ASH Daily News for 9 May 2019


  • New Zealand: Government recommends smokers dump the cigarettes and pick up the vape
  • US: Imperial Brands shares fall as e-cigarette growth slows
  • Norwegian health minister criticised for smoking comments

Parliamentary activity

  • Parliamentary questions
  • Science and Technology Committee Correspondence



New Zealand: Government recommends smokers dump the cigarettes and pick up the vape

Vaping is about to become a Government-recommended way for smokers to quit cigarettes in New Zealand. Despite being increasingly banned in public places, the use of e-cigarettes will soon be promoted as a safer alternative to smoking by the Ministry of Health.

A campaign encouraging smokers, and particularly young Māori women, to make the switch will be launched in August, accompanied by a website offering vaping information and tips which will go live this month. Māori women were the focus due to their high smoking rate: 32.5%, compared with the national average of 13.8%.

The campaign marks a change in position for the Ministry of Health who have been cautious in their stance on vaping as a tool for would-be quitters. A spokesman said vaping “is intended to be a safe gateway for smokers wanting to transition from cigarettes… There is scientific consensus that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking. It is likely vaping can also be used to stop smoking but the evidence is still emerging. A number of large studies are underway and more information will be available over the next year.”

Source: Stuff, 6 May 2019

See also
Hajek et al. A Randomized Trial of E-Cigarettes versus Nicotine-Replacement Therapy. January 2019

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US: Imperial Brands shares fall as e-cigarette growth slows

Imperial Brands shares had their steepest drop since October, falling by 6.3% on Wednesday after growth in the tobacco company’s e-cigarette business disappointed investors. While Imperial Brands, formerly known as Imperial Tobacco, saw sales of its so-called next generation products more than triple to £148m for the six months to the end of March, this fell short of the £176m forecast by City analysts.

The company pointed to a softening in the US market, where regulators have stepped up their scrutiny of the fast growing e-cigarette market. Imperial has been divesting brands and products to fund investment in its cigarette alternatives, which includes Pulze, a heated tobacco product launched in Japan this month.

Concern over the outlook for the US vaping market came as Imperial reported that first-half revenue climbed to £14.4bn, up 2.3% on the same period a year ago. Operating profits increased 38% to £1.15bn.

Source: Financial Times, 8 May 2019

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Norwegian health minister criticised for smoking comments

Norway’s newly appointed health minister has caused controversy by saying people should be allowed to eat, smoke and drink “as much as they want”, and saying that smokers were made to feel like pariahs. Critics say she has little understanding of public health.

A populist politician from Norway’s right-wing Progress Party, Sylvi Listhaug was appointed as the new health minister on Friday, a year after being forced to quit over a security row. She told Norwegian broadcaster NRK: “My starting point for this with public health is very simple. I do not plan to be the moral police, and will not tell people how to live their lives, but I intend to help people get information that forms the basis for making choices.

“People should be allowed to smoke, drink and eat as much red meat as much as they want. The authorities may like to inform, but people know pretty much what is healthy and what is not healthy, I think. I think many smokers feel like pariahs. So they almost feel they have to hide away, and I think that’s stupid. Although smoking is not good, because it is harmful, adults have to decide for themselves what they do.”

Norway’s Cancer Society’s secretary general, Anne Lise Ryel, said Ms Listhaug’s comments were potentially harmful to public health: “Many will adhere to what she says. That is to say, public health [has been] set back many decades.”

Source: BBC, 8 May 2019

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Parliamentary activity

Parliamentary questions

PQ1: Cancer

Asked by Rosie Cooper, West Lancashire
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to support local health leaders to address inequalities in the cancer pathway.

Answered by Seema Kennedy, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care
Cancer Alliances are leading local transformation of cancer services and outcomes to deliver the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan, which includes actions to reduce health inequalities and ensure every one with cancer can access screening, diagnosis and treatment services. To enable this, Cancer Alliances receive funding to deliver improvement projects, which is adjusted for health need and deprivation of the local population using the clinical commissioning group (CCG) weighted capitation formula.

Each Cancer Alliance is regularly provided with data for their Alliance, CCGs and trusts, as well as a comparison with the other Cancer Alliances and an England benchmark. The Cancer Alliance Data, Evidence and Analysis Service is also working with partners to produce inequality breakdowns of key cancer data for Cancer Alliances to use, such as data on smoking prevalence by deprivation quintiles at Cancer Alliance level. This data and analysis enables local system leaders to understand inequalities and target actions to reduce them.

Source: Hansard, 7 May 2019

PQ2: Lung Cancer

Asked by Ben Bradley, Mansfield
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he is taking to raise awareness of lung cancer among people that have never smoked cigarettes.

Answered by Seema Kennedy, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care
Public Health England (PHE) continues to run awareness campaigns focused on the symptoms of lung cancer where the messaging is relevant to both smokers and non-smokers.

For example, the PHE Be Clear on Cancer ‘Respiratory Symptoms’ campaign encourages those with a persistent cough or inappropriate breathlessness to visit their doctor, with the aim of improving earlier diagnosis of heart and lung disease, including lung cancer. The campaign has run twice nationally, in 2016 and 2017. This campaign can be viewed at the following link:

The precursor to this campaign centred on one main symptom, that of a persistent cough, as a possible symptom of lung cancer. This lung cancer campaign ran nationally three times, in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign materials, explain that although lung cancer is more common in smokers, those who have never smoked can also get the disease, including details of the number of people diagnosed with lung cancer each year. The leaflet is available at the following link:

Source: Hansard, 7 May 2019

PQ3: Tobacco

Asked by Martyn Day, Linlithgow and East Falkirk
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure that officials of his Department comply with his Department’s guidance on support in relation to the tobacco industry; and whether overseas diplomatic staff of his Department have met with representatives of the tobacco industry.

Answered by Mark Field, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Government takes very seriously its obligations as a Party to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). This includes the treaty commitment at Article 5.3 to protect public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. The FCTC does not prohibit meetings with representatives of the tobacco industry but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office issues guidance annually to all staff on limiting support to the tobacco industry to ensure FCTC compliance. We do not hold a central record of staff meetings with third parties.

Source: Hansard, 8 May 2019

Science and Technology Committee Correspondence

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has published ‘Correspondence between the Chair of the Committee and Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, regarding E-cig’.

Letter from Committee Chair, Norman Lamb MP (7 April):

Response from Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (25 April):