ASH Daily News for 20 September 2019


  • Government reveals fastest drop in smoking rates for over a decade


  • US: Big tobacco keeps starting ‘grassroots’ Facebook campaigns
  • Asian countries move to ban e-cigarettes as global backlash grows
  • US: E-cigarette makers’ push to raise legal age to 21 may not be all it seems

Link of the week

  • Stoptober



Government reveals fastest drop in smoking rates for over a decade

Adult smoking rates fell 2.2% from January to July 2019 – equivalent to 200 fewer smokers every hour – the fastest drop in more than a decade, according to newly-released data.

The figures from University College London’s (UCL) Smoking Toolkit Study were released as Public Health England launched this year’s Stoptober campaign.

Jo Churchill, parliamentary under secretary of state for prevention, public health and primary care, said: “Thanks to our tough action on tobacco, smoking rates are falling faster than in years – presenting us with the real opportunity for a smoke-free society by 2030. Despite this progress, smoking persists in some areas, often those with other challenges, and unfortunately remains the single biggest preventable cause of premature death. This inequality cannot continue. I want all smokers to quit, so please, take advantage of the support available this Stoptober and enjoy all the health, social and financial benefits this will bring when you succeed.”

Source: Talking Retail, 19 September 2019

See also
UCL: Smoking Toolkit Study

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US: Big tobacco keeps starting ‘grassroots’ Facebook campaigns

Tobacco companies have used Facebook groups that look like citizen groups concerned about taxes, to manufacture the appearance of grassroots opposition to local tax increases on tobacco products and other tobacco control measures, it has been revealed.

“[Tobacco companies] create these groups to oppose efforts to pass laws either through legislatures or especially through ballot measures,” explains Vince Willmore, from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Every time there’s a ballot measure to increase a tobacco tax or pass a smoke-free air law, they’ll come up with a front group with a great sounding name when it’s entirely funded and run by the tobacco companies.”

In response to a recent bill in Oregon (HB 2270) that would increase taxes on cigarettes by $2 (£1.60), require cigarettes and certain cigars to be sold in packs of 20 or more and tax vaping and e-cigarettes like a tobacco product, the group Oregonians Against Tax Hikes (OATH) was created on Facebook on March 22, 2019.

This group and its advertisements were “a project of RAI Services Co. and Altria Client Services, LLC”, who are subsidiaries of Reynolds American Inc and Altria Group whose operating companies include Philip Morris USA among others. What appears to be a local group of concerned citizens is actually a lobbying campaign funded by Big Tobacco. OATH has spent $68,311 (£54,528) on 89 targeted Facebook ads since April 2019. These ads took viewers to a website with a pledge to be sent to legislators. While OATH sent signatories’ emails to legislators, they did not submit the list of signatures as public testimony during the bill’s hearings.

“What the tobacco companies are trying to hide is that they are the ones behind these front groups,” explains Willmore. “They may think they are more likely to be scrutinized and exposed if they submit comments under their front group names during public hearings or through testimony. Individual letters to legislators are more under the radar” he said.

Tellingly, groups like this list no organisation members, no grassroots organisers and no staff on their websites. They also rarely post on Facebook, preferring instead to use targeted Facebook ads that will only be seen by selected sections of the population. OATH has only two Facebook posts but nearly 90 ads.

Source: Engadget, 19 September 2019

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Asian countries move to ban e-cigarettes as global backlash grows

Vaping companies are facing darkening prospects in Asia as countries move to ban e-cigarettes, cutting off an important growth market for manufacturers as a global backlash gains traction.

India’s cabinet on Wednesday 18th September was the latest to announce a ban as well as jail time of up to three years for those who manufacture, import or sell the products, citing concerns about vaping among young people. New Delhi’s action comes in the same week that China, the largest producer and consumer of tobacco, halted online sales of vaping products made by US vape maker Juul Labs.

Beijing was already gearing up to regulate the sector, stating concerns that e-cigarettes would ultimately create a new generation of nicotine users at a time when the government was trying to cut the proportion of the population older than 15 who smoke, from more than 26.6% to 20% by 2030. China, which has a domestic e-cigarette industry, banned the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s in August 2018. Shenzhen, where 85% of e-cigarette manufacturers are located, is planning to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public from October.

Cambodia and Thailand both outlawed the use and import of e-cigarettes in 2014, the Philippines is pushing through legislation that would raise taxes on e-cigarettes. Other countries, including South Korea and Indonesia, where 65% of men smoke, could prove to be promising markets as smokers switch to vaping. However, last year the Indonesian government imposed a 57% tax in import duties on e-cigarettes and vaping liquids.

India’s e-cigarette ban has sparked immediate criticism, with public health advocates warning it could dissuade smokers from switching to safer alternatives. Shares of Godfrey Phillips India, one of India’s top tobacco companies, soared 9% following the announcement, while Golden Tobacco and ITC also recorded gains.

Source: Financial Times, 19 September 2019

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US: Lobbyists push to raise legal age to 21 may not be all it seems

Tobacco and e-cigarette lobbyists are pushing to increase the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 in states across America, public health officials say. However, public health experts warn the bills are often not what they appear and contain loopholes and weak enforcement which could actually benefit big tobacco in the end because the laws often serve to prevent any future tightening of restrictions. In effect, the industry seems to be pushing for lax regulation now, to head off harsher regulation later.

John Schachter, communications director at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said: “They try to portray it as, ‘We’re for Tobacco 21, case closed,’” said Schachter. He added that tobacco lobbyists then “try to water it [bills] down, and weaken it” when public health authorities push for additional provisions.

Health advocates say the bills are often problematic. In Arkansas, a Tobacco 21 law barred cities and towns from adopting any regulation more restrictive than the state’s on the “manufacture, sale, storage, or distribution of tobacco products”. That effectively bars cities and towns from banning flavoured tobacco products or products like menthol or mint e-cigarette cartridges. Juul also supported that legislation. As of March 2019, Juul Labs was running ads to support Tobacco 21 legislation in 22 states and Washington DC. The company has said the push is part of a plan to, “successfully address” the teen vaping epidemic.

Source: The Guardian, 20 September 2019

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Link of the week


Stoptober is back to help encourage smokers to make a quit attempt and join those who have already quit this year.

Public Health England (PHE) is encouraging all smokers to join in with the nation’s biggest quit attempt, which begins on 1 October 2019. PHE is providing smokers with the support and information they need to ‘split up’ with smoking this Stoptober.

Yvonne Doyle, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at PHE, said: “It’s really encouraging to see these early signs of such a fast drop in smokers but we’ve still got a way to go to achieve our ambition of a smoke-free society. That’s why Stoptober is back and we are encouraging all smokers to take part. Giving up smoking is the best thing a smoker can do for their health and it can also help save money – in just 28 days smokers will start to notice so many benefits.”

The campaign will target all smokers with new creative content highlighting the benefits of ‘breaking up’, urging them to re-evaluate their bad relationship with smoking and ‘split up’ this October. The creative will feature across digital, radio and out-of-home advertisements throughout the campaign period, to help keep smokers motivated during their quit attempt. You can view the campaign videos here:

Stoptober has supported over 1.9 million people on their quit journey to date and if a smoker can quit for 28 days, they are 5 times more likely to quit for good.

Stoptober’s free quitting support includes:
• the Stoptober app
• Facebook Messenger bot
• daily emails
• a personal quit plan
• Stoptober online communities

More Information