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Sanjay Gupta MD

Who's In & Who's Out?; Are E-Cigarettes Safe?; Hip Hop Health; News Anchor's Brush With Death

Aired September 28, 2013 - 16:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Hey there, and thanks for joining us.

Ahead this half hour, e-cigarettes under fire. The question is are they a healthy tool to quit smoking or are they a gateway device, for those who haven't even started?

Also, hip-hop health. That's a rap legend out there who's taking this creative approach to this complex problem of obesity.

Plus, a former colleague of mine, a former CNN anchor, said he died twice but now he's back on the air. We'll explain.

But, first --


You know, just days from now, millions of Americans become eligible for new health insurance coverage as part of the president's Affordable Care Act. Now, only a third of Americans say they've heard about where to purchase the new coverage in their own state and more than two-thirds admit they don't know the basics about the coverage or what it might cost.

So, we asked CNN's Tom Foreman to take us on a virtual tour to shop for Obamacare.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Sanjay, despite all these monumental changes to health care, most of us who have insurance, and that is most of us, probably won't see much change, maybe some modifications. But this is really about the 48 million people who do not have insurance. About half of whom are now expected to buy it through these health care marketplaces. Now, about 7 million by the end of the year I can point out by the end of the year to give you an idea how fast it is moving along.

So, how will these marketplaces operate?

Imagine a store where you can go in and buy one of four different types of health plans -- bronze, silver, gold or platinum. Here's the difference between them. If you buy at the lowest level, the bronze level, for example, your premium each month will be fairly low, but if you go to the doctor, your co-pay, your deductible and your other fees will be higher. Platinum, just the opposite. You will pay a higher monthly premium but at the doctor's office all of your fees will be lower. This will not be exactly the same state to state to state because there are local companies involved and that could make a difference.

But this part should be the same no matter where you go in the country. You will not have higher premiums if you get sick. You should not be denied coverage if you're already sick, and you will not pay fees for preventive care. You get a mammogram, your kids get vaccinations, you get a general physical, you're not going to pay any extra for any of that under this plan.

Still, there's a lot of money involved in this and the government wants to help people who may have trouble paying for it because a lot of people who don't have insurance don't necessarily have a lot of cash for it. So if you make $46,000 a year or less as an individual, if you make $94,000 a year or less as a family of four, they're going to give you a refund to help pay for this.

Nonetheless, no matter how you get there, everyone is going to be involved. It doesn't even matter if you live in one of the dozens of states that have said they want nothing to do with Obama care. You're still going to be part of this program. The federal government will administer the marketplace in your state instead of the state, that's simply how it's going to work. But you will have to get involved because if you don't pick a plan, if you don't get involved, you're going to be fined by the federal government. That's how this is going to work.

So, if you're insured in this country, the time is upon you now. You are going to have to make a decision no matter where you live coast to coast -- Sanjay.


GUPTA: Tom, thanks.

And, of course, a big question out there is what people are going to pay for this new coverage. I'll tell you, it's going to vary quite a bit by state to state and I should note that it will vary less than it does now. So, let me show you. On the low end, for example, in Tennessee for the second lowest cost plan in the silver tier, a fairly modest plan, a single person, 27-year-old, will pay about $161 a month.

Now, a family of four will pay about $584 a month. For the same plan in Wyoming, it's $342 for the single person and more than $1,200 for the family. Now, all of this is before any potential subsidies but you can see the variation there. The average family is going to get around $2,700 in tax credits overall.

Now, bottom line, HHS says about six in 10 people that are now uninsured will be able to get coverage for less than $100 a month. We're obviously going to keep tabs on those numbers and there's a lot to digest here. I mean, you can learn much more and look up detail the at your home state at Now, earlier this week, I was asked to lead this discussion on raising healthy women and girls. It was at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. My panelists, it was an incredible panel. It included the Queen Rania of Jordan, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Melinda Gates, Nobel Prize winning Professor Mohammed Younis. He invented the concept of micro-lending.

And it was a great conversation. It also turned to the U.S.'s health care overhaul and the fight over the threatened government shutdown.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: This president is not going to agree to defund health care. We're on the path to beginning the implementation. If they want to shut the government down, that's on their head and their responsibility.

And if they go even further, which is deeply distressing, and for the first time lead our country into default on our obligations, that is not just partisan politics. That is going at the heart of our credibility around the world, not just our economic leadership but our political and strategic leadership.

So, I hope that our friends on the other side of the aisle -- and it's a minority, but it's a noisy minority -- understands this is not right to do and this is bad politics for them to do.


GUPTA: Some pretty strong words there obviously former secretary of state, but didn't she sound a little bit like candidate Clinton there? A little bit.

Starting Tuesday, I will be hitting the road with the CNN Express. We're traveling the country to see how the Obamacare sign-up really works, what problems may arise as well. I'm going to answer all your questions. Make sure you understand what's really going on with your health care.

So, I was sitting next to a guy on the airplane the other day and he started puffing on a cigarette, the electronic kind. These are called e-cigarettes, you probably heard of them. They're a fast-grow trend, so fast, in fact, we're going to talk about it. That's next.


GUPTA: You know, this recent report found nearly 2 million middle school and high school students have tried electronic cigarettes or e- cigarettes, that set off some alarm bells. And this week 40 states attorney generals called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the e-cigs just like it regulates tobacco.


GUPTA (voice-over): Up until they were banned in 1970, old time cigarette television ads used to talk about taste and relaxation. CARTOON CHARACTER: Taste good like cigarettes should.

GUPTA: New ads for e-cigarettes emphasize feeling clean and no cigarette smell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can whip out my blue, and know that I won't scare any guys away.

GUPTA: Users inhale but there's no smoke. Taking a puff triggers a heating coil which warps up liquid nicotine in a plastic filter, and that results in nicotine filled vapor like steam. It doesn't contain the same tar and chemicals as cigarette smoke. But as the FDA, has said it may contain other cancer-causing agents.

And at least four users have gotten a nasty surprise. Their electronic cigarettes exploded while being charged.

ELIZABETH WILKOWSKI, E-CIGARETTE EXPLOSION VICTIM: It sounded like a bomb. It shook the house up.

THOMAS KIKLAS, TOBACCO VAPOR ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE ASSOCIATION: You look at the preponderance and the percentages and with the electronic cigarettes I don't think the numbers begat the worry at all.


GUPTA: And joining me from CDC headquarters right here in Atlanta is CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden.

Thanks for joining us, Doctor.

There's a lot of interest in this topic. A few years ago, the FDA, as you know actually banned the e-cigarettes but in 2010 a court overturned said there's no evidence that they're actually harmful.

I mean, what do you think? Is it -- is it a question of they're bad for you or we just still don't know?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION: I think what we can say basically is they might or might not be able to help you quit, but there are definite harms that they can cause. And those definite harms are in different environments.

So, if they get kids hooked on nicotine, that's a really bad thing. If they get a smoker who would have quit smoking to continue smoking, that's a bad thing. If they get a smoker who stopped mo smoking and going back to nicotine addiction and then smoking, that's a bad thing. And if they re-glamorize the act of smoking, that's a bad thing.

So, we have possible benefits and definite harms.

GUPTA: Let me ask about the other people around people who may be smoking e-cigarettes, the idea of secondhand smoke. I mean, we know about that with cigarettes but some researchers say the amount of potential carcinogens in the vapor potentially carcinogens in the potentially is extremely minute. That's it insignificant in fact. I mean, do you disagree with that?

FRIEDEN: But we don't know what's in more than 200 different e- cigarette products out there. What we do know is there's nicotine, and there's theoretical possibility that if you're around someone who's using an e-cigarette, you're going to absorb or inhale some of the nicotine that goes out from that product. That's probably something that can be engineered out of the product. But right now, I don't know which products would cause that and which wouldn't.

GUTFELD: But it gets back to this idea that there's still a lot that we don't know about this overall. Also the idea that it's being marketed to kids or young people at least -- you've called this deeply troubling in the past. I mean, why?

FRIEDEN: Well, if you start with e-cigarettes, there's a real likelihood that you'll become nicotine addicted, we found in CDC studies that 20 percent of middle school kids who used some -- who used e-cigarettes only used e-cigarettes, what that suggests to me, it's not proof, but what it suggests to me is that some kids are starting with e-cigarettes, getting hooked on nicotine and going on regular cigarettes and that's a real problem because those kids may well be getting condemned to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.

GUPTA: Yes. And again, the e-cigarette company will look, we're not targeting kids because you have to be over 18. But again, the reason we're bringing up is some of these marketing campaigns specifically.

While I've got you here, before I let you go, the fiscal cliff looms Monday night into Tuesday, I'm sure as you well know. For an organization like the CDC, can you give us some idea the tangible impact that could have if the government shuts down?

FRIEDEN: Well, we really hope there won't be a government shutdown. And from what I understand, there's still time to avoid. But really, sequester, shutdown, even the talk of shutdown is very disruptive to work at CDC and throughout the government.

We want to get about our business of protecting Americans from threats. And what this does is put in a great deal of uncertainty and we're still working out what a shutdown would mean. We have to go through every single person in the agency and say would they continue to work or not. There's a great deal of legal complexity about how it happens and this kind of thing is really distracting. It distracts us from our mission which is protecting people from threats.

GUPTA: Dr. Tom Frieden, I always enjoy speaking to you. Thanks so much. Hope you come back again soon.

FRIEDEN: Thank you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: And coming up on SGMD, how a hip-hop program is using rap music to help kids get fit.

Plus, a former CNN anchor feels a pain in his abdomen unlike anything he's ever felt before.


LEON HARRIS, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: So, I ended up dying twice that one week.


GUPTA: You heard that right. Leon -- Leon Harris, he's very much alive again and he's back on the air as well. We got his story. That's coming right up.


GUPTA: There's a new album coming out on Monday and the songs are all about healthy eating and exercise. That's something we talk about all the time, but this particular album has been a decade in the making and it began as a partnership between a guy who is a neurologist and a hip-hop legend was the other person and they tried to take this creative approach to this complex problem of obesity.



EMCEE: Put your hands up!

GUPTA (voice-over): This event has all the makings of a hip-hop show.

EMCEE: Is that hip-hop? Everybody stands up.

GUPTA: An energetic emcee. There's music, dancing, and a neurologist.

(on camera): You're a neurologist?


GUPTA: In a sound studio.

WILLIAMS: I know, right.

GUPTA: Did you ever envision this?

WILLIAMS: This is just as much a surprise to me as it is for everyone who knows me that I ended up doing work like this.

GUPTA (voice-over): His name is Dr. Olajide Williams. And the program he developed in conjunction with legendary rappers is called Hip-Hop Public Health. It uses the beats and the allure of hip-hop to do something revolutionary in the public health sphere. Get kids from the inner city to make healthier choices.

(on camera): Why did you think this would work?

WILLIAMS: I think music is an extremely powerful medium. You know, great poets have described music as being the bridge between heaven and earth, but I see music as the bridge between health education and the streets.

GUPTA (voice-over): The centerpiece of the interventions, whether it's in schools, summer camps or online is clever videos, like this one.


GUPTA: About healthy food selection, using a traffic light analogy.


GUPTA (on camera): Do you help write the music?


WILLIAMS: Yes, I do get involved, whether I'm sitting down with Chuck D. And I'm explaining the traffic light food model. Whether I'm sitting down with Doug and just giving him a mini tutorial about stroke, and usually there's a back-and-forth process until I'm happy and they're happy and when we find that balance.

GUPTA (voice-over): Hip-hop public health began nearly a decade ago as a partnership between Williams and hip-hop pioneer Doug E. Fresh, also known as the Human Beat Box. They started with something that made sense for a neurologist, stroke.


GUPTA: They say that the program worked. Kids were recognizing symptoms and even saving lives.

WILLIAMS: That's when I said to myself, well, if it can do this within stroke, then potentially other content areas.

GUPTA: This video is about exercise followed by a set of beats. Breathe before the beats are up, you're exercising too hard. Don't breathe at all, you're not exerting enough. Take one breath. You're at the ideal level. This is a complex concept called anaerobic threshold, and it's being made more palatable for young people.

DOUG E. FRESH, RAP ARTIST: And it's using hip-hop in a positive way and they are so excited about it, the parents get into it. Play that song. Let me hear that. Let me see that video.


GUPTA: I should also add that this particular album is produced in conjunction with Michelle Obama's partnership for a healthier America, and dr. Williams, he has data where he's run the program kids actually do buy more healthy food.

Leon Harris, that's a name you might remember. He's been working in television for 30 years. For 20 years, he was at CNN, and 10 at CNN affiliate WJLA.

On august 1st, he had a medical crisis that nearly cost him his life. But now he's back on the air again.


HARRIS: Good evening. I'm Leon Harris.

GUPTA (voice-over): Leon Harris began his television career at CNN 30 years ago, not as an anchor, but as an intern and a cameraman who rose to the number two spot in the Network Satellite Department before his talents in front of the camera were discovered a decade later and he began anchoring for CNN. He was on set for the network's coverage of many big news stories including the Oklahoma City bombings and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

HARRIS: You're looking at this picture. It is the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

GUPTA: In 2003, he moved on to local television as lead anchor for WJLA in Washington, D.C. -- all the time, he was the picture of health. But recently, Harris had a real and terrifying brush with death.

HARRIS: I woke up like I normally do, got out of bed.

GUPTA: But August 1st, turned out to be anything but normal.

HARRIS: Had this incredible sudden pain in my stomach. It felt like a horse had kicked me. It literally knocked me to the floor.

GUPTA: Still, he thought it was possibly indigestion but then --

HARRIS: I sat there in the floor in the worst pain in my life. You would think somebody with a college degree would know, hey, you know, maybe you should get help? But no, I did the same exact thing I always do and the same thing I know a lot of guys do.

GUPTA: After an hour, Harris was found by his wife, Dawn, who immediately got him to the hospital.

HARRIS: If she hadn't come upstairs when she did, I wouldn't be having this conversation with you.

GUPTA: The diagnosis?

HARRIS: Necrotizing pancreatitis. My pancreas basically decided to start dying and taking my kidneys and lungs and other internal organs with it.

GUPTA: Necrotizing pancreatitis is severe inflammation of the pancreas -- the tissue dies and causes more infection. It can often be fatal.

HARRIS: I ended up dying twice that one week. Fortunately for me, I was unconscious. I had no idea what was going on.

GUPTA: In fact, Harris spent the first nine days unconscious on a ventilator. HARRIS: Good to see you, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to have you back.

GUPTA: It took nearly six weeks, but Harris is on the mend, and he recently got back on the air. To this day, his doctors don't know exactly what triggered his illness, but Harris has this advice.

HARRIS: Don't wait until you have as close a brush with leaving this earth as I did before you decide that you're worth going to see a doctor.


GUPTA: It's such an important message. Good to see him healthy, but we've all had these aches and pains and we tend to ignore them especially the men out there. Make sure to get them checked out. Leon hasn't aged in a bit, it's amazing.

We've got a check of your top stories just minutes away.

But still ahead on SGMD, fighting the flu. We have to talk about this and I'm going to tell you what you really need to know about this year's vaccine.


GUPTA: I don't know about you, but the busy fall season's in full swing at our home. Kids are back in school. Days are getting shorter, a little cooler and all of these are reminders that flu season is just around the corner.

You know, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized every year because of the flu. Those are high numbers, so we talk about this and your best protection which is a flu shot. The CDC recommends that everyone, six months and older get vaccinated and the earlier the better.

Now, there are a number of different vaccines out these. There's one that protects you against three strains and one that vaccinates against four strains. The four-strain vaccine is thought to be more valuable for children. But clear that any -- either one of them should give you plenty of protection.

Now, if you've avoided the vaccine in the past because you're allergic to eggs, there's now a version that's safe for you as well. Just ask your doctor about it, so you can chase life, too.

Now, it's going to wrap things up for SGMD. But stay connected with me at and keep the conversation going on Twitter @DrSanjayGupta.

Time now, though, to get you back in the "CNN NEWSROOM" with Don Lemon.