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Health Highlights: April 6, 2016

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Country Music Icon Merle Haggard Dead at 79

Country music star Merle Haggard died Wednesday at age 79.

His manager Frank Mull said the Country Music Hall of Famer died in Palo Cedro, Calif., after a months-long battle with pneumonia in both lungs that forced him to cancel several shows this year, the AP reported.

Haggard was a skilled singer, guitarist, fiddler and songwriter. He recorded for more than 40 years and released dozens of albums. His hits included "Okie From Muskogee" and "Sing Me Back Home."

After doctors found a spot on his lungs in 2008, Haggard said he would not seek treatment. But family and friends convinced him to change his mind and he had the tumor removed, the AP reported.

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NYC Bans Smokeless Tobacco at Sports Venues

Smokeless tobacco will be banned at New York city ballparks and other sports facilities.

The measure, to be signed into law Wednesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, outlaws smokeless tobacco products at sports venues and recreational areas that issue tickets, including Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, the home of the Mets, CNN reported.

"It's very important for the health of our players, and for the city as a whole," de Blasio recently told ESPN. "Young people look up to baseball players, and they look up to all athletes, and we want to protect everyone's health."

New York follows San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston in banning smokeless tobacco products at ballparks and other sports venues.

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Decision About Marijuana Classification Made by July: DEA

A decision about whether to change the federal status of marijuana should be made by July, the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a memo to lawmakers.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has "no medical use and a high potential for abuse" and is one of "the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence," the Washington Post reported.

Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin. Marijuana is more tightly regulated than powerful prescription painkillers that have killed more than 165,000 people in the U.S. since 1999.

A number of major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, have called for the DEA to change marijuana's classification because the drug shows potential in treating a number of serious conditions, including chronic pain and epilepsy, the Post reported.

The memo also noted that the federal government is providing little marijuana for research. Between 2010 and 2015, the government gave marijuana produced for research to an average of only nine scientists a year.

Experts say that is nowhere near enough to meet the demand for marijuana-related research, the Post reported.

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Subway Posting Calorie Counts on Menu Boards

Calorie counts will be posted on menu boards at all 27,000 Subway restaurants in the United States by April 11, the company says.

The sandwich chain is moving ahead with the plan despite another delay in a Food and Drug Administration rule requiring food sellers with 20 or more locations to post calorie information, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA issued final rules in 2014 and gave foot outlets until the end of 2015 to comply. Last summer, the deadline was extended to the end of 2016. Last month, the FDA again delayed enforcement of the health care reform-mandated rule until a year after it publishes its final guidance for companies.

"I think consumers are looking for this, and with all the delays, they're confused as to why it's not out there," Lanette Kovachi, chief of Subway's global nutrition efforts, told the AP.

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Leftover U.S. Ebola Funds Moved to Zika Fight

Leftover funds from the fight against Ebola are being transferred to counter the threat posed by the Zika virus, the Obama administration will announce Wednesday, according to congressional officials.

About three-quarters of the approximately $600 million will go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is working on vaccines, treatments for infected people, and controlling the mosquitoes that spread the virus, the Associated Press reported.

The remainder of the money will be used to fight Zika in other countries.

President Barack Obama requested about $1.9 billion in emergency money to combat Zika but the Republican-controlled Congress has not provided the money, the AP reported.

Zika has been linked to a serious birth defect in which a baby's head and brain are abnormally small, along with other health threats.

Concerns about the Zika virus in the U.S. are rising as summer brings mosquito season and a possible wider spread of the virus, the AP.

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Americans' Health at Risk From Climate Change: Report

Climate change poses a serious threat to Americans' health, according to a federal government report released Monday.

It said climate change will result in more air and water pollution, more tainted food, longer allergy seasons, thousands of heat wave deaths, and an increase in diseases spread by ticks and mosquitoes, the Associated Press reported.

Americans' mental health will also be affected, according to Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy.

"It's not just about polar bears and melting ice caps. It's about our families. It's about our future," she said at a White House event to mark the report's release, according to the AP.

The report is based on new federal research and an analysis of more than 1,800 published scientific studies.

"The report clearly establishes that climate change is a major threat to public health in the United States," Howard Frumkin, dean of the University of Washington's public health school, who wasn't part of the report, told the AP.

The federal government isn't doing enough to tackle the problem, he added.

"There is a vast disconnect between the magnitude of the problem, as outlined by this report, and the response of government health agencies," Frumkin said.


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