ASH Daily News for 12 May 2020


  • Survey by online retailer Vape Club finds almost half a million smokers say they will quit as a result of the menthol ban
  • Smoking cessation 4: Young people


  • WHO dismisses claims that ‘smoking reduces risk of COVID-19’ and urges smokers to quit
  • Study: Smoking prevalence is low in symptomatic patients admitted for COVID-19

Parliamentary Activity

  • House of Commons debate: COVID-19


Survey by online retailer Vape Club finds almost half a million smokers say they will quit as a result of the menthol ban

Almost 40% of menthol smokers – equivalent to 450,000 current smokers – will quit when the Menthol Ban comes into force on 20 May 2020, according to a survey of 1,000 menthol users. The survey, conducted by UK Vaping Industry Association member Vape Club, also found that 18% of UK menthol smokers intend to use menthol vaping as a way to stop smoking, 10% will quit by going ‘cold turkey’, and 5% will use nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine gum or patches.

However, 2.4% of those surveyed said that they have stockpiled menthol cigarettes in advance of the ban, while 56% of menthol smokers have stated that they would continue to smoke using regular cigarettes or rolling tobacco.

In addition, Vape Club’s survey found that just under 300,000 smokers are currently quitting due to Covid-19. It was also found that the pandemic has fuelled a greater appetite to quit, with 29% of smokers now stating that they now would consider quitting in the near future – equivalent to a potential 2.6 million fewer smokers in the UK.

The survey also found that 67% of UK smokers (6.4 million) have not taken warnings to quit during the Covid-19 pandemic and don’t intend to stop smoking and 31% of smokers (3 million) don’t believe that they’re at greater risk from Covid-19 due to smoking.

Source: Talking Retail, 12 May 2020

See also: Tobacco Tactics – UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA)
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Smoking cessation 4: Young people

Nurses working in schools or settings in which young people attend for healthcare treatment should be alert to the possibility that their young patients smoke. They need to know how to open up a conversation about tobacco use in a way that resonates with the young person. This article, the fourth in a five-part series on the nurse’s role in smoking cessation by Louise Ross (former stop-smoking service manager at Leicester City Council and now a freelance smoking cessation consultant), looks at which young people are more likely to smoke and how to manage stop-smoking conversations.

Key points include:
Smoking among young people is declining in the UK, but is more common in disadvantaged groups
People who start smoking at a young age are more susceptible to the long-term harms of tobacco than those who start smoking in later life
Stop-smoking interventions need to be delivered in a way that resonates with the young person
As well as cigarette consumption, nurses should ask young people about shisha and cannabis use
Rather than it being a gateway to smoking, vaping is more likely to be used by young people as a means to help them quit

Source: Nursing Times, 12 May 2020
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WHO dismisses claims that ‘smoking reduces risk of COVID-19’ and urges smokers to quit

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has dismissed claims that ‘smoking reduces the risk of COVID’, and has urged smokers to quit amid the worldwide pandemic. Their advice comes shortly after a study at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris suggested that nicotine may offer some protection to smokers from contracting COVID-19.

WHO says there is currently “insufficient information” to back up these claims. In a statement, WHO said: “WHO is constantly evaluating new research, including research that examines the link between tobacco use, nicotine use, and COVID-19. WHO urges researchers, scientists and the media to be cautious about amplifying unproven claims that tobacco or nicotine could reduce the risk of COVID-19. There is currently insufficient information to confirm any link between tobacco or nicotine in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.”

WHO added that smoking can lead to more severe symptoms for coronavirus patients: “COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases. Tobacco is also a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by COVID-19. Available research suggests that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death.”

Based on these findings, WHO is urging smokers to take immediate steps to quit.

Source: Mirror, 12 May 2020

See also: WHO statement – Tobacco use and COVID-19
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Study: Smoking prevalence is low in symptomatic patients admitted for COVID-19

Just 4.8% of 441 COVID-19 patients who needed to be admitted to an Italian hospital were smokers, according to a new study. Researchers described this finding as a “very low” number, given 24% of the general adult population smoke in Italy.

But once smokers are in hospital, they are more likely to see their disease rapidly progress and lead to death. The new study found half of infected smokers died – compared to 35% of the rest of the patients.

The Italian study led by Dr Nicola Gaibazzi looked at patients admitted to hospital in Parma, Northern Italy. It means the findings can only be applied to those with symptoms severe enough to seek medical attention – thousands of patients escape suffering any symptoms. Information about smoking was taken from medical records, and efforts were made to directly contact the patients or their relatives for confirmation – a total of 423 out of 441 patients or their relatives were spoken to on the phone.

Source: Daily Mail, 11 May 2020

MedRxiv – Smoking prevalence is low in symptomatic patients admitted for COVID-19
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Parliamentary Activity

House of Commons debate: COVID-19

A general debate on COVID-19 took place in the House of Commons yesterday, Monday 11th May 2020. Alex Cunningham (MP for Stockton North) spoke on the importance of addressing tobacco addiction in light of COVID-19 and the need for adequate funding to do this:

“As we know, covid-19 is a respiratory virus that affects the lungs and airways. That is why lung health is an integral part of how we tackle this virus now and respond to the ongoing effects it can have on a person’s lung health. The majority of deaths from covid-19 in the UK have occurred among people with pre-existing conditions. Data from the UK covid symptom tracker app shows that smokers are more likely to report common covid symptoms, and smokers who contract coronavirus are more likely to experience severe symptoms.

” […] As colleagues may know, there is a 20-year average life expectancy gap within my Stockton North constituency. Men living in the town centre ward can expect to live 20 years fewer than a man living in Wynyard. While there are other health challenges, much of that health inequality is down to lung health and the Government’s failure to tackle it head on. Investing properly in tobacco control and smoking cessation services would achieve the Government’s ambition of a smoke-free England by 2030 and reduce health inequalities, but more importantly, it could lift over 1 million people out of poverty, including 250,000 children.

” […] If someone is more likely to die from covid-19 with a pre-existing condition, we need to tackle the root causes of pre-existing conditions. That means tackling health issues in areas like mine—the areas with the poorest communities. Smoking cessation is an excellent place to start. I hope that the Government will see it as not just appropriate but necessary to restore all funding for services that help people to stop smoking. When households stop spending money on tobacco, it can lift them out of poverty and increase the disposable income available to spend on local communities rather than lining the pockets of transnational tobacco firms, but the services need to ​be there to support people to quit smoking. A polluter charge on tobacco companies would go a long way to funding those services, so will the Minister commit to introducing this charge to provide a sustainable source of funding for tobacco control?”

Source: Hansard, HC Deb, 11 May 2020
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