Wednesday

U.S. Abandons Legal Effort to Require Graphic Warning Labels on Cigarette Packages

Tobacco industry opposition prompts federal government to relent on anti-smoking initiative. The government dropped its legal fight to require cigarette makers to put large, graphic labels on their products warning of the dangers of smoking. It marks a setback for the Food and Drug Administration, which in 2011 said it would require tobacco manufacturers to include ghastly images on cigarette packs. The proposed labels included pictures of disease-ridden lungs and the corpse of a smoker. Some of the biggest U.S. cigarette makers sued, arguing that the labels would violate their First Amendment rights, and succeeded in blocking the plan. Facing a court-imposed deadline, the government dropped its effort to overturn the ruling. The Washington Post

Harvard study says 180,000 deaths annually worldwide are linked to sugary drinks. Most of the deaths are associated with diabetes, but many others are attributed to cardiovascular disease and cancer. The study is the first to estimate such deaths globally. “Our findings should push policy makers worldwide to make effective policies to reduce consumption of sugary beverages,” a study co-author said. But in the U.S., that effort has stalled. Last week, a state struck down a plan by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to limit sugary drinks to 16 ounces. On Monday, Mississippi’s governor signed a law prohibiting cities and counties from restricting the size of soft drinks, or from requiring that restaurants post nutritional information. MyHealthNewsDaily, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report

Doctors and public health experts urge regulation of energy drinks. The 18-member group, in a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said adolescents and children need protection from the possible risks of consuming lots of caffeine. It said scientific evidence has emerged that “caffeine levels in energy drinks pose serious potential health risks.” Separately, Monster Beverage, the nation’s top energy drink marketer, will switch from selling its popular, high-caffeine Monster Energy drink as a dietary supplement to selling it as a beverage. With the change, the company no longer will be required to tell U.S. regulators about reports, such as some disclosed in recent months, linking its products to deaths and injuries. The New York Times

Thirty-one U.S. nuclear power plants ordered to upgrade ventilation systems. The order from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission applies to reactors with designs similar to those that melted down two years ago in Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi disaster. But the NRC stopped short of requiring filtered vents, a move recommended by the commission’s staff and some safety advocates. Filters are required in Japan and much of Europe, but U.S. utilities say they are unnecessary and expensive. The NRC directed its staff to further study the filters and consider other approaches to block release of radiation in an accident. The decision came on a 3-2 vote. The NRC’s head, Allison Macfarlane, cast one of the two votes in favor of requiring the filters. The Associated Press

U.S. appellate court agrees to hear arguments in first lawsuit over Consumer Product Safety Commission database. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said it will hear arguments over a lawsuit involving the consumer product safety database launched in 2011 by the CPSC. As FairWarning has reported, a company that was the target of a consumer complaint succeeded in winning a ruling from a U.S. judge blocking the posting of the complaint, allowing the concern to remain anonymous and keeping court records sealed. Consumer groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, appealed to the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., to unseal the records, arguing that blocking access violates the public’s right to know.

Food and Drug Administration issues warning letter to maker of fat-melting device. The letter to RevecoMED International of Fullerton, Calif., said the company “misbranded” its LipoTRON 3000 device, improperly registering it as a therapeutic massager to avoid FDA review while actually promoting it for weight loss. The company was given 15 business days to explain what it will do to correct the alleged violations. As FairWarning reported, in 2010 whistleblowers provided an FDA criminal investigator with a trove of documents about Reveco’s sales activities. In a statement, the advocacy group Public Citizen praised the FDA for “doing the right thing” with the warning but said it “comes years too late.” A Reveco official didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein, Lilly Fowler and Myron Levin

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