Cuba, U.S. cancer centre join forces to work on a vaccine for lung cancer


Another fallout of the thawing of relations between Cuba and the U.S. — and a pretty neat story, to boot.

Scientists at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. announced a partnership last week with the Center for Molecular Immunology in Havana to work together on a vaccine for lung cancer vaccine. Cuban doctors have been working with a vaccine for lung cancer and melanoma that has shown promise.

From the article by Medical Daily:

The vaccine, known as CIMAVAX, has already undergone rigorous testing in Cuba. It has shown success in reducing antibody responses in lung cancer patients and reducing future tumor growth. Without FDA approval, however, the drug won’t see a U.S. rollout. Scientists still need the authorization to perform clinical trials demonstrating the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. Johnson says the plan is to get testing underway within eight months to a year, provided they can put together the more than 1,000-page investigational new drug (IND) application for the FDA’s review.

The vaccine, if it’s shown to be effective in the U.S., might someday be given to people at high risk for lung cancer — and the group at the highest risk is smokers.

From the story:

“Because of its lack of its toxicity, you could think of using this vaccine in more of a preventive manner,” said Dr. Candace Johnson, president and CEO of Roswell Park and oncology professor at SUNY Buffalo. That would happen in two possible ways. The first is preventing early-stage cancer from recurring after treatment, as these patients face a greater risk. The other is preventing high-risk people, who have not received a diagnosis, from ever developing it. Smokers, Johnson says, top the list.

The story also makes an interesting point at the conclusion, and a point I’ve read before about DNA testing for lung cancer. There is a concern that if a vaccine actually could be developed for smokers to protect them lung cancer, would that demotivate smokers from quitting? There is a currently a DNA test available that can show your risk to lung cancer … and similar concerns were raised about this test … that if the test showed low risk for lung cancer, would that demotivate smokers from quitting?

I guess I’d respond that … you know, there are a LOT of other diseases you can get from smoking other than lung cancer — COPD and heart disease, plus a variety of other cancers. Honestly, this shouldn’t be an issue. If someone actually thinks, “what the hell, I got a lung cancer vaccine, I can keep lighting up,” frankly, they’re an idiot.


New Orleans’ smoking ban becomes official: Media goes wild, lawsuit filed

A New Orleans bar holding a smoking party.


New Orleans’ ban on smoking in bars and casinos (smoking in restaurants was already banned in Louisiana) went into effect this week. And two things happened. 1) A million media outlets are fascinated by the story and wrote about it and 2) The inevitably doomed-to-fail lawsuit has already been filed. In fact, it was filed before it even took effect.

The city passed the ban several weeks ago to a considerable amount of hoopla. It’s the first major comprehensive smoking ban passed by a major city in quite some time. I keep saying this — pretty much everywhere that is going to pass smoking bans has already done it; and the places that haven’t passed them tend to be conservative, anti-regulatory government bodies, mostly in the South at this point.

NPR and the New York Times did stories on New Orleans’ smoking ban. Apparently, a bunch of bars in New Orleans had “smoke-ins” and smoking parties the night before the law took effect to ccommemorate the end of smoky bars and clubs. I love this quote from the Times story:

“This is one of the smokiest bars in town,” said Steve Zweibaum, 57, the owner of a jazz venue nearby who, while smoking a cigarette, spoke of how he had quit smoking long ago. “I know a bunch of people who don’t come in here because of the smoke,” he said, listing names. “Maybe they’ll come back.”


This goes to the heart of one of my gripes about anti-smoking ban advocates. They claim smoking bans hurt small businesses such as bars and pubs. They’ll dig up studies proving their point and for every study they did up, I can dig up five studies showing smoking bans don’t hurt the hospitality industry. This is an argument I don’t think I’ve had in at least three years because hardly anyone makes these claims of economic devastation anymore.

Anyway, I have always argued this. Maybe there are some people who refuse to go out anymore because of smoking bans, maybe out of spite, and doubtful for very long if they do. And for every one of those people, I’m convinced there is an equal if not greater number of people who haven’t been going out because they hate cigarette smoke and hate being around it, and now will go to the clubs, bars, whatever.

Anyway, despite reams of evidence stating otherwise, a number of New Orleans businesses have already filed a lawsuit against the ban (weirdly enough, they filed it before it even took effect.). Harrah’s Casino is one of the plaintiffs. Some other bars and restaurants joined in, including two French Quarter restaurants where smoking is already banned (:/).


Anyway, I can’t wait for the economic impact studies about a year from now. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict this law won’t hurt the overall hospitality business in New Orleans one bit. It might hurt Harrah’s Casino, at least short-term, we’ll see, but not the hospitality industry overall. Why do I believe this? Because so many other places that have imposed smoking bans haven’t seen the big doom-and-gloom predictions come true, and because most of the civilized world outside the Deep South already has smoking bans — so people are already used to them and have been for a few years now. I honestly can’t imagine people seriously canceling their vacation to New Orleans because they can no longer smoke in a club … particularly if they’re from New York … or Chicago … or New England … or California … or all of Canada … or any one of the 31 states with comprehensive smoking bans in place the past several years.

Anyway, good luck with the lawsuit. To my knowledge, not one lawsuit has ever been successful in overturning a statewide smoking ban or any smoking ban in a major city. (I think a suit to overturn a smoking ban in Jackson, Wyo., was successful).

Time Magazine did an interesting online story about whether the New Orleans smoking ban could lead to the roadblock to smoking bans finally being broken in the Deep South (I will say New Orleans is not the first major city in the South to have a smoking bans. Houston and Dallas both don’t allow smoking in bars and restaurants, for instance.) Smoking bans are either scattered or lax throughout the South, which also has the highest smoking rates in the nation and the highest death rates from lung cancer.

From the Time article:

“Unfortunately, with all the progress we’ve made in this country on smoke-free air over the last over 20 years, the Southeast United States has been a holdout at the state and local level,” said Chris Bostic, deputy director for policy at Action on Smoking & Health. “New Orleans, one of the bigger cities in the South, going smoke-free is a very positive step in the right direction.”

According to Time, several other communities in the South are looking at smoking bans in response to New Orleans’ ban.

From the article:

In Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi, for example, some cities have started the process of creating their own bans after hearing about the new policy in New Orleans, according to Cynthia Hallett, executive director at the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.

“A smoke-free New Orleans has had a positive ripple effect already,” Hallett said. “Local policy leads the way. You get more innovative, stronger laws.”

San Francisco votes to ban chew at all ballparks, including AT&T Park


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted this week to ban chewing tobacco at all ballparks, including the Giants’ home, AT&T Park.

The ordinance, which passed by a unanimous vote, will take a second vote next week, and it sounds like a bit of a formality. The ordinance would not go into effect until Jan. 1, so it would not affect ballplayers and coaches this year.

There is also a similar bill in the California State Assembly to ban chewing tobacco at all ballparks in California — supposedly, this would apply to the Dodgers, A’s and Padres.

The ordinance would ban everyone — even the players — from chewing tobacco publicly in ballparks. I’m wondering how they plan to enforce that if some ballplayers defy the ordinance. I’m kind of trying to imagine them telling some $20 million-a-year athlete to spit out his chew or else he might get a ticket.

Chew is already banned in ballparks at the Minor League level. Smoking is banned in most, if not all, MLB parks (Honestly, that a good question, I don’t know if any parks in the country still allow smoking except in specially designated areas).


Major League Baseball has expressed an interest in banning chew, but it’s an issue that would have to be negotiated with the Player’s Association. I actually didn’t know this. Players are not allowed to be chewing tobacco during television interviews (I wonder if that’s enforced at all.)

I’m hoping that the action by San Francisco supervisors and the bill in the California Assembly will prompt baseball and the player’s association to take action. It’s long overdue. Too many kids getting the idea that chew is cool from watching their favourite players with a chaw in his cheek.

Tony Gwynn died last year of salivary gland cancer and blamed his decades-long chew habit for his cancer. Curt Schilling last year also had a scary bout of oral cancer and likewise blamed chewing tobacco.

Here is a statement on San Francisco’s move by Matt Myers with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

“Today’s vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is truly historic and a huge step toward eliminating tobacco from baseball for good. San Francisco will become the first city to take tobacco out of baseball, setting a powerful example that all of Major League Baseball and the rest of the country should quickly follow. The Board of Supervisors recognizes some simple but important facts – kids see athletes as role models, and when baseball stars use smokeless tobacco the kids who look up to them are much more likely to as well. Our national pastime should have nothing to do with promoting a deadly and addictive product.

Supervisor Mark Farrell has been a true champion on this issue, putting the health of San Francisco’s kids first. San Francisco is leading the nation on this important issue and helping us achieve our goal of the first tobacco-free generation.

When Mayor Lee signs the ordinance into law, we will be on our way to making Major League Baseball completely tobacco-free by 2016. We applaud San Francisco for acting to break baseball’s unhealthy addiction to tobacco and moving us closer to taking tobacco out of baseball once and for all – for the kids, the players and the future.”


FDA study: Cigars are not safer than cigarettes


APTOPIX Cuba Cigar Festival

This story actually surprised me a little bit, because prior studies had suggested that cigarettes were actually more dangerous than cigars because cigarette tobacco is a different kind of tobacco from cigar tobacco, and it is also cured differently. Allan Brandt also talked about this somewhat in his excellent book, “The Cigarette Century.”

(Part of where this idea comes from is people smoked cigars all through the 18th century, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that there was a huge uptick in lung cancer cases — roughly about 30 years after cigarettes started becoming popular in the early 1900s.)


The latest study done by the FDA contradicts this notion, showing no tangible difference in the danger from cigarette smoke and cigar smoke.


From a Medical Daily article:

“The results reinforce the fact that cigar smoking carries many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking,” lead researcher from the FDA Cindy Chang said in a statement. “Cigar smoking is linked to fatal oral, esophageal, pancreatic, laryngeal, and lung cancers, as well as heart disease and aortic aneurysm.”

Chang and her colleagues combed through 22 studies from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland that focused on cigar smoking, smoking-related mortality, and all-cause mortality. The studies focused primarily on white men from North America and Europe in the 1960s or earlier. Researchers assessed the health risks for cigar smokers and compared them to people with no history of cigarette smoking or people who have never used tobacco.

People who smoked only cigars and had never smoked any other tobacco products still stood a higher risk for all-cause mortality. Risk for death caused by oral, esophageal, and lung cancers increased significantly after a person started smoking cigars, even if they reported not inhaling cigar smoke. People who smoked cigarettes before picking up cigars were at a significantly higher risk for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared to those who smoked cigars exclusively.

I found some other links that state that cigarettes do seem to be more dangerous as far as causing COPD than just cigars.

What’s worrisome about this story is that cigar use is up — wayyy up. I believe part of the reason why is people are thinking cigars are safer than cigarettes. (The increase in cigar use has correlated with a sharp decline in smoking.) Cigar use has doubled in the U.S. from 6.2 billion in 2000 to 13.7 billion in 2011.

One thing to keep in mind about cigars is that they contain considerably more tobacco than a cigarette. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one cigar contains as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes. So, even if you just smoke one cigar a day, you’re consuming as much tobacco as 20 cigarettes.

Study: Nicotine-like chemical in pesticide may be turning bees into junkies


Another interesting study, this one from Newcastle University and scientists in Sweden and published in Nature, suggest that a chemical in pesticides which has chemical similarities to nicotine is killing bees.

These chemicals, called neonicotinoids, have molecular similarities to nicotine, which is generally considered one of the most addictive substances on the planet … if not the most addictive substance on the planet. According to this article from the Guardian:

Scientists suggested the chemicals, which have a similar molecular structure to nicotine, may be affecting the reward centres in bee’s brain in the same way humans are affected by cigarettes.

Professor Geraldine Wright, who led the study, said that the addictive effect was not something they had tested for and was only a hypothesis.

“Like nicotine they are essentially amplifying the rewarding properties of the sucrose solution that they are located in and the bees think its more rewarding so they go back to that food tube to drink more of it,” she said. Previous studies have showed rat’s brain responding to neonicotinoid in this way.

Connolly said: “It will be interesting to see if insects become addicted to neonicotinoids over time as humans become addicted to nicotine. Given that the neonicotinoids are commonly found in our farmed environment at these levels, this may have already occurred.”

It’s no secret that bee populations have been declining and pesticides are the biggest suspect for that. Some of these pesticides have already been banned in Europe and they could be banned in the U.S. Perhaps because the bees become addicted to the neonicotinoid chemicals, they are more attracted to nectar that has been sprayed with it.

According to the Nature article:

Christopher Connolly, who studies human and bee neuroscience at the University of Dundee, UK, and has published work6 showing that neonicotinoids interfere with neuron function in bumblebees, says that he was already convinced that the pesticides are bad for bees. Now, “the questions need to move to a different level”, to elucidate the mechanisms.

Of course, to absolutely no one’s surprise, representatives of pesticide companies say the study is bogus. From the Guardian story:

Nick von Westenholz, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association that represents neonicotinoid producers Bayer and Syngenta, said: “The latest studies in Nature must be seen in the context of an ongoing campaign to discredit neonicotinoid pesticides, regardless of what the real evidence shows.”

He said Rundlöf’s results were questionable as the levels of the pesticide found in pollen on the bees was higher than in previous studies , suggesting that Rundlöf had treated the crops herself rather than using industry-standard seeds.

“Bayer CropScience is pleased the Swedish study demonstrates yet again there is no effect of neonicotinoids on honeybee colonies in realistic field conditions, consistent with previous published field studies,” said a spokesman for the agrochemical giant. But it criticised the methodology of Rundlöf’s experiment and said the study offered no proof of increased bee deaths.

So, nicotine-like chemicals are not only incredibly addictive for humans, but according to these studies, apparently for bees, too.


New drug uses body’s own immune system to fight lung cancer


An interesting story from NBC News. A new drug, called Keytruda, can apparently use the body’s own immune system among some patients to fight both lung cancer and melanoma.

According to the NBC News article:

Garon’s team tested Keytruda in 495 lung cancer patients. The drug targets mutations in genes called PD-1 and PD-L1. These mutations let some tumors escape detection and destruction by immune system cells that normally prevent cancer from spreading in the body. … It worked in about 19 percent of the patients,

Before you think 19 percent is a petty amount — keep in mind lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the world. In the U.S., about 224,000 people a year get lung cancer. 19 percent of 224,000 is 43,000 people … a year … in the U.S. alone.


Currently, about 160,000 people a year die of lung cancer each year. We’re talking about potentially cutting that number by 25 percent if this drug works as well as promised.

From the NBC story:

Most of the patients helped by Keytruda saw their cancer stop growing for about an average of a year, and some still haven’t had the cancer come back, Garon’s team said in their report, which was also published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

About a quarter of the lung cancer patients in the trial had a mutation in PD-L1, and the people helped most by the drug were more likely to have the mutation, the researchers found.

The drug, known generically as pembrolizumab, caused many side-effects, such as fatigue and rash. But so does chemotherapy for lung cancer.


In a second study, researchers compared Keytruda to another immunotherapy drug called Yervoy in 830 patients with melanoma.

After a year, 74 percent of patients who received Keytruda every two weeks were alive. This dropped to 68 of those dosed every three weeks. To compare, 58 percent of patients who got Yervoy lived a year or longer, researchers reported.

It’s not a cure. Another one of many, many baby steps toward a cure to the Plague of the 20th Century.

10 reasons why the Stanley Cup playoffs are better than the NBA playoffs


Epoole88 artwork. Very talented.

Thank goodness my town has a hockey bar now where I don’t have to argue with the bartenders to turn switch the basketball game that no one is watching to the Stanley Cup playoff game.

My favourite era of hockey was from the 90s to the early 2000s, despite the poor scoring of the time. This was when I lived in the San Juans, and you could get all the games from CBC. They showed two games every Saturday (usually Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto in the late afternoon, then Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary at night). Then CBC just showed Stanley Cup playoff games constantly for two months from mid-April to mid-June.

I also used to love the hockey commercials on CBC. My favourite will always be the “Die Maple Leafs! Die!” Nike commercial.

Stanley Cup Finals - Chicago Blackhawks v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Six

I kind of fell out of love with NBA basketball around the same time. I used to love the NBA of the 80s — the absolute epic, legendary battles between the Celtics and the Lakers and the other teams lying in wait — the 76ers, Pistons and Bulls. Each team had their own style and identity uniquely theirs. I think basketball has lost that, all the teams seem to run the same offences today. I will probably still watch some of the NBA Finals, especially if Golden State gets in. I’m sick of the Spurs.

Capitals Time Out
One timeout a game. ONE!

What specifically turned me off of basketball was the Western Conference finals one year in the ’90s between the Lakers and Kings. In Game 7, the refs called blocking foul after blocking foul on Sacramento players as they literally stood there holding their hands up and Shaq traveled and jumped into them. Shaq got away with traveling and charging on virtually every play, but because he was Shaq, the refs called it the other way.

I’m not a believer in conspiracy theories, I’m seriously not, but that is a case where I cannot shake the suspicion that the NBA preferred to have a giant market like L.A. in the NBA Finals rather than a tiny market like Sacramento. That was what finally soured me on the NBA. The refs have too much power to control the flow and outcome of the game. I think more in basketball than any other sport. Anyway, I digress. I’m talking about why I soured on the NBA, not about why I think hockey is better. Here are my top 10 reasons why the Stanley Cup Playoffs are better than the NBA playoffs:

Bill Walton 2
There is no Bill Walton in hockey.

1) My favourite reason. Hockey teams are allowed ONE timeout. ONE. How many do you get in basketball. Like 10? The last two minutes of a basketball game take 20 minutes sometimes, I swear.


2) No Bill Walton. No Joe Morgan or Rick Sutcliffe or Tim McCarver for that matter. But, mostly, no Bill Walton.

3) The best, most beautiful trophy in sport. What does the NBA have? A gold-plated basketball.

4) Playoff beards!

5) The terminology:

“Top shelf!”

“Off the post!” ScreenShot2012-05-28at8.24.39PM_crop_north

“Five hole!”


“Off the blocker!”

6) The names! Every unpronounceable, unspellable name from Tarasenko to Pacioretty to Silfverberg to Zuccarello.


7) Every team has a shorter nickname than its official nickname. Penguins = Pens. Senators = Sens. Canadiens = Habs. Predators = Preds. Blackhawks = Hawks. Lightning = Bolts. Wild = …. well, the Wild are one of the freak teams.

8) Hockey wounds. Stitches. Right back on the ice.

9) The sounds! The puck off the post, the puck hitting the stick on a sharp pass, the thud on the boards during a massive collision, the goal horn.

10) No Toronto yet again. That’s a cherry on top.

toronto maple leafs losers

toronto losers

Arrrggghhh — Sports Illustrated April 20 edition: An ad for cigarettes, followed by an ad about lung cancer

Si ads
Page 21 of the April 20th Sports Illustrated on the left, page 119 on the right.


This made my head explode. Sports Illustrated’s policies on tobacco advertising are starting to make my head explode.

We all know SI takes tobacco advertising — a LOT of tobacco advertising. Not only do you find cigarette ads in nearly every issue, you will also find chewing tobacco ads and ads for Blu e-cigarettes. Usually full-page.

SI’s insistence on continuing to take tobacco advertising has drawn the ire of more than a few anti-tobacco advocates. SI is a magazine that is read by a lot of teenagers (I started reading it in my teens).

Well, I usually don’t react to the ominpresent tobacco and e-cig ads in SI, but this one really took the cake. In the April 20th edition of the magazine, there is an ad for Natural American Spirit cigarettes on page 21 (Though the brand likes to play up its Native American roots, these aren’t actually Native American cigarettes, it’s a brand that been owned for 15 years by Reynolds American, the same conglomerate that owns RJ Reynolds.).

SI ad 1

Natural American Spirit cigarettes ads are especially odious because the brand markets itself as being “organic” and “natural” and “additive-free.” Their ads are complete B.S. These guys have been reamed over the coals by the Department of Justice for not-so-subtly claiming that by somehow being “natural,” their cigarettes were more healthy than other brands. Reynolds is now required to add onto these ads these disclaimers: “Organic tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette” and “No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette.”

SI ad 2

Anyway, on page 86 is a full-page ad for cigars and then on page 119, the killer, another full-pagead for an organization called “Stand up to Cancer,” with a testimonial from actor Tony Goldwyn (he was the bad guy in “Ghost,” remember that movie?), who lost his mother to lung cancer. The ad focuses on the advances being made today to combat lung cancer: “My mom didn’t have many options. Today’s lung cancer patients do.”

I suppose I should give SI some modicum of credit for not being so insensitive as to put the Natural American Spirit ad on the facing page from the ad about lung cancer. But, still my head went “BAM!”

An illustration of my brain after thumbing through my April 20th Sports Illustrated


Here you have a product that is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer — by a MILE — being advertised on page(s) 21 and 86, and then an ad about the cost of lung cancer on page 119. The whole thing just felt shameless to me by Sports Illustrated. C’mon, man, the time has long passed for that magazine to simply say “no” to cigarette advertising. Newspapers rarely, if ever take cigarette ads (contrary to public belief, there’s no law against it, newspapers just simply as a rule don’t take cigarette ads), and many, many magazines refuse to take cigarette ads. Several years ago, I got really mad at Discover magazine for having a Natural American Spirit ad, and that magazine is absolutely directed at kids, moreso than SI. I got a nice letter from them apologizing and promising they would no longer take tobacco ads (I think I got a free subscription for a year out of the deal, too. It must have been a persuasive letter.).

More bad news about teens and e-cigs — e-cig use among kids tripled from 2013 to 2014


Man, this is frustrating news. Teen smoking down, of course, but down for the wrong reason — because a LOT more kids than ever are now “vaping” instead.


A recent Centers for Disease Control survey shows that the use of e-cigs has tripled in just one year among teens (from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent).  More kids are using e-cigs today than cigarettes (9.2 percent).


This is such a “good news, bad news” scenario. The good news is the rate of teen smoking is at its lowest level ever record — 9.2 percent. However, the bad news is, e-cigs still contain nicotine and are still turning teens into nicotine addicts. Nicotine all by itself is bad for your blood pressure.


I get that e-cigs don’t appear to be as deadly as cigarettes and that they might help some people quit cigarettes, but kids are using them as an out-and-out substitute for cigarettes is not good news. And it really torques me when e-cig companies employ the same ad techniques used by tobacco to make e-cigs looks sexy and suave.

From a Washington Post article:

The use of e-cigarettes among teenagers has eclipsed the use of traditional cigarettes and all other tobacco products, a development that Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called “alarming” and “shocking.”

“What’s most surprising is how in­cred­ibly rapid the use of products other than cigarettes has increased,” Frieden said in an interview, adding that some e-cigarette smokers would undoubtedly go on to use traditional cigarettes. “It is subjecting another generation of our children to an addictive substance.”

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed rules to ban the sales of e-cigs to minors (this rules have been in the “proposed” stage for over a year, but took a completely hands-off approach to a number of other problems with e-cigs, including fairly blatant e-cig marketing to teenagers and surgary flavourings designed to make e-cigs more palatable to teens.

e-cig ad
Sexy e-cig ad


On the surface, that might seems like good news, given the hundreds of thousands of Americans that still die from smoking each year. And it might be. “The drop in cigarette use is historic, with enormous public health significance,” said Matt Myers, with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But, he was quick to add, “the explosion of e-cigarette use among kids means these products are being taken up in record numbers with totally unknown long-term consequences that could potentially undermine all the progress we’ve made.”

Curt Schilling’s letter to his 16-year-old self — stay away from chew

curt schilling2

Curt Schilling wrote an open letter to himself on a site called “The Players’ Tribune” about the dangers of chewing tobacco.

Curt Schilling as you know, was a longtime chewer who last year developed oral cancer. After months of chemo and radiation, he is cancer-free and is now a big anti-chew advocate.

Schilling isn’t my favourite player out there. He’s a bit of a blowhard, I don’t like his politics and I don’t have a lot of patience for athletes who feel the need to rub their faith in people’s noses, but when it comes to the issue of chewing tobacco, he’s on the right side.

A lot of his letter gets preachy — I’ll skip over that — but he says some great things about chew in his piece:

Tomorrow at lunch, a kid is going to dare you to take a dip of Copenhagen. If you say yes, like I did, you’ll be addicted for the rest of your life. Well, the rest of your life up to the point when you are diagnosed with cancer.

I get what you’re thinking. You’re 16 — you’re invincible, just like all your buddies. If you were to jump ahead 33 years, you couldn’t write a better dream than the one your life is going to be.

With one exception.

If you say yes tomorrow, you will become addicted to chewing tobacco and you will get mouth cancer.


OK, there is a long preachy part, I get the point that Schilling is trying to make, but it’s really preachy. Anyway, then Schilling returns to his chew use:

You will develop sores, you will lose your sense of taste and smell. You will develop lesions. You will lose your gums — they will rot. You will have problems with your teeth for the rest of your life.

You will meet men — many good, honest men — who chewed. None of them will have their entire face. They will be missing jaws, chins, cheeks, noses and more. None will live more than a year or two after you meet them. All of them were tobacco chewers.

You will meet Joe Garigiola. He will introduce you to Bill Tuttle. Bill will have no lower face. His entire lower jaw is gone. It was that, or die of mouth cancer. Well, not “that or,” because that mouth cancer would kill him inside of two years.

You will brush your teeth and your mouth will bleed. Not light blood from your gums, but darker blood from deeper inside your mouth. That’s the chew destroying your tissue. You will get message after message, but your addiction will always win, until it wins the biggest battle.

You will get message after message, but your addiction will always win, until it wins the biggest battle

If you say yes tomorrow, you will begin to kill yourself from the inside out. It’s difficult for you to understand in this current phase of your life, but by chewing tobacco, you are jeopardizing your participation in what will be some of your most important moments.

You will risk any chance of seeing your four amazing children graduate high school. You will potentially lose the opportunity to walk your daughter Gabriella (who, like her dad, will be blessed with simple yet outstanding pitching mechanics) down the aisle. You will risk not seeing Gehrig, your oldest son, pitch for four years at a New England college. You may miss your son Grant graduating high school and changing the world.  And you may be absent as your youngest son Garrison — who aspires to follow in your father’s footsteps and join the army — masterfully plays goalie with a remarkable passion.

Your dad is going to die in five years. You know what’s going to kill him? A heart attack brought on by heart disease and lung cancer caused by tobacco use. He’ll die right in front of you. 

Finally, consider this: How many kids will start dipping over the next 32 years because they saw you do it?

Do you want that on you? No?

Then my advice is simple. Tomorrow, at lunch, just say no.

Make the right choice,

– Curt