu, Toys, and HIV Vaccine
By Curtis Porter
Menthol in the Media
ACSH`s Jeff Stier will be on Vicki McKenna`s radio show at 5:35 pm (eastern time), mainly to discuss menthol cigarettes in the context of the flavored-tobacco ban. You can stream the show live online.
Speaking of menthol, ACSH Advisor and Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health Dr. Mike Siegel explains why the flavor ban is useless posturing on his blog: It is not true that [the banned products] were taken off the market due to the new law. These products were already off the market...It is also not true that "these flavored cigarettes...are a gateway for many children and young adults to become regular smokers.` What is a gateway for many young people are menthol cigarettes. "
ACSH`s Dr. Ross adds: In fact, menthol cigarettes are not banned by the new law -- more evidence of the law`s hypocrisy. "
Setting the Record Straight
Recently, ACSH`s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan participated in a podcast interview to discuss obesity and the proposed soda tax. In light of ACSH`s hard-line resistance to this bill, some people -- including an ACSH Advisor -- have criticized ACSH for siding with the beverage industry " on the controversial question of taxing sugary soda to fight obesity.
Dr. Whelan has a reaction to this criticism: We are not siding with the beverage industry, we are promoting scientific facts about the underlying causes of obesity and correcting misinformation. ACSH is not involved in issues relating to taxes on products, per se, but this tax is specifically proposed to combat obesity with the argument that soda is the main source of excess calories. We know that is patently absurd, as extra pounds and obesity results from excessive calories from all sources and from lack of enough exercise to burn those calories.
In my debates on this subject, I get the distinct impression that proponents of a soda tax know it will not work to curb obesity, but they are strongly in favor of it anyway. Some are in favor of it not as a cure for obesity but as a punitive tax that will generate income for their cause -- punitive in the sense that these people believe drinking soda is, by definition, bad. As Dr. Nancy admitted in my interview on MSNBC last week, she could not help thinking about the "pot of gold` that would be available from a soda tax to fund healthcare reform.
Well, if that were the stated purpose of a soda tax -- to fund healthcare reform, highway construction, child care, or any other cause -- then we at ACSH would not be fighting it, because those issues are outside of our areas of expertise. What we object to is the tax being predicated as a cure for our nation`s obesity woes. As we often say, for every complex problem (in this case obesity) there is always a simple solution (the soda tax) and it never works. "
Gupta Gets Grippe
CNN`s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta contracted H1N1 flu while reporting on the war in Afghanistan. He describes the miserable experience on his blog: I am not someone who gets sick, really ever. And this was the sickest I have ever been. "
When I read his story and heard about the symptoms, I thought about how everyone has been saying that this is a mild disease for most people, " says Dr. Whelan. It didn`t sound like a mild disease. "
Any time you need intravenous fluid, it`s beyond scope of mild, " says ACSH`s Dr. Gilbert Ross. This is how flu can kill you. It can be a very serious disease. If Dr. Gupta were sixty-five years old and he didn`t have access to intravenous fluid, it could have been lethal. I don`t want scare anyone -- just get your flu shot. "
Healthy Stuff " Turns Dollars Into Scares
ACSH staffers were intrigued when we received a Twitter invitation to learn how to make toys healthier. " The provided link was not as educational as promised. I clicked the link to learn how to make toys healthier, and a donation page came up, " recalls Dr. Ross.
This is part of the "Healthy Stuff` group, " says Stier. They`re playing on people`s fears to raise money for their non-profit. These are the same people pushing for phthalate and bisphenol-A bans. "
Dr. Whelan agrees: It`s a scam. "
According to Slate, Researchers announced today that an experimental treatment managed to reduce the risk of becoming infected with the virus that causes AIDS by more than 31%. "
It`s a very minor form of protection, " says Dr. Whelan, but it`s better than no protection, as there has been for so long. "
Dr. Ross adds, Researchers have been trying to develop a vaccine against HIV for twenty-five years without success. This one isn`t extremely effective, but its effects were statistically significant. We can take this incremental advance and build on it. "
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