Opinion: Britain’s vaping revolution – why this healthier alternative to smoking is under threat
In this opinion piece, Matt Ridley explores how vested interests are hampering e-cigarettes as a method of harm reduction for smokers.
Britain is the world leader in vaping. More people use e-cigarettes in the UK than in any other European country. It’s more officially encouraged than in the United States and more socially acceptable than in Australia, where it’s still banned. There is a thriving sector here of vape manufacturers, retailers, exporters, even researchers; there are 1,700 independent vape shops on Britain’s streets. It’s an entrepreneurial phenomenon and a billion-pound industry.
The British vaping revolution dismays some people, who see it as a return to social acceptability for something that looks like smoking with unknown risks. Yet here, more than anywhere in the world, the government disagrees. Public Health England says that vaping is 95% safer than smoking and the vast majority of people who vape are smokers who are partly or wholly quitting cigarettes. The Royal College of Physicians agrees: “The public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking.”
Yet, despite official endorsement and the growing strength of the evidence for vaping’s harm reduction, public opinion has been moving against e-cigarettes. More than 25% of people now erroneously believe vaping to be at least as harmful as smoking, up from 7% in 2013, thanks to tabloid headlines claiming as much.
Source: The Times, 8 July 2018
Opinion: Fears of future strain on NHS as councils slash health programmes
In this opinion piece, Denis Campbell (Guardian Health Policy Editor) discusses cuts to health programmes and the impact this will have on the NHS.
Stop-smoking programmes are being cut despite May’s promise of £20bn extra on health, according to the Health Foundation. New analysis shows that by next year, spending per head in England on programmes to tackle smoking, poor diet and alcohol abuse will have fallen by 23.5% over five years. By next year, councils will be spending £95m on smoking and tobacco-control services, 45% less than they were in 2014-15.
Although smoking rates are falling, the habit leads to almost 500,000 hospitalisations a year and is a major cause of strokes, heart problems and life-threatening respiratory conditions. Tim Elwell-Sutton of the Health Foundation said “It is incredibly shortsighted not to invest in keeping people well. We’re crazy if we’re not taking seriously the underlying cause of one of the most harmful illnesses – cancer – which is also one of the most expensive to treat.”
Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, accused ministers of “confused thinking” over health. “These figures demonstrate a frustrating contradiction from the government, whereby welcome extra money is given to the NHS with one hand, while the other generates more strain on NHS services by draining public health and prevention.”
Source: The Guardian, 8 July 2018
Parents celebrate success of smokefree sidelines initiative
An evaluation of the #smokefreesidelines campaign, which was designed to stop parents and carers from smoking on the sidelines when watching youth football, has found the initiative to be hugely successful. The aim was to reduce the likelihood of children seeing adult smoking behaviour as the norm.
Researchers visited clubs to observe smoking behaviour, look for discarded smoking materials and interview families and staff. Their evaluation report said that, over time, clubs who signed up to #smokefreesidelines demonstrated “a small but important change in observations of smoking. Particularly marked were changes to the environment (a reduction in smoking debris) and the introduction and widespread use of the smokefree sidelines promotional materials. This suggests a successful and positive move towards the denormalisation of smoking at youth football games. There was strong support from parents and coaches for not smoking on the sidelines.”
Dr Caitlin Notley, a Senior Lecturer from the Norwich Medical School who led the evaluation, said: “We are delighted to have been involved in evaluating this innovative project. Community based initiatives like #smokefreesidelines are an important part of the public health approach to denormalise the visibility of smoking, thus contributing to decreased smoking prevalence in the UK.
Source: BJFM, 6 July 2018
North-West: Smokers in Blackburn with Darwen are kicking the habit
Smokers in Blackburn with Darwen have had success in quitting, according to new statistics. Figures issued by the Office of National Statistics, show that the rates of adults smoking in Blackburn with Darwen dropped from 27.1% in 2011 to 16.7% in 2017, putting the borough close to the North West average of 16.1 per cent.
Staff at Blackburn with Darwen’s Stop Smoking and Wellbeing Services have worked hard to offer a range of personalised support to help people stop smoking for good. Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group have also worked together to deliver the local Tobacco Control Policy and worked on initiatives around smokefree homes, cars and outdoor spaces.
Councillor Brian Taylor, executive member for health and adult social care, said: “Giving up smoking is the single most immediate and important action we can take to improve health and wellbeing, improve life expectancy and reduce hospital admissions so I’m delighted to see such positive stats. We want to help as many people quit as possible and our Stop Smoking Service is a great chance to get help to break away from this addiction and start to feel the health and financial benefits of becoming smokefree.”
Source: Lancashire Telegraph, 8 July 2018
North-West: Dog detectives sniff out illegal tobacco haul
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWAC) Trading Standards officers enlisted the help of tobacco detection dogs during recent operations in Northwich and Chester.
The dogs helped detect concealed stashes of tobacco and cigarettes in two of the premises searched, allowing Trading Standards to seize the haul. Seizures included cigarettes and tobacco that were not in standardised packaging and failed to contain health warnings in English. These products cannot be legally sold in the UK.
Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for environment and community at CWAC, said: “People may be tempted by the cheap price tag, but it’s worth considering the great cost to your health, safety and community. Illegal tobacco supports other criminal activity and has many damaging effects on our local communities, as well as causing poor health.”
Source: Northwhich Guardian, 6 July 2018
Wales: Smoking litter still a big problem
A new report published by Keep Wales Tidy has revealed the prevalence of smoking related litter and the far reaching impacts on our health, wildlife and environment. During recent street cleanliness surveys, smoking related litter was found on 80.3% of our streets, making it the most common type of litter in Wales. They are also the most counted item on beaches in Europe.
Across the UK, it is estimated that 122 tonnes of smoking-related litter are dropped every day. This is predominantly in the form of cigarette ends which are difficult and time-consuming to clean up – costing the taxpayer millions of pounds each year. Contrary to popular belief, cigarette filters are not biodegradable, but are made of a type of plastic which means they can stay in the environment for up to 15 years. And, because of their small size, cigarette ends are easily transported to our waterways and coast.
Cigarette ends can also have deadly consequences for wildlife and have been found in the guts of whales, dolphins, turtles and seabirds who have mistaken them for food. Jemma Bere, Policy and Research Manager for Keep Wales Tidy said: “We want to debunk the myths and misconceptions around the disposal of cigarette ends. Despite their size, cigarette ends still count as litter – so dropping them is a criminal offence. Put simply, our pavements and drains are not ashtrays!”
Source: Wales 247, 9 July 2018
Isle of Wight: Young adults shun smoking, figures show
Young people on the Isle of Wight are shunning cigarettes, according to the latest figures. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the percentage of the Isle of Wight’s population who have never smoked has risen by 38% since 2011.
Nationally, the group comprised of 18 to 24-year-olds had the biggest drop in smoking. Last year, across Britain, 17.8% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they were current smokers, compared with 2011 when more than a quarter smoked.
Deborah Arnott, Action on Smoking and Health chief executive, put this reduction down to banning tobacco advertising. She said, “The brightly coloured pack displays we used to have in shops disappeared completely in 2015 and the packs they do see nowadays are a sludgy green colour, with large picture warnings, rather than the brightly coloured, highly branded packs we used to have. Is it any wonder young people today increasingly choose not to smoke. It’s much less cool than it used to be.”
Source: On the Wight, 6 July 2018
Study shows smoking linked to increased stillbirth risk
Experts at Stellenbosch University, which is situated in South Africa, have found that women who drank alcohol and smoked during pregnancy had an almost three times higher risk of stillbirth compared with women who completely abstained from these behaviours. Between 2007 and 2015, the study followed the drinking and smoking behaviour of nearly 12,000 South African and American women during pregnancy.
Smoking alone had a relative risk of 1.6 for stillbirth, while drinking alone had a relative risk of 2.2. This risk increased when these behaviours continued beyond the first trimester of pregnancy. The study also found a 12 times higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in cases where women drank and smoked during pregnancy. In cases where the women drank but did not smoke, the risk for Sids increased by four, and when they smoked but did not drink, there was a five times higher chance for Sids.
Professor Hein Odendaal, who led the South African chapter of the study said, “What’s particularly alarming is that these behaviours were quite common among study participants. More than half used alcohol (52.3%) sometime during pregnancy, and 17% continued drinking throughout the entire pregnancy. Almost half of them smoked (49%) sometimes during pregnancy, and a third (33%) continued smoking for the duration of the pregnancy,” Odendaal said.
Safrica 24, Drinking alcohol and smoking during pregnancy even more deadly than we knew: Study
Stellenbosch University, Drinking and smoking in pregnancy compound the risk for stillbirth, SIDS
Source: MFA News Network, 8 July 2018
Australia: Health warnings need updating after research shows smokers still unaware of health risks
There are calls for cigarette packets to show more graphic images, with research showing smokers are still unaware of the health risks. The graphic health warnings introduced in 2012 – including images of a lung with emphysema and a mouth with tongue cancer – are in need of a update to maintain their effectiveness, new research by Cancer Council Victoria has found.
The research findings, published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday 9 July, said the images were effective for increasing knowledge about the harms of tobacco, but they require ‘updating regularly to maintain salience and impact’. The Cancer Council research also identified a host of health conditions – including acute leukaemia, diabetes and bladder cancer – that more than half of respondents did not realise were caused by smoking.
Public health researcher, Mike Daube, said ‘We know what needs to be done, the evidence is there, let’s get on with new, research-based health warnings and a major media campaign that will make us world leaders on both counts again.’
See also: Medical Journal of Australia, Population awareness of tobacco-related harms: implications for refreshing public health warnings in Australia
Source: This is Money, 9 July 2018