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Health Highlights: June 19, 2002

Smoking's Effects Worse Than Thought: Report AMA Takes On Bullies At Annual Meeting FDA Closes Medical Gas Provider's Facility Super-Size Meals = Super Fat Bush Commits $500 Million to Fight AIDS Abortion Rivals Focus on Kentucky Vote

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

Smoking's Effects Worse Than Thought: Report

After reviewing more than 3,000 studies involving millions of people, researchers with a branch of the World Health Organization have concluded that smoking is even more toxic than previously believed, with its victims including smokers and non-smokers alike.

The analysis, conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is the first comprehensive review of the accumulated research on tobacco smoke and cancer since 1986, reports MSNBC.

Among the most disturbing conclusions were that both smokers and non-smokers exposed to passive smoke are at heightened risk of developing a much broader range of cancers than previously thought, including cancer of the stomach, liver, kidney, uterine cervix and myeloid leukemia.

And for the types of cancer already linked to smoking, the researchers found that the risk of tumors in such cancers is even higher in smokers and non-smokers exposed to passive smoke then previously believed.

A full report on the findings is due to be published later this year.

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AMA Takes On Bullies At Annual Meeting

The issue of bullying came under the spotlight today at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association in Chicago, with the organization calling on physicians to take greater measures to look for signs that young patients are being bullied and to work with parents and schools to solve the problem.

An AMA-sponsored review of the issue found that bullies represent seven to 15 percent of sampled school-aged populations and that victims represent about 10 percent of such populations.

The review further found that more boys than girls are involved in bullying in elementary school, but that gender differences even out in junior high and high school.

Noting that victims often don't make adults or their parents aware of the bullying, the AMA also called for more education on the importance of reporting such behavior to parents, teachers and health care providers.

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FDA Closes Medical Gas Provider's Facility

Some facilities of a large provider of medical gas have been closed down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to the failure to correct safety violations.

Air Liquide America Corporation's Coatesville, Pa., facilities were shut down for hauling different types of gases -- industrial and medical -- in the same trailers and for failing to adhere to FDA regulations requiring the trucks to be properly cleaned between shipments, reports the Associated Press.

The FDA says such requirements are essential to ensure that medical oxygen is not contaminated. The company will be allowed to resume operations once FDA inspectors determine that safety procedures are being adequately followed.

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Super-Size Meals = Super Fat

Spend a few cents more to bump up your fast-food meal to "super size" and you could be buying loads of extra calories and lots of extra fat, according to a new report by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA).

Soft drinks, in particular, are inexpensive for companies and consumers to upgrade, but can mean hundreds of extra calories. A "Double Gulp" soda purchased at 7-Eleven costs 37 cents more than the regular drink, but adds 400 calories, according to the NANA report.

Among its other findings, as reported by MSNBC:

  • Upgrading from a small to unbuttered medium popcorn at the movies costs 71 cents, but adds 500 calories.
  • Upgrading to a double-size "Kit Kat" chocolate bar costs 33 cents more than the regular-size bar, but adds up to 230 calories.
  • Upgrading to a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese Value Meal -- which comes with a large fries and large Coke -- adds 490 calories to the meal that includes regular-size portions.

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Bush Commits $500 Million to Combat AIDS

President Bush's budgets over the next few years will include $500 million for AIDS research and prevention worldwide, he told a White House gathering today.

The president said AIDS has already killed 20 million people worldwide and is set to kill 40 million more, reports CNN. Bush said nations should focus on preventing transmission of the AIDS-causing HIV virus from mothers to children.

"Worldwide close to 2,000 babies are infected with HIV every day during pregnancy, birth or through breast feeding," he told a Rose Garden ceremony. "New advances in medical treatment give us the ability to save many of these young lives, and we must and we will."

Some critics say the Bush proposal falls far short of what is needed. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for $10 billion annually to stem the global AIDS epidemic by 2015.

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Abortion Rivals Focus on Kentucky Vote

Rivals on both sides of the abortion issue will focus on northern Kentucky tonight, where health officials are scheduled to decide whether to reject federal funding that may be used to purchase contraceptives.

The federal Title X program has offered nearly $170,000 to the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Board. But anti-abortion groups say at least some of the money is slated for the purchase and distribution of contraceptives, including the IUD, Norplant, and the standard birth control pill.

Pro-choice activists say they object to attempts to equate abortion with the Pill, which is used by some 10.4 million American women, the Associated Press reports.

The health board's jurisdiction includes four Kentucky counties that lie just south of Cincinnati, Ohio.

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