Consumer Health Digest #14-05

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 9, 2014

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.

Surgeon General calls for tobacco-free society. Following in the 50-year tradition of his predecessors, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., has issued another hard-hitting attack on cigarette use. The report's major conclusions include:

The report further notes:

The science contained in this and prior Surgeon General reports provide all the information we need to save future generations from the burden of premature disease caused by tobacco use. However, evidence-based interventions that encourage quitting and prevent youth smoking continue to be underutilized. This report strengthens our resolve to work together to accelerate and sustain what works—such as hard-hitting media campaigns, smokefree air policies, optimal tobacco excise taxes, barrier-free cessation treatment, and comprehensive statewide tobacco control programs funded at CDC-recommended levels. At the same time, we will explore "end game" strategies that support the goal of eliminating tobacco smoking, including greater restrictions on sales. It is my sincere hope that 50 years from now we won't need another Surgeon General's report on smoking and health, because tobacco-related disease and death will be a thing of the past.

Summaries and the full text of the 980-page report are available online.

CVS will stop selling cigarettes. CVS Caremark will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 drugstores nationwide by October 1, 2014. A company official said that the move would cost an estimated $2 billion in lost sales of cigarettes and other items bought during cigarette-buying visits to the stores. The announcement on the CVS Web site states:

As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role through our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners. By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company. . . . Tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.

An R.J. Reynolds Co. spokesman said that only about 3.6% of cigarettes sold in the U.S. were sold at pharmacies. Nevertheless, every step in our society that further helps to marginalize cigarette smoking is a step in the right direction. CVS also plans to launch national smoking-cessation program this spring. The New York Times has published an excellent article that provides additional perspectives. [Strom S. CVS vows to quit selling tobacco products. New York Times, Feb 5, 2014]

Research review finds little health-related benefit from meditation. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have reviewed whether meditation programs can improve anxiety, depression, mood, mental health-related quality of life, attention, substance abuse, eating habits, sleep, pain, and weight in adults. [Goyal M and others. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014] After examining thousands of reports, the researchers found only 47 studies were sufficiently well-designed to be included in their meta-analysis, which concluded:

The published report did not consider the extent to which meditation is inappropriately recommended to people who would benefit much more from counseling or psychotherapy that helps them identify and deal with the causes of stress responsible for their symptoms.

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This page was posted on February 9, 2014.