Consumer Health Digest #12-42
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 29, 2012
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.
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Judge orders corrective tobacco ads. A federal judge has ordered eight tobacco companies to publish statements which admit that they "deliberately deceived the American public" about smoking's harmful effects. The order calls for five categories of statements based on the court's findings: (a) a lengthy list of adverse health effects, (b) addictiveness of smoking and nicotine, (c) lack of significant health benefit from smoking "low tar," "light," "mild," and "natural" cigarettes, (d) cigarette design and content were manipulated to make them more addictive, and (e) adverse effects of secondhand smoke. The lawsuit, filed in 1999 by the U.S. Justice department, alleged that the companies had engaged in a pattern of deception for more than 50 years. In 2006, in a 1,682-page opinion, the judge agreed and said she would require the companies to pay for corrective advertising. This week's order spelled out what the notices must say. The defendants have not yet indicated whether they plan to appeal.
Suit attacks "conversion therapy" providers. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit accusing a New Jersey organization of consumer fraud for offering conversion therapy services with false claims. [SPLC files groundbreaking lawsuit accusing conversion therapy organization of fraud. SPLC news release, Nov 27, 2012] The suit, brought in state court by four former clients and two of their parents, alleges that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), its founder Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing violated New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act by claiming to cure clients of being gay. The complaint states:
- The underlying premise of conversion therapy—that a person can "convert" to heterosexuality—has no basis in scientific fact.
- Customers typically pay a minimum of $100 for weekly individual counseling sessions and another $60 for group therapy sessions.
- Counselors at JONAH use techniques that encourage clients to blame their parents and to participate in violent role play exercises where they beat effigies of their mothers.
- Some sessions involved clients undressing in front of a mirror and even a group session where young men were instructed to remove their clothing and stand naked in a circle with Downing, who was also undressed.
- Another session involved a subject attempting to wrest away two oranges, which were used to represent testicles, from another individual.
- Aside from being junk science, conversion therapy also promotes the idea that gay men and lesbians choose their sexual orientation, a position that encourages anti-gay bigotry.
- Conversion therapy has been discredited by major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.
- Before founding JONAH, Goldberg, was convicted of three counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government. He was ultimately disbarred from being an attorney.
Thermography under attack. Health Canada is advising Canadians that no thermography (thermal imaging) machines have been approved to screen for breast cancer in Canada. In a news release, the agency noted:
- Thermography has not been proven effective as a screening technique for the early detection of breast cancer. As such, it may present a potential risk to women relying on the results.
- Thermography machines are not a replacement for routine monitoring and screening for breast cancer. Patients who have relied on these types of machines for breast cancer screening should contact their physician for appropriate follow-up and testing.
- Health Canada is reminding providers that is illegal to advertise or sell thermography machines to screen for breast cancer in Canada. This could result in a stop sale of any unlicensed product. Health Canada is also working with the Canada Border Services Agency to stop any unlicensed devices from entering Canada.
- Health Canada will be advising territorial ministries of health that clinics falling under their responsibility should not be promoting or using these devices to screen for breast cancer. [Thermography machines not authorized to screen for breast cancer, Health Canada media advisory, Nov 28, 2012]
Health ministers in at least two Canadian provinces have issued cease-and-desist orders to clinics. [Clinics ordered to stop 'useless' breast cancer tests. CBC News, Nov 27, 2012] Australian agencies are also warning consumers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters but has failed to take further action against continuing violators.
This page was posted on November 29, 2012.