ASH Daily News for 12 February 2020



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UK

  • Chief Medical Officer voices concerns over youth e-cigarette targeting

International

  • Spanish court rules workers can have pay deducted for smoking breaks

Parliamentary Activity

  • Parliamentary questions

UK

Chief Medical Officer voices concerns over youth e-cigarette targeting

The UK Governemnt’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has voiced concerns over young people being targeted by tobacco companies around e-cigarettes. Professor Chris Whitty also said that although the devices are “definitely safer” than tobacco cigarettes, there remain question marks over their long-term use.

He said: “We need to make sure history does not repeat itself. The test of whether a product is being targeted at children is if it starts to be increasingly used by children and that will lead to action. If e-cigarettes are increasing in children then we should assume that they are being marketed towards them or at least pushed on them in some way, and deal with that very, very strongly.”

Figures from NHS Digital show that 25% of pupils aged 11 to 15 had ever tried e-cigarettes, the same as in 2016 whilst current and regular e-cigarette prevalence in 2018 remained similar to 2016 levels at 6% and 2% respectively.

The Chief Medical Officer also said he has “serious worries” about tobacco companies’ “continuing ability” to get young people addicted to smoking: “There are still children who are smoking and it’s not happening by accident. That’s an area we really need to look very seriously at. The model of action for the cigarette industry is very straightforward. If you get people early, they get addicted to something which is going to kill them and then once they’re addicted, they say it’s all about choice.”

Source: Daily Mail, 12 February 2020

See also:
Evening Standard – Britain’s top doctor warns politicians not to let history repeat itself by allowing e-cigarettes to be ‘pushed’ at young people
NHS Digital – Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England 2018 [NS]
ASH – Use of e-cigarettes among young people in Great Britain, 2019

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International

Spanish court rules workers can have pay deducted for smoking breaks

A company that stopped paying its employees for smoking breaks has won its case in Spain’s high court. Energy company Galp says it was implementing Spanish law when it began deducting time spent off premises from employees’ working days.

Recent changes to Spanish law require companies to record employees’ entrances and departures from the workplace. The monitoring was intended to prevent workers’ exploitation and increase flexibility in working contracted hours. It was also supposed to address Spain’s problem of unpaid overtime work – in 2019 in Spain nearly 3 million hours worked overtime were unpaid.

But the requirement has had unforeseen consequences for Spain’s near 10 million smokers. By recording when employees leave and enter the office, companies can calculate how much time workers are spending away from work. Galp used this to deduct pay for time spent away on smoking and other breaks from employees’ wages. Spain’s high court relied on a previous ruling that workers do not have the right to a paid cigarette, coffee or breakfast break in the ruling.

The trade union that brought the case to court plans to appeal the decision.

Source: BBC, 11 February 2020

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Parliamentary Activity

Parliamentary questions

HoC PQ1: E-cigarette mortality

Asked by Andrea Jenkyns, Morely and Outwood
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if his Department will launch an inquiry into deaths relating to vaping.

Answered by Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care
There are no current plans to conduct an inquiry. Cases have been reported in the United States of America of acute lung injury suspected to be associated with e-cigarette use or vaping, although Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently recognised that either tetrahydrocannabinol or Vitamin E Acetate as the likely cause of the USA outbreak. Although to date reports in the United Kingdom do not reflect the trends in volume and pattern of the respiratory events seen in the USA, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is conducting surveillance to ensure they can identify potential cases.

UK regulated e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking although not completely risk free. Five fatalities have been reported to the MHRA in the UK that may have been associated with e-cigarette use. Importantly there is no evidence that all the deaths were caused by e-cigarette use. This needs to be put into context of over 3 million e-cigarette users in the UK, and that smoking kills over 78,000 people each year alone in England.

The MHRA continues to assess all reports received in association with nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and take appropriate action to protect public health.

Source: Hansard, HC Deb, 11 February 2020
Link: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2020-02-03/11619/

HoL PQ2: E-cigarettes

Asked by The Marquess of Lothian
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what statistics they have about the prevalence of e-cigarette use, particularly among young people; what evidence they are collecting to determine whether e-cigarettes and vaping devices are an effective way to stop smoking; and what action they are taking to ensure that there is full awareness of the health risks of using e-cigarettes and vaping devices amongst young people.

Answered by Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care
Data from nationally representative surveys indicate that, in England, current vaping among young people remains low and concentrated among those who have already smoked. Among adults, vaping prevalence is 6.3%, with almost all vapers being smokers or ex-smokers. This data can be found in the attached Office for National Statistics statistical bulletin, Adult smoking habits in the United Kingdom: 2018.

Smoking rates continue to decline among both adults and youth. Public Health England (PHE) monitors the developing evidence on effectiveness of e-cigarettes for quitting smoking. A major UK randomised control trial has found e-cigarettes to be twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy products when combined with behavioural support.

Data from English stop smoking services indicate that people who use an e-cigarette in their attempt to quit have the highest success rates. UK regulation of e-cigarettes includes measures to protect young people, including a ban on most forms of advertising, a minimum age of sale of 18 years and a ban on proxy purchasing.

PHE provides evidence-based information to healthcare professionals, teachers and the public about the relative harmfulness of e-cigarettes, vaping devices and smoked tobacco.

Source: Hansard, HC Deb, 11 February 2020
Link: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2020-01-29/HL938/