ASH Daily News for 27 July 2018



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UK

  • West Midlands: Budget cut as plans to launch digital stop smoking service approved in Sandwell
  • “Sin” taxes are less efficient than they look, but they do help improve public health

International

  • US: Smokeless tobacco warning label may have misled consumers for years
  • Australia: Six tonnes of tobacco seized from illegal crops in Northern Territory
  • Opinion: How the tobacco industry has changed its marketing strategy across the globe

UK

West Midlands: Budget cut as plans to launch digital stop smoking service approved in Sandwell

Smokers in Sandwell could soon be offered online quit support after councillors agreed to re-commission its Stop Smoking service. It comes after cabinet members gave the go-ahead to proposals to cut its stop smoking budget by £360,000 and search for a new bidder to deliver the service.

The Stop Smoking service will be re-commissioned when the current contract comes to an end next April, councillors agreed on Wednesday.

Councillor Elaine Costigan, Sandwell council’s cabinet member for public health and protection, said: “Smoking cessation remains a key priority areas for Sandwell council public health. The proposed adjustments to the budget for the Stop Smoking service reflect a need to correct-size the allocation for this particular service. However, the new service will target hard-to-reach groups where smoking prevalence continues to remain high. We will also develop a digital self-help offer to reach those who don’t access traditional services.”

Source: Express & Star, 27 July 2018

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“Sin” taxes are less efficient than they look, but they do help improve public health

Governments hope that just as taxes on alcohol and tobacco both generate revenue and reduce smoking and drinking, so sugar taxes will help curb obesity.

As policy instruments, sin taxes can be blunt. People who only occasionally drink or smoke are taxed no differently from heavy smokers and drinkers, whilst some economists are concerned that sin taxes affect low-income households most.

However, sin taxes do change behaviour. Estimates vary from study to study, but economists find that on average, a 1% increase in prices is associated with a decline of around 0.5% in sales of both alcohol and tobacco. Economic models assume that people know what they are doing, but humans struggle with behaviour change. Most smokers are aware of the health risks, but many still find it hard to quit.

Source: The Economist, 26 July 2018

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International

US: Smokeless tobacco warning label may have misled consumers for years

In 1986, the U.S. government passed legislation requiring a series of warnings for smokeless tobacco products, one of which advised “This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.”

That warning, however, obscured an important distinction—that cigarettes are much more harmful to health than smokeless tobacco products. Over the 30-plus years since, the American public has mostly been unaware that smokeless tobacco is much less harmful than cigarettes, one of the nation’s leading tobacco policy experts argues in a new paper.

“It is important to distinguish between evidence that a product is ‘not safe’ and evidence that a product is ‘not safer’ than cigarettes or ‘just as harmful’ as cigarettes,” says the paper author, Lynn Kozlowski, professor of community health and health behavior at the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions. “The process at the time of the establishment of official smokeless tobacco warnings in the 1980s paid no attention to this distinction,” Kozlowski adds. “The American public has become mostly unaware that smokeless tobacco is much less harmful than cigarettes.”

See also:
Harm Reduction Journal, Origins in the USA in the 1980s of the warning that smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes: a historical, documents-based assessment with implications for comparative warnings on less harmful tobacco/nicotine products

Source: Medical Xpress, 26 July 2018

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Australia: Six tonnes of tobacco seized from illegal crops in Northern Territory

Six tonnes of illegal tobacco leaves and vast fields of mature plants worth more than $13m in lost tax have been seized on a rural property in the Northern Territory. This was the first successful strike by a taskforce bringing together agencies including the Australian Tax Office and Australian Border Force. The illegal tobacco trade costs the federal government about $600m a year in lost revenue.

Australian Border Force assistant commissioner Sharon Huey said people may think it fairly harmless to purchase a cheap pack of illegal cigarettes, but warned the consequences could be dire. “The profits they make are going into more serious and more insidious types of crime,” she said. “We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of illicit tobacco.”

Source: Guardian, 26 July 2018

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Opinion: How the tobacco industry has changed its marketing strategy across the globe

Tirumalai Kamala, Immunologist, Ph.D. Mycobacteriology, discusses which countries have done the best at eliminating smoking.

“Among the wiliest of industry operators, the tobacco industry started expanding its markets in China, Africa and Latin America as the noose began tightening around its activities in North America and Western Europe.

Being a formidable litigant helped it in this expansion, enabling it to successfully hide for decades the extent to which it knew full well that what it peddles is poison. In practical terms, this means that even as public policies in some countries started gaining ground against smoking, rates increased in others which either lacked such regulations and/or could be easily manipulated through PR campaigns.

Illustrative examples from Bhutan and Brazil show how public policies on smoking could either unwittingly increase it or work as they should and reduce it.”

Source: Forbes, 25 July 2018

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