ASH Daily News for 18 May 2020


  • The health benefits associated with Coronavirus lockdown
  • Update on Smoking, Asthma and COVID-19
  • Wales: Doctors plan to study nicotine patches as potential coronavirus treatment
  • Oxfordshire’s plan to go smokefree approved


  • BAT says potential COVID-19 vaccine using tobacco leaves ready for human trials

Parliamentary Activity

  • Parliamentary questions


The health benefits associated with Coronavirus lockdown

Helen Chandler-Wilde and Luke Mintz write in the Telegraph on the surprising health benefits of the coronavirus lockdown.

The effects of contracting COVID-19 can be serious and life-threatening for the most vulnerable, however the COVID-19 lockdown has also led people to invest more time and energy looking after themselves.

Key points of health benefits associated with the lockdown include:

  • Less smoking – the dreadful effects that COVID-19 could have on the lungs has encouraged 300,000 people in the UK to stop smoking. A further 550,000 have tried to quit according to a survey from YouGov and the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). If those people quit for good, this lockdown period could have ongoing positive effects on their health in the years to come. The lungs begin to repair themselves almost immediately after you stop smoking, with function increasing up to 10 per cent within nine months, according to the NHS. After a year, your risk of heart disease halves; after a decade the chance of getting lung cancer is half of that of a smoker. Even the heaviest smokers can see improvement, no matter their age. A hashtag, #QuitForCOVID is mobilising those on social media to try and quit.
  • Further research from Alcohol Change UK shows that people are also drinking less while levels of exercise have increased, and people are eating healthier, homemade meals. Research from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air has also highlighted lower levels of air pollution. While the COVID-19 lockdown is putting a strain on mental health, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), eight out of ten people say they feel that people are doing more to help each other since lockdown and two-thirds have checked in on a neighbour.
    Source: The Telegraph, 18 May 2020

See also: Today is the day
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Update on Smoking, Asthma and COVID-19

On Friday 15th May 2020, Dr Nick Hopkinson respiratory physician from the Royal Brompton hospital in London, Medical Director of the British Lung Foundation and Chair of Action Smoking and Health (ASH) joined Prof Domhnall MacAuley from the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) via Zoom to discuss COVID-19 and smoking.

Dr Hopkinson addressed reports suggesting that smoking has a protective effect against COVID-19. Available data suggests that smokers are more likely to get symptoms and die due to COVID-19. He also spoke about Asthma and the recent survey from YouGov COVID-Tracker which shows that the lockdown is leading to more children being exposed to the harms of secondhand smoke.

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

Source: BJGP life, 15 May 2020

See also: QuitForCovid FAQs
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Wales: Doctors plan to study nicotine patches as potential coronavirus treatment

Plans are being made to investigate the potential of nicotine patches to combat COVID-19 after the idea was raised by doctors at a hospital in Wales, where the improvised treatment is being practised.

This follows a French study which suggested smokers could be less likely to contract coronavirus due to the impact of nicotine. Doctors in Wales who published a short comment in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in January, on the use of nicotine in coronavirus treatment have been discussing the possibility of a formal trial.

In a short paper published in the BMJ they stated that at least in chronic smokers, the lung injuries in those infected with COVID-19 were being exacerbated by nicotine withdrawal. The addictive stimulant could interfere with the production of elements that led to inflammation.

Jonathan Davies, a consultant trauma surgeon at Royal Glamorgan hospital involved in the research advised that: “Of course, everyone should stop smoking. If you are a smoker then you are at risk of all the secondary complications if the virus does take hold,”.

The suggestion by Davies and colleagues led to conversations with Professor Judith Hall of Cardiff University, a medical innovator involved in global development who has said she will approach British funding bodies for support to trial the potential role of nicotine in managing COVID-19.

Source: The Guardian, 17 May 2020
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Oxfordshire’s plan to go smokefree approved

A plan to make Oxfordshire the first smokefree county in England by 2025 has been agreed. The Oxfordshire Tobacco Strategy aims to reduce the prevalence of smoking in the county down from 10% to 5% by 2025. The government’s own target is to make England smokefree by 2030.

Eunan O’Neill, a consultant in public health at Oxfordshire county council, said: “Every year in England more than 80,000 people die from smoking related diseases. This is more than the combined total of the next six causes of preventable deaths, including alcohol and drugs misuse. On average a smoker loses 10 years of life.”

About 10% of the population in the county smoke and between 2015 and 2017, about 2,132 people died from smoking related diseases. Mr O’Neill said the public had been asked for their opinions on the strategy when a draft was launched on March 11. Subsequently, 65% of the people who took part supported the county’s plan, 31% were against it and 5% were neutral.

There are four main areas the strategy will target to stop people smoking including prevention young people from starting to smoke, creating more smokefree spaces, enforcing regulations on tobacco including doing more to stop sales of illicit tobacco and supporting existing smokers to quit.

Ansaf Azhar, the county’s director of public health said there was evidence smoking was also likely to add to the risk of ‘severe illnesses’ from coronavirus. “This is something as we go into recovery we need to highlight. It may be a good opportunity for people to give up smoking.” Azhar said.

Source: Banbury Cake, 15 May 2020

See also: BBC News – Oxfordshire plan to be first ‘smoke-free’ county agreed
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BAT says potential COVID-19 vaccine using tobacco leaves ready for human trials

British American Tobacco (BAT) said on Friday (15th May), it was ready to test its potential COVID-19 vaccine using proteins from tobacco leaves on humans, after it generated a positive immune response in pre-clinical trials.

BAT said once it gets approval from the U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA) for the vaccine, it would progress to Phase 1 trials or testing on humans.

The company raised eyebrows in April when it said it was developing a COVID-19 vaccine from tobacco leaves and could produce 1 million to 3 million doses per week if it got the support of government agencies and the right manufacturers.

On Friday, London-based BAT said it had submitted a pre-investigative new drug application to the FDA and that the agency had acknowledged the submission. BAT said it was also talking with other government agencies around the world about the vaccine.

Source: Reuters, 15 May 2020.
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Parliamentary Activity

Parliamentary questions

PQ: Smoking in public places

Asked by Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will make it his policy to allow local councils to prohibit smoking outside (a) restaurants and (b) other food outlets.

Answered by Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Government has a track record of reducing the harm caused by tobacco. The United Kingdom is a world leader and has been rated the best in Europe on tobacco control by independent experts.

The Health Act 2006 and the Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006 made it illegal to smoke in public enclosed or substantially enclosed areas and workplaces. Local authorities retain overall responsibility for the enforcement of the smokefree legislation and retain the power to make by-laws.

We support development and implementation of smoke-free policies locally in and around public premises. We believe local authorities are best placed to make decisions about the local populations which they serve.

Source: Hansard, 15 May 2020
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