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News Briefs 1

FDA Panel Recommends Nicotine Gum for Smokers Who Want to Quit

The Washington Post

Smokers should be able to buy nicotine chewing gum over the counter, an advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration recommended Thursday.

Removing the prescription requirement for the popular smoking cessation aid would resolve a paradox expressed Thursday by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop: "The treatment (for smoking) is much harder to get than the cause." Koop testified in favor of making the gum a nonprescription product, urging the advisory panel to "make treatments that have been proven effective available" to as many consumers as possible.

Nicorette, marketed by SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare of Pittsburgh, is the only gum containing nicotine approved in the United States. Nicotine patches will not be affected by the recommendation.

The unanimous vote took place at a combined meeting of the FDA's Nonprescription and Drug Abuse Advisory Committees. Although the FDA is not obligated to follow the recommendations of advisory panels, it usually does. The agency is likely to act within three months.The gum is far from a sure-fire quitting aid, but the results of about 16 studies indicate it can double the cessation rate among "cold turkey" quitters who seek no other treatment.

Survey Shows Marked Increase In College Costs and Students Debt

The Washington Post

College costs are still rising, exceeding inflation rates, and forcing many families into debt. The only good news, the College Board reports Friday, is that the double-digit tuition increases that walloped students on many campuses in recent years are now rare.

In its annual survey of college pricing, the board reports that tuition nationally has risen about 6 percent this year. That's roughly the same rate of increase that has occurred during the last two years, and it's a strong sign that after nearly a decade of staggering tuition raises, many public and private colleges and universities are managing to keep their prices more stable.

But many students may not notice. The report, mirroring several other recent studies on college costs, also shows that student dependence on loans to pay for tuition is growing fast and saddling many of them with much larger debts.

According to the College Board, tuition and fees (not counting room and board) now average $2,860 at public four-year colleges and $12,432 at private four-year colleges. At two-year public colleges, the average cost is $1,387. At two-year private colleges, the cost is $6,350. Fees for room and board at colleges have climbed between 2 and 4 percent this year, the survey showed.

NATO Presents Expansion Plan

Los Angeles Times

The Atlantic Alliance on Thursday presented its blueprint for a controversial expansion that would commit the United States and its NATO allies to defending large new areas of Central and Eastern Europe - with nuclear weapons, if necessary.

For the first time, the plan sets down on paper what few besides defense experts have grasped: Enlargement means a significant extension of America's nuclear umbrella.

"The coverage provided by (the NATO security guarantee), including its nuclear component, will apply to new members," states the 28-page document entitled, "Study on NATO Enlargement."

NATO members' defense budgets are sure to increase to support such a dramatic extension of security commitments. But the study stresses that expansion would not necessarily mean repositioning of NATO's nuclear arsenal. "There is no need now to change or modify any aspect of NATO's nuclear posture or policy, but the longer term implications of enlargement for both will continue to be evaluated," the study concludes.

The document was handed to representatives of the alliance's 26 so-called cooperation partner countries, who had gathered at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Many partner nations, such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, are prospective new members.