ASH Daily News for 21 November 2019


  • Opinion: Mental health ‘at risk of being crowded out’ during election debate
  • Theatre criticised for warning audiences that play features smoking


  • US: Florida jury awards man $157 million from tobacco companies in death of spouse case
  • US drops plan to cut nicotine in cigarettes
  • US: Massachusetts lawmakers pass bill to ban flavoured tobacco



Opinion: Mental health ‘at risk of being crowded out’ during election debate

Paul Burstow writes in the Health Service Journal on the prioritisation of some areas of health over others in ongoing general election campaigns:

“Manifestos are yet to be published. But the battle lines are already being drawn. The competition boils down to how much more each party will spend day to day on healthcare and invest in new facilities and hospitals. Workforce has also featured with talk of more GPs and reinstating bursaries.

“So far there has been far less said about plans for reforming social care in England. There are at least three questions that need to be answered: how much the current system is underfunded by, how much more would need to be spent to pay for a better system, and finally who pays and how? In the 2010 and 2017 general elections, social care became a flash point in the campaign, with talk of death taxes and dementia taxes. With dementia such a big issue for families and the health issue that most worries people in their 50s it is hard to imagine that “fixing” social care won’t force its way into the election.

“Mental Health featured prominently in the 2015 general election and over the last decade changing public attitudes and awareness has kept it high on political agendas. Mental health could be at risk of being crowded out this time. We’ve already seen a spate of “retail” pledges; from hospital building to regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, dominate the campaign. In a pre-emptive strike the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, warned parties not to weaponise the NHS and called for a proper debate about what is needed in our NHS.

“[…] Taking a step back for a moment there are some clear global trends in the development of healthcare systems that it seems unlikely will be overturned regardless of the result. But they deserve proper debate and scrutiny. For example, the emphasis on integration around the person, at place and at system levels will remain. Personalisation of healthcare, shared decision-making, social prescribing, supported self-care are here to stay. Planning, designing and delivering healthcare at the scale of neighbourhood and place will stay too. It is also hard to see less emphasis being placed on system level collaboration to understand and act on the drivers of population health.

“[…] Such a debate needs to consider whether each party’s overall policy mix will produce an environment conducive to wellness and wellbeing. With as much as 80 to 90 per cent of our health status shaped by factors other than access to health services – education, housing, income and so on – the health debate must be bigger than the NHS.”

Source: Health Service Journal, 18 November 2019

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Theatre criticised for warning audiences that play features smoking

A theatre has faced criticism for warning audiences that one of its plays features actors smoking. The production, called “Blank”, tackles violence, neglect, drug use and suicide whilst looking at the impact of the criminal justice system on women and their families and comes with the warning that: “This play contains smoking and strong language.” in a content advisory note on the theatre’s website.

One critic wrote: “Shouldn’t a West End theatre company do us the courtesy of treating its audiences like grown-ups?”

The theatre’s executive producer Henny Finch previously dismissed criticism of its warnings, saying: “It is just about being considerate to all audiences.” Another spokesperson for the theatre said: “It is standard practice in the theatre industry to notify audiences there is smoking on stage.”

Source: The Sun, 21 November 2019

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US: Florida jury awards man $157 million from tobacco companies in death of spouse case

A Florida jury has awarded a man more than $157 million (around £121 million) in a wrongful death lawsuit after his husband died from lung cancer caused by smoking cigarettes.

Edward Caprio was diagnosed in 1996 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He died early last year aged 74 after living with the disease for 22 years. A Broward County jury ordered tobacco companies R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris to pay his spouse, Bryan Rintoul, $157.4 million, including $9 million in compensatory damages. The cigarette makers were found equally at fault because Caprio smoked brands from both companies since he was 15.

“This is the largest award in a tobacco case in the last 5 or so years, and it is the only time that a same-sex couple has pursued a wrongful death case against this industry in Florida or anywhere in this country” said Jonathan Gdanski, one of the plaintiff’s four attorneys.

Source: NBC News, 20 November 2019

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US drops plan to cut nicotine in cigarettes

The Department of Health and Human Services has dropped a proposal unveiled two years ago to cut the level of nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, according to a regulatory document published on Wednesday 20th November.

In a notice posted on a government website earlier this year as part of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) near-term regulatory goals, the agency said that the policy “would have significant public health benefits for youth, young adults, and adults, as well as potentially vast economic benefits.” That goal, once included as part of the “unified agenda” of regulations the government is working on, is no longer listed on the website, which was updated Wednesday as part of a semiannual review.

FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said that the removal of the plans “does not mean the agency does not consider them a priority or will not continue to work on their development. The agency has focused on regulations that reflect its most immediate priorities,” Felberbaum said in an email. “FDA continues to gather evidence and data on an ongoing basis regarding all tobacco products” he added.

Source: Bloomberg, 20 November 2019

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US: Massachusetts lawmakers pass bill to ban flavoured tobacco

The Massachusetts Senate voted to ban the sale of flavoured tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and also of flavoured vape liquids. The tobacco bill, which passed 32 votes to 6, also imposes a 75% excise tax on vaping products.

The passing of the bill makes Massachusetts the first state in the US to ban the sale of menthol tobacco products, which are usually an exemption to US flavour bans.

The bill comes following Massachusetts’ recent move to place a temporaray ban on the sale of all vaping products, amid reports of vaping related lung injury and death in the US.

Source: NBC Boston, 20 November 2019

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