ASH Daily News for 9 July 2019


  • Prevention Green Paper: Risks to publication and content rumours
  • Dr Sarah Wollaston MP: The NHS’ long-term plan deserves support
  • Study: Children in poor Scottish areas six times more likely to pass tobacco shops
  • Imperial drops dividend target to fund tobacco alternatives

Parliamentary Activity

  • Parliamentary questions


Prevention Green Paper: Risks to publication and content rumours

Two major stories on the Prevention Green Paper made the headlines this morning. The Financial Times’ story focuses on possible risks to the Paper’s publication, citing the challenges of Theresa May’s imminent departure and the tight deadline this puts the Paper on.

The Daily Mail focuses on the rumoured content of the Prevention Green Paper, including reportedly leaked text committing to make the UK smokefree by 2030 as well as headline commitments to a “polluter pays” levy on tobacco manufacturers, tobacco pack inserts with quitting information and greater action on illicit tobacco.

Financial Times: Campaigners fear ‘sin taxes’ could go up in puff of smoke

Plans by Theresa May to announce new “sin taxes” on the tobacco industry and sugary milkshakes have been delayed with campaigners concerned that the initiatives could be shelved indefinitely. The Prime Minister had hoped to publish a “Prevention Green Paper” on Monday 8th July 2019 to consult on measures to improve public health, but time is running out before she leaves Downing Street in late July.

The Paper reportedly proposes a levy on the tobacco industry to pay for measures to reduce smoking, under the “polluter pays” principle adopted by other countries. However, a plan to increase the age limit on tobacco sales from 18 to 21 — which was in the paper until recently — has been dropped. The document aims to stamp out smoking by 2030 in the UK. It has an “ambition” to make the smoking of cigarettes and cigars “obsolete” by the end of the next decade. It also contains various proposals to tackle obesity including higher taxes on sugary milk drinks and a ban on children buying some energy drinks.

Downing Street has been pushing the plans hard and the draft paper is being discussed by different Whitehall departments via a “write-around” of cabinet ministers. One official said the proposals were likely to become the victim of “Whitehall inertia” given the change of regime at Number 10 within weeks.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “Matt Hancock’s priority as health secretary has been prevention and his green paper proposals were widely expected to go out for consultation before summer recess. Hancock needs to hold his nerve, stick to his principles and not allow his flagship policy to be derailed.”

While the paper was meant to be published on Monday, it has since been postponed until Thursday 11th July with some Whitehall figures suggesting it could be delayed indefinitely.

Source: Financial Times, 9 July 2019

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Daily Mail: Smoking must be stamped out in the UK within 11 years, according to timeline set out in ambitious new Government plan

The Government will vow to get all smokers to either quit the habit entirely or switch to e-cigarettes within the next 11 years. Under leaked plans seen by the Daily Mail, tobacco firms would be forced to pay the cost of helping people stop smoking instead of over-stretched local health services under a “polluter pays” levy proposal. Leaflets giving advice on how to quit smoking would also have be inserted into every cigarette packet and there will be a crackdown on illicit tobacco markets. The Government will also commit to launching a call for independent evidence to assess how effective heated tobacco products are in helping people quit smoking and reducing harm to health.

The target to make the country smokefree by 2030 will be announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock next week as he unveils a Green Paper looking at how prevention is better than cure. In the blueprint they will say: “The gains in tobacco control have been hard-won, and there’s still much to do…For the 15% of adults who are not yet smokefree, smoking is the leading cause of ill-health and early death, and a major cause of inequalities. That’s why the Government wants to finish the job.”

The document says the ambition to go smokefree by 2030 will be “extremely challenging” as although smoking rates are falling overall they remain “stubbornly high” for certain groups such as routine and manual workers and LGBT groups. “Tackling these inequalities is the core challenge in the years ahead. If we are to achieve this vision of a smoke-free future, we need bold action to both discourage people from starting in the first place, and to support smokers to quit,” the paper says.

Source: Daily Mail, 9 July 2019

See also
The Sun: Smoking to be stamped out in Britain in just 11 YEARS under leaked government plans
Politics Home: Ministers plan to wipe out smoking by 2030, leaked government paper reveals
Sky News: Smoking to be ended in the UK by 2030, leaked proposal reveals
Mirror: Smoking to be wiped out in England in just 11 years, leaked government plans say

Read Article

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP: The NHS’ long-term plan deserves support

Writing in the Health Service Journal, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Independent MP for Totnes and Chair of the Health and Social Care (HSC) Select Committee, is optimistic that proposals for helping to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan will survive parliamentary passage:

“The NHS is the institution we are most proud of as a country. The scale of public affection can, however, lead political parties to exploit divisive arguments rather than take a constructive and longer-term view. Ken Clarke, reflecting on his time as health secretary, said you can “declare war more peacefully than you can reform a healthcare system”…For the first time ever, a set of legislative proposals have been developed by the NHS itself, designed to facilitate its long-term plan.

“For some the legislative tweaks will not go far enough, but there is little appetite across the majority who work in the service for another major upheaval. Others have flagged concerns about potential unintended consequences that need to be carefully considered…The passage of health reform through Parliament is never easy. Health legislation is deeply politicised. But I remain optimistic, because the NHS itself, rather than government, is asking for and driving these reforms.

“…I also hope that the involvement from the outset of the cross-party HSC Committee, with our focus on building consensus and listening to a wide cross-section of views from outside Parliament, will give these reforms a better chance of success. After listening to evidence, the committee concluded the proposals were a pragmatic set of reforms that could help remove some of the barriers to integration, as well as some of the costs and complexities that competition rules have created.

“There are still important questions that need to be debated before a bill is ready to be presented to the House of Commons, and we have highlighted some of the issues that were raised with us. My colleagues and I on the HSC Committee are ready to play our part by conducting a further round of pre-legislative scrutiny…I hope the incoming administration will commit to taking forward the government’s promise to support a pragmatic suite of reforms to NHS legislation in order to support the delivery of the long-term plan. This commitment should be included in the next Queen’s Speech.”

Source: Health Service Journal, 8 July 2019

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Study: Children in poor Scottish areas six times more likely to pass tobacco shops

Children in deprived areas are exposed to significantly more tobacco sales than those from wealthier neighbourhoods, a new study has found. Researchers used GPS trackers to record the movements of almost 700 young people aged 10 and 11 from across Scotland. They found those from the most deprived areas encountered a shop selling cigarettes an average of 149 times per week. The figure plummeted to 23 times a week for children in better off areas. Experts said that while tobacco outlets are twice as common in deprived areas, the study indicated exposure levels were six times more frequent than wealthier areas.

The findings came from the Growing Up in Scotland study conducted by Glasgow and Edinburgh universities. Both children and their parents agreed to them wearing the trackers for eight consecutive days. Researchers then mapped the location of all shops selling tobacco products across Scotland and followed the movements of participants over the time period. Most exposure came from convenience stores and newsagents, with peaks just before and after school.

Dr Fiona Caryl, lead author of the research from the University of Glasgow, said “Identifying ways to reverse the normalising effects of ubiquitous tobacco retailing is key to policies aimed at preventing people from starting smoking.” Professor Jamie Pearce, a co-author of the report and an expert in in tobacco-related health from University of Edinburgh, concluded that reducing the number of shops selling tobacco or restricting sale times would have a “greater benefit” for deprived groups “who suffer the greatest amount of tobacco-related harm”.

Dr Garth Reid at NHS Health Scotland said:”We welcome the findings, which will inform a report that we will publish later this year, considering the implications for health inequalities and tobacco control in Scotland in greater detail.”

Source: BBC, 8 July 2019

Tobacco Control: Socioeconomic inequalities in children’s exposure to tobacco retailing based on individual-level GPS data in Scotland

See also
The Herald: Children in poor areas six times more likely to pass tobacco shops

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Imperial drops dividend target to fund tobacco alternatives

Imperial Brands will drop a longstanding dividend target to fund investment in tobacco alternatives as smoking declines in western markets. The FTSE 100 tobacco company said on Monday 8th July it would end its 10% annual growth target for its dividend after this financial year and base its future payouts on the performance of the business.

Imperial has maintained its dividend growth at 10% for the past 11 years, prompting questions over how much longer it could be sustained. It was the 12th-largest dividend payer among UK companies this year.

The company also announced plans to buy back £200 million worth of shares. The Bristol-based company said the revised dividend policy would allow it greater flexibility and that it would free up capital to invest in both e-cigarettes and other sectors “not massively far removed from tobacco” such as caffeine and cannabis.

Source: Financial Times, 8 July 2019

See also
Reuters: Imperial Brands drops dividend growth target, plans $251 million share buyback
Bloomberg: Imperial Brands plans buyback after abandoning dividend target

Read Article


Parliamentary Activity

Parliamentary questions

Asked by Paul Farrelly, Newcastle-under-Lyme
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of encouraging manufacturers to reduce levels of nicotine in all cigarettes to reduce dependency.

Answered by Seema Kennedy, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care
No such assessment has been made. The European Union Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) sets the maximum nicotine emission level at one milligram of nicotine per cigarette. The United Kingdom transposed the TPD through the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR), which came into force on 20 May 2016.

The Government will meet its obligation to review the TRPR before 20 May 2021 and will also review where the UK’s exit from the EU offers us opportunities to re-appraise current regulation to ensure this continues to protect the nation’s health.

Source: Hansard, HC Deb, 8 July 2019