Health Highlights: Sept. 1, 2009

In many neighborhoods right now, finding exercise or healthy food isn't easy, and "too often the easiest thing to do is the least healthy, and that goes for kids," family physician Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, chairman of the expert committee that prepared the report and vice president and chief medical officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, told USA Today.

Some of the initiatives outlined in the report will cost money, but Sanchez said that "(benefits from) the relative costs involved far outweigh the cost of doing nothing. Obesity in children leads to some diseases, and the cost of their medical care will go up fairly quickly."

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Tobacco Makers Sue Over FDA Oversight

Two major cigarette makers filed a federal lawsuit Monday, claiming that a new tobacco law, which gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over cigarette marketing, violates their right to free speech.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of Camel cigarettes, and Lorillard Inc., which sells Newport cigarettes, and several other tobacco companies filed the lawsuit against federal authorities, including the FDA, the Associated Press reported.

In a 44-page complaint, the tobacco companies claim provisions of the bill, passed in June, "severely restrict the few remaining channels we have to communicate with adult tobacco consumers," Martin L. Holton III, senior vice president and general counsel for Reynolds, said in a statement.

The companies further claim the law keeps tobacco makers from "making truthful statements about their products in scientific, public policy and political debates."

Reynolds doesn't oppose the whole law, just portions of it, said its spokesman, David Howard.

Under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the FDA can limit nicotine in tobacco products, ban candy flavorings and bar labels such as "light." The FDA cannot ban nicotine or tobacco outright, but it can regulate what goes into tobacco products, make public those ingredients and block specific marketing campaigns, such as those aimed at children, the news service said.

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Docs to Watch for Guillain-Barré After H1N1 Vaccine

Neurologists should be on the lookout for any signs of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in people vaccinated against H1N1 swine flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Neurology announced Monday.

Experts do not expect the 2009 H1N1 vaccine to increase risk of the rare disorder, but are acting out "an abundance of caution," according to a news release from the American Academy of Neurology. Because of its association with the 1976 swine flu vaccine, GBS could be of greater concern with any pandemic vaccine, the release said.

"The active participation of neurologists is going to be critical for monitoring for any possible increase in GBS following 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccination," said Dr. Orly Avitzur, who is directing the AAN effort. The request comes as part of the CDC's national vaccine safety monitoring campaign.

The H1N1 vaccine is still in production. Officials expect that vaccination of high-risk groups -- including health-care workers, infants, children and young adults ages 6 months through 24 years, pregnant women and adults with underlying health conditions -- will start this fall.

In GBS, the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system, causing tingling and weakness in the extremities. It is usually, but not always, treatable.

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