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September 2013

ATS Applauds EPA's Proposed Rules to Limit Carbon Emissions from New Power Plants

The American Thoracic Society is pleased that President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are moving forward with proposed rules to reduce carbon emissions from new power plants.

 “Climate change caused by carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases is known to have a number of adverse effects on human health, including respiratory health,” said John R. Balmes, MD, chair of the ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee. “These include asthma exacerbations,,increases in hospital and emergency room visits, and increased mortality among individuals with preexisting cardiopulmonary disease.”

“The evidence base supporting the link between climate change and adverse health consequences, which comes from a number of scientific disciplines, is extensive,” said Dr. Balmes.

A recent ATS workshop report on the Respiratory Health  Effects of Global Climate Change enumerated a number of the adverse effects on respiratory health of global climate change, which  include: 

  • changing pollen releases impacting asthma and allergic rhinitis,
  • heat waves causing critical care–related  diseases,
  • climate-driven air pollution increases exacerbating asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular diseases,
  • desertification increasing particulate matter (PM) exposures,
  • and climate-related changes in food and  water security impacting infectious respiratory disease through malnutrition (pneumonia, upper respiratory infections).

The ATS supports research to explore the human health effects of climate change and supports state, federal and international policy coordination to develop adaptive strategies to respond to the predicted human health effects of climate change. 

“We support the efforts of President Obama and the EPA to reduce the harmful emissions of greenhouse gasses from power plants and call on the U.S. to lead an international effort to reduce global emissions of these gases,” said Dr. Balmes. “The rules proposed today are a strong step in the right direction toward mitigating climate change.”
For further comment, Dr. Balmes, professor in residence at the University of California, San Francisco, can be reached at jbalmes@medsfgh.ucsf.edu.

American Thoracic Society Urges Quick FDA Action on Regulation of All Tobacco Products

Today, September 22nd 2013, marks the four-year anniversary of the FDA’s action – as directed by Congress – to remove all candy flavored cigarettes from market.  The FDA has also taken other steps mandated by Congress to reduce tobacco use in the U.S, including requiring product ingredient disclosure and graphic warning labels on cigarettes, good manufacturing provisions and advertising restrictions.   Despite these important actions, FDA has failed to take action on other dangerous tobacco products like e-cigarettes and cigars.  The American Thoracic Society demands FDA move forward to proposed rules to bring cigars, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products under FDA federal regulation.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions recently released data showing that 1.78 million children have tried e-cigarettes.  Like their traditional cigarette predecessors, e-cigarettes are addictive and have known adverse health effects.  Also like their traditional cigarette predecessors, many e-cigarettes are being made with flavorings – such as grape, cherry and menthol – that are designed to appeal to children. 

Many cigar manufacturers are also making products intentionally designed to appeal to children.  Candy flavored cigars come in a wide range of flavors – chocolate, grape, apple, blueberry – and, priced at 99 cents per cigar or $1.99 for a pack of 3, are clearly within the price range of most kids. 

The bad news is that these flavorings combined with marketing tactics are working.  While cigarette use declined 33 percent between 2000 and 2011, use of large cigars increased 233 percent during this period. Other recent data from the CDC shows that among high school males, nearly as many smoke cigars (15.7%) as cigarettes (17.7%).  For black high school males cigar use (11.7%) exceeds cigarette use (10.6%).

Today, e-cigarettes and cigars are being manufactured, marketed and sold without any FDA regulations.  No warning labels, no disclosure of ingredients, no requirement for safe manufacturing practice, no advertising restrictions.

In 2009, Congress gave the FDA authority to regulate all tobacco products.  While the FDA has made real progress on regulating cigarettes, they have  not taken any action on cigars and e-cigarettes. Unfortunately, the tobacco industry has.  Big Tobacco has escaped the candy flavored cigarette ban by offering candy flavored cigars. Big Tobacco has sought to escape smoking bans by creating smokeless e-cigarettes.  It is time for the FDA to use its authority.  The ATS calls on the FDA to move quickly to issue public health-based regulations on cigars, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.  Further delay will mean more children getting hooked on these products and more tobacco-related death and disease.