Science Policy Around the Web – November 16, 2018

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F.D.A. Seeks Restriction on Teens’ Access to Flavored E-Cigarettes and a Ban on Menthol Cigarettes

Stricter regulation on E-cigarettes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been rumored since last week, when market leading E-cigarette company Juul Lab stopped accepting orders for some if it’s most popular flavored products. In an announcement on Thursday of this week the FDA said that while it would allow stores to continue to sell flavored E-cigarettes, they would have to be restricted to areas that are inaccessible to minors.

In the same announcement, the FDA stated that it will move to ban additional flavored tobacco products, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Flavored tobacco products are disproportionately used by young people, with a recent study finding that over 80% of youth and young adult tobacco users reporting using flavored tobacco. The same study also reported that 75% of youth tobacco users said that they would stop using tobacco if it was not flavored. These trends are exactly why the FDA has moved for new regulation. While youth use of combustible tobacco products has dropped, people who try E-cigarettes are more likely to use combustible in the future.

The exact way new regulations will be applied remain to be determined, and public health advocates have indicated disappointment that the FDA did not announce and outright ban. Age restrictions are already in place or tobacco products, and many underage individuals get tobacco from older people as opposed to stores illegally selling them.

For these same reasons, the ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars is being lauded by advocates, especially in the African-American community where use of these products is especially high, and restrictions have been fought by the tobacco industry for years.

(Sheila Kaplan and Jan Hoffman, New York Times)

Offering free DNA sequencing, Nebula Genomics opens for Business. But there’s an itsy-bity catch

As personal genome sequencing becomes accessible and popular, so do the privacy concerns related to it. While individuals may choose to get their genome sequenced for recreational purposes, the data generated is highly valuable and of great interested to researchers, companies and law enforcement individuals, an evolving paradigm which was recently delved into in more detail on this blog. Individuals who sequence their genomes have the opportunity to share their (anonymized) data with researchers, however these systems remain one-sided and simplistic.

While AncestryDNA and 23andMe are currently the most popular companies for personal sequencing, a new genetics company run by famed geneticist and genome engineering/synthetic biology pioneer George Church, recently announced plans to enter the market. Church’s company, Nebula Genomics, plans to offer genome sequencing for a range of costs. Those who wish to opt out of sharing any information will pay $99 for genome sequencing, however the information provided will be low resolution. If the customer opts-in to sharing data the test will be free, and the accuracy of the data will be increased.

Regardless of whether they choose to answer questions about themselves, both free and paying costumers will still be able to refuse to share data with researchers. While other companies have an “all-or-nothing” approach to data sharing, Nebula will allow customers to audit data requests on a case-by-case basis. Any data shared will remain anonymized. Church stated that individuals with especially unique genetic traits that a company wants to study would even receive payment for their data. This approach would give people back control of their data, and is a push-back against the current system where companies control all data and the profits gathered from it.

(Sharon Begley, Stat News)

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