ASH Daily News for 06 March 2019



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UK

  • Improving the public’s health
  • Letter: The facts about illegal tobacco
  • Northern Ireland public sector pensions fund tobacco firms

International

  • FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigns
  • BAT poised to take £436m hit after Canadian appeal court ruling

Parliamentary Activity

  • Parliamentary questions

 

UK

Improving the public’s health

In an article published in ‘first: the magazine for local government’, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, discusses the role of local authorities in delivering high quality, cost-effective public health services. He points to significantly reduced teenage pregnancies, and youth and adult smoking rates as evidence of the effectiveness of local delivery of public health.

“The challenge for local councils is to break the generational cycle of disadvantage that drives health inequalities. The rationale for a local government lead in public health is unchanged: that the greatest impacts on health are the circumstances in which we live, employment, education, environment and the effects of the social gradient of health – that is, equality or the lack of it.”

In recent years there have been significant reductions in Councils’ public health grant funding “which is being cut by £531 million in cash terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20.” This reduction has required local authorities to work with their local NHS and voluntary sector, share public health initiatives and public health teams across councils and reorganise in an attempt to achieve more with less.

Cllr Hudspeth praises the decision to transfer responsibility for public health to local government and argues that local authorities are “the best home for local leadership of the public’s health”.

Source: first magazine, 1 March 2019

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Letter: The facts about illegal tobacco

In a letter published in ‘first: the magazine for local government’, Cllr Jon Davies, Lambeth Council, discusses the illicit tobacco market in the UK and the role local authorities can play in speaking out about illicit trade.

Cllr Davies points out that a large proportion of illicit tobacco is not “fake fags” but legitimately produced tobacco which has been smuggled into the UK. The tobacco industry has played a key role in fuelling illicit trade by “deliberately oversupplying cigarettes to European countries with known smuggling routes into Britain”.

“There has never been any evidence that illegal tobacco is worse for health for one simple reason: the legal product is already filled with dozens of cancer-causing chemicals and kills half of lifelong smokers who don’t quit. However well-intentioned, we must not and cannot convey a message that there is such a thing as a less harmful choice of cigarette.”

Cllr Davies calls for a retail licencing system “where the right to sell tobacco can be removed from repeat offenders who sell illegal tobacco or sell to children. It would also mean an automatic offence for anyone selling tobacco illegally in a pub, club, market or from their home.”

Source: first magazine, 1 March 2019

Northern Ireland public sector pensions fund tobacco firms

The Northern Ireland Local Government Pension Scheme, which applies to half of the public sector workforce, has shareholdings in the tobacco industry, the arms trade and companies heavily criticised for not paying enough tax. Money is also invested in firms linked to fracking and alcohol.

The pension scheme is managed by the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC), which has invested £40.2m into British American Tobacco, the international company behind Dunhill and Lucky Strike cigarettes, with a further £1.3m going to Philip Morris International, which makes Marlboro and other leading brands.

Source: Belfast Telegraph, 6 March 2019

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International

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigns

Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), known for his aggressive efforts to regulate the tobacco and e-cigarette industries, said this week that he would resign at the end of the month. The reason he gave was family and his weariness with commuting to see his wife and three children. Dr. Gottlieb has been subject to increasing pressure from some Republicans in Congress and his former associates in the conservative movement for his stance on e-cigarettes and tobacco.

Dr. Gottlieb said he planned to advance the FDA’s pending tobacco and nicotine regulations before he leaves. And he was confident, he said, that the agency’s guidance on restricting flavoured e-cigarettes would be issued before he left. He acknowledged, however, that he could not predict the fate of his proposals to ban menthol in cigarettes and reduce nicotine to non-addictive levels in cigarettes.

The FDA’s tobacco regulation plan, announced in July 2017, has fallen behind in some important areas after the tobacco industry sent thousands of letters arguing against reducing nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels. The proposal to eliminate menthol in cigarettes has not yet been formalised.

Source: New York Times, 5 March 2019

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BAT poised to take £436m hit after Canadian appeal court ruling

Cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco (BAT) is set to lose roughly £436m following a failed appeal against a landmark compensation court case in Canada. Last Friday the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld a 2015 decision to award C$15.6bn ($11.7bn) in damages against BAT’s wholly owned Canadian subsidiary, Imperial Tobacco Canada, and rivals Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco to compensate smokers for health problems.

BAT, the world’s second largest tobacco company by sales, had sought to play down the impact of the case in the lead up to the ruling, cranking up its dividend in a mark of its confidence in its 2019 performance. But on Tuesday, the company said recovering the £436m was “less than virtually certain”.

The class action suits, known as the Blais and Létourneau cases, were the first in Canada in which damages had been ordered against the industry to compensate smokers for health problems. Long, drawn-out legal cases are common in the tobacco industry, and have tended to result in charges being dropped or a significant reductions in damages. The Blais and Létourneau cases, first launched in 1998, are likely to continue going through the courts for years.

Source: Financial Times, 5 March 2019

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Parliamentary Activity

Parliamentary questions

PQ 1: Immigration and detention centres

Asked by Liz Saville Roberts, Dwyfor Meirionnydd
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, when the HMPPS no-smoking policy will be extended to cover Immigration Removal Centres.

Answered by Rory Stewart, Secretary of State for Justice
Since 2007 we have been acting to reduce the exposure of staff and prisoners to the harmful effects of second hand smoke in all prisons controlled by the Ministry of Justice. Immigration Removal Centres (IRC) – including the one (Morton Hall) operated by HMPPS – are managed under Home Office rules and therefore the [HMPPS] Smoke Free Policy Framework does not apply. However, the Home Office had agreed that Morton Hall would adopt the same smoke free process as Ministry of Justice operated open prisons, whereby detainees are able to smoke in the open air in designated smoking areas and are not allowed to smoke inside any building.

Source: Hansard, 5 Mach 2019
Link: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-02-28/227139/

PQ 2: E-cigarettes

Asked by Mr Ranil Jayawardena, North East Hampshire
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he is taking to address the findings of the Public Health England report entitled Vaping in England: evidence update summary February 2019 that the number of children who have tried e-cigarettes has doubled since 2014.

Answered by Steve Brine, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Health and Social Care
Public Health England’s (PHE) report ‘Vaping in England: evidence update summary February 2019’ found e-cigarette use among young people in Great Britain has increased only modestly in recent years.

It found that, while experimentation with e-cigarettes among young people has increased in recent years, regular use remains low. Of the 2% of under 18s who used e-cigarettes weekly or more, the majority of those also smoked. Only 0.2% of young people who had never smoked used e-cigarettes regularly.

The Government has put in place proportionate regulation of e-cigarettes to protect young people, including a minimum age of sale and tight restrictions on advertising. PHE continues to monitor the trends in vaping among young people alongside those in smoking, to ensure the Government is on track to achieve its ambition of a smoke-free generation. This can be viewed at the following link:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/towards-a-smoke-free-generation-tobacco-control-plan-for-england

Source: Hansard, 5 Mach 2019
Link: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-02-28/227132/