Gov't vs. Smokers, PSA Man vs. PSAs, Booze vs. Fat, Herd vs. Bugs, NY vs. Salt

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Jeff in Forbes

ACSH s Jeff Stier is a media machine. His latest article appears in Forbes, where he argues that President Obama might find it easier to quit smoking if his FDA would approve harm-reduction products like snus and e-cigarettes: As long as the FDA isn't willing to offer smokers more options, smokers will be left -- like the President -- to choose between the same old [nicotine replacement therapy] products with miserably low success rates and the cigarettes that kill nearly half a million Americans each year. Perhaps the FDA should take some of those e-cigarettes they want to confiscate and share them with the President.

A Hugely Expensive Public Health Disaster

The man who discovered Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), which is used to test men for prostate cancer, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he explains why the popularity of PSA screening has led to a hugely expensive public health disaster.

He reiterates ACSH s argument that the test is problematic because of its lack of distinction between lethal and non-lethal cases of prostate cancer, and he asks, So why is it still used? Because drug companies continue peddling the tests and advocacy groups push prostate cancer awareness by encouraging men to get screened.

The second reason is much more important, says ACSH s Dr. Whelan. Advocacy groups and celebrity men who have survived prostate cancer -- like former Senator Bob Dole -- have been pushing this test so hard without ever mentioning the negative consequences. It s amazing to have the physician who discovered PSA take such a strong stance against it. ACSH admires his courage and honesty in doing so.

Drink Your Booze to Lose?

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who consumed a light to moderate amount of alcohol gained less weight and were less likely to become overweight or obese than women who drank no alcohol.

What possible explanation could they offer here? asks Dr. Whelan. There has to be some kind of confounding lifestyle factor affecting the data.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross agrees: It s a typical example of a statistical association without biological plausibility. This is clearly a statistical fluke, the opposite of a cause-and-effect relationship.

Community Immunity

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded, Immunizing children and adolescents with inactivated influenza vaccine significantly protected unimmunized residents of rural communities against influenza.

The study clearly showed that vaccinating children protected the whole community from influenza, says Dr. Ross. This is exactly in sync with the evidence from Japan in the 1970s and 80s. They had a law back then requiring all schoolchildren to be vaccinated against the flu, and it was found that while the prevalence of flu went down among children, the mortality rate among older people went down as well. I m not sure why that mandate was revoked. ACSH called for a similar mandate in the U.S. beginning in 2005, and in 2008 the CDC made that recommendation for America s schoolchildren.

Ortiz s Raises the Bar for Anti-Salt Craziness

New York State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz proposed a bill that would prohibit the use of salt in restaurants for food preparation.

When I saw this, I thought it was from The Onion, says Dr. Whelan.

ACSH s Cheryl Martin is dumbfounded: You ve got to be kidding.

ACSH s Todd Seavey adds, We are approaching the point where someone protesting regulatory restrictions in New York City may well be seen parking a car in Times Square while defiantly smoking, salting food full of trans fats, and drinking soda -- not that we recommend absolutely all of those things.

Curtis Porter is a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health (