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Brainstorm Health: ’13 Reasons Why’ and Suicide, Philip Morris Device, Medicare for All Hearing

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Good afternoon, readers.

Netflix’s teen drama series 13 Reasons Why drew a fair amount of controversy from critics alleging it romanticized/normalized/otherwise simplified issues of self-harm and suicide. For those who don’t know about the series: It centers on the mystery of why a high school student killed herself, presented via a series of recordings left to her classmates.

The show’s creators and Netflix itself objected to the negative characterization. In fact, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings went so far as to say that, “No one has to watch it” in responding to the controversy (a reaction that didn’t sit well with groups like the Parents Television Council).

Now, Netflix is taking a more cautious tact in the wake of new research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry that finds a spike in suicides, relative to what would normally be expected, among teens aged 10 to 17 in the nine months after 13 Reasons Why‘s release.

Ok, this is the part where it’s critical to emphasize: Correlation does not equal causation. These sorts of studies can be ambiguous since there are many, many confounding factors that influence behavior, especially when they involve mental health issues.

But the observed uptick was enough to elicit a response (and a defense) from Netflix. “We’ve just seen this study and are looking into the research, which conflicts with last week’s study from the University of Pennsylvania,” a company spokesperson told Gizmodo. “This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly.”

The relationship between popular culture and mental health has long been debated, whether the arguments center on violent media’s influence on young minds or a host of other issues. In an era of “Peak Content,” the issue may increasingly prop up.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Philip Morris gets an FDA blessing. Tobacco giant Philip Morris has received a long-awaited Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance for its “heat-not-burn” IQOS device, which is meant to be a smokeless cigarette alternative for smokers trying to kick the habit. IQOS was already approved in several other countries, and Philip Morris has emphasized it’s a very different kind of product from e-cigarettes. From a business standpoint, it’s a major victory for Philip Morris International and Altria (which will market the product in the U.S.). The effects on long-term public health? Those remain to be seen. (Reuters)

THE BIG PICTURE

Medicare for All gets its day in Congress. Medicare for All advocates had an opportunity to make their case in front of a Congressional committee on Tuesday. And it was… A surprisingly meaty discussion! I’ll have more on this later, but Vox’s Dylan Scott has a pretty nice roundup of some of the key moments from the House Rule Committee hearing.

REQUIRED READING

5 Takeaways From Mark Zuckerberg’s F8 Keynoteby Danielle Abril

Central Banks Are the World’s Newest Climate Change Activistsby Katherine Dunn

How Obamacare Lives on Despite Trump’s Best Effortsby Sahil Kapur and Bloomberg

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com
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