ASH Daily News for 29 July 2019


  • Sunderland football fans could be offered lung cancer screening at matches


  • Battle against tobacco epidemic is far from won, WHO report finds
  • Nine years on, Greek MPs agree to abide by own anti-smoking law
  • Self-service cigarette machines set to be stubbed out in Ireland

Parliamentary Activity

  • Parliamentary questions



Sunderland football fans could be offered lung cancer screening at matches

Speaking at a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, David Chandler, deputy chief officer at Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), suggested a low dose CT scan could be used to screen smokers at Sunderland football games: “[If you] wait for someone who smokes to start getting symptoms and then go to a GP, [by the time we found out they’ve got] cancer it’s so far along there’s nothing we can do…rather than go to us, we’re going to go to them and offer a low dose CT scan…What you see in other parts of the country is that they go to a football match or supermarkets, see people smoking and start a conversation from that.”

Under the proposals, health workers would seek out smokers at football games and offer them a scan onsite, a move which Chandler believes would target “people who probably wouldn’t access services.”

According to a report for the committee, cancer is one of Sunderland’s biggest killers, responsible for almost a third of deaths in the city. Prevention and early diagnosis are two of the CCG’s priority areas for tackling the numbers.

Source: Sunderland Echo, 29 July 2019

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Battle against tobacco epidemic is far from won, WHO report finds

The battle against the global tobacco epidemic is far from won, even as more countries adopt measures such as smoke-free environments and warnings on packaging to curb smoking, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is estimated that about 1.1 billion people are current smokers. According to the WHO, about half of those who use tobacco will die as a result, with about 7 million smokers and 1 million non-smokers dying every year from tobacco use – the latter as a result of passive smoking. Launched in Brazil, the new report is the latest from the WHO to look at progress in tackling the global tobacco epidemic, scrutinising which countries have put in place six measures recommended by the organisation. These interventions support the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that almost all countries, bar some such as the US, have committed to.

The report’s findings reveal an increase in the provision of best-practice services that help people to quit smoking, with the number of people living in countries with such provisions having increased from 0.4 billion in 2007 to 2.4 billion. Further, 3.9 billion people now live in countries with best-practice graphic warnings – an approach adopted by 91 countries. In the past two years 10 countries including the Gambia, Saudi Arabia and Slovenia have introduced widespread bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco, and another 10, including Australia, have raised taxes on tobacco products to comprise at least 75% of retail price (the best-practice level) bringing the the total number of countries employing this step to 38.

However, about 2.6 billion people are living in countries without even one such stringent measure to control tobacco use. Only two countries – Turkey and Brazil – have adopted all six of the WHO’s recommended steps to the fullest degree. Dr Vinayak Prasad, head of the WHO’s tobacco control team, said there were a number of barriers to improving the global situation, including tobacco companies launching new “reduced risk” products, using these to position themselves as trustworthy partners in public health.

Source: The Guardian, 26 July 2019

WHO: Report on the global tobacco epidemic 2019

See also
Reuters: WHO hails progress in fight against tobacco but wants more
Telegraph: Tobacco industry interference holds back efforts to stamp out smoking

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Nine years on, Greek MPs agree to abide by own anti-smoking law

Until not so very long ago Greek MPs thought nothing of lighting up in the august halls of the Athens parliament. So common was the habit that a thick fog of cigarette smoke often hovered over the building’s cafe, a few metres from the legislative chamber where deputies had once voted to ban smoking in all public spaces, including the 300-seat House. Nine years, 10 months and 26 days after that ban came into effect, lawmakers are finally being forced to abide by it too.

Less than a month after assuming power, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s avid non-smoker premier, is determined to do what no other administration has managed so far: actually enforce the prohibition George Papandreou, his equally health-conscious predecessor, had sought to implement almost a decade ago. With 27% of the population lighting up every day, Greece still tops Eurostat’s league tables of smokers.

Calling the crackdown a priority for his centre-right government, Mitsotakis has used his first weeks in office to ram home the message that, from now on, MPs must lead by example. After parliament imposes its ban, ministries, hospitals, schools and other public services will follow suit.

But showing it means business, the new government announced on Friday 26th July that Panagiotis Behrakis, a prominent respiratory physiologist long at the forefront of global efforts to combat tobacco addition, would spearhead the anti-smoking drive. “For the first time there is the political will to tackle the problem,” the ex-Harvard professor told the Guardian. “We have the support of public opinion. Repeated surveys have shown that about 76% of people are angry that the law has not yet been enforced.” Although there has been improvement, with data showing that Greeks have increasingly dropped the habit, the country still had the worst record for passive smoking in the EU, he said.

Source: The Guardian, 29 July 2019

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Self-service cigarette machines set to be stubbed out in Ireland

Ireland’s health minister is planning a major new tobacco control push. Simon Harris is considering new legislation which would ban the sale of: tobacco products from self-service vending machines, e-cigarettes to under 18s, and tobacco at locations intended for children and events organised for children.

The proposed new laws also include plans to introduce a stricter licensing system for the retail sector on the sale of tobacco products and nicotine-inhaling products such as e-cigarettes, with the laws allowing for the naming and shaming of non-complaint retailers. The laws, which will be considered by government in September, will also allow for additional enforcement tools, including fixed penalty notices and the power to publish a list of non-compliant retailers.

In a statement, Mr Harris said “Six thousand deaths a year are caused by smoking. Tobacco use has been estimated to cost Irish society a total of €10.7bn annually in healthcare, productivity and other costs.” Recent figures suggest that about 22% of Irish adults are smokers — around 830,000 people. The rate of smoking is highest in the 25-34 age group and is lowest (9%) in the over 75 age group.

Source: Irish Examiner, 26 July 2019

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Parliamentary Activity

Parliamentary questions

Asked by Chuka Umunna MP, Streatham
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to the Guidance on how to prepare for Brexit if there’s no deal, published by the Department for Exiting the European Union, what parts of the plan for labelling tobacco products and e-cigarettes in the event of a no deal Brexit have been implemented.

Answered by Seema Kennedy MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care
The Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 Statutory instrument (SI) was laid on 1 November 2018. The primary purpose of the SI is to ensure tobacco control legislation continues to function effectively after exit day, in the event that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a deal. In particular, the amendments contained in this instrument allow for necessary changes to the picture warnings on tobacco products and the process by which tobacco products and e-cigarettes are notified to Public Health England and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, respectively.

The European Commission holds the copyright to the library of picture warnings used on tobacco packaging, therefore in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal we would no longer be able to access the library. An agreement was reached with the Australian Government for a licence to use their tobacco picture warnings in a ‘no deal’ scenario. The above SI repeals the requirement to use the EU set of picture warnings and introduces the new set of picture warnings as Schedule A1.

The Department has developed a new domestic notification system which would allow producers to notify tobacco products and e-cigarettes in accordance with the legislation, in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.

Source: Hansard, HC Deb, 26 July 2019