No timeline for proposed menthol ban – Politico

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Quick Fix

— City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the body is “not under an artificial deadline” to pass a proposed ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes.

— The National Transportation Safety Board wants to ban all doors-off helicopter flights that place passengers in restraints until federal regulators can evaluate the safety of such equipment. The call comes more than a year after five people died when their tourism helicopter crashed into the East River and they weren’t able to free themselves from their restraints.

— Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law limits on household cleaners and personal care products with certain types of chemicals in them. The chemical, 1,4-dioxane, is a likely carcinogen.

Policy and Politics

MENTHOL DELAYS — POLITICO’s Amanda Eisenberg: City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes will gain steam now that advocates are working together to hammer out enforcement language — but advocates have been suggesting similar fixes to the bill for months, leaving some to believe the controversial ban will be indefinitely shelved.

… The ban had wide support in the Council as well as among black leaders and public health advocates. Rev. Al Sharpton effectively stopped the bill in its tracks, though, when he raised fears over further criminalizing the black community, which overwhelmingly smokes menthol cigarettes. As a result, Johnson, a likely mayoral candidate in 2021, left the bill behind in November when passing a similar measure to ban the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products, despite the overwhelming support. But menthol ban advocates have said they’ve discussed ways to address the enforcement concerns at length and their ideas were essentially ignored.

DEATH TRAP — POLITICO’s Brianna Gurciullo: A helicopter crashed into New York’s East River last year because the operator used a dangerous harness-and-tether system to strap in passengers who were taking photos of New York City, the National Transportation Safety Board said this week. … The NTSB wants a ban on all “doors-off helicopter flights that place passengers in supplemental … restraints until federal regulators can better evaluate the safety” of such equipment. It also recommended that the FAA close the “aerial photography” loophole and review helicopter flotation systems.

ICYMI — POLITICO’s Marie J. French: Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed limits on household cleaners and personal care products including makeup and shampoos with 1,4-dioxane into law on Monday. The measure, backed by environmental advocates and Long Island lawmakers, is part of a response to the crisis of 1,4-dioxane contaminating water systems across the state, but particularly in that region. The chemical, which is a likely carcinogen, was used in many industrial processes and is present in trace amounts in some detergents, shampoos and cosmetics.

Odds and Ends

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NOW WE KNOW — Nike is launching a shoe designed for medical professionals, according to the “Today” show.

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TODAY’S TIP — Understand the terms of your health plan and set realistic goals, like avoid disaster, when choosing health insurance this year, according to a guide from Kaiser Health News.

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STUDY THIS — Psychiatric News reports: “Almost half (48%) of children and adolescents with a psychotic disorder said they recently had suicidal thoughts or had in the past considered death by suicide when interviewed in the emergency department using a brief screening questionnaire, according to a report published this week in Psychiatric Services.”

Around New York

FACEBOOK ADS — Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged Facebook on Tuesday to immediately remove ads that reportedly question the safety and effectiveness of HIV-prevention drug Truvada, which he argued are being pushed by “fear-mongering attorneys who lack medical credentials.” “Health officials and federal regulators have been clear that Truvada — or PrEP — is safe and effective. … I urge New Yorkers to listen to their health care providers and not be swayed by these disturbing and misleading advertisements, which have no place in New York and must be taken down immediately.”

CHILD CARE FUNDING — Cuomo also announced that New York was awarded $20 million in federal funding to expand its Child Care Assistance program. The state Office of Children and Family Services will administer the funding for child care services provided through September 2021, officials said. More than a dozen localities successfully applied for the funding to reduce or eliminate wait lists for subsidized child care or to support innovative child care programming.

HEMP OVERSIGHT — The Times Union reports: “The agency governing New York’s hemp industry ‘does not always follow established practices’ when reviewing applications, inspecting growers and sampling the levels of the intoxicating ingredient in the cannabis plant, an audit from the state comptroller’s office found.”

VACCINATION CASE DISMISSED — A judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by more than 50 families challenging the state’s vaccination law, reports.

LIKE A ‘WAR ZONE’ — The New York Post reports: “Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday ordered the state health department to probe allegations of ‘horrific’ overcrowding and understaffing at Mount Sinai Hospital’s emergency department following a Post exposé.”

FOOD PANTRY ANXIETY — Local pantries are preparing for an influx of people needing provisions as the Trump administration moves to tighten food stamp rules, reports. Food pantries are often understocked.

Pharma Report

‘TOBACCO’ PRODUCTS — The Washington Post reports: “The Food and Drug Administration can regulate e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes, an appeals court said Tuesday, finding the products are ‘indisputably highly addictive and pose health risks, especially to youth, that are not well understood.’”

NOT SO FAST — STAT News reports: “Large pharmaceutical companies oppose legislation being considered by Congress to lower the prices of prescription drugs. Reducing their revenues, they contend, will reduce their investment in drug development and the discovery of new medicines, and thus lead to a decline in drug innovation. If that argument is credible, there should be evidence to show that the large pharmaceutical companies are responsible for discovering innovative new drugs.”

What We’re Reading

SHE SAID — Our colleagues in D.C. report: Medicare chief Seema Verma allegedly retained a lawyer to discuss a claim that President Donald Trump’s first Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, was creating a hostile work environment, according to an internal 2017 memo prepared by a HHS appointee.

LEAK WARS — The Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Armour has a story about the possible origin of stories that were critical of Verma, who’s currently locked in a policy dispute with the head of CMS’s parent agency, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “At least one email from one of the communications consultants was in the possession of the HHS Office of the General Counsel before it was provided to reporters at Politico and the Washington Post last month, according to the Nov. 23 internal review by CMS staff. ‘We are concerned that there may be HHS officials communicating with the media about the contractor stories,’ states the review, which was compiled by CMS staff.”

CHECKOUT COUNTER — Insider reports: “Whole Foods checkout aisles around the country have sold magazines that promote anti-vaccine talking points. One article, adapted from a defunct anti-vaccine website, is literally titled ‘MMR Vaccine Causes Autism.’ These magazines are also a symptom of a much larger problem: an anti-vaccine movement helped along by social platforms and powerful allies.”

GUN VIOLENCE’S COMMON DENOMINATOR — Two days after Sgt. Christopher Brewster was killed in the line of duty responding to a domestic violence call, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn for failing to support a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. A provision of the act prohibits those convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms, reports The Washington Post’s Meagan Flynn.

TIME BOMBS? — The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports: “Florida’s schools are filled with young people slinging murderous threats at classmates and teachers. Although some threats are the idle words of indiscreet adolescents, a disturbing number come from mentally impaired children who are fixated on violence and have access to guns, the South Florida Sun Sentinel found. In an eight-month investigation, the Sun Sentinel examined the question that has weighed on parents since a disturbed teenager killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018: How many other children like the shooter are walking the halls of our schools? A frightening number, the newspaper found.”

SCREENING PROCESS Via Molly Hennessy-Fiske of The Los Angeles Times: “Migrant rights advocates say that medical screenings have become the latest tactic used by the U.S. government to discourage asylum seekers from pursuing their claims. ‘It’s just one more example of the arbitrariness of the process,’ said Denise Gilman, who directs the University of Texas Law School Immigration Clinic in Austin. ‘It’s not really an adjudicatory process — it’s more of an obstacle course.’”

DRUNK TEXT DECADE — The Atlantic’s Kaitlyn Tiffany meditates on how the 2010s was the decade of drunk texting.

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