ASH Daily News for 04 March 2019


  • MPs call for new regulations to reduce smoking rates
  • Tobacco giants say changing picture health warnings will cost them millions after Brexit
  • Telegraph investigation concludes that Instagram promotes vape products to children as young as 13
  • Public health ‘improving under councils despite cuts’
  • Concerns over tobacco industry involvement in e-cigarette market


  • Quebec Court of Appeal upholds ruling ordering tobacco companies to pay billions to smokers



MPs call for new regulations to reduce smoking rates

An influential cross-party group of MPs has proposed raising the minimum age of sale for tobacco and introducing a levy on big tobacco companies to fund measures to encourage people to quit and to prevent youngsters taking up the habit.

The parliamentary group on smoking and health, backed by 17 health charities and medical organisations, also wants to tighten the rules on showing smoking on TV and in films.

“Smoking remains the leading cause of premature death and health inequalities,” said Tory MP Bob Blackman, chair of the group. “Ratcheting up tobacco regulation further and faster is essential to achieve the government’s vision for prevention, to increase healthy life expectancy while reducing inequalities between the richest and poorest in society.”

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said the government is prepared to introduce new legislation to curb smoking rates. “Smoking remains one of the biggest causes of years of life lost in Britain and other countries,” said David Halpern, who heads the government’s behavioural insight team or “nudge” unit. “The good news is that we have learned a great deal about how to help smokers quit. Pushing forward on this agenda is one of our single best bets to extend life expectancy in the UK, particularly among disadvantaged communities.”

Source: The Observer, 2 March 2019

APPG on Smoking and Health: Delivering the vision of a ‘Smokefree Generation’ The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health response to ‘Prevention is better than cure’

See also:
The Sun – Up in smoke: UK legal smoking age could increase from 18 to 21 in bid for ‘smoke-free generation’
The Daily Mail – Ban cigarettes for anyone under 21, ministers are urged amid calls for tobacco taxes to be increased
The Metro – Legal smoking age should rise to 21, MPs say
The Mirror – UK could see legal smoking age increased from 18 to 21 years-of-age

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Tobacco giants say changing picture health warnings will cost them millions after Brexit

Tobacco giants say changes to packaging in the event of a no-deal Brexit will cost the industry millions and boost black market sales. The multinational companies also voiced fears that wasted stock could cause a heavy environmental toll, concerns described as breathtaking hypocrisy by tobacco control campaigners.

In the event of no deal on 29 March the UK will immediately lose copyright for a European Commission-owned library of images. Existing images change each May and the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) plan to license images from the Australian government instead appeared to make this one of the more easily avoided Brexit pitfalls.

Treasury revenues have to be offset against the costs to the NHS, lost productivity from smoking-related disease and the environmental toll of tobacco production, which a World Health Organisation (WHO) report said has a carbon footprint comparable to whole countries and disproportionately affects the poorest.

“For the tobacco industry to wring their hands over the possible environmental impact of changing some picture warnings is breathtaking hypocrisy,” said Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy for Action on Smoking and Health. “It seems likely the industry will cope with having to switch picture warnings a few months early and will no doubt manage to sell through their remaining stock in the year allowed to them.”

Source: The Independent, 4 March 2019

See also:
World Health Organisation: Cigarette smoking: an assessment of tobacco’s global environmental footprint across its entire supply chain, and policy strategies to reduce it.

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Telegraph investigation concludes that Instagram promotes vape products to children as young as 13

An investigation by the Telegraph has found that Instagram is promoting vape products with cartoons on to children as young as 13.

Posts prompting viewers to share pictures of their favourite vapes and pushing them to websites where they can buy e-cigarettes are being suggested to children too young to legally purchase them.

Since 2016 it has been illegal to sell e-cigarettes to under 18s in the UK. The Advertising Standards Authority says that vaping adverts must not be “directed at” or “likely to appeal” to people under 18 and should also avoid “reflecting or being associated with youth culture”. However, the posts seen by the Telegraph on Instagram fall into a grey area as they were not paid adverts but posts from vape companies’ accounts that were later picked up by Instagram’s recommendation algorithms.

Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of the charity Action on Smoking and Health, said: “To be generous one can only assume that Instagram doesn’t realise that e-cigarettes are an age restricted product. But now they know they need to change their algorithms immediately to prevent under-18s having vapes and e-liquids pushed down their throats.”

Source: The Telegraph, 1 March 2019

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Public health ‘improving under councils despite cuts’

Councils in England say there has been a marked improvement in public health since they took over responsibility for delivering services nearly six years ago, despite budget cuts. The Local Government Association points to a fall in the number of smokers, fewer teenage pregnancies and a decrease in the suicide rate. But it warns progress could stop if there are further funding cuts.

Councils nationally have had their funding cut by 49% in real terms, between 2010-11 and 2017-18, according to the government spending watchdog. The government has said councils will get £1.3bn extra next financial year.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is calling on the government to reverse budget cuts to councils, which it says would alleviate cost pressures on the NHS. Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said cutting the public health budget was “a false economy” and make it harder to “keep the pressure off the NHS and social care.” He added that the main public health challenges in England were tobacco use, poor diet, mental health, physical inactivity and substance misuse.

Source: BBC News, 2 March 2019

See also:
Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health: Feeling the Heat: The Decline of Stop Smoking Services in England.

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Concerns over tobacco industry involvement in e-cigarette market

Multinational tobacco firms’ efforts to re-cast themselves as champions of public health by promoting harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes has caused concern among public health experts.

Anna Gilmore, a professor of public health and director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at Bath University, said that tobacco companies initially felt “threatened” by the emergence of e-cigarettes which are “significantly safer than cigarettes and have contributed to declines in smoking in the UK”.

They scrambled to respond, notably by launching their own “heat not burn” tobacco products, she said.

But the tobacco industry mainly sees these harm reduction products as a “public relations opportunity” and a way to “rehabilitate its image”, Prof Gilmore added. “Their hope was that claiming they were committed to reducing harm would re-open the doors to policy makers and scientists that had long since closed on an industry whose reputation was in tatters. People mistakenly believe the industry has changed but behind the scenes they continue to promote and sell cigarettes as they have always done.”

Source: The Telegraph, 2 March 2019

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Quebec Court of Appeal upholds ruling ordering tobacco companies to pay billions to smokers

Quebec’s highest court has upheld a historic ruling that ordered three major cigarette companies to pay more than $17 billion in damages to smokers in the province.

Imperial Tobacco, JTI-Macdonald and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges were appealing a Quebec Superior Court decision from 2015 stemming from what is believed to be of one the biggest class-action lawsuits in Canada.

Bruce Johnson, a lawyer representing the smokers who brought the class action, called it a tremendously important ruling for the public health system. “For all intents and purposes, the judgment has been 100% confirmed. There has been an extensive review of the evidence — 422 pages in which the unanimous court found the tobacco companies intentionally misled the public. They created a false controversy in science. They intentionally misled the public as to the dangers of their products with the intent of getting them addicted to a virtually useless product.”

Rothmans, Benson & Hedges said it would seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Source: Global News, 1 March 2019

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