ASH Daily News for 2 January 2020


  • Daily smokers past and present ‘live in more pain’
  • Stop smoking campaign in England axed after health budget cuts
  • E-cigarettes are still safer than smoking
  • Tobacco firms should pay towards the cost of picking up cigarette butts, say campaigners


  • Austria’s cafe society calls time on cigarettes


Daily smokers past and present ‘live in more pain’

People who smoke daily, and even those who have given up, report living in more pain than those who have never smoked daily, a report suggests. The findings are based on an analysis of data from more than 220,000 people conducted by UCL. Researchers analysed data from a set of online experiments in the BBC Lab UK Study, from 2009 to 2013. They were sorted into three categories: never smoked daily, used to smoke daily, or currently smoke daily. They were asked how much pain they lived in and this was converted into a scale from zero to 100. Higher scores meant more pain. Current and former smokers scored about one to two points higher than those who had never smoked, the study in the journal Addictive Behaviors showed.

“The key finding is the former smokers still see that effect of elevated pain,” one of the UCL researchers, Dr Olga Perski, told the BBC. “It is a very large data set. We’ve got a good sample, so we can be fairly confident there is something going on here. But we can’t say whether that’s clinically meaningful.” Dr Perski said the most surprising finding was that the higher levels of pain were found in the youngest ages groups (aged 16 to 34).

There is no definitive explanation for why this effect might exist. One proposed idea is that some of the thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke may lead to permanent tissue damage, resulting in pain. Another is that smoking could have a lasting effect on the body’s hormonal systems. This suggestion specifically centres around the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis), which is involved in how we respond to pain. If the HPA-axis is knocked out of balance then it could lead to people feeling more pain.

ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “The proof that smoking caused lung cancer was discovered in the 1950s. Over the years since then the evidence has grown that almost every medical condition can be caused, or made worse by, smoking. This includes cancers, heart and respiratory disease, blindness, deafness, diabetes, dementia and infertility. Smokers also take longer to recover from operations and it’s more likely the outcome will be a failure. So, it’s not surprising that smokers also suffer more pain than never smokers.”

Source: BBC News, 1 January 2020

See also:
Addictive Behaviors. Associations between smoking status and bodily pain in a cross-sectional survey of UK respondents.

Read Article

Stop smoking campaign in England axed after health budget cuts

The government has been accused of undermining its ambition to make England smokefree after an anti-smoking campaign was cancelled following a 24% cut to the public health marketing budget. Health Harms, a Public Health England (PHE) scheme, has previously sought to harness new year resolutions in January to encourage the 6 million tobacco smokers in England to quit. Rates of smoking are declining, also thanks to the introduction of plain packaging and tax increases, but the government has been urged not to be “complacent” after it emerged the overall anti-smoking budget had been reduced to £3.8m from £5m over the last year. The move came after PHE’s marketing budget was cut by a fifth in 2019, from about £35m to £28m.

“Slashing budgets for these campaigns is a foolhardy decision which not only lets down smokers who are looking to quit but will also result in further pressure on the NHS due to smoking-related illnesses,” warned British Lung Foundation’s (BLF) senior policy officer Rachael Hodges. “Although smoking rates are declining, we must not be complacent. Mass media campaigns are vital in encouraging smokers to quit and stay smoke free.”

The charity added the drop in funding “undermines the government’s aim to make England smoke free by 2030” since “mass media campaigns are essential in helping people quit”. It said PHE’s 28-day “Stoptober” campaign had resulted in fewer successful quit attempts after less advertising coverage on TV and radio. The rate of successful attempts to quit fell from 8% of all smokers in 2015 to 6% in 2016 after spending on media messaging was reduced from £3.1m to £390,000, according to the charity.

In the September spending review the chancellor, Sajid Javid, announced an unspecified “real terms increase to the public health grant budget”. This followed sustained cuts which caused spending on public health services by councils to fall 8% from 2013/14 to 2017/18, leading to “dramatic” changes in the availability of stop smoking services, according to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

Source: The Guardian, 27 December 2019

Read Article

E-cigarettes are still safer than smoking

In a blog post for The Guardian, Professor Linda Bauld and Dr Suzi Gage have reviewed the past year of vaping-related news:

“As 2019 draws to a close there is some good news. For the first time, the World Health Organisation reported that tobacco use among men has stopped growing globally. Rates of use among women began declining some time ago. Tobacco control measures are working.”

“In the UK, vaping has been credited with contributing to recent reductions in smoking. Studies published in 2019 showed that e-cigarettes help smokers quit and can benefit cardiovascular health. Even in the US, recent research suggests any rise in youth vaping has coincided with sharp declines in young people smoking.”

“The ideal combination is proportionate regulation of e-cigarettes combined with effective implementation of tobacco control. As a new decade dawns, more countries need to achieve this balance. If they do not, the opportunity presented by e-cigarettes will be lost. And many smokers who have struggled to stop and who might otherwise have quit with vaping will be resigned to the death and disease that tobacco causes.”

Source: The Guardian, 31 December 2019

Read Article

Tobacco firms should pay towards the cost of picking up cigarette butts, say campaigners

Tobacco companies should pay towards the cost of clearing up cigarette butts, according to campaigners. The butts are the most common litter item in the UK. Although £1billion is spent clearing up rubbish in England every year, tobacco firms last year contributed only £70,000 to litter prevention and nothing to cleaning up.

This is despite the four tobacco manufacturers whose products are sold in the UK – Imperial, JTI, Philip Morris and British American Tobacco – making £39billion in profits internationally in 2016. Their contribution to the UK Treasury in Corporation Tax in the same year was £40million.

Allison Ogden-Newton, of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “Cigarette litter blights every street, park and beach in this country, it is costly to clean up and toxic for the environment. It’s time for manufacturers to get serious about the litter their products generate. They have the resources to raise awareness. Campaigns that cut through to smokers, funded by the industry, are needed now because so many still think butts are harmless.”

Source: Mail Online, 28 December 2019

Read Article


Austria’s cafe society calls time on cigarettes

Austria was once dubbed “the ashtray of Europe” but has finally banned smoking in restaurants, bars and cafes. Austria had been on the verge of bringing in a total ban in 2018, but the plans were overturned because of pressure from the far-right Freedom Party, which was part of the last government.

But after the fall of the coalition government in May, the ban was reintroduced and came into force on 1 November. Some restaurants and cafes went non-smoking several years ago, but others allowed smoking until the last possible minute.

In general, the ban seems to be holding in Vienna. Figures from mid-November show that inspectors carried out more than 2,000 checks of restaurants and reported 27 breaches of the ban. Shisha bars are currently taking legal steps to try to get an exception for their businesses. A survey by an Austrian news magazine suggests that most Austrians are in favour of the ban.

Source: BBC News, 27 December 2019

Read Article