ASH Daily News for 23 December 2019


  • Smoking ban tops list of 21st century UK public health achievements
  • NHS considers banning smoking on all hospital grounds from next April


  • British American Tobacco prepares to fight landmark court case over the ‘modern slavery’ of tobacco farm children
  • USA: Donald Trump signs bill raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 for both cigarettes and e-cigarettes
  • USA: Vaping health fears trigger a dip in the sales of e-cigarettes


Smoking ban tops list of 21st century UK public health achievements

The ban on smoking in public spaces and workplaces is the greatest UK public health achievement of the 21st century, according to public health experts. The move, which came into full force in all four UK countries by July 2007, has been credited with causing a fall of more than 20% in heart attacks and other cardiac conditions in the first 10 years after it was introduced.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “The smoking ban rightly has top ranking as the most important public health achievement of the 21st century, and ASH is proud to have played a role in this. Smoking is no longer part of most people’s daily lives and politicians of all parties now share [our] vision of bringing smoking to an end. Indeed, the Conservative government has given the tobacco industry an ultimatum to make smoking obsolete by 2030.”

However, she said smoking still kills more people than the next six preventable causes of death put together and is heavily concentrated among the poorest and most disadvantaged in society. Arnott urged tougher regulation and renewed funding for preventative programmes and those that help smokers quit.

The list was voted for by a sample of Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH)’s 6,500-strong membership, and then an expert panel of 33 senior public health professionals.

Source: The Guardian, 23 December 2019

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NHS considers banning smoking on all hospital grounds from next April

Next year’s NHS contract with hospitals proposes that no-one should be allowed to smoke in any areas of hospital grounds, including car parks. Despite NHS policies which say smoking should be banned, around a third of hospital trusts have not yet brought in such rules.

The total ban is proposed in a consultation on the NHS standard contract for 2020-21. While two in three trusts currently say they have such rules, many struggle to comply with them. Research by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), published in October, suggested at least 42 out of 52 mental health trusts had introduced a smokefree policy. However, almost all the trusts that responded to the ASH survey reported various levels of non-compliance.

Trusts were asked to estimate how often patients on an average adult mental health ward were found smoking. Patients were found smoking in the wider grounds every day, on average, in more than half the trusts. It follows government pledges to make the country “smoke-free” by 2030. Health ministers have said no-one should have to “walk past a cloud of smoke in order to enter or leave their local hospital”.

Supplementary documents say the rule would “not apply at this stage to e-cigarettes” Health Service Journal reported. Public Health England (PHE) said every smoker struggling to quit, including pregnant women, should be encouraged to consider switching to e-cigarettes. Officials urged hospitals to replace smoking shelters with vaping areas and said patients should be allowed to vape in their beds, if they had single rooms. The NHS Long Term Plan, published a year ago says every hospital patient should be offered help to quit, regardless of the reason why they have been admitted, by 2023/24.

See also:
Health Services Journal: Regulators plan smoking ban across all NHS sites
Mail Online: Smoking will be banned on ALL hospital grounds including car parks from April under new NHS rules (but vaping will still be allowed)
ASH. Progress towards smokefree mental health services. October 2019.

Source: Telegraph, 20 December 2019

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British American Tobacco prepares to fight landmark court case over the ‘modern slavery’ of tobacco farm children

Few smokers think twice about the source of their cigarettes. Human rights lawyers say tobacco is farmed by some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Children on tobacco fields in Malawi will have spent months ploughing dry land by the time December rainfall arrives. Many skip school, working from sunrise until after dark. As harvest time approaches and farms need extra pairs of hands, classrooms empty out. At the end of the season, their families will receive little, if any, pay for their hard labour.

The vicious cycle is part of a supply chain that has enriched the likes of British American Tobacco (BAT), which sources tobacco from thousands of small farms in the landlocked country. But now the FTSE 100 giant is facing a lawsuit for doing business with farms that put children as young as five to work. Tabled by human rights lawyers at Leigh Day, the case will pit some of the world’s poorest – many of whom have not been paid all year – against a corporate machine with bosses on salaries worth millions of pounds.

The landmark case follows history between the two sides. Leigh Day’s Martyn Day brought an unsuccessful claim against cigarette companies in the Nineties. At the time he pledged not to pursue the industry in future. In exchange, the defendants’ legal costs worth £15m were waived. Leigh Day says that the time limit for that agreement has expired. BAT is expected to fight the claims in court.

Activists say that for years tobacco companies like BAT have exploited vulnerable workers and children to maximise their profits. Tenants are routinely forced to enlist the help of children in order to meet the terms of demanding contracts, says Dr Violet Odala of the African Child Policy Forum. The issues are systemic in a society trapped by poverty and a controversial tenancy system, where landowners recruit migrant farmers to grow tobacco on their estates in exchange for food and accommodation – and a cut of the earnings from sales.

Source: Telegraph, 22 December 2019

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USA: Donald Trump signs bill raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 for both cigarettes and e-cigarettes

Donald Trump signed a sweeping bill on Friday 20th December that included raising the legal age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. The bill gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration six months to develop regulations. The agency would then have three years to work with states on implementing the change.

The logic for raising the purchase age for cigarettes is clear: most underage teens who use tobacco get it from older friends. An estimated 90% of smokers start before age 18. Delaying access to cigarettes is expected to produce major downstream health benefits, with one government-funded report estimating nearly 250,000 fewer deaths due to tobacco over several decades.

Still, anti-tobacco experts say age restrictions are only effective when they are vigorously enforced, and tobacco sales can fall through the cracks amid a patchwork of local, state and federal law enforcement.

Source: Mail on Sunday, 22 December 2019

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USA: Vaping health fears trigger a dip in the sales of e-cigarettes

The tobacco industry has hit a “big bump in the road” as e-cigarette sales dive following reports of vaping-related deaths in the US. Benson & Hedges maker Japan Tobacco International, whose e-cigarette brands include Logic, said vaping sales fell by 8% in September and October. Executives now fear that concerns about e-cigarettes across the Atlantic could spark an international clampdown on the growing market.

The number of vaping-related deaths rose to 54, with lung injury cases topping 2,500, US regulator, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), revealed on Thursday. CDC figures indicate that the number of illnesses peaked in mid-September. Investigators say that the popularity of black market vaping cartridges containing THC – the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis – and Vitamin E Acetate, are to blame.

The world’s five biggest tobacco companies have pinned their hopes on growing reduced-risk products such as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco and chewing tobacco. With cigarette sales in terminal decline, the likes of Altria, Philip Morris International, JTI, Imperial Brands and BAT are desperate to develop and market new products.

Despite Public Health England concluding that vaping is around 95% less harmful than smoking, critics continue to raise concerns about the long-term health impact. Tobacco executives fear a change of heart by regulators could have serious implications.

Source: Telegraph, 21 December 2019

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ASH Daily News is a digest of published news on smoking-related topics. ASH is not responsible for the content of external websites. ASH does not necessarily endorse the material contained in this bulletin.