TIME Baseball

The San Francisco Giants Could Become the First MLB Team to Ban Chewing Tobacco

Minnesota Twins v San Francisco Giants
Brace Hemmelgarn—Getty Images A general view of the exterior of AT&T Park following the game between the San Francisco Giants and the Minnesota Twins on May 23, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

Players have been dipping for as long as anyone can remember, but that could soon change

A San Francisco city ordinance could make the Giants the first team in Major League Baseball to ban chewing tobacco on the field.

City supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to ban smokeless tobacco in playing fields throughout the city and specifically targeted baseball—a sport infamous for the player’s use of tobacco, according to a statement from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which pushed for the law.

The ordinance must pass one more vote and, if San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signs, the rule will be implemented on Jan. 1 2016—in time for the MLB baseball season.

Jess Montejano, a legislative aide for the ban’s chief sponsor, Supervisor Mark Farrell, told TIME that legislators began working on the ordinance in the beginning part of 2015 because “it’s a serious health issue” in which “kids are seeing their athletic heroes chewing tobacco on the baseball diamond.”

Montejano also added the San Francisco Giants “are fully aware of the intention” and that proponents of the ban believed the team would support MLB’s stance on the issue of chewing tobacco.

After the law was initially proposed in late Feb., MLB issued a statement saying that it “has long supported a ban of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level” and that it had been seeking “a ban of its use on-field in discussions with the Major League Baseball Players Association.”

A study published April 10 from the University of California San Francisco suggested that seeing players chewing tobacco was akin to product endorsement. It found that “modeling of smokeless tobacco use by…elite athletes is strongly associated with smokeless tobacco initiation among adolescent males.” The study also cited an NCAA statistic that found that 52.3% of collegiate baseball players tried smokeless tobacco at least once in 2012 to 2013.

When asked if the ban would essentially force players to quit, Montejano cited former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, who blames tobacco for his mouth cancer. “Schilling said it was the worst thing about his life and if he could change one thing from his younger years it would be to quit.”

TIME medicine

Smokers Don’t Think a Few Cigarettes Will Harm Their Health

smoking
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Nearly everyone knows that smoking is harmful for your health. But some refuse to admit that their habits may be killing them

Heart disease, lung cancer, throat cancer, diabetes—the list of bad things that smoking does to your health is long and growing longer. Thanks to public health warnings and education campaigns, most of us have heard that cigarettes can be dangerous to your wellbeing and can shorten your life.

But one group who should be getting that message loud and clear may be in a bit of denial. In a study of more than 1,600 French smokers and non-smokers, 34% said that lighting up 10 cigarettes a day would not put them at higher risk of lung cancer. And fewer than 40% knew that their risk of lung cancer wouldn’t disappear if even if they quit smoking. The results were presented at the European Lung Cancer Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The fact that one third of subjects wrongly considered that a daily consumption of up to 10 cigarettes was not associated with any risk of lung cancer is particularly impressive and threatening,” writes study author Dr. Laurent Greillier from Aix Marseille University in response to questions about the findings.

The results were especially worrisome since the participants in the study were 40 years old to 75 years old and therefore spent most of their adult lives hearing strong public health warnings about the dangers of smoking. That means that while anti-smoking campaigns have been effective, they may not have educated people deeply enough about the dangers of tobacco. That’s especially true for people who engage in what they consider to be “safe” or “light” smoking, the study finds. “Our results suggest that public health policies must continue to focus on the tobacco pandemic, and notably initiate campaigns concerning the risk of any cigarette,” says Greillier.

TIME Addiction

FDA Panel Votes Against Smokeless Tobacco Safety Claims

Swedish Match Targets Wall Street Smokers With Snus Tobacco
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The panel's vote was split on some important points

An FDA advisory panel voted on Friday that it does not agree with the evidence and claims put forward by smokeless tobacco manufacturer Swedish Match regarding its application to change warning labels on its tobacco product, called snus.

Snus, pronounced snoose, is a cloth baggie with moist tobacco powder which users stick under their upper lip for a nicotine buzz. As TIME reported on Thursday, Swedish Match wants to remove the required warnings that say snus causes mouth cancer, gum disease and tooth loss, arguing that there isn’t sufficient scientific evidence to support them. The company also wants to change the warning to read: “No tobacco product is safe, but this product presents substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes.”

On Thursday and Friday an advisory committee to the FDA met about the company’s application and voted on a series of questions related to the application. The FDA will use the committee vote as a recommendation that it may or may not adopt. On Friday, the committee largely voted against many of Swedish Match’s claims, with some exceptions.

On certain claims, the panel’s vote was clear cut. The committee unanimously voted that there was not evidence to suggest that snus products do not pose risks to gum disease or tooth loss. The committee was, however, split on the question of whether snus products do not pose risks for oral cancer. Three members voted yes, three members voted no, and two abstained from the vote.

The committee was split on the question of whether there’s evidence to support the statement that the health risks for people who exclusively use snus products are “substantially lower” than the health risks from smoking cigarettes. Four members voted yes and four voted no.

The vote suggests the committee is still unconvinced that solely using the smokeless tobacco product is indeed safer than using cigarettes. A large part of Swedish Match’s argument is that snus has contributed to what’s called the “Swedish experience.” Sweden has similar tobacco consumption rates as other European countries but has the lowest smoking-related mortality rate. Many say that’s because Swedish men tend to choose snus over cigarettes (the product is less popular among women). Members of the public health community watching the vote have been largely divided on whether harm reduction has a place in tobacco control and whether pushing people toward products with lower levels of nicotine is good for public health.

The committee also voted that the proposed warning statement from Swedish Match does not adequately communicate the potential health risks from using snus.

“I am very happy with the vote,” says Shyam Biswal, a professor in the department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “My main concern is [snus attracting] new users who would otherwise not smoke. Saying snus is significantly less harmful [than cigarettes] is a very broad claim.” Biswal adds that he thought the evidence presented by Swedish Match was weak, including studies with small sample sizes. Biswal was not involved in the vote, but has studied modified risk tobacco products.

Swedish Match did not respond to requests for comment by time of publication.

TIME Addiction

How a Big FDA Decision Could Change Tobacco Control

Swedish Match Targets Wall Street Smokers With Snus Tobacco
Ramin Talaie—Bloomberg/Getty Images

A Swedish Company that manufactures snus wants to change its label to indicate it's safer than cigarettes

An upcoming decision from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could have significant implications on U.S. tobacco control.

On Thursday and Friday, an advisory committee to the FDA is meeting to review an application from the smokeless tobacco company Swedish Match. The Stockholm-based company wants to be permitted to legally claim that their tobacco product, called snus (pronounced “snoose”) is safer than cigarettes. The company disagrees with some of the warnings required for its label, and instead wants to use a warning that says “No tobacco product is safe, but this product presents substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes.”

Snus is a small cloth baggie that contains moist tobacco powder. They’ve been described as looking like mini tea bags. Users tuck the small pouches under the upper lip to get a buzz from the nicotine. It’s sort of similar to dip or chew, but without all the spitting.

The company’s argument is that snus is behind what’s called the “Swedish experience.” Sweden has a similar tobacco consumption rate compared to other European countries, but has the lowest smoking-related mortality rate. Snus has credited itself for offering Sweds (it’s used primarily by men) a safer alternative to cigarettes, becoming the country’s predominant product. The company wants to remove the required warnings that say the product causes mouth cancer, gum disease and tooth loss arguing there isn’t evidence to support that for their product and they would like to make the claim that the product safer than conventional cigarettes.

“Given all the science we have, it’s clear to me that the current label is misbranded. The label says a lot of things that there simply is no scientific basis for. We would like to be able to communicate that,” says Dr. Lars Erik Rutqvist, an oncologist and Swedish Match’s vice president of scientific affairs. Rutqvist was a cigarette smoker while in medical school (he says at the time that was still common), but wanted to quit when he decided to become an oncologist. He used snus to do so.

“I think it’s problematic that the only message that American smokers are left with today is you should quit,” he says.

The FDA panel is expected to make a vote after the hearing ends on Friday. The panel’s vote will provide a recommendation to the FDA. The agency could follow that recommendation or decide not to adopt it. If the committee agrees with Swedish Match, experts within the tobacco control community believe it could have some major implications for tobacco control regulation.

“This is a critical decision because of the precedent it sets,” says Kenneth E. Warner, a professor of public health focusing on tobacco control at University of Michigan. “It’s precedent setting in the sense that if this goes through it will be the first product to get this reduced risk authorization from the government. It would allow a tobacco harm reduction message to be placed on a product other than an FDA certified treatment such as nicotine replacement products. So it’s pretty important.”

Smokeless tobacco is considered less dangerous than cigarettes, since it doesn’t have toxic smoke. There are members within the public health community that believe that pushing consumers towards lower nicotine-containing products or products that put less harmful chemicals in buyers’ bodies is good for public health.Warner is among them. Others, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have come down hard against such products like e-cigarettes for example, arguing using the products can lead to dual use instead of cigarette smoking cessation.

“Although there’s evidence snus may have reduced harm, reduced harm products are not the same as safe products,” Dr. Michael Steinberg, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program at Rutgers University told NPR.

Warner says the company will have to prove to the FDA that it can back up it’s claims, and the FDA must be confident that the changes wouldn’t have negative consequences. “If information about how snus lowers harms encourages kids to start using it because they don’t think it’s particularly dangerous, and then they graduate to cigarettes because they want the faster nicotine kick, that’s a bad thing,” says Warner. “If snus were to get former smokers to start using it and it has health hazards, that’s not good. It’s hypothetical. The best evidence we have comes from Sweden.”

What the advisory committee will decide and the reverberations of that decision remains unknown, but it it will further fuel the debate over modified risk tobacco products and whether harm reduction has a place in tobacco control.

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.

Read next: These 4D Ultrasound Photos Show How Fetuses Respond to Their Mothers’ Smoking

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TIME Addiction

This Is Not a Good Reason to Smoke Cigarettes

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

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

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 States

Indiana Moves to Regulate E-Cig Liquids

Man demonstrates an e-cigarette at Vape store in Chicago in 2014.
Nam Y. Huh—AP Man demonstrates an e-cigarette at Vape store in Chicago in 2014.

States are moving on electronic cigarettes where the feds aren't

Indiana moved closer this week to regulating the liquids that are used in electronic cigarettes, a regulatory focus that goes beyond the measures states and municipalities have been enacting for months.

The bill advanced by a state Senate committee and already passed by the state House would establish requirements for manufacturing safety standards, a ban on the sale of e-cig liquid to minors, and child-proof safety caps, the Associated Press reports. The movement comes as local governments increasingly look to regulate a cigarette alternative that is growing in popularity in the absence of federal rules.

The bill in Indiana would not extend a smoking ban to so-called vaping, something health advocates and the state attorney general had sought. But electronic cigarette business owners told lawmaers that the regulations could force businesses to close.

MORE: The Future of Smoking

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a regulatory blueprint for regulation that would subject electronic cigarettes to the same regulations that apply to new tobacco products, and require disclosure of ingredients in the liquids used, among other things. But it could be many months, or even years, before these rules are enacted.

[AP]

TIME Addiction

It’s Really Easy for Teens to Buy E-Cigs Online

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

Most popular e-cigarette sites fail to verify the age of their clients, finds a new study

Young people under age 18 can buy e-cigarettes online, even in states where it’s illegal, a new study shows.

North Carolina researchers asked 11 teens between ages 14 to 17 who didn’t smoke to try to buy e-cigarettes online from 98 of the most popular Internet vendors. The sale of e-cigarettes to minors in North Carolina is illegal—but of the 98 orders, only five were rejected based on a failed age verification. Eighteen orders failed for problems unrelated to age, like website issues. Overall, the minors made 75 successful orders.

The teens were also asked to answer the door when deliveries were made. None of the companies attempted to confirm age at delivery, and 95% of the time, the orders were just left at the teens’ doors.

The findings are concerning for any state trying to regulate youth access, the authors say. Currently, there’s no federal law forbidding the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, despite the fact that they contain nicotine, which is addictive. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed that e-cigarettes fall under their regular tobacco regulation jurisdiction, but the proposal is still not a codified law. “It may be several years before federal regulations are implemented,” the study authors write.

Some states have stepped in and banned the sale to minors within their borders. So far 41 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands forbid such transactions, or have pending legislation to do so.

But as the new study suggests, young people can easily get e-cigarettes online if they want them. “Without strictly enforced federal regulations, online e-cigarette vendors have little motivation to decrease profits by spending the time and money it takes to properly verify customers’ age and reject underage buyers,” says study author Rebecca S. Williams, public health researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

None of the vendors complied with North Carolina’s e-cigarette age-verification law. The majority of U.S. carriers, including USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL, ban the delivery of cigarettes, only allowing the delivery of tobacco products from a licensed dealer or distributor to another licensed dealer or distributor. If these rules were extended to e-cigarettes, the study authors argue it would essentially shut down a major loophole in access.

Getting proposed rules like the FDA’s passed takes time, but when it comes to the safety of children, the researchers argue there needs to be more urgency. Prior data has shown that from 2011 to 2013, the number of young Americans who used e-cigarettes but not conventional cigarettes more than tripled, from 79,000 to over 263,000. The study authors conclude that the ease with which teens can get e-cigarettes online—in a state that forbids the practice—stresses the need for more regulation, and fast.

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