ASH Daily News for 30 July 2019


  • Comment: Can vaping save the world from smoking?
  • Trading Standards operation to sniff out illicit tobacco
  • Opinion: Cigarette butts are the forgotten plastic pollution – and they could be killing our plants


  • Strategies to reverse tobacco usage in Africa in the spotlight


Comment: Can vaping save the world from smoking?

This comment piece discusses the potential for alternative sources of nicotine to reduce smoking rates. The article highlights the popularity of ‘snus’ chewing tobacco in Norway and Sweden, and notes that the often fierce debate about snus in Norway would foreshadow a wider argument after the emergence of another alternative for smokers: the e-cigarette.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), remembers going to a casino near Leicester Square in London for the launch of an unusual new device; the SuperSmoker. Launched in 2008, the SuperSmoker was an early form of e-cigarette which was not initially very popular with smokers. However, a decade on the global e-cigarette market is worth an estimated $12bn, with vape shops opening on high streets across Britain. ASH started monitoring e-cigarette use until 2012, by which time 700,000 people in the UK already reported vaping. That number had almost doubled by 2013 and last year reached 3.2 million.

The tobacco companies soon began investing in the e-cigarette market, marching into a market that had been conceived to undo a health catastrophe of their making. Until then, there were traditionally three aims in tobacco control, Arnott explains. “And they all used to align quite nicely. One was to get rid of harm caused by smoking. Two was stopping addiction. Three was destroying the tobacco industry.”

The EU did not move against e-cigarettes in the way it had against snus, which it banned in 1992. But the EU Tobacco Products Directive, implemented in 2016, outlawed broadcast advertising and brought in new standards for liquids and devices. It required new health warnings about nicotine addiction on labelling and called for more to be done to deter teenage vapers.

Although the long term health risks of vaping are unknown, in the UK Public Health England estimate that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking. Professor John Britton, chair of the Tobacco Advisory Group at the Royal College of Physicians, said that millions of premature deaths in Britain would be prevented if smokers switched to e-cigarettes, describing this prospect as “a massive potential public health prize”.

Source: The Independent, 30 July 2019

See also:
ASH Briefing: Electronic cigarettes. 2018
ASH Factsheet: Use of e-cigarettes among young people in Great Britain. 2019

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Trading Standards operation to sniff out illicit tobacco

Kingston Council’s Trading Standards team seized 5.55kg of illicit shisha tobacco, worth £1,000, with the help of sniffer dogs Milo and Molly. The joint operation was carried out by Kingston Council in partnership with HMRC and Wagtail UK detection dogs.

The shops were identified through shared intelligence between the Council’s Trading Standards team and HMRC. Previous checks had found counterfeit, unsafe, and non-duty paid cigarettes.

The Council’s Trading Standards team took part in last week’s London-wide Stamp It Out campaign, aimed at clamping down on illegal tobacco, with Tuesday seeing Council officers and Wagtail staff holding a joint awareness event in Kingston Market Place. Research has shown that illegal tobacco is a continuing issue in London with a third of smokers were offered illegal tobacco in the last year. The availability of these products undermines tobacco control policies and makes it harder for smokers to quit.

Source: Kingston Council, 29 July 2019

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Opinion: Cigarette butts are the forgotten plastic pollution – and they could be killing our plants

Danielle Green, Senior Lecturer in Ecology, Anglia Ruskin University, discusses the role of cigarettes butts as a major form of plastic pollution.

Cigarette butts or filters are the most littered item on the planet. An estimated 5.6 trillion cigarettes are smoked each year, out of which two-thirds are improperly disposed of. That’s 4.5 trillion butts each year. Since the 1980s, cigarette butts have accounted for 30% to 40% of all litter found in coastal and urban litter clean-ups.

As well as taking much longer to break down than most people think, discarded cigarette butts may significantly damage surrounding plant growth, as our new research suggests. Cigarette butts are composed of thousands of cellulose acetate fibres and, although biodegradable, take years to disappear from the environment. Used filters also contain thousands of chemicals that can kill plants, insects, rodents, fungus and other lifeforms, and some of which are known carcinogens.

Urban habitats are particularly at risk from this type of litter. In surveys of the three largest parks in Cambridge, my colleagues and I found an average of 2.6 butts per square metre, with a maximum of 126 butts per square metre found near park benches (despite having ashtrays nearby). We measured the impact of littered cigarette butts on plants, finding that butts reduced the germination and shoot length reached by grass and clover by up to 25% and reduced the amount of root biomass of clover by almost 60%.

Given the importance of plants as our primary producers of food, not to mention their role in making our environment more pleasant, there is clearly a need to reduce cigarette butt litter.

Source: Environmental Journal, 29 July 2019

Ecotoxicology and environmental safety. Cigarette butts have adverse effects on initial growth of perennial ryegrass (gramineae: Lolium perenne L.) and white clover (leguminosae: Trifolium repens L.). July 2019

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Strategies to reverse tobacco usage in Africa in the spotlight

Tobacco is one of the leading causes of morbidity worldwide and almost a fifth of the people in Africa – about 94 million – use tobacco products, the World Health Organization. The rate of tobacco use in Africa is projected to rise if no interventions are put in place. Although women make up just 13.5% of the 94 million people who use tobacco products on the continent, they are more at risk of dying from the consequences of second-hand smoke.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners met recently to discuss strategies aimed at stopping and reversing the trend of tobacco usage in the region. The initiative to advance tobacco control in Africa targets selected countries in the region and is geared toward the implementation of the articles of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

The Gates Foundation funded interventions include the implementation of comprehensive legislation, policies and strategies for tobacco control aimed at stopping and reversing the trends of tobacco epidemic in the region.

Source: BusinessSense, 29 July 2019

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