ASH Daily News for 11 March 2020


  • Study: Young vapers more likely to try cigarettes, research suggests
  • Unlikely any school in Wales doesn’t have a ‘supply of illegal tobacco close to it’
  • West Sussex new ‘Don’t snooze and smoke’ campaign launched
  • Opinion: Getting strategic about tackling the world’s leading cause of preventable death


  • USA: Many smokers quit before weight-loss surgery but start up again afterwards
  • Saudi Arabia bans shisha and tobacco in bars and restaurants to combat COVID-19

No Smoking Day

  • Today is the day!


Study: Young vapers more likely to try cigarettes, research suggests

Younger people who have tried e-cigarettes but had never previously smoked could be almost five times more likely to try tobacco cigarettes, new research suggests. Researchers from the University of Bristol’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG) worked with the city’s Medical Research Council’s Integrative Epidemiology Unit and the National Institute for Health Research’s Bristol Biomedical Research Centre to review 17 studies into whether e-cigarette use was associated with subsequent cigarette smoking.

The researchers found young vapers were more likely to subsequently try smoking. However, none of the studies were able to provide stronger evidence whether the association of early vaping with later smoking was casual, and much of their evidence also failed to consider the nicotine content of e-liquids. This makes it difficult to conclude whether nicotine was the mechanism driving the association, the report, published in journal Tobacco Control, says.

The researchers are reluctant to conclude that vaping is causing young people to start smoking, as the results rely on the participants’ self-reported smoking history. Without biochemical verification, they were unable to reliably check whether a participant had never previously smoked a cigarette.

“Policymakers have used the findings of studies, including the studies we reviewed in this research, to support the heavy regulation of e-cigarettes, including restrictions on flavours and even total bans, but the evidence that e-cigarette use might cause young people to take up smoking is not as strong as it might appear,” said Jasmine Khouja, a PhD student in TARG based in the School of Psychological Science.

Source: The i, 10 March 2020

Tobacco Control. Is e-cigarette use in non-smoking young adults associated with later smoking? A systematic review and meta-analysis. 10 March 2020.

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Unlikely any school in Wales doesn’t have a ‘supply of illegal tobacco close to it’

Trading Standards have said that it is unlikely there is a school in Wales without a supply of illegal tobacco nearby. This comes as the Welsh Government announced a tougher stance on the illegal trade to mark this year’s No Smoking Day. The Government are calling for tougher sentences for perpetrators and have appointed a new dedicated specialist to tackle the problem.

Figures from ASH Wales show that 15% of all tobacco sold in Wales is illegal – among the highest proportion in the UK. Illegal tobacco has strong links to organised crime groups, with children often targeted. According to the tobacco control campaign group, 45% of smokers in Wales have been offered illegal tobacco with £4 the average price paid for a pack of twenty illegal cigarettes.

Roger Mapleson, Trading Standards and Licensing Lead at Wrexham County Borough Council, said the availability of cheap and illegal tobacco to young people is one of their biggest concerns: “I doubt there is a school in Wales that hasn’t got a supply of illegal tobacco close to it.”

He added that concealment efforts have become more and more sophisticated and include “false tiles in the wall or lifts that pop up out of the floor triggered by an electric switch.” He said there is also a problem with social media sites acting as platform for sellers, making them hard to track.

The Welsh Government said they will implement a new “Wales-wide Illegal Tobacco Programme” which will help them learn more about the illegal trade, increase public awareness of its impact and introduce tougher penalties for those responsible.

Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, welcomed the news: “Illegal tobacco is widely available from shops and homes across Wales, presenting a major threat to public health and making cigarettes too easy to reach for young smokers. ASH Wales and enforcement agencies have long campaigned for robust action to tackle illegal tobacco.”

Source: ITV, 11 March 2020

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West Sussex new ‘Don’t snooze and smoke’ campaign launched

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is warning people not to “snooze and smoke” after a sharp rise in the number of fires caused by cigarettes. In the last five years, the number of smoking-related fires has increased by 52% in the county, according to their latest figures.

Firefighters are urging people not to smoke in beds or comfortable furniture. The fire service’s head of prevention Nicki Peddle said: “Smoking is a major cause of fires, particularly for those who are over 65 and living alone. If you know a smoker who isn’t ready to quit, and you want to help them reduce the risks, encourage them to get out of their comfortable space when they smoke if they are able to and if not, to consider vaping as an alternative.”

In 2018-19, Crawley, Bognor Regis and Worthing saw especially drastic increases in smoking-related fires. The fire service suggested smokers avoid lighting cigarettes indoors altogether. The service said smokers should also consider buying child resistant lighters and match boxes, and make sure they have a working smoke detector installed in the home.

The fire service added: “The most effective way to keep you and your home safe from a fire caused by smoking materials is to quit. Although this can be extremely challenging, there is help available through West Sussex Wellbeing.”

Source: The Argus, 11 March 2020

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Opinion: Getting strategic about tackling the world’s leading cause of preventable death

Sara Rose Taylor, research officer at the Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control, has written a piece on how countries should be implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC):

“For starters, we need evidence-based discussions about FCTC implementation and how to tackle barriers to implementation. This is central to the strategy and, indeed, to successful tobacco control. These discussions need to be held across global health and development communities; working together and learning from each other will facilitate necessary progress.”

“Second, implementation of key tobacco control measures should be centered on those included in the strategy, such as enacting tobacco taxes and smoke-free spaces. A 10% increase in tobacco product prices yields a 5% decrease in consumption across LMICs, and the best way for governments to affect prices is to impose taxes. Revenue from these taxes can then support other tobacco control programs. Focusing on the key policy priorities listed in the strategy will build up the momentum necessary to address the tobacco epidemic.”

“Third, governments must urgently translate global commitments into national action. Many barriers to in-country FCTC implementation still exist, but there are solutions. For example, while insufficient access to resources is a commonly cited challenge, taxation — as a source of funding — represents a critical solution central to tobacco control that is vastly underused. Most countries fall below WHO’s tobacco taxation recommendation of at least 70% of retail price.”

“The world cannot afford to ignore the negative impacts of tobacco consumption. We can make significant progress on sustainable development through the Global Strategy to Accelerate Tobacco Control and deliver a healthier population, economy, and planet.”

Source: Devex, 10 March 2020

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USA: Many smokers quit before weight-loss surgery but start up again afterwards

Even though many smokers quit before having weight-loss surgery, a new study suggests that many of them relapse. Researchers followed 1,770 people for one year prior to weight-loss surgery and for seven years afterwards. Roughly one in seven smoked at the start of the study, and nearly all quit before surgery. But seven years after surgery, roughly one in seven patients smoked, including some former smokers who relapsed, as well as some people with no history of smoking.

“Those who smoked more recently, younger adults, patients with low income and patients who were married were more likely to smoke post-surgery, which may help with targeted smoking-cessation maintenance efforts,” said lead study author Wendy King of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.

More than 45% of the participants had some history of smoking prior to surgery and 14% were smokers when they joined the study. By the time they had surgery, only 2% of patients smoked, and some of these individuals reported smoking to aid weight loss. One year later, however, almost 10% smoked and by the time seven years passed 14% were smokers. After surgery, 2%-3% of participants reported smoking to aid weight loss.

The relapse rates following bariatric surgery are similar to what’s been seen with other major medical events like a heart attack or cancer treatment, said Jodi Prochaska, a researcher at Stanford University in California, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Behavioral strategies to address cravings to smoke are numerous and include physical activity, drinking water, chewing on a straw or toothpick, brushing your teeth, deep breathing, meditation, relaxation and distractions like holding an ice cube,” Prochaska said. He added: “Cessation medications such as nicotine gum and bupropion have been found to delay cessation-associated weight gain.”

Source: Reuters, 10 March 2020

Annals of Surgery. Changes in Smoking Behavior Before and After Gastric Bypass: A 7-year Study. February 2020.

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Saudi Arabia bans shisha and tobacco in bars and restaurants to combat COVID-19

Saudi Arabia has banned cafes and restaurants in the Kingdom from serving shisha and tobacco as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs said.

“Shisha and tobacco were banned in cafes and restaurants in all the municipalities as a precautionary measure to preserve the health of citizens and residents from coronavirus (COVID-19)”, the ministry tweeted on Monday.

The ban has been implemented by local authorities in several Saudi cities, including the capital Riyadh. Inspections will be taking place by municipality teams to ensure that the restrictions are being followed, the Saudi news agency Ajel said on Monday.

Teams from municipalities will make field inspections to ensure the strict compliance with the ban. Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah who hailed the ban said, “Tobacco and the shisha can cause infection transmission as they are shared.”

Source: Saudi Gazette, 10 March 2020

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No Smoking Day

Today is the day!

Today (11 March 2020) is National No Smoking Day. Visit the ‘Today is the Day’ website to find out how you can support the campaign and visit NHS Smokefree for advice on quitting smoking.