NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 5, 2014

Is anyone in control?

As I See It
Robert Campbell

---- — April 2014 has come and gone, but alas not forgotten. Several noteworthy items happened during the last two weeks of the month that make us ask of ourselves, “Is anyone in control?”

Palcohol, a powdered alcoholic product, just got the heave-ho from our government after the FDA earlier had approved it. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau admitted that Palcohol has a labeling problem. (You think?) Made by Lispmark, an Arizone company, the alcohol-based product comes in varieties, commonly known: vodka, gin, bourbon, Scotch and rum plus others. All you do is add water to activate it to the real thing and gulp it down.

I can see teenagers and the college crowd going wild over small white packages of powdered booze, the same way they relish small white packages of powdered heroin and other drugs. Thank you, government of mine, for checking this out!

The regulatory battle for the electronic cigarette business has begun at long last! It has been 5 years since Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act ceding authority to the FDA to regulate tobacco products, but no action was taken until now. The action is designed to protect the public from devices whose risks and benefits are largely unknown.

Calls to poison centers doubled from 2011 to 2012 and the numbers of victims referred to hospitals doubled from 2012 to 2013. Not too amazing when you consider that the active ingredient contained within the E-cigarette is nicotine. Flavoring is added to enhance appeal, but do we really need “Bubble Gum” flavor?

Regulations must be written to protect the public, especially teenagers, by listing all ingredients as well as banning outdoor and television advertisements. Rest assured, the Big 3 of the tobacco industry have PLANS for the estimated $1 billion market: Lorillard, RJ Reynolds and Altria, the parent company of Phillip Morris USA. The battle is going to get ugly!

Lawyers for Coca-Cola started to defend a label for a Minute Maid beverage before the Supreme Court this past week, but their appeal was cut short by Justice Anthony Kennedy. The Minute Maid 100 percent fruit juice blend carried the statement, “Help Nourish Your Brain,” plus prominently added that the product “Pomegranate Blueberry,” made almost entirely of apple and grape juice, was followed in smaller type by the words “Flavored blend of 5 juices.”

In truth, it is 0.3 percent pomegranate juice and 0.2 percent blueberry juice, which amounts to 1 teaspoon of pomegranate and blueberry juice in a half-gallon of product. Justice Kennedy asked, rightly so, “If Coca-Cola stands behind this label, you have a very difficult case to make. I think it’s relevant for us to ask whether people are cheated in buying this product.” Thank you, Justice Kennedy!

Finally, this item from the State of Georgia, which approved, in the third week of April, the right to carry a gun to church, airport, school, bar or wherever. But, in their dutiful reminder to be careful about the rights of all its citizens, guns are not allowed in the state capital. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

Interesting, that since the Newtown, Conn., massacre in December 2012, 70 laws have been passed to loosen restrictions on firearms. It reminds me of a song from a bygone era, “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn.”

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Robert D. Campbell, an essayist who lives in Newburyport, believes that a sense of humor is essential.