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Health Highlights: Dec. 7, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards Succumbs to Breast Cancer FDA Can't Regulate E-Cigarettes as Devices, Drugs: Appeals Court Family Gets $5 Million in Chewing Tobacco Death Settlement Obesity Serious Problem in EU: Report Obese Children Lag in Physical Activity: Study Flu Vaccination Critical for People with Chronic Health Conditions: CDC

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Elizabeth Edwards Succumbs to Breast Cancer

Elizabeth Edwards died on Tuesday after a long battle with breast cancer.

She was first diagnosed in November 2004.

The 61-year-old estranged wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards had been at her North Carolina home with family and friends this week, the Associated Press reported.

A family friend said Edwards was briefly hospitalized last week and received treatment.

On her Facebook page Monday, Edwards thanked her supporters, the AP reported.

"The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered," Edwards wrote. "We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful."


FDA Can't Regulate E-Cigarettes as Devices, Drugs: Appeals Court

In a ruling that upholds a lower court decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration does not have the authority to regulate electronic cigarettes as drugs or devices.

The appeals court said the FDA can only regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, which means the agency can oversee marketing of the products but not restrict their sale, Bloomberg news reported.

The decision was criticized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "This ruling invites the creation of a wild west of products containing highly addictive nicotine, an alarming prospect for public health," the group said in a statement. "We urge the government to appeal this ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court."

The FDA is analyzing the ruling and considering its next moves, agency spokesman Jeffrey Ventura said in an email to Bloomberg.


Family Gets $5 Million in Chewing Tobacco Death Settlement

In what's believed to be the first wrongful death settlement involving chewing tobacco, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. has agreed to pay $5 million to the family of a North Carolina man who died of tongue cancer.

Bobby Hill started chewing the company's spit tobacco products when he was 13 and died when he was 42, said family lawyer Antonio Ponvert III, the Associated Press reported. His wife Kelly filed the lawsuit in 2005.

"This company manufactures and sells a dangerous and defective product that it knows causes addiction, disease and death in consumers who use it as intended," Ponvert stated.

U.S. Smokeless Tobacco confirmed the settlement in a regulatory filing but declined further comment, the AP reported. The company makes Skoal and Copenhagen brands.

This is likely the first of more lawsuits involving smokeless tobacco, predicted Mark Gottlieb, director of the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern School of Law in Boston.



Obesity Serious Problem in EU: Report

More than half of adults in European Union countries are overweight or obese and the obesity rate in EU member states has more than doubled over the past 20 years, says a new report.

The U.K., Ireland and Malta have the highest obesity rates, said the Health at a Glance Europe 2010 paper, BBC News reported.

The key to reversing this "worrying trend" is to encourage children to adopt healthy lifestyles, says the European Commission and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, who compiled the document.

Currently, one in seven children in the EU are overweight or obese and that rate is expected to rise, BBC News reported. Only 20 percent of children in EU member states get regular exercise and physical activity tends to decline between the ages of 11 and 15 in most EU nations.


Obese Children Lag in Physical Activity: Study

Obese children in the United States do 16 minutes less physical activity per day than normal-weight youngsters, according to researchers at the University of Southern California and the National Institutes of Health.

Normal-weight children ages 6 to 17 get 59 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, compared with 43 minutes for obese children, USA Today reported.

The researchers' analysis of data collected from 3,106 children also found that boys ages 6 to 17 get about 64 minutes of physical activity per day, compared to 44 minutes for girls in the same age range.

The study appears in this month's issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

"This is a huge wake-up call to society," said senior author Donna Spruijt-Metz, an associate professor of medicine at USC, USA Today reported.


Flu Vaccination Critical for People with Chronic Health Conditions: CDC

People with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease are strongly urged to get vaccinated against the flu, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is National Influenza Vaccination Week and the CDC has designated Tuesday as Chronic Conditions Vaccination Day to emphasize the importance of flu vaccination for people with certain chronic medical conditions.

"Diabetes (type 1 or 2), asthma (even well-controlled), and heart disease are among the most common health conditions that place people at higher risk for serious flu complications like hospitalization, pneumonia and even death. Vaccination of high risk persons and their close contacts is especially important to reduce their risk of severe flu illness," the agency said in a news release.

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