ASH Daily News for 19 March 2020


  • Wales: Smokers urged to quit now ‘more than ever’ or face greater risk from coronavirus
  • Tobacco cash behind cannabis research in Oxford


  • Pakistan’s Big Tobacco Problem



Wales: Smokers urged to quit now ‘more than ever’ or face greater risk from coronavirus

People who smoke are more likely than non-smokers to develop pneumonia, if they catch coronavirus. A Welsh respiratory expert said smokers are more vulnerable to the effects of the virus because their lungs are already weakened. 17% of the adult population in Wales smoke with deprived areas having the highest numbers.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that smokers were around one-and-a-half times more likely to progress to the severe stage of coronavirus than never smokers.

Professor Keir Lewis, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Swansea University, said smokers have damaged the cells protecting their nose and airways. This means they are more likely to develop lung problems as a result of contracting COVID-19. Many smokers will also have existing lung conditions which puts them at an even greater risk.

According to Professor Lewis, these lung defences can start to heal within days, so giving up smoking now could significantly improve smokers’ ability to defend and recover from the infection.

Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, said: “Smoking is not a lifestyle choice, it is an addiction that leads to devastating health consequences, which is why we would always advise smokers to quit. However, in light of concerns about the spread of Covid-19 we would urge smokers more than ever to consider giving up a habit that seriously affects the body’s natural defences.”

Source: ITV News, 18 March 2020

See also:
Guan WJ, Ni ZY, Hu Y, Liang WH, Ou CQ, He JX, Liu L, Shan H, Lei CL, Hui DS, Du B. Clinical characteristics of coronavirus disease 2019 in China. New England Journal of Medicine. 2020 Feb 28.

NHS. Risks from coronavirus (COVID-19) – advice to smokers from Dr Nick Hopkinson
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Tobacco cash behind cannabis research in Oxford

An investigation by The BMJ has uncovered how a research collaboration that includes Oxford University is taking funding from the tobacco industry for research into the medicinal properties of cannabis.

In a two-part special report, investigative journalist Jonathan Gornall asks if tobacco and cannabis industry support for wider patient access to medicinal cannabis is motivated by promises of a lucrative recreational market for the drug in the UK. By 2024, the UK’s medicinal cannabis market is predicted to be worth nearly $1.3bn, while the recreational market is estimated to be even greater—roughly $1.7bn.

Gornall looks at the involvement of the tobacco industry in funding research into medicinal cannabis, and the complex web of connections linked to both medicinal and recreational use of cannabis. He highlights the case of Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, part of a research collaboration that includes Oxford University, and is part-funded by the tobacco company Imperial Brands (formerly Imperial Tobacco).

Marta Di Forti, a psychiatrist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, who last year published research on the relation between cannabis use and psychotic disorder, called for more independent funding for cannabis research.

“It is always very dangerous to forget history and we are now seeing the sort of connections that we have seen happening before,” she said—and the involvement of tobacco company Imperial was “dreadful and shocking.”

Source: Medical Xpress, 18 March 2020

See also:
BMJ. Tobacco cash behind cannabis research in Oxford. 2020
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Pakistan’s Big Tobacco Problem

This article is part of an investigative series by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which examines how the tobacco industry is trying to disrupt efforts to tackle tobacco smuggling.

During a raid on a covert warehouse in the northern Pakistani city of Mandra, tax authorities discovered vast tobacco manufacturing and packing machines and nearly 60 million illegal cigarettes, all with branding from a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, Philip Morris.

In a bristling report on of the raid in mid-2017, the Rawalpindi regional tax office itemized what it described as “glaring details” that Philip Morris (Pakistan) itself was using the undeclared warehouse — a former factory for the tobacco giant — to churn out black-market cigarettes.

“Huge cigarette manufacturing and packing machines were parked at the premises despite the fact that [Philip Morris] had submitted a categorical report… that all machines of [the] Mandra factory have been scrapped,” according to the regional tax office, as reported by the Business Recorder, a financial daily. “The logical conclusion [is] that the undeclared warehouse is being misused for [the] storage and sale of undeclared/concealed production of non-tax paid cigarettes.”

The Mandra raid illustrates that the world’s largest tobacco companies have been complicit in the black-market trade of their own products.

Black-market tobacco had long been a problem in Pakistan, which has a very high prevalence of tobacco use — with over 23.9 million estimated users. Every year, 125,000 Pakistanis die from tobacco-induced diseases.

In 2019 Pakistan committed to introducing tracking and tracing systems to determine the origin of tobacco products and monitor and control the movement of cigarettes. An effective track-and-trace system would force the world’s largest tobacco companies, including Philip Morris and British American Tobacco, to be transparent about how many cigarettes they make and the taxes they owe. But after a shady bidding process, which is now being challenged in court, Pakistan’s tax authorities awarded the contract to a Pakistani military company working with Swiss software provider Inexto.

Critics say Inexto’s software is a “black box” based on a system devised by the tobacco industry that does little to help curb smuggling. The company has been barred from working on key aspects of the European Union’s track-and-trace system because of its ties to the tobacco industry. Nonetheless, its software is being used to track and trace cigarettes in Russia, West Africa, and Mexico.

Source: OCCRP, 11 March 2020
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