US moves to slash nicotine in cigarettes

Updated 15 March 2018
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US moves to slash nicotine in cigarettes

WASHINGTON: US regulators Thursday opened the door to slashing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes in order to make them less addictive, a move that could mean millions fewer smokers in the years to come.
The US Food and Drug Administration said it is seeking public input and will begin “to explore a product standard to lower nicotine in cigarettes to minimally or non-addictive levels.”
Despite decades of anti-smoking campaigns, nearly half a million people die in the United States each year from cigarette smoking, which costs almost $300 billion a year in direct health care and lost productivity, the FDA said.
“We’re taking a pivotal step today that could ultimately bring us closer to our vision of a world where combustible cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction — making it harder for future generations to become addicted in the first place and allowing more currently addicted smokers to quit or switch to potentially less harmful products,” said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
A study released Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine projected that cutting nicotine to a non-addictive level could mean five million fewer smokers in the first year of implementation.
Within five years, another eight million fewer people would smoke, and by 2060, the smoking rate in the United States could drop to 1.4 percent, down from its present level of 15 percent, said the report.
The number of lives saved could reach 8.5 million by century’s end, it said.
Tobacco executives from Altria and R.J. Reynolds expressed interest in the FDA proposal and vowed to work closely with the agency on what is expected to be a process lasting several years.
“Today’s advance notice is a request for information, not a proposed rule, and is the first step in a multi-year process that will require the agency to examine and resolve many complex issues,” said Murray Garnick, executive vice president and general counsel of Altria Group, Inc., which includes tobacco giant Philip Morris.
“As FDA has acknowledged, any proposed nicotine standard would need to be part of a comprehensive package,” he added.
“Altria has already been preparing for any reasonable potential standard, and we plan to participate in every step of this process.”
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids called the FDA plan “bold” and urged the agency to act quickly and set a hard deadline.
“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to greatly accelerate progress in reducing tobacco use — the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death — and bring us closer to eliminating the death and disease it causes,” said the group’s president, Matthew Myers.


Australia offers reward amid mystery strawberry needle scare

wholesale prices had fallen by half to 50 Australian cents per punnet, below the cost of production. (Supplied)
Updated 17 September 2018
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Australia offers reward amid mystery strawberry needle scare

  • Several brands grown in Queensland have been withdrawn from supermarkets, and there have been multiple reports of other cases in the states of New South Wales and Victoria

SYDNEY: An Australian state has offered a large reward for information after sewing needles were found in strawberries sold in supermarkets, in what the federal health minister described as a “vicious crime.”
The issue came to light last week when a man was taken to hospital with stomach pains after eating the fresh produce bought at a supermarket in Queensland state.
Since then, people have posted on social media photos of other strawberries with small metal pins stuck into them.
Several brands grown in Queensland have been withdrawn from supermarkets, and there have been multiple reports of other cases in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
“Whoever is behind this is not just putting families at risk across Queensland and the rest of Australia — they are putting an entire industry at risk,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Saturday.
Her government is offering a Aus$100,000 ($71,500) reward for any information that leads to the capture and conviction of those responsible.
“I would urge anyone with information that may be relevant to this incident in any way to contact police as soon as possible,” she added.
Queensland Police told national broadcaster ABC the contamination of the strawberries — usually sold in small plastic boxes called punnets — was done “obviously to injure somebody.”
They have yet to reveal possible motives but the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association said a disgruntled former worker might be responsible.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Sunday he had ordered the national food safety watchdog to assess the handling of the cases, calling the sabotage a “very vicious crime.”
The Queensland strawberry industry is valued at about Aus$160 million ($114 million). The ABC said Saturday wholesale prices had fallen by half to 50 Australian cents per punnet, below the cost of production.
Consumers have been urged to cut up their strawberries before eating.