Health officials cracking down on smoking with graphic tobacco control strategy
WASHINGTON The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday unveiled a new comprehensive tobacco control strategy that includes proposed new bolder health warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements. Once final, these health warnings on cigarettes and in cigarette advertisements will be the most significant change in more than 25 years.
“Every day, almost 4,000 youth try a cigarette for the first time and 1,000 youth become regular, daily smokers,” stated HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Today marks an important milestone in protecting our children and the health of the American public.”
The strategy includes a proposal issued by the Food and Drug Administration titled “Required Warnings for Cigarette Packages and Advertisements.” Specifically, the proposed rule details a requirement of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that nine new larger and more noticeable textual warning statements and color graphic images depicting the negative health consequences of smoking appear on cigarette packages and in cigarette advertisements. The public has an opportunity to comment on 36 proposed images through Jan. 9, 2011.
By June 22, 2011, the FDA will select the final nine graphic and textual warning statements after a comprehensive review of the relevant scientific literature, the public comments and results from an 18,000 person study. Implementation of the final rule (Sept. 22, 2012) ultimately will prohibit companies from manufacturing cigarettes without new graphic health warnings on their packages for sale or distribution in the United States. In addition, manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers will no longer be allowed to advertise cigarettes without the new graphic health warnings in the United States. By Oct. 22, 2012, manufacturers can no longer distribute cigarettes for sale in the United States that do not display the new graphic health warnings.
“Today, the FDA takes a crucial step toward reducing the tremendous toll of illness and death caused by tobacco use by proposing to dramatically change how cigarette packages and advertising look in this country. When the rule takes effect, the health consequences of smoking will be obvious every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes,” stated FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg. “This is a concrete example of how the FDA’s new responsibilities for tobacco product regulation can benefit the public’s health.”
In addition to the announcements made Wednesday, other recent tobacco control and prevention efforts include:
- The Affordable Care Act is giving Americans in private and public health plans access to recommended preventive care, such as tobacco-use cessation, at no additional cost;
- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invested $225 million to support local, state and national efforts to promote comprehensive tobacco control and expand tobacco quit-lines;
- The Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act aims to stop the illegal sale of tobacco products over the Internet and through mail order, including the illegal sale to youth;
- The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gives the FDA authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing and distribution of tobacco products. Significant progress already has been made by restricting the use of the terms “light,” “low” and “mild,” banning characterizing fruit, candy and spice, flavors from cigarettes, and putting in place restrictions on the sale and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to youth; and
- The Children’s Health Insurance Program Re-authorization Act raised the federal cigarette tax by 62 cents per pack. Raising the price of tobacco products is a proven way to reduce tobacco use, especially among such price-sensitive populations as youths.
Drugstore.com reminds FSA customers to use account money before year’s end
BELLEVUE, Wash. Drugstore.com on Tuesday released a statement reminding flexible spending account participants that they need to use the money left in their accounts by the end of the year or they will lose it.
"Drugstore.com had the first FSA-only online store, and we’re proud to be a reliable source of information to help customers save on healthcare costs now and in the future," said David Lonczak, Drugstore.com VP. "We recommend that customers make strategic purchases this year, because healthcare reform is changing FSA rules in the coming year."
Beginning Jan. 1, new regulations will reduce the number of over-the-counter products automatically eligible for FSA, Drugstore.com noted. Some of those products will continue to be covered, but only with a doctor’s prescription. Item eligibility and information will be updated online at Drugstore.com/FSA to reflect the changes.
AMCC, Walgreens drive awareness around expired medicines in the home
DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens on Wednesday released a survey that found 2-in-5 American households have at least one bottle of expired over-the-counter medicine in their medicine cabinets. In addition, when consumers dispose of medication, more than 60% of those surveyed said they disposed of medications in the household garbage.
The most common OTC medications that shoppers had on hand include pain relievers, cough-cold treatments and allergy relief.
Walgreens’ research is timely, especially considering the amount of awareness presently being raised around those medicine cabinets and proper medicine disposal. This Saturday, Nov. 13, the American Medicine Chest Challenge — a public health initiative to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse — will be held in thousands of communities. And while AMCC’s primary focus is the prevention of teenage abuse of those medicines found in mom and dad’s medicine cabinet, the challenge still will prompt many of those parents to poke around, and thereby discover those expired medicines.
The initiative is asking parents to take a five-step challenge — take stock of those medicines in the home; secure the medicine chest; take medicine only as prescribed or according to the drug facts label; dispose of unused, unwanted and expired medicine; and talk to their children around the dangers of medicine. Partnering with AMCC around the initiative are the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the Partnership at DrugFree.org and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
In September, Walgreens launched the first ongoing, nationwide Safe Medication Disposal Program, a safe and environmentally responsible alternative way to dispose of unused or expired medications. For $2.99, customers can purchase a specially designed envelope available at any Walgreens pharmacy counter that allows them to place, seal and mail prescription or over-the-counter medications they no longer use for safe, eco-friendly disposal. Outside of the recent Walgreens solution, information on where to dispose of medicines can be found on AmericanMedicineChest.com.
The Walgreens survey also found that 55% of consumers suggested they knowingly would use those expired drugs, especially if the expiration date was within a few months passed. And though most parents more frequently tend to check expiration dates, more than one-third said they have given their children medication that had expired in the previous six months.
“With cough-cold and flu season now well under way, consumers should check for medications on hand, note expiration dates and replace commonly used medications as needed to make sure they’re prepared to immediately meet their family’s needs in the event of an illness,” stated Walgreens chief medical officer Cheryl Pegus. “Coming down with an illness and not having an OTC pain reliever or cough-cold medication readily available only makes the situation worse,” Pegus said. “To ensure that you have safe medications at home, you should check your medicines for expiration dates with each change of season.”