TIME Research

Why It’s Bad News That Some Teens Are Choosing E-Cigs Over Real Cigarettes

Tobacco smoking among teens is down nationwide

Fewer teens in the United States are smoking regular cigarettes, according to the results of a federally funded survey released Tuesday, but the popularity of electronic cigarettes suggests that some teens may be choosing e-cigs over traditional smokes.

Daily smoking among teenagers in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades has been cut almost in half in the last five years, according to data from the annual “Monitoring the Future Survey.” Gathered from more than 40,000 kids in 377 public and private schools nationwide by researchers at the University of Michigan, the data also shows that more than one in six high school seniors, and almost as many sophomores, used electronic cigarettes in the last month.

MORE: E-cigs Are the New Cool Thing for Teenagers

“It is very possible that [electronic cigarettes] could account for some of the decrease in tobacco smoking — that kids that would otherwise start with tobacco cigarettes start by vaping,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “We are facing a completely new pattern of administering drugs.”

The data offers one possible explanation for why high schoolers are so willing to use electronic cigarettes: They think they’re safer. Just over 50% of 10th graders surveyed believed that smoking between one and five cigarettes a day posed a great risk, while only 14% thought the same thing about regular e-cig use.

While some kids may prefer the electronic alternatives, it’s also clear that many kids like to use both, just like adults who use tobacco. Of the high school seniors who said they’d used e-cigs in the last month, more than 40% said they had also smoked a conventional cigarette in the last month, too.

MORE: The Future of Smoking

While we wait for sorely needed regulation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “there needs to be a massive educational campaign to dispel the hype and outright deception from the industry,” says Sen. Richard Blumenthal, (D-Conn.), who as Connecticut’s Attorney General fought to stop deceptive tobacco marketing to children.

“The industry is saying to teenagers that e-cigarettes are healthy and cool, that there is nothing in the vapor that could possibly harm you, and that they are a healthy alternative to cigarettes for people who want to quit,” he adds. “But in fact they may be a very unhealthy gateway to cigarette smoking for people who don’t use tobacco products now.”

Electronic cigarettes are such new products that research is inconclusive about their safety and whether they will act as a gateway to smoking for teens. Though the FDA has proposed plans to begin regulating them, the hundreds of e-cig offerings on the market are currently unchecked, leaving a wide range of safety implications depending on the product.

TIME ebola

Here Is the Lie of the Year from PolitiFact

Vaccine Research At Bavarian Nordic A/S Pharmaceuticals
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images An employee uses a microscope during research in a laboratory used to detect contamination in employees' clothing at the Bavarian Nordic A/S biotechnology company, where the research into infectious diseases, including the ebola vaccine, takes place in Kvistgaard, Denmark, on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014.

Guess what spawned a "dangerous and incorrect narrative" in 2014?

PolitiFact has named the panicked response to Ebola as the 2014 Lie of the Year.

The website, which fact-checks the statements of public figures, noted 16 erroneous claims made for Ebola last year, which together produced “a dangerous and incorrect narrative.”

Those included Fox News analyst George Will’s false assertion that Ebola could spread through a sneeze or cough, Senator Rand Paul’s description of the disease as “incredibly contagious,” “very transmissible” and “easy to catch” and Congressman Phil Gingrey’s warning that migrants could carry Ebola across the U.S.’s southern border.

“When combined,” PolitiFact writes, “the claims edged the nation toward panic. Governors fought Washington over the federal response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stumbled to explain details about transmission of the virus and its own prevention measures. American universities turned away people from Africa, whether they were near the outbreak or not.”

[PolitiFact]

TIME Infectious Disease

NHL Mumps Outbreak Grows With Sidney Crosby Diagnosis

At least 13 NHL players and two referees were infected in the outbreak

Sidney Crosby became the latest National Hockey League player to receive a positive diagnosis for mumps in an unusual outbreak of the disease which is typically prevented by vaccination.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced Crosby’s diagnosis Sunday and on Monday said that the two-time NHL MVP was no longer infectious.

“He probably could have been here today, but we took an extra day to be cautious,” said team manager Jim Rutherford. “As far as I know, he will return tomorrow or the next day.”

The mumps outbreak, which has infected at least 13 NHL players and two referees, is odd given that most U.S. residents receive a vaccine for the disease, which causes headache, fever and swelling of the salivary glands. Crosby reportedly received a vaccination for the disease as recently as this February, according to the Penguins.

Still, doctors say that the effectiveness of the vaccine can wear off over time, and hockey players may be particularly susceptible to the disease given the exchange of saliva during heavy hits.

TIME Cancer

Indoor Tanning Can Burn Your Eyeballs, Study Says

indoor tanning
Getty Images

Indoor baking burns your body in some surprising places

If you’re prone to sporting a suspiciously unseasonal glow, there’s new data to make you reconsider your next indoor tan.

According to a new research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine, thousands of people each year go to emergency rooms for tanning salon-related injuries. The researchers found that about 3,200 such injuries were treated each year in U.S. emergency departments from 2003-2012—mostly for white women between ages 18-24.

The most common types of injuries were skin burns, eye injuries, muscle and bone injuries and passing out. Skin burns, which accounted for 80% of injuries, were predictably the most common. Almost 10% of injuries were due to fainting; several people described falling asleep while tanning. And about 6% of the injuries were on the eyes—mostly eye burns from excessive UV exposure.

“We saw plenty of eye injuries,” says Gery Guy, Jr., PhD, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This is concerning because it’s not only an acute injury…but it also puts you at risk for certain conditions down the road, like cataracts or eye melanoma.” The team also noted other sources for eye injuries, like when tanning bulbs broke and shattered into people’s eyes, Guy adds.

Indoor tanning has dropped in popularity since 2003, when injuries numbered in the 6,000s. Many studies have emerged since then that show a link between tanning devices and skin cancer, and 11 states now restrict tanning among minors under age 18, Guy says. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration reclassified indoor tanning devices from a Class I device, which poses minimal risk, to a riskier Class II device.

“It’s important to point out that 3,000 injuries reporting to an emergency room may not be a huge number, considering the millions of people who continue to indoor tan,” Guy says. “But it’s important to realize that one visit to an emergency room from indoor tanning is too many, given that indoor tanning devices should be avoided.” So much for a healthy glow.

TIME Aging

Study Finds Those Who Feel Younger Might Actually Live Longer

Close-up of senior couple holding hands while sitting
Getty Images

A new study shows people who feel younger than their actual age live longer

People who feel three or more years younger than they actually are had lower death rates compared to people who felt their age or older, according to a recent study.

Two University College London researchers studied data collected from 6,489 men and women whose average age was 65.8. On average, people in the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, felt closer to 56.8. Among the participants, 69.6% said their self-perceived age was three or more years younger than their chronological age, 25.6% said they felt their age or close to it, and only 4.8% felt older than they actually were.

When the researchers compared the self-perceived ages to death rates, they found that rates were lower among those who felt younger, compared to participants who felt their age or older.

Of course unrelated factors like disabilities and overall health played a role, but when the researchers adjusted for those factors, they still noted a 41% greater mortality risk for the people who said they felt old.

What’s driving this apparent phenomenon needs further assessment, but the authors suggested that people who feel younger may have greater resilience and will to live. “Self-perceived age has the potential to change, so interventions may be possible,” the authors write. “Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging,” the study concluded.

TIME health

For Once the Anti-Vaxxers Aren’t (Entirely) to Blame

Face of the enemy: A molecular model of the whooping cough toxin
LAGUNA DESIGN; Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF Face of the enemy: A molecular model of the whooping cough toxin

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

California's whooping cough outbreak is largely the fault of a harmless but imperfect vaccine

Anti-vaxxers are epidemiology’s repeat offenders—the first and sometimes only suspects you need to call in for questioning whenever there’s an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. So on those occasions when their prints aren’t all over the crime scene, it’s worth giving them a nod. That’s the case—sort of, kind of—when it comes to the current whooping cough (or pertussis) epidemic that’s burning its way through California, with nearly 10,000 cases since the first of the year, making it the worst outbreak of the disease since the 1940s. So far, one infant has died.

Before we start giving out any laurels, let’s be clear on one point: the anti-vaxxers continue to be risibly wrong when they say that vaccines are dangerous (they aren’t), that they lead to autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and more (they don’t), and that you should take your public-health advice from the likes of Jenny McCarthy, Rob Schneider, and Donald Trump instead of virtually every medical and scientific authority on the planet (you shouldn’t). But a safe vaccine is not always the same as an entirely effective vaccine, and here the whooping cough shot is coming up a little short—with emphasis on the “little.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the pertussis vaccine starts off perfectly effectively, with 90% of kids developing full immunity from the disease in their first year after inoculation. But that protection starts to fade in year two, and by the five-year point, only 70% of kids are still protected. Until the 1990s, a more effective formulation was available, but it was replaced due to side effects (pain, swelling and perhaps some fever—not autism, thank you very much). The newer version eliminates those problems, but at a cost to effectiveness.

The waning protection the vaccine affords helps explain the cyclical nature of whooping cough outbreaks, with cases usually beginning to rise every three to five years. Certainly, the anti-vax crowd has not helped matters any. When a vaccine offers only imperfect protection, it’s especially important that as many people as possible get it since this maximizes what’s known as herd immunity—the protection a community that’s largely immune can offer to the minority of people who aren’t.

Last spring’s mumps outbreak in Columbus, Ohio was due in part to a combination of the relatively low 80-90% effectiveness rate of that vaccine and the poor level of vaccine compliance. As I reported in Time’s Oct. 6, 2014 issue, 80% of people who contracted the disease said they had been vaccinated in childhood, but only 42% of those cases could be confirmed. In the current whooping cough epidemic, California health authorities estimate that only 10% of all people who have come down with the disease were never vaccinated. That’s up to 10% more people than needed to get sick, but a lot fewer than the total in Columbus.

The heart of the anti-vaxxers’ argument is not, of course, that some vaccines offer incomplete protection. If it were, they wouldn’t find so many willing believers. For one thing, the large majority of vaccines achieve at least a 90% effectiveness level—and often much higher. For another, it’s hard to make the case that even if they didn’t, imperfect protection would be better than none at all.

Seat belts, after all, aren’t 100% effective at preventing highway deaths either, and condoms don’t entirely eliminate the risk of pregnancy or STDs. But that doesn’t mean you stop using them, because your brain makes a rational risk calculation about the wisdom of taking cost-free precautions. You might not make such smart choices, however, if somebody muddied the equation by introducing the faux variable of imaginary risk—seat belts and condoms cause autism, say.

Persuading people to run that flawed calculus is where the the anti-vaccine crowd does its real damage. A new—and scary—interactive map from the Council on Foreign Relations tracks the global rise or fall of vaccine-preventable diseases from 2008 to 2014. In the same period, during which most of the world saw a 57% decline in cases, North America—driven mostly by the U.S.—showed a stunning 600% increase.

It’s fitting somehow that the locations of the outbreaks show up on the map as a sort of pox—with the once-clear U.S. slowly becoming blighted from one coast to the other. Misinformation is its own kind of blight—one that’s every bit as deadly as the bacteria and viruses the vaccines were invented to prevent. And it’s the anti-vaxxers themselves who are the carriers of this particular epidemic.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Unique Australian Turtle Is Critically Endangered

The White-throated snapping turtle
Stephen Zozaya The white-throated snapping turtle

The turtle breathes out of its butt

A white-throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula) native to Australia is critically endangered.

James Cook University researchers are raising awareness for the turtle’s plight. The turtle, which lives in the Queensland’s Connors River, has a unique breathing mechanism: it breathes out of its rear. It’s a breathing process called “cloacal respiration.”

The now critically endangered turtle does best in clear-flowing water, but construction projects like dams have restricted the turtles’ movement, and increased land use has caused sedimentation and erosion that harms the animal’s nesting spots.

“If the increased water infrastructure development and drought in northern Australia continues, they will continue to get hammered,” says James Cook University researcher Jason Schaffer who has been studying the turtle for the last eight years.

“These turtles breathe out of their ass, which is super awesome,” Schaffer told Scientific American.

Schaffer is calling for more nest and habitat protection.

TIME Research

Doctors’ Offices Lose Millions To Magazine Theft, Study Says

Woman in waiting room of a medical practice
Getty Images

Gossip mags are most likely to escape the waiting room

It’s not just your doc who’s behind the times: magazines in doctor’s offices really are old, and now a new study in the BMJ proves it.

To test why waiting room mags are so outdated, the University of Auckland researchers equipped a waiting room with 87 magazines, both “gossipy” and news oriented, and tracked the rate at which they disappeared. Three out of five magazines that were published within the last two months were taken, compared with 29% of magazines older than two months. Over a month, an average of 1.3 magazines disappeared each day.

The study also found that people take “gossipy magazines,” defined in this study as periodicals with more than five pictures of celebrities on the cover, over news magazines like TIME and The Economist.

“Another follow-on study should be conducted to examine the effects on receptionists in a waiting room without gossipy magazines,” the study said. “Unfortunately we are not familiar with any clinic willing to participate in that research.”

Researchers decided to take on the unusual topic of magazine disappearance after one of the authors received numerous complaints from patients about the age of his office’s magazines. They concluded that magazine disappearance is widespread and estimated that, at $5 a magazine, it could cost practices in the United Kingdom $19 million—a sum much better spent on healthcare, they add.

While researchers adhered to established practices to conduct the study, they took a humorous tone in sharing their findings.

“Future research in waiting room science would include identifying who or what is responsible for the removal of magazines,” the study said. “This could involve a yet to be developed ‘find my magazine’ smart phone application.”

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Introducing the One-Minute Workout

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Getty Images

You no longer have any excuses

We get it, you’re busy. But it turns out you don’t need very much time in the gym to improve your health. In fact, it might only take one—yes one—high intensity minute of exercise to do the trick.

New research published in the journal PLOS One shows sedentary men and women who did one minute of intense, all-out exercise as part of a full 10-minute workout three times a week for six weeks improved their endurance and lowered their blood pressure.

A total of 14 sedentary and overweight men and women agreed to have their muscles biopsied and their aerobic endurance and blood pressure and sugar levels measured by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario. Then, they hopped on stationary bikes and warmed up for two minutes. After the warmup, the participants biked as hard as they possibly could for three 20 second intervals followed by two minutes of slow pedaling. They ended with a three minute cool-down, adding up to a total of 10 minutes. They did this three times a week, coming out to 30 minutes of exercise a week.

After six weeks, the participants were measured again, and the researchers discovered the they improved their endurance levels by about 12%, had better blood pressure levels, and improved muscle activity. The men in the group also had improved blood sugar levels.

MORE: Short bursts of exercise are better than exercising nonstop

This isn’t the first time researchers from McMaster University have touted the positive effects of short bursts of high-tensity exercise. Martin Gibala, the chairman of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University, has spent years studying the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and whether it’s equally beneficial as moderate exercise over a longer period. In fact, high intensity interval training has become somewhat of a mainstay in the fitness circuit, many also crediting Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata for coming up with the The Tabata Protocol: 20 seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of resting, repeated many times.

The problem with high intensity intervals is that, well, it can suck. It’s truly hard to really get your body to that level of intensity, especially if you’re not in tip top shape. Even proponents of the seven-minute workout say: “Those seven minutes should be, in a word, unpleasant.”

Critics of short spurt workouts—the seven-minute workout is a popular version—argue that while some exercise is better than no exercise, more is usually better and people who really need to exercise like the elderly and people who are overweight, might find it too difficult or even dangerous.

That’s why the researchers decided to investigate just how short they could cut the workout to and still get some of the same health benefits, The New York Times reports. As it turns out, you really can gain a fitness advantage from a short period of time. People will gain more or less from the workout based on their starting level of fitness, and most exercise enthusiasts recommend mixing up your routine over doing the same workout everyday to avoid injuries and work different muscles. But if you hit snooze one too many times, rest assured you can still get in a quality workout in less time than you may think.

Read next: 5 Fitness Trends to Try in 2015

TIME Infectious Disease

1 Million People Have a Disease You’ve Never Heard Of

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Photo Researchers—Getty Images/Photo Researchers RM

Chikungunya virus has infected over one million people this year, but Big Pharma still isn't stepping up

It’s a tale scientists are tired of telling: a disease that’s been carefully watched and studied for years is suddenly infecting an unprecedented number of people while promising drugs and vaccines sit on shelved, unfunded.

This time it’s not Ebola but a mosquito-borne disease called chikungunya, which causes debilitating joint pain and has infected more than 1 million people just this year. Originating in Africa, the virus has rapidly spread into the Caribbean and Central and South Americas, with a smattering of cases in the United States. Chikungunya is nothing like Ebola, but scientists who study it find themselves in a predicament similar to Ebola researchers: Despite decades of study, there’s still no way to treat or prevent it, due in part to a lack of interest from drug companies.

“[Chikungunya] is another example of an emerging infectious disease that we clearly have a light at the end of the tunnel for in a vaccine, and it’s pharmaceutical interest that really seems to be the road block,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is trying to get support for a chikungunya vaccine his team developed. “It’s the big dilemma. The frustration. Back when Ebola was not on the front pages, we didn’t have very many enthusiastic pharmaceutical companies.”

MORE: TIME Person of the Year: The Ebola Fighters

In late 2013, chikungunya hit the west for the first time, in St. Martin. Now, in Puerto Rico alone, there were 10,201 reported cases from May to August 2014. In prior years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would only see an average of about 28 cases of chikungunya in the United States brought by travelers who had visited affected countries, primarily in Asia. But so far in 2014, there’s been over 1,900 recorded cases stateside.

Often, chikungunya is compared to dengue fever, but while chikungunya is not often fatal, up to 80% of people infected will show symptoms, which can be excruciating, says Dr. Pilar Ramon-Pardo, a PAHO/World Health Organization adviser in clinical management. “People cannot move because it’s so painful. There are tears in their eyes,” she says. “Sometimes there’s not an appreciation for chikungunya because it has a low fatality rate, but it’s a real public health problem. The economic impact from disability is high.”

Chikungunya was first identified in 1952 in Tanzania, and the more recent outbreaks started emerging in 2003 in East Africa, then spread into Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and eventually to India, where millions of people were infected in 2006. In 2007, it touched down in Italy, at which point the CDC with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) doubled down to ensure countries were equipped to keep an eye on—and diagnose—the disease.

“We are very concerned about chikungunya moving into the Western Hemisphere,” says Dr. Roger Nasci of the CDC. “We have the two different species of mosquitoes in the U.S. capable of spreading the virus.” Massive outbreaks in the United States are unlikely; the temperate U.S. climate isn’t especially mosquito friendly, and widespread use of window screens and bug spray limit most Americans’ risk. Still, the disease takes a toll, and other countries are at risk of even more massive outbreaks.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently published results from a successful vaccine trial for chikungunya showing it’s safe but in order to take that vaccine to the masses, it needs to undergo an efficacy trial—and then it needs a distributor. Without a pharmaceutical partner, Fauci says a timeline for a chikungunya vaccine is “impossible to predict,” though the NIH is currently meeting with two undisclosed companies for possible partnerships.

A frequent source of funding for neglected infectious diseases, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, does not have any active grants or investment in chikungunya. Meanwhile, for Fauci, getting backing for chikunhunya is a “here we go again” task of trying to churn up interest in a disease that doesn’t make headlines. “It’s a theme that continues to recur among my colleagues and I,” says Fauci.

Read next: The Unexpected Animal Group Dying from Climate Change

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