ASH Daily News for 3 December 2019


  • Helping smokers to stop: guidance for pharmacists
  • Comment: It’s time to ban useless cigarette filters to stub out litter


  • US: Study suggests vapor does not weaken the immune system in the same way as cigarette smoke
  • Could life insurance go up in smoke for some vapers?


Helping smokers to stop: guidance for pharmacists

Writing in Pharmacy Business Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, suggests several ways in which community pharmacists can make real change to the lives of people on their smoking cessation journey.

“Many pharmacists are already doing excellent work helping people to quit smoking. In fact, in almost one in 10 local authorities, pharmacists or GPs are the only health professionals delivering stop smoking support. However, despite declining smoking rates, smoking remains one of the biggest public health issues.

“Last year in England, there were 77,800 deaths from smoking with many more people suffering disease and disability as a result of their tobacco addiction. Efforts to help people quit smoking will need to be redoubled if we are to meet the government’s stretching ambition of a smokefree country by 2030 (defined as smoking prevalence below five per cent across society).

VBA delivery
Pharmacists can help to reach the government’s goal by delivering VBA (Very Brief Advice). VBA is a three-step process: establishing and recording smoking status (ask); advising on the most effective way to stop, or simply saying “do you know your chances of successfully stopping are greatly increased if you use evidence-based support?” (advise); and offering help by, for example, referral to a stop smoking service (act).

Medications and e-cigarettes
Pharmacists can support people to quit by recommending stop smoking medications, which are proven to increase smokers’ likelihood of quitting successfully. E-cigarettes are now the most popular method of quitting smoking in the UK, and clinical trials have shown they are nearly twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches or gum. During consultations, pharmacists are well placed to suggest the use of e-cigarettes as a quitting tool for smokers who have not yet tried them.

ASH is calling on the Department of Health and Social Care to impose a polluter pays charge on the tobacco industry. This proposal would raise £265.5 for tobacco control in England annually, and it is supported by ASH, Cancer Research UK and over 120 other health-related organisations. It is also supported by 71 per cent of adults in Great Britain. The funding from the charge would be put towards mass media campaigns to reduce smoking alongside stop smoking services and local authority enforcement against the illicit trade.

Source: Pharmacy Business, 2 December 2019

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Comment: It’s time to ban useless cigarette filters to stub out litter

Writing in the Mirror, Dr Miriam Stoppard argues for a ban on cigarette filters to reduce smoking-related litter.

“Filters first appeared in the 1950s. The tobacco industry claimed filters made cigarettes safer by absorbing some of the tar that was blamed for the lung cancer epidemic. We now know, says the BMJ, that this safety argument was a myth, one of many created by the tobacco industry to sell cigarettes.

“The tobacco industry has worked hard to avoid anything that casts ¬cigarettes in a bad light, including distracting attention from the pollution caused by butts.

“Filters are the deadliest fraud in the history of human civilization,” says Robert N Proctor, professor of the history of science at Stanford University. “They are put on cigarettes to save on the cost of tobacco and to fool people. They don’t filter at all. In the US, 400,000 people a year die from ¬cigarettes – and those cigarettes almost all have filters.”

“The EU will ban many single-use plastic products, such as cutlery, plates and straws, from 2021. However, this ban doesn’t include one of the leading sources of plastic waste that pollutes our public spaces worldwide: the cigarette butt. The exclusion of filters from the plastics directive seems like a missed opportunity.”

Source: The Mirror, 1 December 2019

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US: Study suggests vapor does not weaken the immune system in the same way as cigarette smoke

E-cigarettes may be less harmful to your immune system than traditional ones, a new study on mice suggests. While cigarettes are known to leave smokers more vulnerable to infections, vaping does not appear to have the same impact on pneumonia risks.

Researchers from the University of Louisiana infected mice with a strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae that is responsible for most cases of pneumonia acquired outside of a hospital. The mice were split into four groups, which were then exposed to either strawberry-flavoured e-cigarette vapor with nicotine, the same vapor containing no nicotine, cigarette smoke, and nothing. They found that e-cigarette vapor had no impact on the germs’ ability to cause infections.

Study author Dr Kulkarni said: “Interestingly, neither nicotine containing nor nicotine free e-cigarette vapor altered the ability of pneumococci to cause lung infection in a mouse model of infection. Our work is part of a long series of observations coming from a number of research labs trying to define what effects e-cigarette vapor exposure may have on human health, and to differentiate between the effects of flavouring chemicals and nicotine.”

Source: Daily Mail, 3 December 2019

See also:
Applied and environmental microbiology: E-cigarette vapor exposure alters Streptococcus pneumoniae transcriptome in a nicotine-dependent manner without affecting pneumococcal virulence

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Could life insurance go up in smoke for some vapers?

Global reinsurers are stepping up their warnings to life insurance providers about the potential risks of vaping, putting pressure on underwriters to charge certain vapers higher rates than smokers, or even exclude them altogether. Reinsurers insure insurance providers, and often have large research arms which help their clients by modelling risk and providing advice.

US authorities said last month that there had been 47 deaths this year from a lung illness tied to vaping the psychoactive component in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The health concerns about vaping have grown despite evidence showing e-cigarettes help smokers to quit, and have led to bans in some countries including India and Brazil.

Most insurers have long treated smokers and vapers the same, meaning they can pay close to double the premiums of non-smokers or non-vapers. But three major reinsurers have provided updated advice on vaping in the past three months, warning insurers to be cautious about insuring younger vapers and to exclude individuals who use vaping products considered by US authorities likely to cause lung issues – namely, those containing THC, which is legal in some US states.

Vaping in Britain and elsewhere in Europe is more heavily regulated than in the United States. Vapes containing THC are banned in Britain, and Public Health England says vaping is around 95% less harmful than smoking.

Source: British Asia News, 2 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.