TIME Addiction

A New Government Anti-Smoking Campaign Includes E-Cigs

Past campaigns have increased calls to quitlines by 80%

A new federal ad campaign against smoking features e-cigarettes for the first time.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest ad in its ongoing “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign. The campaign features real Americans who have experienced serious health or social consequences from smoking. Often the ads are explicit. On March 30, the first ad about e-cigarettes, as opposed to traditional tobacco, will air.

The ad features a 35-year-old woman named Kristy who picked up e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. She ended up using both products. Eventually she had a collapsed lung and was diagnosed with lung disease. She’s a married mother of three who works as a truck driver.

Kristy's Tip Print Full Page Ad
CDC

“Nationally, about 3 in 4 adult e-cigarette users also smoke cigarettes,” the CDC says in a statement. “If you only cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke by adding another tobacco product, like e-cigarettes, you still face serious health risks.”

Other ads focus on side effects like vision loss and colorectal cancer.

In 2014, the CDC says the national quit line received 80% more calls when the ads were on the air, and since 2012 the ads have generated more than 500,000 additional calls. The ads will run for 20 weeks on TV, radio, online, billboards, in theaters and in magazines and newspapers. Kristy’s ads will be on the radio and in print.

The ads encourage smokers to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit www.cdc.gov/tips.

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TIME Addiction

California Launches Campaign Against E-Cigarettes

The new ads are part of a new campaign called "Wake Up"

California rolled out new television and digital ads about the dangers of e-cigarettes on Monday.

The new ads air just two months after the California Department of Health (CDPH) declared e-cigarettes a public health risk, and warned Californians to stay away from them. The new ads are part of the agency’s new campaign called “Wake Up,” which suggests e-cigarettes are just another mass marketed product with serious health consequences.

MORE: California Says E-Cigarettes a Health Risk

Both ads feature songs from the ’50s and ’60s, when traditional cigarette marketing was prevalent. One ad titled “What Could Go Wrong” underlines the fact that Big Tobacco is also involved in the e-cigarette market. The ads call e-cigarettes “a new way to inhale toxic chemicals.”

Another calls out candy-flavored e-cigarette products that California health officials believe market to children.

“California has been a world leader in tobacco use prevention and cessation since 1990, with one of the lowest youth and adult smoking rates in the nation. The aggressive marketing and escalating use of e-cigarettes threatens to erode that progress,” said Dr. Karen Smith, the CDPH director and state health officer, in a statement. “Our advertising campaign is telling the public to ‘wake up’ to the fact that these are highly addictive products being mass marketed.”

In a health advisory released by the CDPH in January, the state reports that e-cigarette use has spiked among California teenagers and young adults.

TIME Smoking

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Tobacco

cigarette pack smoking kills
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Smokers lit up more than 5.8 trillion cigarettes in 2014

Despite killing 6 million people each year, tobacco use is still rampant worldwide, according to the new edition of the Tobacco Atlas, a report from the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation. Drawn from the report, here are five startling tobacco facts worth knowing.

Smokers lit up more than 5.8 trillion cigarettes in 2014.

People have consistently been smoking fewer and fewer cigarettes for the last several decades in Europe and the Americas, but that improvement has been offset by growth of cigarette consumption in China. The average adult there smoked more than 2,000 cigarettes in 2014.

Tobacco kills at least half of its users.

People tend to think that lung cancer is responsible for tobacco-related deaths. It’s true: the disease kills more than a million smokers around the world every year. But lung cancer is just one of many tobacco-related ailments that can kill. Stroke, heart attack, bronchitis and emphysema are other top killers. And even if a smoker doesn’t get a disease caused by tobacco, smoking reduces the chances of surviving other conditions.

The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars annually promoting itself.

From charitable donations to lobbying, the tobacco industry spends heavily to win over users and supporters. In the United States, for instance, the tobacco industry has more than 150 lobbyists in Washington at an annual cost of more than $26 million, the report notes, and companies also donate millions to charities to improve their public image. But all of that pales in comparison to the money spent on traditional marketing campaigns, like billboards and magazine advertisements. The tobacco industry spends $900,000 every hour on advertising in the U.S., the report says—so if you spend five minutes reading this article, the tobacco industry will have spent $75,000 on marketing.

Cigarette manufacturers target the already vulnerable.

As people in developed nations like the U.S. increasingly realize the risks of smoking, the tobacco industry has invested resources in getting people in the developing world to adopt the habit. Faced with less regulation, the report says, marketing feeds the perception that smoking is not only “cool” but also provides health benefits. Smokers often ignore essentials to pay for their cigarette habit, finds the report. In high-income countries like Canada and France, nearly a third of male smokers are spending money on cigarettes and skimping on essentials like food. Nearly three-quarters of male smokers do the same in middle-income countries like Brazil and Thailand.

Regulation and public awareness campaigns have worked.

The report found some good news, too: a combination of regulation and public awareness can decrease the prevalence of smoking. Cigarette tax increases, for example, have been shown to improve the odds that smokers will quit and discourage people from picking up the practice in the first place. Other efforts like public smoking bans and restrictions on advertising have also had success, the authors say. In New York City, where these practices have been adopted, the prevalence of smoking has declined by a third.

Read next: Watch John Oliver Burn Big Tobacco

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TIME Addiction

This Is Not a Good Reason to Smoke Cigarettes

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But smoking causes weight loss, a new study says

Anyone who’s considered lighting up knows smoking’s skinny-making reputation, and a new study of 80,000 people shows there’s truth to the claim. Researchers found that smokers weighed about 5 pounds less than people who had never smoked, according to new research in the International Journal of Epidemiology. The cause of that lighter weight, the researchers say, is tobacco.

Those findings are a direct contradiction to several observational studies that have linked smoking to just the opposite: higher body weight and BMI. But researchers at Copenhagen University Hospital wanted to look at the link genetically, in a way that wouldn’t be plagued by confounding lifestyle factors that often go along with smoking. They took weight and BMI measurements of 80,342 people, along with blood samples that they analyzed for DNA.

They looked at a genetic variant associated with higher tobacco consumption, close to a gene called CHRNA3—”the smoking craving gene,” says study author Børge G. Nordestgaard, MD, professor at the University of Copenhagen in the department of clinical biochemistry. Smokers with this genotype weighed almost three pounds less than smokers who didn’t inherit this genetic variant. But in people who had never smoked or formerly smoked, there was no link between CHRNA3 and a lower body weight.

“That’s really the proof that smoking causes it,” Nordestgaard says.

That doesn’t mean that smoking will give you a better figure. In the study, smoking only affected total body weight, not body shape or fat distribution.

The weight loss effect may be due to a laundry list of chemicals in cigarettes, the authors say—some studies have found nicotine to suppress appetite and increase resting metabolic rate. “There’s a possibility that many of these chemicals may influence weight in some pathway we don’t know about yet,” Nordestgaard says.

That’s obviously no reason to start—or continue—smoking, the researchers caution. “From what we know so far, the hazards of smoking much overweigh the slight benefit of having a lower body weight,” Nordestgaard says. “But when smokers tell you they won’t stop smoking because they’re afraid of gaining weight, I think it’s important to know that this is real—so we can try at the same time to help them quit smoking and keep a lower body weight.”

Read next: What Diet Soda Does to Belly Fat

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TIME Addiction

Watching E-Cig Ads May Increase the Urge to Smoke, Study Says

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

A new study shows possible consequences of vaping in commercials

Seeing commercials for electronic cigarettes can increase the urge to smoke traditional cigarettes, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania discovered that watching advertisements that showing vaping can increase the desire of current and former smokers to pick up a conventional cigarette.

In the new study, published in the journal Health Communication, the researchers assessed the urge to smoke among 301 daily smokers, 272 intermittent smokers and 311 former smokers. They then had the participants watch three e-cigarette commercials. Some of the commercials showed vaping, and others did not.

After they viewed the advertisements, the men and women were once again asked about their urge to smoke. Their responses showed that the daily smokers who saw vaping ads had a greater desire to smoke a regular cigarette, and a higher likelihood of actually doing so during the experiment.

The former smokers who watched the advertisements with vaping were more likely to report decreased intention to abstain from smoking. Intermittent smokers showed no significant changes.

The researchers say the data suggests that watching the commercials with vaping could lead to actual smoking behaviors or interfere the ability of former smokers to refrain from picking up the habit again.

“The jury is still out on the efficacy of e-cigarettes to reduce tobacco use and tobacco smoking,” says study author and communication professor Joseph N. Cappella in a video about his study. “If it turns out to be the case that e-cigarettes are a good vehicle for reducing tobacco addiction, then we not want to stand in the way of advertising…but it doesn’t mean we couldn’t carry out that advertising without the vaping cues in order to not have these deleterious consequences.”

MORE: The Future of Smoking

TIME Addiction

WHO Global Tobacco-Use Reduction Target Likely Up in Smoke, Says Study

Man lights up a cigarette with another cigarette outside an office building in Beijing
Jason Lee—Reuters A man lights up a cigarette with another cigarette outside an office building in Beijing, Nov. 25, 2014

China remains the world's largest market for tobacco products

Even as the number of smokers in many countries declines, increasing numbers in Africa and the Mediterranean are taking up the habit, meaning global tobacco-use figures will likely increase slightly over the next decade, according to a new study.

Member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) are aiming to cut worldwide tobacco consumption by 30% from 2010 levels by 2025, but the target may be missed because of smoking’s enduring popularity in low and middle-income nations, reports Agence France-Presse.

The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, projected “an estimated 1.1 billion current tobacco smokers” by 2025, higher than the current number of one billion smokers worldwide.

In time, as many as half of today’s smokers will die as a result of their tobacco use. Currently, there is a tobacco-related death every six seconds, according to the WHO.

TIME neuroscience

Teen Pot Smokers Have More Memory Damage, Study Says

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Chronic pot smoking may alter the shape of a region in the brain involved in memories

Smoking marijuana as a teenager can harm long-term memory, a new study suggests.

In the new research, published in the journal Hippocampus, researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine looked at 97 people and found that those who smoked marijuana every day for about three years performed worse on long-term memory assessments. A region of their brain associated with long-term memory—the hippocampus—also looked abnormal in an MRI.

“We focused on the brains of young adults who were teenagers when they began abusing cannabis,” says study author Matthew J. Smith, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We were interested in evaluating whether former cannabis abusers were characterized by differences in brain anatomy and memory performance after a period of abstinence.”

The researchers found that young adults in their 20s who were heavy marijuana smokers in their teenage years scored 18% worse on long-term memory tests that assessed their ability to code, file and recall memories, compared to young adults who had never smoked marijuana. The longer the person’s history of marijuana use, the more the shape of their hippocampus looked altered.

“The generalization we can make is that the greater the differences in the hippocampus shape associated with cannabis, the poorer the participants performed on the memory assessment,” says Smith.

The researchers also looked specifically at marijuana smokers with schizophrenia and found that they scored about 26% worse than the people with the disorder who did not smoke marijuana when they were younger.

According to Smith, components in marijuana can interfere with receptors in the brain that can impair brain chemistry and possibly impact the brain structure. This change, he says, could be what’s causing memory issues.

The study is still preliminary, since its sample size is small and the researchers only looked at one point in time. The hippocampus could also have changed before a young person started heavily using marijuana, the study authors acknowledge, which could make them more susceptible to the memory-related effects. Still, Smith says, the study suggests that smoking as a teen may not be benign for the developing brain.

TIME Addiction

British Parliament Votes to Ban Cigarettes With Branding

Plain Cigarette Packaging Law To Be Voted On Before The Election
Dan Kitwood—Getty Images Cigarettes are sold on Jan. 22, 2015 in London, England.

The government wants to reduce cigarette sales

Cigarette manufacturers in the United Kingdom may be barred from putting their logos on packets by 2016, after an overwhelming majority of Parliament voted Wednesday for the new measure.

Under the proposed law, cigarettes sold in Britain would no longer bear logos, trademarks or graphics. Instead, they would be sold in plain, standardized packets listing brand names and health warnings.

The measure was opposed by tobacco companies, but the government says it will improve public health and reduce the number of child smokers, Reuters reports.

The measure was approved by 367 votes to 113 in the lower house of Parliament.

The upper house must still debate and vote on the law.

[Reuters]

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TIME Addiction

How to Make Cocaine Less Addictive

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Researchers learn more about the brain on cocaine

New research in rats suggests that it might be possible to dull the vivid memories of cocaine, a finding that could lead to potential therapies that might one day make drugs less addictive.

In the new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers at Washington State University experimented with rats and showed that it’s possible to interfere with the brain’s memory creation process, which is involved in cocaine addiction. Altering this process could make the drug less desirable.

The researchers gave a group of rats cocaine while they were in a specific cage. The rats learned to associate their home with cocaine and memories of those experiences—something humans do, too, says study author Barbara Sorg, a professor of neuroscience at Washington State University Vancouver.

“When people take drugs, they end up accumulating memories of where they took the drug, the people they took the drug with, the sights, the smells, the feeling of increased heart rate or the rush,” says Sorg. “All those things are creating memories.”

Sorg says that people who become dependent on drugs often want to relive a memory they have of that drug. “People talk about chasing that original high, that euphoric response that they can’t seem to get back, so they take higher and higher levels of drugs.”

During the study the researchers also removed a part of the brain in some of the rats called the perineuronal nets. These nets are located in the brain region associated with attention, learning and memory. The researchers found that without their perineuronal nets the rats found the drug cages less desirable, suggesting the nets are both involved in drug-related memories, and that removing them can blunt those memories.

“We are trying to get to a basic understanding for what structures might be responsible for expressing cocaine-associated memory,” says Sorg. If those memories can indeed be dulled, then there may be an pathway for therapies to curb cocaine’s addictiveness in the brain. A drug that targets one of the building blocks of the nets could be a possible option one day, Sorg says, though this research is still very preliminary.

These findings, if replicated in humans, could have implications for people trying to recover from addiction, Sorg says. Sometimes people who succeed in rehab relapse once they are put back in the environment where they were using drugs, Sorg says, possibly due to all the cues around them that they associate with the experience.

“If we can understand the components of these nets and how they are regulated by cocaine, or how they’ve changed by taking cocaine, then we can understand the next step which would be developing therapeutics,” Sorg says.

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TIME Addiction

Heroin-Related Deaths Have Quadrupled in America

New federal data reports bad news for America's heroin problem

Correction appended, March 5

Heroin-related deaths nearly tripled in the U.S. within just three years and quadrupled in 13, according to new federal data.

The new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that from 2000 to 2013, drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin increased fourfold, from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 people to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people. The rate was about four times higher among men than among women in 2013.

Heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths have increased in all age groups, races and ethnic groups, the data show. Every region in the U.S. also experienced an increase, and the Midwest experienced the biggest jump.

One reason for the spike is America’s growing painkiller problem. The NCHS released another report last month showing that significantly more people over age 20 are using opioids. The number of people who used a painkiller stronger than morphine increased from 17% to 37% from the early 2000s to about a decade later.

CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality.

People who are hooked on painkillers may make the switch to heroin since it’s cheaper and doesn’t need a prescription, according to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the chief medical officer of the Phoenix House, a national nonprofit drug and alcohol-rehabilitation organization. Both drugs come from the opium poppy and therefore offer a similar high. “We are seeing heroin deaths sky rocketing because we have an epidemic of people addicted to opioids. There are new markets like suburbs where heroin didn’t used to exist,” says Kolodny. (He was not involved in the research.)

MORE Why You Don’t Know About the Heroin Vaccine

Prior data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that painkillers are a growing problem. In 2014, the CDC reported that physicians wrote 259 million painkiller prescription in a single year — the equivalent of a bottle of pills per American — and almost 50 Americans die every day from a prescription-painkiller overdose. The agency recommends that states run prescription-drug prescribing databases to track overprescribing and consider policies that reduce risky prescribing practices.

As states and the White House struggle to tackle opioid addiction, some experts are skeptical about whether such efforts are enough to solve the problem. “We are dealing with the worst drug epidemic in our history,” says Kolodny. “There’s no evidence it’s plateauing.”

Read next: Ohio Steps Up Fight Against Heroin Deaths

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Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the timeline of the U.S. heroin-related death rate.

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