Recent report identifies the dangers of spices and synthetic drugs that produce a high that mimics marijuana; FDA requests for lawsuit to be dismissed regarding food safety rules; and review of the health effects of fracking in New York is soon to be complete.  Read these public health news stories and more for Dec. 4.

USA Today – Report shows impact of fake pot on public health
Spice and other synthetic drugs that mimic a marijuana high sent 11,406 people — mostly teenagers and young adults — to the emergency room in 2010, according to the first report on the substances from the federal government’s Drug Abuse Warning Network.
The report, the first to analyze the impact of the popular herbal incense, found that children ages 12 to 17 accounted for one-third of the emergency room visits. Young adults ages 18 to 24 accounted for another 35%.

The Times Picayune – New Orleans middle-school students describe high rates of depression
New Orleans middle-school students cite symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress at much higher rates than typical teenagers, according to data based on interviews collected by a local non-profit organization. Perhaps not surprising in a city with the highest murder rate in the country, the interviews conducted by theInstitute of Women and Ethnic Studies also showed the New Orleans children had elevated rates of witnessing violence and feeling concerned about their safety.

Huffington Post – FDA asks court to dismiss lawsuit over delayed food safety rules
Creating new rules for food safety is too complex a task to be completed quickly and a lawsuit seeking to compel government action should be dismissed, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA said that although it was behind schedule in modernizing food safety regulations asset out in a law signed in January 2011, the agency’s broad role in regulating a $450 billion domestic and imported food business requires additional time.

Christian Science Monitor – Hide cigarette display and teens buy less, says new study
A new study conducted using a virtual reality game suggests teens may be less likely to try to buy cigarettes at convenience stories if they aren’t sold in plain sight behind the counter.
Requiring stores to hide tobacco product displays is one option some states are considering to curb teen smoking after the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 was passed, according to the study’s lead author.

Wall Street Journal – Experts’ review of NY fracking soon to be complete
Experts reviewing the health effects of shale gas development in New York are among the nation’s most prominent in environmental health, giving opponents hope but the industry concern that reviewers will warn against drilling operations that use hydraulic fracturing.
The state has had a moratorium on “fracking” for shale gas since the Department of Environmental Conservation started an environmental impact study in 2008. The department released proposed new regulations Wednesday stemming from the study and will take public comment before making them final.