ASH Daily News for 15 May 2020



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UK

  • Coronavirus: Children more at risk of secondhand smoke in lockdown
  • Coronavirus: “big tobacco” sees an opportunity in the pandemic
  • Prime Minister to tackle obesity as evidence suggests links to COVID-19 progression
  • NHS England: Quarter of COVID-19 patients who died in hospitals had diabetes

International

  • Ireland: Doctors warn pub outdoor areas should be non-smoking zones when bars re-open
  • USA: Study shows smoking is associated with COVID-19 progression
  • Link of the Week
  • ASH webinar: Smoking and COVID-19 Good Practice 14th May 2020

UK

Coronavirus: Children more at risk of secondhand smoke in lockdown

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the British Lung Foundation (BLF), Fresh and Breathe 2025 warn that new evidence suggests lockdown is leading to more children being exposed to the harms of secondhand smoke.

The evidence comes from the YouGov COVID tracker which shows that people who live in households that include children are 50% more likely to report being exposed to secondhand smoke since lockdown compared to those without children (10% compared with 6%). A further 12% of smokers who live with children report they are smoking indoors more than they did before lockdown.

YouGov’s COVID tracker also found that parents who smoke are just as likely as other smokers to report making quit attempts and trying to reduce the amount they smoke since lockdown. However, the indication that lockdown is leading to more frequent exposure to secondhand smoke has raised concerns that they are not getting the right support to quit and to protect those around them from tobacco smoke at this time.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, which is leading a campaign to encourage smokers to QuitForCovid, said: “This is an issue of equity. If you live in a high-rise block, taking your smoke outside is much harder than in a semi-detached with a garden.
“We know parents who smoke are trying to quit and reduce the amount they smoke — and we need to make sure they have the support they need to do this. I urge smokers to get in touch with local services and to use other sources of nicotine as an alternative to smoking indoors if they need help to handle cravings.”

Dr Nick Hopkinson, Medical Director at British Lung Foundation and Chair of ASH said: “Exposure to secondhand smoke is one of the leading causes of poor respiratory health in children. Smokers need to take their smoke outside but should try to quit if they can. Using alternative sources of nicotine like patches, gum or e-cigarettes can help reduce craving and protect them and their loved ones, especially children, from harm.”

Source: Nursery World, 14 May 2020

See also: Today is the day
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Coronavirus: “big tobacco” sees an opportunity in the pandemic

Andrew Rowell, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bath, writes in The Conversation on the tobacco industry’s activity during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Tobacco companies are exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to try and change their image from vilified industry to trusted health partner. Capitalising on opportunities presented by the pandemic, tobacco companies have offered assistance in the form of ventilators and personal protect equipment to benefit their image. At the same time, companies like British American Tobacco (BAT) have been co-opting health messages to promote their branding and products.

On social media, BAT, began incorporating universal health messages on their branded face masks, which they distributed to social media influencers for free. Instagram continues to be one of the key marketing platforms for BAT, as Instagram influencers are being paid to advertise their products. The posts, aimed at marketing heated tobacco products, are usually accompanied by popular messages – such as hashtags promoted by governments and authorities for people to stay at home.

In December 2019, the UK Advertising Standards Authority, ruled against BAT and three other firms for promoting an e-cigarette, Vype, on Instagram, after a complaint by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and STOP, of which the University of Bath is a partner. Later that month, under pressure to act, Facebook and Instagram announced that “branded content that promotes goods such as vaping, tobacco products and weapons will not be allowed”.

Undaunted BAT has continued using Instagram and engaging with COVID-19 hashtags. An influencer appeared on a BAT Vype account in Spain, using #frenalacurva, Spanish for “flatten the curve”. Similar tactics have been employed in Europe and Latin America, meaning if you search for these government health messages, you will come across BAT’s subliminal marketing.
Days before this renewed social media promotion, BAT launched a rebranding exercise and new slogan “For a Better Tomorrow” aimed at a “new adult generation” with Instagram, despite policy restrictions, key to reaching these “new adults”.

Source: The Conversation, 14 May 2020
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Prime Minister to tackle obesity as evidence suggests links to COVID-19 progression

The Prime Minister is now in support of a “more interventionist” approach to obesity, which evidence suggests can double a coronavirus patient’s chances of being hospitalised.

Boris Johnson, who has previously said he wants to see a review of “sin taxes” like 2018’s tax on sugary drinks, is said to have told advisers: “I’ve changed my mind on this.” He is reported to have said the current focus on public health presents an opportunity to “get Britain on its bike”. Minister, Boris Johnson has vowed to tackle obesity as part of the fight against coronavirus. The Prime Minister who has recently recovered from COVID-19 believes his weight exacerbated his symptoms.

Source: The Times, 15 May 2020
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NHS England: Quarter of COVID-19 patients who died in hospitals had diabetes

More than a quarter of people who have died from COVID-19 in England also had either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, according to the recent NHS England figures.

The data shows that between 31 March and 12 May, a total of 5,873 patients with diabetes died from COVID-19 which represent 26% of all coronavirus death. Experts think that diabetes increases the risk of dying from Covid-19 because diabetes puts strain on the heart and other organs. Also included in the data were the numbers of patients who died from Covid-19 with dementia (18%), serious breathing problems (15%) and chronic kidney disease (14%). One in ten (10%) also suffered from ischaemic heart disease.

Professor Partha Kar, the NHS England national specialty adviser of diabetes, said: “People with diabetes are more at risk of dying from Covid-19. … More detailed analysis is currently underway to understand the link between the two [COVID-19 and Diabetes].”
Bridget Turner, director of policy at Diabetes UK said: “The fact that more than a quarter of people who have died with Covid-19 have diabetes underlines the urgent need to ensure better protection and extra support are available to those in the clinically vulnerable groups”.

Source: The Guardian, 14 May 2020
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International

Ireland: Doctors warn pub outdoor areas should be non-smoking zones when bars re-open

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) has proposed that all outdoor areas in pubs should become non-smoking zones when they re-open in order to protect public health.

Professor Des Cox, chair of the policy group, wrote a letter on Monday (11th May), to the Minister for Health saying: “If outdoor areas are to be used to facilitate social distancing when bars open up again, then smoking should be prohibited from all areas of all pubs when they reopen.

He also commented that there was “no risk-free level of secondhand smoke and we need to protect the general public and in particular bar staff from the well-recognised health implications of secondhand smoke.”

In the Republic of Ireland, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death, with almost 6,000 smokers dying each year from tobacco related diseases.
“Smokers are more likely to be vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. The act of smoking involves your hands touching your face. So, in the setting of a pandemic those activities should be discouraged, and we would strongly recommend that people speak to smoking cessation services such as quit.ie.” Professor Cox added.
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Source: The Irish Times,11 May 2020
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USA: Study shows smoking is associated with COVID-19 progression

A new meta-analysis study published by researchers from the University of California San Francisco, suggests that smoking is associated with COVID-19 disease progression.

The metanalysis reviewed 19 papers presenting data on the link between smoking and severity of COVID-19. The study included 11,590 COVID-19 patients, 18.4% of whom experienced disease progression (defined as progression to “severe or critical conditions or death”) and 6.3% of whom had a history of smoking.

The researchers found that 29.8% of patients with a history of smoking experienced disease progression versus 17.6% of non-smoking patients. There was no significant evidence of publication bias and “smoking is associated with COVID-19 disease progression” the researchers reported.

Source: Medical Xpress, 15 May 2020

Nicotine & Tobacco Research: Smoking Is Associated With COVID-19 Progression: A Meta-analysis
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Link of the Week

ASH webinar: Smoking and COVID-19 Good Practice 14th May 2020

Yesterday, Thursday 14th May 2020, ASH hosted a webinar showcasing how local authorities are adapting to disruption caused by COVID-19. The webinar included 5 case studies from Newcastle City Council, Leicestershire County Council, Hertfordshire County Council, North Yorkshire County Council and Plymouth City Council, covering:

  • Managing delivery of remote support
  • Reaching out to smokers to provide support
  • Managing delivery of NRT and medications
  • Supporting smokers in temporary accommodation

The webinar was recorded and is now available to view online.

View Webinar