ASH Daily News for 18 August 2016


  • Childhood obesity: Doctors criticise ‘weak’ government strategy

    Leading doctors have criticised a “weak” government strategy to tackle childhood obesity in England.

    The new plan includes a voluntary target for manufacturers to cut sugar in children’s food and drink and a drive for every primary school child to exercise for an hour a day.

    The government’s plan asks the food and drink industry to cut 5% of the sugar in products popular with children over the next year. It says the ultimate target is a 20% sugar cut, with Public Health England monitoring voluntary progress over the next four years. A new voluntary “healthy schools rating scheme” will be taken into account during school inspections with primary schools being asked to ensure pupils get at least 30 minutes exercise a day.

    However, the British Medical Association (BMA) said the plan omitted many measures backed by health experts, such as curbs on TV ads and cheap deals on junk food. Professor Parveen Kumar, chairwoman of the BMA’s board of science, said the government had “rowed back on its promises by announcing what looks like a weak plan rather than the robust strategy it promised”.

    The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of 33 charities, medical royal colleges and campaign groups, said the plan fell “disappointingly short of what is needed”, with some anticipated measures “significantly watered down or removed entirely.” While Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said the measures were a “missed opportunity” in the fight against childhood obesity.

    The Government’s full strategy can be accessed here.
    The Government has also opened a consultation on proposals for the soft drinks industry levy which is to come into effect in April 2018. Further details can be accessed here.

    See also:
    The Guardian: Childhood obesity: UK’s ‘inexcusable’ strategy is wasted opportunity, say experts

    Source: BBC News 18 August 2016

  • Brexit will not roll back the clock on smoking

    Tobacco controls will not slide backwards due to Brexit according to a new briefing produced by the charities Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH). The charities issued the briefing to reassure public health specialists and head-off any potential concerns.

    Even after the UK exits the EU, after Article 50 is invoked and negotiations concluded, those EU Directives that have been transposed into domestic law will not be effected by Brexit unless Parliament decides to repeal it.

    A spokeswoman for ASH said: “Tobacco controls are embedded in UK law and won’t change unless the Government has a mind to do so which seems highly unlikely given that tobacco control has both cross party support and public support.”

    She added that the UK Government has adopted far more reaching restrictions on tobacco than those required under EU law. She pointed out that the controls around packaging have already been defended in UK law.

    Source: Environmental Health News 17 August 2016

  • Chesterfield hospital’s smoking ban working ‘really well’ during week, less so at weekends

    Chesterfield Royal Hospital chiefs say a smoking ban on the entire hospital site is working ‘really well’ during the week. However, bosses have admitted they are having problems enforcing the policy at weekends.

    A Royal spokesman said: “Since we relaunched the smoke free policy there have been far fewer smokers at entrances and in courtyard gardens – which was a huge issue. It’s going really well during the week. However, weekends have proved more difficult and we’ve had complaints from patients and visitors. The message is simple – when you’re on site please don’t light-up a cigarette or use an e-cig.”

    Source: The Star 17 August 2016

  • USA: Smoking rate fell much faster under the Obama Administration

    An analysis published in The New England Journal of Medicine has found that the adult smoking rate in the United States has fallen much faster under the Obama Administration than under the previous two administrations and would fall to zero by around 2035 if this accelerated rate of decline continues. The decrease of about 0.78 percentage points per year is more than double the annual rates of decline during the previous two administrations.

    The author Dr Michael Fiore notes that the Obama Administration has implemented a series of evidence-based strategies including tax increases and mass media campaigns. However, continued progress is not inevitable. It will require continued and relentless efforts by future administrations to resist the industry’s attempt to roll back on the gains made.

    The full analysis can be accessed here.

    Source: Health and Technology Net 17 August 2016

  • USA: Tobacco companies get partial win in FDA labelling fight

    Tobacco companies have achieved a partial victory in a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority to require pre-clearance for tobacco products with changed labels or quantities.

    U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on Tuesday (16 August) vacated part of an FDA directive stating tobacco companies may need the agency’s clearance to market products with significant labelling modifications, such as a change in colour or logo.

    However, Mehta said that the agency could require clearance for marketing a tobacco product with a different quantity – for instance, an increase in the number of cigarettes per pack.

    The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed last year by subsidiaries of Imperial Brands, Reynolds American Inc and Altria Group over FDA guidelines clarifying what changes to a tobacco product require regulatory approval under the 2009 Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products.

    Source: Reuters 17 August 2016

  • Ireland: Cigarettes in the firing line for Budget 2017

    Pre-budget tax papers in Ireland are pointing to an increase in tax on lower priced cigarettes.

    Officials have noted the need to ensure that the tax take on the lowest-priced pack of cigarettes – currently selling for €8.75 – is the same as that paid on a pack which sells in the most popular price category of €10.50. This would involve a 17 cent increase in the tax take on the lowest price pack, bringing it up to €6.41. This could be achieved by the Government increasing the minimum excise duty on a pack.

    While there is no estimate of how much this measure would raise, tobacco tax raises well over €1 billion for the exchequer, despite declining consumption. Each 10 cent overall rise would raise an additional €14 million in 2017.

    Price rises are also a key measure used to motivate smokers to quit as tobacco becomes less and less affordable.

    Source: The Irish Times 18 August 2016