Be warned: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has unveiled a series of 13 graphic images that cigarette makers would be required to display on their packaging under a proposed rule to take effect in 2021, The Washington Post reports. Among them are pictures of a vial of bloody urine, feet with amputated toes, a sick child wearing an oxygen mask, and a very small newborn. About 120 countries already require such stark warning labels. It’s been a decade since Congress directed the FDA to mandate graphic labels as a smoking deterrent, in line with anti-smoking campaigns now in place around the world and with research showing smokers are more likely to try to quit when faced with such pictures of their own potential future. But cigarette companies successfully argued in court that, by demonizing them, a prior set of proposed labels violated their First Amendment rights. FDA commissioner Ned Sharpless said the latest batch more closely demonstrates the factual dangers of smoking, NPR reports. “Given that tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., there’s a lot at stake to ensure the public understands these risks,” he said in a press release. It remains to be seen whether these, too, will be delayed by legal challenges from the tobacco industry.
# # #
Peddling nicotine on TV: Cigarette companies haven’t been able to advertise their wares on television since Congress outlawed the practice nearly a half a century ago. But there’s no such law that applies to e-cigarettes. Lately, VUSE, the e-cig device made by a unit of R.J. Reynolds, has been heavily promoted on TV. And Juul, the largest maker of vaping devices, has launched a $10 million TV ad campaign that tells the story of former cigarette smokers who have switched to vaping, writes Michelle Andrews of Kaiser Health News. It’s part of a broader effort by the company, under pressure for its role in driving an e-cigarette epidemic among teens, to recast itself as one with a public health mission. E-cigarettes don’t produce cancer-causing tar, like cigarettes, Andrews notes, but they do contain addictive nicotine.
- Also: President Trump donated his second quarter salary to the U.S. Surgeon General’s office to address the opioid crisis and the surge in youth e-cigarette use, The Hill reports. –– Since the end of June, 94 people in 14 states, mostly teens and young adults, have developed severe lung disease after vaping, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illnesses included coughing, fatigue and in some cases serious breathing problems, Reuters reports. The exact cause hasn’t been determined but the agency said it appeared to be linked to e-cigarettes. –– E-cigarette manufacturers have filed a lawsuit aimed at delaying a May deadline to submit products for review by the FDA, the Associated Press reports.
# # #
Nurdle noodle: Oil companies are increasing their investment in plastic production, with hundreds of new factories proposed or permitted across the U.S., and that means a major boom for a tiny threat: the plastic nurdle. Zoë Schlanger of Quartz explains why they are such a problem. “Nurdles are about the size of a lentil,” she writes. “And like anything tiny and round, they are tough to keep track of. They roll away. They tumble into waterways. The wind can blow them around. In the vicinity of plastic manufacturing or packaging plants, nurdles have been documented spilling onto the ground and tumbling out of water discharge pipes.”
- Also: Maybe your state has banned certain kinds of plastic packaging. Or maybe it has banned bans. National Geographic maps the complicated terrain of plastic politics. –– Consumer Reports offers tips on how to “eat less plastic.”
# # #
Fluoride on the mind: A study of more than 500 mothers and babies in six Canadian cities found that the children of women who consumed more fluoride had lower IQs, further stirring the debate about whether adding fluoride to public water systems to prevent tooth decay is a public health gain or an overall threat, Richard Harris of NPR reports. The difference in IQ was a couple of points, and the results were somewhat complicated, with only boys showing a decrease correlated with a mother’s urinary fluoride test. But all children showed a decrease when measured by maternal intake or concentration of fluoride in the water supply. David Bellinger, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital who wrote a commentary accompanying the study in JAMA Pediatrics, told Harris that the study raises important questions worth exploring but isn’t decisive about the benefits or risks of fluoridated water. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement saying the study hasn’t changed its support for optimally fluoridated tap water. (FairWarning has reported on the trouble with excessive fluoridation.) Economist Emily Oster, who has written two books aimed at making statistical sense of some of the most problematic questions in pregnancy and early parenthood, tweeted her assessment of the study, saying that the issue requires further study but she suspects the results may be more “statistical accident” than significant findings.
# # #
Corn dogs and climate change: Democrats vying to become their party’s nominee for president aren’t just talking about climate change this election cycle–they’re talking about it at the Iowa State Fair. Candidates talked with fair goers about how agriculture can be part of the solution, and several discussed how challenging Big Ag can reduce the climate effects of overproduction while also protecting the livelihood of farmers. “That the candidates are discussing climate change in the context of agriculture—in a heavily agricultural state where voters went for Trump in 2016—suggests a political shift, driven in part by the extreme weather that’s increasingly challenging Midwestern farmers,” Georgina Gustin of InsideClimate News writes.
- Also: A leading scientist studying the health effects of climate change at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has filed a whistleblower complaint, saying he has been silenced, banned from speaking publicly about his work and even from setting foot on the agency’s campus without prior permission, InsideClimate News reports. ––Remember that mysterious spike in global methane emissions? There’s new evidence suggesting it may be linked to U.S. fracking to produce natural gas, reports David Roberts of Vox. A group in Iceland commemorated the death of a huge glacier (it is now a lake), and Prime Minister –– In National Geographic, Jenny Howard asks whether birds that are already adapting to global heating can change fast enough.
# # #
On the hook for overpayment: A federal judge ordered the former chief executive of Sentry Equipment Erectors and the bank who worked with him to pay more than $6.5 million to an employee stock plan after forcing workers at the Virginia company to overpay for the stock in 2010. The employee stock ownership plan paid $406 for each of former executive Adam Vinoskey’s 51,000 shares though the stock had recently been appraised at $285 per share. The overpayment “hurt the workers,” Preston Rutledge, an assistant Secretary of Labor, said in a press release. Evolve Bank failed to respond to red flags in the appraisal that set the higher stock price, and Vinoskey “knew, or should have known” that the stock was overpriced, the press release said.
- Also: A tech company formerly known as CSG Xerox World agreed to pay $175,000 to settle claims that it systematically discriminated against hundreds of job candidates who were female, Asian or African American. The company, now called Conduent Commercial Solutions, also agreed to offer jobs to 138 former applicants. –– Michael Anthony Wheeler has been sentenced to five years of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay $327,087 in back wages after investigators found he falsified visa applications for foreign workers he said would be doing agricultural work but were instead doing lawn care for Tri-State Lawn Care, which operates in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. He also failed to pay a prevailing wage or overtime, and he charged workers for housing and transportation, in violation of the visa program rules, according to a press release. –– Pennsylvania packaging company Havpak Inc. has agreed to pay $358,040 in back wages and civil penalties to settle claims that it failed to pay required overtime to temporary workers.
# # #
Clean Power challenge: Democratic leaders of 22 states and seven local governments have filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration decision to undo the Obama-era Clean Power Act by giving states more authority over the future of coal-fired power plants. Lisa Friedman of The New York Times writes that the case is the most significant challenge to the president’s environment rollbacks to date and seems likely to make it to the Supreme Court. If the justices rule with Trump, the case could ultimately limit the ability of future presidents to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
- Also: Indian industrial giant Adani is tapping an immense coal reserve in Australia, using it to power generators in India and selling the power in Bangladesh. Times reporters explain the long-range, global climate consequences.
Chelsea Conaboy is a FairWarning contributor and freelance writer and editor specializing in health care. Find more of her work at chelseaconaboy.com.