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April 28, 2022
What A Day
FDA Says Last Call For Menthol

In This Episode

  • Moderna said on Thursday that they were asking the FDA for emergency use authorization for their vaccine for children under 6. If granted, they would be the first shots available to the youngest of kids.
  • Separately, the FDA announced they will ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars across the U.S. within a year. Experts say that this could save hundreds of thousands of lives, especially among Black smokers.
  • And in headlines: Oklahoma’s State Legislature passed another near-total ban on abortion, the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was bombed, and a new study found that a dog’s breed does very little to predict its behavior.


Show Notes:


  • LA Times: “How Big Tobacco used George Floyd and Eric Garner to stoke fear among Black smokers” – https://lat.ms/3LzZ55a


Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/





Gideon Resnick: It’s Friday, April 29th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we’re reminding celebrities that the clock is ticking if they want to sing songs in a Range Rover with James Corden.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, The twisted mind behind Carpool Karaoke will stop hosting the Late Late Show next year. So for every celebrity that had a booking, we’re going to do it here. I think that’s the only choice. On today’s show, the FDA announced a plan to snuff out menthol cigarettes. Plus, Oklahoma is close to enacting another near-total ban on abortion just weeks after passing a separate measure.


Priyanka Aribindi: But first today, some important updates on the pandemic in the U.S. because there is some movement on vaccines for young kids. For context, nationally, cases have risen an estimated 61% over the past two weeks, though they remain drastically lower than during the initial Omicron wave. And in recent days, Dr. Fauci has had to clarify his own comments that the country is, quote, “out of the pandemic phase.” He meant that we were out of the most acute part of it. But Gideon for the news on vaccines, it’s about the group that can’t be vaccinated at the moment, kids under the age of six. What was the recent update there?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So this has certainly been at the very least headache inducing for parents for a while now – I’m sure there are stronger words that other parents have. Yesterday, Moderna said that they were asking the FDA for emergency use authorization for their vaccine for children under six. They would be the first if they get authorized to have one for the youngest of kids in the country. So all the supporting data would reportedly be submitted by around May 9th. But this has been a really arduous road overall to get a kids vaccine approved. And as we talked about on a recent show, the CDC estimates that at this point, already around 75% of children may have been infected with COVID at some point over the pandemic.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So if Moderna vaccines were available, what would that rollout look like?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So they’re working with a two-shot regimen for kids as young as six months, each of which is a quarter of the dosage given to adults. Moderna reported that during its trial, its vaccine was 51% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in kids under two. As for kids between two and five, the vaccine was 37% effective. So not incredible numbers, but it’s important to say here that the same way that Omicron lessened the effectiveness of vaccines against infection among us adults, that appears to have happened here as well. But also critically, no child in the trial became severely ill and doctors believe the shots would have strong protection against severe disease. That is an uncommon outcome for children anyway. All that said, health experts seem to think that an additional shot would be necessary given the presence of variants like Omicron. But because severe health outcomes are rare for children and because the efficacy against infection in this trial was good but not great, the conversation around all of this has become a little bit more challenging.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, as I mean, it has been for quite a while. So the other tricky part of this is that in the U.S., Moderna’s vaccine has only been authorized for adults, whereas Pfizer is being used for kids at the moment. What does that mean for this process?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So Moderna has previously requested authorization for two other age groups, 6 to 11-year olds, and then also 12 to 17-year olds. But there have been delays due to an investigation of the risk of myocarditis, a rare side effect reportedly seen more commonly among young people vaccinated with Moderna as compared to Pfizer. So at the moment, it’s still a little unclear whether the FDA is going to review all of this information at once for all those age groups, or just for children under six. The New York Times did report that the FDA is leaning towards doing it all in one big group.


Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. Okay. So we’ve been talking about Moderna, but what is the word on Pfizer’s own expected application for making its vaccine available to young children?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s also still on the way. And it’s actually possible that Pfizer’s application might be submitted while there is this review of all that Moderna data. Pfizer does already, as you mentioned, have a vaccine that is approved for children five and older in the US. So a lot of moving parts here. We’ll keep you updated on where that all goes over the next few months.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. In the meantime, we have some more health news that’s making headlines. Yesterday, the FDA announced that they will ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars across the U.S. within a year.


Gideon Resnick: Wow.


Priyanka Aribindi: Experts say that this could save hundreds of thousands of lives, especially among Black smokers.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this seems like a really big deal that this happened. So before we get into the details of how the ban works, can you give us a little bit more background?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So menthol is a chemical that has a cooling sensation. It’s added to cigarettes and other smoking products to make smoking less harsh and easier for people to do. It’s also in like cough drops and things like that if you are familiar. So not really a great thing to add to a cigarette that’s bad for you. We don’t really want to make that easier for people to smoke. They are pretty popular. Menthol cigarettes make up about a third of the U.S. cigarette market and about 18.5 million Americans smoke them.


Gideon Resnick: So what are people saying about the impact the ban is going to have?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. This ban is expected to have the biggest impact on Black smokers in particular. So nearly 85% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes, that is almost three times the number of white smokers who do. They are heavily marketed towards Black people and have been since the sixties when tobacco companies ran ads for menthol cigarettes featuring Black cultural figures, civil rights leaders, and more. And Black people also suffer the worst outcomes out of any group who smokes. Black men have the highest rates of lung cancer in America, and according to the most recent numbers, tobacco related cancers kill 40,000 Black Americans every year. That is 17% higher than white Americans and 74% higher than Asians and Latinos. The rate of quitting smoking has also not declined as quickly in the Black community as it has for white people. Additionally, this ban is also cited as something that will help curb youth smoking, which has gone up in recent years. Half of all teenage smokers report using menthol cigarettes or these flavored cigars.


Gideon Resnick: Yes. So this seems like good news, but it has also taken a really long time. A citizen petition ban these cigarettes in the U.S. happened nearly ten years ago. The FDA actually was facing a deadline to respond to that, and that is how this whole thing came about. Let’s talk about some of the hold ups here. Big tobacco is, shall we say, infamous for their lobbying efforts. What did they do to try and prevent this from happening?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, they definitely are. And they really didn’t want this to happen. I mean, they sell a product that kills people. They don’t really care. They are very much only motivated by profit. But their efforts to prevent this were particularly egregious. They enlisted prominent Black personalities and lobbyists specifically in order to keep menthol cigarettes around.


Gideon Resnick: Wow.


Priyanka Aribindi: The L.A. Times had a big investigation out this week. We’ll link to it in our show notes. It illustrates how the tobacco industry hired some people to invoke the death of George Floyd in order to stoke fears and suggest that a ban on menthol cigarettes would increase policing in Black communities as well as violence and racism.


Gideon Resnick: Crazy.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. To be clear, that is not at all what’s expected to happen here. The FDA said that this isn’t something that would be enforced on individuals like that. You won’t get arrested for smoking a menthol cigarette. That’s just not going to happen. This is purely a ban on selling it. So it will affect, you know, places where you would go to buy a menthol cigarette.


Gideon Resnick: The plan is to get this ban in place within the year. Do we know anything about how it could actually go?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So Canada actually has a ban on menthol cigarettes that went into place in 2017. No surprise, they are of course, ahead of the game, at least compared to us.


Gideon Resnick: All things health related. Yeah.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. But menthol cigarettes are much more popular here than they were in Canada. But if our experience is at all similar, an estimated 1.3 million people could quit smoking and national cigarette sales could decline, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of people from premature death and illness caused by smoking.


Gideon Resnick: What is actually immediately next in this process?


Priyanka Aribindi: Then next week on May 4th, the FDA is going to publish its proposed regulations and take public comments for 60 days. It’ll also have public listening sessions in the month of June. However, if tobacco companies take this matter to court, which they are reportedly likely to do, it could delay this process even more because of a long legal battle. We’ll keep following this story as it continues to develop, but that is the latest for now.


Gideon Resnick: Let’s get to some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: The GOP-led Oklahoma state legislature passed another near-total ban on abortion on Thursday. That’s just two weeks after Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill that makes performing an abortion a felony. This new rule is like Texas SB8, which bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and allows civilians to sue anyone who assists in one. It only makes exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, or a medical emergency, but if some senators had their way, there wouldn’t be any exceptions. During the debate over this bill, Republican Senator Warren Hamilton said he didn’t understand why an exception should be made in any case – and that checks out given that he is a cisgender man and that this bill will have absolutely no impact on him still. Wow. All that aside, the bill has prompted many Oklahoma clinics to stop scheduling abortions, and those that are still open are prepared to cease operations at a moment’s notice. If Governor Stitt signs the bill into law, as he is expected to, it will go into effect immediately, and Oklahoma would become the first state in the country to almost completely outlaw abortion.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that is really fucking bad. And I mean, you already passed something. Like, we get it. You hate abortion. We understand. Honestly, you could quietly hate abortion at home and not make laws about it.


Gideon Resnick: Yes.


Priyanka Aribindi: I like that avenue. Maybe they should go down that one. Explosions rocked all sides of Ukraine yesterday. The capital of Kiev was bombed barely an hour after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a news conference with visiting U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. A spokesperson for both of them confirmed that they are safe, but there are reports of several injured civilians. Russia also fired on the port city of Mariupol, where roughly thousands of Ukrainians are trapped. Intense Russian shelling also hit the eastern Donbas region, but in the southern region, thankfully, Ukraine’s air defenses intercepted incoming rockets. Hours before these attacks, President Biden called on Congress to approve $33 billion more in aid for Ukraine. Biden said this from the White House yesterday:


[clip of President Biden] The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen.


Priyanka Aribindi: Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities filed their first war crimes charges against ten individual Russian soldiers yesterday. Prosecutors allege that the soldiers took civilians hostage and mistreated them in the Kiev suburb of Bucha. Late last month, the Russian military retreated from this area and Ukrainians said that they discovered the bodies of more than 400 dead civilians on streets, sidewalks, and mass graves. Since then, investigators have combed through Bucha for evidence to start building out war crimes cases against Russians.


Gideon Resnick: The so-called next generation of mail trucks the US Postal Service wants to buy is very last generation in one particular way: they get around nine miles per gallon.


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s so bad! That is worse than a Hummer. That’s fucking terrible.


Gideon Resnick: Because of that, 16 states, the District of Columbia, and several environmental groups filed lawsuits yesterday trying to block the agency’s purchase of 148,000 trucks over the next ten years. The suits allege that the Postal Service underestimated the environmental harm their new gas-guzzling fleet will cause when the agency placed an order for these vehicles back in March. It did say it did enough to review their climate impact and to comply with laws, however, regulators from the EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality said they found serious issues with the Postal Service’s environmental study. Based on this, I could imagine. Environmentalists wanted the Postal Service to cut emissions by going electric, but for now, 90% of their new trucks are set to eat gas and only gas, 10% will be EVs. And the impact of this purchase will likely be felt for decades, since it has been 30 years since the last time the Postal Service took a visit to the big Carvana vending machine where everyone buys cars.


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s 2022! What the fuck!? Like 90-10? What kind of ratio is that?


Gideon Resnick: Not a great split to me.


Priyanka Aribindi: Terrible. You know what, I don’t like the phrase “do better” but this feels like one where it’s a bit applicable.


Gideon Resnick: It is applicable here. I’ll allow it.


Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you. The phrase golden retriever boy is officially anti-science because a dog’s breed does very little to predict its behavior, according to a new study that is the largest of its kind. For example, Rottweilers are often considered to be more aggressive by nature, but researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Harvard, and more found that the trait of aggression had no genetic basis or links to any one breed of dog. There you go, that is for the pit bull haters out there. This is pretty unfounded. Now we have science on our side.


Gideon Resnick: Exactly.


Priyanka Aribindi: The scientists surveyed over 18,000 dog owners, presumably being forced to look at over 18 million pictures. They analyzed behaviors, including how well dogs obeyed commands, how they interacted with their toys, and whether they liked to cuddle with their owners – it sounds like my dream study to do.


Gideon Resnick: This is amazing, yeah.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. And they found that breed accounted for only about 9% of behavioral variation. The study was published in the journal “Science” and its lead author said of her findings, quote, “If you want to know about your dog’s behavior, you shouldn’t be listening to what somebody’s telling you about that dog’s breed and how they’re supposed to behave. You probably know their behavior better than anyone else.”


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I didn’t know when I was younger that scientific jobs could entail something like this.


Priyanka Aribindi: Dog scientist?! I’m sorry, if I knew that was a route like, my life would look a lot different than it does right now.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I would have put in the work for the A.P. bio exam for sure. Slightly regret in hindsight, given this. But this is encouraging. I do feel like there’s, you know, a lot of those bad stereotypes or whatever, about dogs that lead to people being bad to dogs. And that’s bad. I don’t like it.


Priyanka Aribindi: We hate it. And now we know better.


Gideon Resnick: Now we know, and you know as well. And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads with an audio clip from a recent interview that will shock and maybe move you – probably mostly shock.


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, god.


Gideon Resnick: You’re going to throw up.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Hello WAD squad. It is Friday, and for today we are wrapping up with a segment called Bad Sound. We know it was formerly known as No Context, Bad Vibes. We are giving ourselves permission to grow, and renaming it Bad Sound.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, this is like a pet project of Jon, the head writer of our show. You guys got to let us know whether you like Bad Sound or not. He’s really into it. I don’t know if the rest of the team’s that onboard, but, you know, we’ll give him his moment, at least for today.


Gideon Resnick: Anyway, here is today’s clip.


[clip of Megan Fox] I guess it drank each other’s blood. Why mislead people, or like people are imagining us with, like, goblets and we’re like Game of Thrones, drinking each other’s blood. It’s just a few drops. But yes, we do consume each other’s blood on occasion, for ritual purposes only. It is used for a reason, and it is controlled where it’s like, let’s shed a few drops of blood and each drink it.


[clip of Megan Fox] It’s controlled? She’s making it sound like ayahuasca. Like what the fuck?


Gideon Resnick: Right? Yeah. Like if you went over the amount, you’d trip really hard or something.


[clip of Megan Fox] That was, of course, Megan Fox, one half of the country’s most biohazard is relationship. The other half is Machine Gun Kelly, whose blood Fox is talking about drinking in this clip. If you’ve been listening to the show, you are very familiar with our relationship.


Gideon Resnick: Well-versed, yes.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. We have been covering this for months now. Fox gave these comments to Glamor earlier this week, but we’ve been hearing about blood play between these two for over a year now. Starting in February 2021, when Kelly posted about a necklace with Fox’s blood in it on his Instagram. Of course, we don’t want to tell anyone how to express their love as long as it’s consensual and they stay stocked with Band-Aids for safety, but Gideon, what is your reaction to all of this?


Gideon Resnick: I’m going to say the same thing I said before we started recording, which is they must have a publicist who is highly devoted to this story.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes! The blood beat.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, they’re on the blood beat-


Priyanka Aribindi: They’re on it.


Gideon Resnick: -every couple of weeks or months just to be like, All right, Megan, Machine – which is his first name obviously – makes sure when you get to an interview you mention the blood stuff. And I think like we’ll never know if it’s true or not. It’s just lik,e now it is true because it’s been in the ethos for so long.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. And they’re just like playing it up. I’m fully with you. I also have, like, not seen as many paparazzi photos and like stuff about them recently. I feel like this is like a once every couple months, like just to get back into mix.


Gideon Resnick: A little promo. Yeah.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. It’s a little like, hey, we’re still around. I don’t know. I think that’s sort of my theory.


Gideon Resnick: Right. We’re still doing blood stuff in various ways. Yeah. To be clear, I don’t want to see this. But if you wanted to really find out, you know, does this happen maybe in an interview setting, just be like, Have you guys had your blood consumption today? Like, do you want to, like, demonstrate for us or whatever?


Priyanka Aribindi: Gideon, wants to have Meghan and Machine on the show to consume each other’s blood! That was Bad Sound. Peace and love to all blood-soaked couples out there. And to the ones who aren’t, you know?


Gideon Resnick: Sure.


Priyanka Aribindi: We love you, too.


Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, send a pic of your dog, and tell your friends to listen.


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just mail delivered by eco-friendly trucks like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick


[together] And, we’ll see you in the carpool karaoke lane!


Priyanka Aribindi: No, we will not.


Priyanka Aribindi: No, we won’t because James is gone and our country is in mourning. We will not talk about it anymore. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.