Consumer Health Digest #04-49

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 7, 2004

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

ACSH criticizes smoking coverage by women's magazines. The American Council on Science and Health has analyzed the health- and smoking-related coverage in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Family Circle, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Health, Ladies’ Home Journal, Prevention, Reader’s Digest, Redbook, Self, Shape, Vogue, and Woman’s Day. Its report concluded:

The quantity of information about smoking hazards and smoking cessation continued to increase from past ACSH surveys, and many magazines sent strong and frequent anti-smoking messages. Some magazines used a variety of means to set an anti-smoking tone, for example by discussing the monetary cost or unattractiveness of smoking, or by featuring anti-smoking role models. Further, since cigarette companies have reduced the number of cigarette advertisements in magazines (particularly those with younger readership, under the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry and 46 state governments), readers were exposed to fewer messages promoting smoking (4.3 pages of ads per issue in 1999 and 2000 versus 1.5 pages per issue in the current survey).

However, there was still room for improvement. . . . Only a small fraction of health articles (1.3%, 55 out of 4156) focused primarily on smoking cessation and prevention or on the risks of smoking. . . . Some magazines continued to ignore smoking-related information when it was relevant, downplayed the risks of smoking when they were mentioned, or even sent positive editorial messages about smoking to their readers (the magazines contained a total of 176 “pro-smoking mentions”). Additionally, even after the reduction in cigarette advertisements, readers were still exposed to 390 pages of advertisements that condoned or promoted smoking (contained in the 9 magazines in the sample that carried such ads).

Redbook, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar had the fewest anti-smoking messages. Self, Prevention, and Woman’s Day carried the most. [Weiser R. Smoking and Women’s Magazines, 2001 - 2002, ACSH, Dec 2004] The full report is downloadable from ACSH's Web site.

WBAI terminates Gary Null radio program. The management of WBAI (99.5 FM in New York City) has terminated the "Natural Living" talk show hosted by Gary Null for more than 25 years. The stated reason was that Null had violated station policies by "permitting the use of radio station air time to endorse, campaign or recommend in favor of, or against any candidates for election." [Klepper C. Violation of Fair Campaign Provisions by Gary Null. WBAI Web site, Oct 25, 2004] Null's background and activities are described on Quackwatch.

Pennsylvania AG sues diploma mill. The Pennsylvania Attorney General has filed a civil lawsuit accusing four defendants of marketing bogus academic degrees. The defendants are Craig Barton Poe of Frisco, Texas; Alton Scott Poe of Saint Cloud, Florida; Trinity Southern University (TSU), of Plano, Texas; and Innovative Cellular and Wireless Inc. of Corpus Christi, Texas. TSU's Web site offers degrees based on "previous experience and education" with "no classes to attend, no tests to take." According to the complaint:

The Attorney General's lawsuit seeks to impose civil penalties, obtain restitution for consumers, and bar the defendants from conducting business in Pennsylvania.

FTC charges ephedra and yohimbine marketers. The FTC has charged three related companies in Norcross, Georgia, their corporate officers, and a physician with deceiving consumers through deceptive advertising for their weight-loss and erectile dysfunction products. The charges were filed against National Urological Group, Inc.; National Institute for Clinical Weight Loss, Inc.; Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Jared Wheat; Thomasz Holda; Stephen Smith; Michael Howell; and Dr. Terrill Mark Wright. The Commission’s complaint alleges that the defendants made deceptive claims about the effectiveness and safety of Thermalean and Lipodrene, purported weight-loss products with ephedra, and Spontane-ES, a purported erectile dysfunction product with yohimbine. In addition, the defendants allegedly made the false claim in ads that Warner Laboratories and the National Institute for Clinical Weight Loss were legitimate research or medical facilities engaged in the scientific or medical research and testing of their products The FTC complaint seeks injunctive and other equitable relief including, but not limited to, consumer redress, restitution, and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains. [FTC charges marketers with making deceptive efficacy and safety claims about ephedra and yohimbine dietary supplements. News release, Nov 30, 2004]

Mail-order/online pharmacy guide published. has issued a handbook intended to help consumers judge the integrity of 42 Canadian and U.S. pharmacies that sell through the mail or via the Internet. The book describes how the pharmacies operate, indicates which ones are licensed, and compares the prices of 30 popular drugs. The book sells for about $12 at Amazon Books.

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This page was posted on December 7, 2004.