New UK eye health map
A new eye health map of the UK has highlighted that poor lifestyle habits and inadequate health screening are putting people at ‘serious risk’ of sight loss. The map details the towns and cities in the UK with the highest risk of avoidable sight loss due to low uptake of eye tests and high prevalence of poor lifestyle.
London boroughs have the highest concentration of ‘very high’ risk, as well as Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield, while the risk across Scotland is mostly ‘very low.’ The map correlates factors associated with avoidable sight loss, such as smoking.
Chairman of Eye Health UK, David Cartwright, said: “We are seeing a worrying number of people failing to take up their entitlement to free NHS sight tests and displaying high levels of smoking and obesity – two lifestyle factors linked to sight loss.”
Source: Optometry Today, 25 September 2018
Life expectancy progress in UK ‘stops for first time’
Life expectancy in the UK has stopped improving for the first time since 1982, when figures began. Women’s life expectancy from birth remains 82.9 years and for men it is 79.2, the figures from the Office for National Statistics, for 2015-17, show. In some parts of the UK, life expectancy has even decreased. For men and women in Scotland and Wales, it declined by more than a month. Men in Northern Ireland have seen a similar fall. For women in Northern Ireland, and for men and women in England, life expectancy at birth is unchanged.
It is not clear what is driving the trend, but some academics have argued that government austerity policies, such as cuts to social care budgets in England, must have played a part. Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said “We still do not know how much this is a result of … a failure to go on improving smoking cessation or other preventive measures.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “As part of our long-term plan for the health service, we are taking action to help people live longer and healthier lives – cancer survival is at a record high while smoking rates are at an all-time low – backed by our additional funding of an extra £20.5bn a year by 2023-24, which will transform care for cancer and other chronic diseases.”
Source: BBC, 25 September 2018
NICE talks: How do we help people quit smoking?
In this episode, Martin Dockrell, Tobacco Control Programme Lead from Public Health England, talks about the best interventions to help people quit smoking and the truth about e-cigarettes.
North East: Newcastle shopkeeper fined for selling knock-off cigarettes
A Newcastle shopkeeper who was caught selling knock-off cigarettes has been fined £1 million. This was part of an HMRC crackdown which has seen penalties amounting to £11,550,060 being issued around the country.
Source: Chronicle Live, 24 September 2018
Australia: North Sydney smoking ban
North Sydney councillors this week unanimously passed a motion to ban smoking in all public places in Sydney’s second-largest central business district (CBD). The proposal now goes to community consultation, but Mayor Jilly Gibson reckons the community will back what may be the nation’s first CBD-wide smoking ban in a capital city.
The Mayor hopes to eventually make North Sydney the first smokefree municipality. “Why not try these big ideas?” she said. “Even if we reduce people’s smoking in the CBD by, let’s say, 50%, that would be a huge result.”
She said the latest move was not about punishing smokers but about improving the amenity of the area for residents, workers, visitors and school children. Since behaviour change is at the heart of the proposal, the Mayor said she expected the ban would be enforced through encouragement rather than fines.
Mail on Sunday, North Sydney to ban lighting up on the street – becoming the country’s first smoke-free district
Source: This Is Money, 25 September 2018
Australia: Unhealthy lifestyle responsible for 45,000 predicted cases of bowel cancer in next decade
A new study has shown that adopting a healthy lifestyle could prevent a large proportion of bowel cancers in Australia – particularly for men.
It found that current rates of smoking, being overweight, and excessive alcohol consumption could lead to 45,000 cases of bowel cancer over the next 10 years. The researchers found that 11% of the future bowel cancer burden can be attributed to ever-smoking, and 4% to current smoking.
The researchers also found an interesting interplay between smoking and alcohol: the bowel cancer burden attributable to smoking was significantly exacerbated by excessive alcohol consumption, and vice-versa.
Cancer Spectrum, The Future Colorectal Cancer Burden Attributable to Modifiable Behaviors: A Pooled Cohort Study
Source: Medical Xpress, 25 September 2018
US: FDA considers ban on online e-cigarette sales
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering banning online e-cigarette sales, according to Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
It’s “on the table” and is something the agency is “very clearly looking at it,” Gottlieb said in Washington, during a panel discussion on vaping hosted by Axios. This comes just weeks after Gottlieb dubbed youth use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic” and announced a historic crackdown.
Under Gottlieb, the FDA has taken the position that e-cigarettes are a less harmful alternative for adult smokers who can’t or don’t want to quit smoking conventional cigarettes. However, Gottlieb has said that can’t come at the expense of addicting an entire new generation to nicotine as vaping rises in popularity with teens.
Source: CNBC, 25 September 2018
Australia: Health Minister agrees to study health effects of e-cigarettes
Australian health minister Greg Hunt has agreed to an independent inquiry into the health impacts of nicotine e-cigarettes. This comes after several MPs raised the issue in a party meeting, saying there was widespread support within the government for making nicotine e-cigarettes legally available. Australia’s drug regulator has banned e-cigarettes, putting Australia at odds with several comparable countries, including New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Source: The Guardian, 18 September 2018
Study: Chemical in cigarette smoke may damage important aspect of vision
Exposure to cadmium, a chemical found in tobacco smoke, could make it more difficult for people to see in low-contrast conditions, such as low light, fog or glare, a new study suggests. Even those with 20-20 vision can experience problems with daily living if their contrast sensitivity is impaired.
“This particular aspect of vision is really important because it affects your ability to see the end of a curb or put a key into a lock in low light,” said lead author Adam Paulson of the University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine. “It’s something that at this point in time there’s no way to correct, unlike visual acuity, which you can easily correct with glasses or contact lenses.”
See also: JAMA Ophthalmology, Association of Cadmium and Lead Exposure With the Incidence of Contrast Sensitivity Impairment Among Middle-aged Adults
Source: Reuters, 18 September 2018
Japan: Smoking cost the country $18.5 billion in 2015
Smoking caused 2.05 trillion yen ($18.44 billion) in damage to Japanese society in the fiscal year of 2015, a health ministry survey has shown. The damage mainly comes from medical costs, this includes treating cancer and other tobacco-related conditions.
“Tobacco has various effects not only on people’s health but also all aspects of society,” said Ataru Igarashi, an associate professor of medical policies at the University of Tokyo. “Health-care costs are expected to drop due to the shrinking smoking population, but tobacco is still causing significant damage. Further countermeasures are required.”
Source: Asahi, 19 September 2018
USA: E-cigarette warnings to appear in high school toilets nationwide
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will stage a massive education campaign aimed at the nearly 10.7 million teens it says are at risk of e-cigarette use and potential addiction, the agency said yesterday. In addition to placing posters in school toilets, the FDA is launching anti-vaping videos, targeted at youths, on social media.
The FDA calls e-cigarette use by minors ‘an epidemic’. The trend was flagged in a 2016 report from the US surgeon general, which cited a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students between 2011 to 2015.
The new campaign is an extension of ‘The Real Cost Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign’, which the FDA says is a nearly $60 million effort funded by fees from the tobacco industry.
Editorial note: The FDA’s concerns strongly contrast with the latest ASH survey on youth use of e-cigarettes in Great Britain, which found that just 2% of GB 11-18 year olds use the devices ‘at least weekly’ and that use is almost exclusively found in current or ex-tobacco smokers. You can access the ASH factsheet on GB youth use of e-cigarettes here.
Source: CNN, 19 September 2018
Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s proposal for a worldwide ban on advertising, promoting and sponsoring e-cigarettes on the Government’s tobacco control plan; and if he will make a statement.
Steve Brine, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care answered:
The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is not proposing a worldwide ban on advertising, promoting and sponsoring of e-cigarettes. The Government supports proportionate regulation of e-cigarettes to ensure non-smokers and children are protected from accessing these products, and has implemented the European Union Tobacco Products Directive which ensures such proportionate regulation.
A search of the Department’s Ministerial correspondence database has identified two items of correspondence received in the last six months about his Department’s participation in the 8th Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the WHO FCTC in October 2018. This figure represents correspondence received by the Department’s Ministerial correspondence unit only. The Department has also answered five Parliamentary Questions related to CoP in the last six months.
As a global leader on tobacco control, the Department will engage constructively at the CoP, working closely with fellow members of the European Union and with other partners to continue to support measures proposed to reduce global harms from tobacco and ensure WHO FCTC Secretariat work proposals offer value for money.
Source: Hansard, 17 September 2018
Smokefree zones to be introduced near Barnsley primary schools
Smokefree zones are set to be introduced outside 80 primary schools in Barnsley. The move is an extension of a council scheme which has already been implemented in the town. Each of the schools will be given signs, letters to send to parents and “tool kits” to help staff set up the zones around the premises. Kaye Mann, senior health improvement officer, said: “The aim is to make smoking invisible to children.”
Source: BBC News, 2 September 2018
Cardiff shisha bars prosecuted for public health offences
Two Cardiff shisha bars have been prosecuted for public health offences following council investigations. Concerns around the safety of shisha bars were raised in a council meeting in March and since then the authority has been inspecting premises across the city.
There were fears that many young people are smoking the shisha pipes, which contain tobacco, without knowing the health risks. Under the law, shisha pipes can be smoked in the open air or in structures where at least 50% of the walls are permanently open. It is not allowed within substantially or fully enclosed public spaces.
A council spokesman said: “The council is currently inspecting premises where shisha smoking takes place in the city and has a range of powers that can be used to ensure that these businesses are complying with all relevant legislation.”
Source: Wales Online, 31 August 2018
Australia: Cigarettes hit $40 AUD a pack
A tax increase of 12.5% has pushed up the price of a cigarette pack to almost $40 AUD (over £22). The Australian Government announced back in May 2016 that it would implement annual increases in tobacco excise of 12.5% up to and including 2020.
The tax rise came into force on Saturday 1st September, the same day as in 2017 and 2016. It means that Australia now has the most expensive cigarettes in the world. The smoking rate among adults in Australia was 12.8% in 2016.
Source: Mail on Sunday, 1 September 2018
United Arab Emirates considering lifting ban on e-cigarettes
The UAE could be set to lift its ban on e-cigarettes and heat not burn products. Authorities have begun a preliminary project to assess whether electronic nicotine devices should be allowed to be used legally in the country. Currently, e-cigarettes are banned in the Emirates due to concerns over their impact on user health.
But that stance could be softening, with the Government consumer watchdog – the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology now reviewing data on alternative tobacco products, with the ban potentially being lifted in the future.
Source: The National UAE, 3 September 2018
West Midlands: Budget cut as plans to launch digital stop smoking service approved in Sandwell
Smokers in Sandwell could soon be offered online quit support after councillors agreed to re-commission its Stop Smoking service. It comes after cabinet members gave the go-ahead to proposals to cut its stop smoking budget by £360,000 and search for a new bidder to deliver the service.
The Stop Smoking service will be re-commissioned when the current contract comes to an end next April, councillors agreed on Wednesday.
Councillor Elaine Costigan, Sandwell council’s cabinet member for public health and protection, said: “Smoking cessation remains a key priority areas for Sandwell council public health. The proposed adjustments to the budget for the Stop Smoking service reflect a need to correct-size the allocation for this particular service. However, the new service will target hard-to-reach groups where smoking prevalence continues to remain high. We will also develop a digital self-help offer to reach those who don’t access traditional services.”
Source: Express & Star, 27 July 2018
“Sin” taxes are less efficient than they look, but they do help improve public health
Governments hope that just as taxes on alcohol and tobacco both generate revenue and reduce smoking and drinking, so sugar taxes will help curb obesity.
As policy instruments, sin taxes can be blunt. People who only occasionally drink or smoke are taxed no differently from heavy smokers and drinkers, whilst some economists are concerned that sin taxes affect low-income households most.
However, sin taxes do change behaviour. Estimates vary from study to study, but economists find that on average, a 1% increase in prices is associated with a decline of around 0.5% in sales of both alcohol and tobacco. Economic models assume that people know what they are doing, but humans struggle with behaviour change. Most smokers are aware of the health risks, but many still find it hard to quit.
Source: The Economist, 26 July 2018
US: Smokeless tobacco warning label may have misled consumers for years
In 1986, the U.S. government passed legislation requiring a series of warnings for smokeless tobacco products, one of which advised “This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.”
That warning, however, obscured an important distinction—that cigarettes are much more harmful to health than smokeless tobacco products. Over the 30-plus years since, the American public has mostly been unaware that smokeless tobacco is much less harmful than cigarettes, one of the nation’s leading tobacco policy experts argues in a new paper.
“It is important to distinguish between evidence that a product is ‘not safe’ and evidence that a product is ‘not safer’ than cigarettes or ‘just as harmful’ as cigarettes,” says the paper author, Lynn Kozlowski, professor of community health and health behavior at the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions. “The process at the time of the establishment of official smokeless tobacco warnings in the 1980s paid no attention to this distinction,” Kozlowski adds. “The American public has become mostly unaware that smokeless tobacco is much less harmful than cigarettes.”
Harm Reduction Journal, Origins in the USA in the 1980s of the warning that smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes: a historical, documents-based assessment with implications for comparative warnings on less harmful tobacco/nicotine products
Source: Medical Xpress, 26 July 2018
Australia: Six tonnes of tobacco seized from illegal crops in Northern Territory
Six tonnes of illegal tobacco leaves and vast fields of mature plants worth more than $13m in lost tax have been seized on a rural property in the Northern Territory. This was the first successful strike by a taskforce bringing together agencies including the Australian Tax Office and Australian Border Force. The illegal tobacco trade costs the federal government about $600m a year in lost revenue.
Australian Border Force assistant commissioner Sharon Huey said people may think it fairly harmless to purchase a cheap pack of illegal cigarettes, but warned the consequences could be dire. “The profits they make are going into more serious and more insidious types of crime,” she said. “We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of illicit tobacco.”
Source: Guardian, 26 July 2018
Opinion: How the tobacco industry has changed its marketing strategy across the globe
Tirumalai Kamala, Immunologist, Ph.D. Mycobacteriology, discusses which countries have done the best at eliminating smoking.
“Among the wiliest of industry operators, the tobacco industry started expanding its markets in China, Africa and Latin America as the noose began tightening around its activities in North America and Western Europe.
Being a formidable litigant helped it in this expansion, enabling it to successfully hide for decades the extent to which it knew full well that what it peddles is poison. In practical terms, this means that even as public policies in some countries started gaining ground against smoking, rates increased in others which either lacked such regulations and/or could be easily manipulated through PR campaigns.
Illustrative examples from Bhutan and Brazil show how public policies on smoking could either unwittingly increase it or work as they should and reduce it.”
Source: Forbes, 25 July 2018
Smoking ban in prisons has led to tobacco becoming part of the prison ‘illicit economy’
Banning smoking in prisons has led to tobacco being smuggled in and becoming part of the illicit economy. In a letter to Bob Neill MP, chair of the Justice Select Committee, Rory Stewart MP, Prisons Minister, wrote: “With regards to the impact on the illicit economy; tobacco has become an additional currency to the current currencies relating to drug use and mobile phones within the illicit economy.”
The smoking ban was fully implemented in prisons this year after being introduced across the prison estate over the previous two years.
Mr Stewart also noted that there appeared to have been a sharp rise in the use of new psychoactive substances, such as Spice, related to the smoking ban but that this did not occur in all prisons. The relationship should be considered a correlation rather than causation, he said. He added: “My initial conclusions are that some of the worst fears about the possible consequences of smoke-free prisons have not been realised.”
Source: The Times, 23 July 2018
Stop smoking: e-cigarette users are still paying higher insurance premiums
Despite being considered a safer alternative, e-cigarette users are paying the same life insurance premiums as smokers. Along with nicotine patches and other nicotine products, e-cigarettes are placed in the same band as regular cigarettes, meaning users still need to pay higher life insurance rates.
The average non-smoker pays an estimated £13.83 a month for life insurance, according to a new analysis, while a smoker could expect to pay almost double at £22.70 a month.
Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket which conducted the analysis, said: “Using nicotine in any form, including patches and gum, means you’ll be regarded as a smoker; you have to be nicotine free for 12 months to get the lower premiums.”
Source: Express, 22 July 2018
PMI’s iQOS device being blamed for poor stock-market performance
Philip Morris International (PMI) recently delivered a ‘disappointing’ earnings report which showed a significant slowdown in their heat-not-burn primary market: Japan. The shares of PMI are down 30% in the past year, a substantial reduction. The relatively poor performance of iQOS is largely what is behind PMI’s large stock market falls.
iQOS is PMI’s flagship heat-not-burn product and it was first introduced in selected Japanese sites in 2014 and rolled out across the country last year. Initially iQOS did well, with unit shipments soon surpassing those of traditional cigarettes. However, the Japanese market is an anomaly in that competition for iQOS is effectively banned. The e-liquids used in electronic cigarettes are regulated as a pharmaceutical ingredient, which effectively prevents sales of e-cigarettes. This has allowed the heat-not-burn iQOS device to be sold with little competition.
The popularity of iQOS in Japan has since waned; PMI said they have reached all the ‘early adopters’ of the new technology and now has to try and convince ‘more conservative’ smokers to switch to the product.
Source: Yahoo Finance, 22 July 2018
Honduras appeals WTO landmark ruling on Australia’s plain tobacco packaging
Honduras has appealed against a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling won last month by Australia on its plain packaging requirements for tobacco, a WTO spokesman said on Friday. In a landmark ruling officially passed on the 29th June 2018, the WTO panel said Australia’s law improved public health by reducing the use of tobacco products, rebuffing claims that alternative measures would be equally effective.
It also rejected the argument that Australia had unjustifiably infringed tobacco trademarks and violated intellectual property rights.
Source: Reuters, 20 July 2018
Australia: Four in five lung cancers preventable through healthy lifestyle
Link of the Week
South Yorkshire: Rother Valley MP calls for Government to keep up the push to cut smoking deaths
Following yesterday’s parliamentary debate to review the Tobacco Control Plan, Sir Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley, has written an article calling on the government to increase funding for smoking cessation services to ensure that the targets set out in the plan are met.
In the article he criticises the misrepresentation of evidence surrounding e-cigarettes in the media: “It is very unfortunate that sensationalist media reports are creating an air of uncertainty around e-cigarettes and deterring many smokers from making the switch. It would be a tragedy if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.”
Public Health England has said that e-cigarettes are at least 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes and that the main chemicals in e-cigarettes have not been associated with any serious risk.
Source: Retford Guardian, 20 July 2018
NHS Response: Vaping and using nicotine patches in pregnancy
The NHS has responded to a recent study from the US which linked vaping and the use of nicotine patches in pregnancy to cot death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The UK media’s reporting of the study was sensationalised, playing down the fact that the research was on rats, and the findings related to rats with depleted serotonin.
The researchers found that exposure to nicotine during pregnancy limited the ability of serotonin-deficient rats to recover back to normal breathing and heart rates following a period of oxygen deprivation.
The NHS recommends that smokers planning a pregnancy should use nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches, to help them quit smoking before trying for a baby.
Source: NHS Choices, 20 July 2018
Editorial Note: Francine Bates, Chief Executive of The Lullaby Trust and co-chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group (SPCG), put out this statement: “We don’t think parents should worry about the findings of this study as it was conducted on laboratory rats, not human babies. Research that has been conducted on women who used NRT patches in pregnancy showed that there was no increase in infant mortality up to the age of two years old, compared to women who used a placebo. While there is currently no research linking electronic (or ‘e’) cigarettes to an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), using an e-cigarette appears to be much safer than continuing to smoke during pregnancy and once your baby is born. Tobacco cigarettes contain toxins that cause harm to an unborn baby by starving them of oxygen, but these toxins are not present in e-cigarettes or NRT.”
“Smoking tobacco cigarettes before or after pregnancy significantly increases the chance of SIDS. That’s why we strongly encourage any pregnant women or new parents who smoke to keep their baby smoke-free. Whilst it’s always best for pregnant women to quit using nicotine completely, those who find it hard to do so should not stop using NRT or e-cigarettes on the basis of this research. We would advise anyone who is concerned about smoking to contact their midwife or GP who can offer advice and refer them to stop smoking services.”
SPCG Guide: Use of electronic cigarettes in pregnancy
West Midlands: Thousands of illegal tobacco products seized in Dudley
Over 150,000 illegal cigarettes and 1,000kg of tobacco were seized by Dudley Council last year as part of their efforts to crack down on illegal tobacco.
The operation has resulted in two prosecutions with several more pending, and several shops have had their alcohol licences suspended or revoked for dealing with illegal tobacco products.
Councillor Ruth Buttery, Dudley’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Whilst all tobacco is harmful, the illegal tobacco market, and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes, undermines government health policies aimed at reducing the cost to the NHS of treating diseases caused by smoking.”
Source: Stourbridge News, 19 July 2018
Social Smoking: Just how bad is it for you?
Although many people who smoke socially might not describe themselves as a smoker, they are not exempt from many of the health issues associated with smoking. Social smokers are still susceptible to lung infections, smoking-related cancers, shorter life expectancy and accelerated signs of ageing.
Even if social smokers aren’t addicted to nicotine they can still be addicted to the psychoactive experience of smoking in social situations. Professor Robert West, an expert on smoking from the University College London, describes the desire to smoke occasionally as a “situational craving” – explaining why you may only feel like a cigarette when you drink. “One way addiction works is by forming an association between situations where a person would typically smoke, which then creates the impulse to smoke when they find themselves in that situation again,” he says.
Even light smoking can cause DNA mutations which increase the likelihood of developing cancer. Dr Richard Russell, Consultant Respiratory Physician and medical advisor to the British Lung Foundation, said: “It’s the toxic chemicals you are inhaling. Even occasional smoking puts your health at risk – the only safe level of smoking is nothing at all.”
Source: Sheerluxe, 19 July 2018
Australia: Four in five lung cancers preventable through healthy lifestyle
Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney have found evidence to suggest that the majority of lung cancers are related to smoking.
Using data from the Centre for Big Data Research in Health, the researchers showed that lung cancer risk remained elevated for 40 years after people stopped smoking, with the risk approximately halving every 10 years.
Dr Maarit Laaksonen, Senior Research Fellow at UNSW, said: “More than three out of four lung cancers are caused by ever smoking. Current smoking is responsible for more than half of lung cancers and past smoking for nearly a quarter. Our findings strongly support the dual importance of preventing the uptake of smoking and assisting quitting.”
Source: MedicalXpress, 19 July 2018
Centre for Big Data Research in Health: Population-level relevance of risk factors for cancer
Parliamentary debate to review the tobacco control plan
The transcript of yesterday’s Government Debate on the Tobacco Control Plan can be found here.
Source: Hansard, 19 July 2018
Link of the Week
New Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Speech
Today, Matt Hancock, the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, delivered his debut speech setting out his priorities for the health and social care system.
He talks extensively about the importance of preventative measures to ease the pressures on staff, improve patient outcomes and keep people out of hospital: “prevention… is mission critical to making the health and social care system sustainable.”
Source: gov.uk, 20 July 2018
Opinion: Britain’s vaping revolution – why this healthier alternative to smoking is under threat
In this opinion piece, Matt Ridley explores how vested interests are hampering e-cigarettes as a method of harm reduction for smokers.
Britain is the world leader in vaping. More people use e-cigarettes in the UK than in any other European country. It’s more officially encouraged than in the United States and more socially acceptable than in Australia, where it’s still banned. There is a thriving sector here of vape manufacturers, retailers, exporters, even researchers; there are 1,700 independent vape shops on Britain’s streets. It’s an entrepreneurial phenomenon and a billion-pound industry.
The British vaping revolution dismays some people, who see it as a return to social acceptability for something that looks like smoking with unknown risks. Yet here, more than anywhere in the world, the government disagrees. Public Health England says that vaping is 95% safer than smoking and the vast majority of people who vape are smokers who are partly or wholly quitting cigarettes. The Royal College of Physicians agrees: “The public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking.”
Yet, despite official endorsement and the growing strength of the evidence for vaping’s harm reduction, public opinion has been moving against e-cigarettes. More than 25% of people now erroneously believe vaping to be at least as harmful as smoking, up from 7% in 2013, thanks to tabloid headlines claiming as much.
Source: The Times, 8 July 2018
Opinion: Fears of future strain on NHS as councils slash health programmes
In this opinion piece, Denis Campbell (Guardian Health Policy Editor) discusses cuts to health programmes and the impact this will have on the NHS.
Stop-smoking programmes are being cut despite May’s promise of £20bn extra on health, according to the Health Foundation. New analysis shows that by next year, spending per head in England on programmes to tackle smoking, poor diet and alcohol abuse will have fallen by 23.5% over five years. By next year, councils will be spending £95m on smoking and tobacco-control services, 45% less than they were in 2014-15.
Although smoking rates are falling, the habit leads to almost 500,000 hospitalisations a year and is a major cause of strokes, heart problems and life-threatening respiratory conditions. Tim Elwell-Sutton of the Health Foundation said “It is incredibly shortsighted not to invest in keeping people well. We’re crazy if we’re not taking seriously the underlying cause of one of the most harmful illnesses – cancer – which is also one of the most expensive to treat.”
Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, accused ministers of “confused thinking” over health. “These figures demonstrate a frustrating contradiction from the government, whereby welcome extra money is given to the NHS with one hand, while the other generates more strain on NHS services by draining public health and prevention.”
Source: The Guardian, 8 July 2018
Parents celebrate success of smokefree sidelines initiative
An evaluation of the #smokefreesidelines campaign, which was designed to stop parents and carers from smoking on the sidelines when watching youth football, has found the initiative to be hugely successful. The aim was to reduce the likelihood of children seeing adult smoking behaviour as the norm.
Researchers visited clubs to observe smoking behaviour, look for discarded smoking materials and interview families and staff. Their evaluation report said that, over time, clubs who signed up to #smokefreesidelines demonstrated “a small but important change in observations of smoking. Particularly marked were changes to the environment (a reduction in smoking debris) and the introduction and widespread use of the smokefree sidelines promotional materials. This suggests a successful and positive move towards the denormalisation of smoking at youth football games. There was strong support from parents and coaches for not smoking on the sidelines.”
Dr Caitlin Notley, a Senior Lecturer from the Norwich Medical School who led the evaluation, said: “We are delighted to have been involved in evaluating this innovative project. Community based initiatives like #smokefreesidelines are an important part of the public health approach to denormalise the visibility of smoking, thus contributing to decreased smoking prevalence in the UK.
Source: BJFM, 6 July 2018
North-West: Smokers in Blackburn with Darwen are kicking the habit
Smokers in Blackburn with Darwen have had success in quitting, according to new statistics. Figures issued by the Office of National Statistics, show that the rates of adults smoking in Blackburn with Darwen dropped from 27.1% in 2011 to 16.7% in 2017, putting the borough close to the North West average of 16.1 per cent.
Staff at Blackburn with Darwen’s Stop Smoking and Wellbeing Services have worked hard to offer a range of personalised support to help people stop smoking for good. Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group have also worked together to deliver the local Tobacco Control Policy and worked on initiatives around smokefree homes, cars and outdoor spaces.
Councillor Brian Taylor, executive member for health and adult social care, said: “Giving up smoking is the single most immediate and important action we can take to improve health and wellbeing, improve life expectancy and reduce hospital admissions so I’m delighted to see such positive stats. We want to help as many people quit as possible and our Stop Smoking Service is a great chance to get help to break away from this addiction and start to feel the health and financial benefits of becoming smokefree.”
Source: Lancashire Telegraph, 8 July 2018
North-West: Dog detectives sniff out illegal tobacco haul
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWAC) Trading Standards officers enlisted the help of tobacco detection dogs during recent operations in Northwich and Chester.
The dogs helped detect concealed stashes of tobacco and cigarettes in two of the premises searched, allowing Trading Standards to seize the haul. Seizures included cigarettes and tobacco that were not in standardised packaging and failed to contain health warnings in English. These products cannot be legally sold in the UK.
Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for environment and community at CWAC, said: “People may be tempted by the cheap price tag, but it’s worth considering the great cost to your health, safety and community. Illegal tobacco supports other criminal activity and has many damaging effects on our local communities, as well as causing poor health.”
Source: Northwhich Guardian, 6 July 2018
Wales: Smoking litter still a big problem
A new report published by Keep Wales Tidy has revealed the prevalence of smoking related litter and the far reaching impacts on our health, wildlife and environment. During recent street cleanliness surveys, smoking related litter was found on 80.3% of our streets, making it the most common type of litter in Wales. They are also the most counted item on beaches in Europe.
Across the UK, it is estimated that 122 tonnes of smoking-related litter are dropped every day. This is predominantly in the form of cigarette ends which are difficult and time-consuming to clean up – costing the taxpayer millions of pounds each year. Contrary to popular belief, cigarette filters are not biodegradable, but are made of a type of plastic which means they can stay in the environment for up to 15 years. And, because of their small size, cigarette ends are easily transported to our waterways and coast.
Cigarette ends can also have deadly consequences for wildlife and have been found in the guts of whales, dolphins, turtles and seabirds who have mistaken them for food. Jemma Bere, Policy and Research Manager for Keep Wales Tidy said: “We want to debunk the myths and misconceptions around the disposal of cigarette ends. Despite their size, cigarette ends still count as litter – so dropping them is a criminal offence. Put simply, our pavements and drains are not ashtrays!”
Source: Wales 247, 9 July 2018
Isle of Wight: Young adults shun smoking, figures show
Young people on the Isle of Wight are shunning cigarettes, according to the latest figures. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the percentage of the Isle of Wight’s population who have never smoked has risen by 38% since 2011.
Nationally, the group comprised of 18 to 24-year-olds had the biggest drop in smoking. Last year, across Britain, 17.8% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they were current smokers, compared with 2011 when more than a quarter smoked.
Deborah Arnott, Action on Smoking and Health chief executive, put this reduction down to banning tobacco advertising. She said, “The brightly coloured pack displays we used to have in shops disappeared completely in 2015 and the packs they do see nowadays are a sludgy green colour, with large picture warnings, rather than the brightly coloured, highly branded packs we used to have. Is it any wonder young people today increasingly choose not to smoke. It’s much less cool than it used to be.”
Source: On the Wight, 6 July 2018
Study shows smoking linked to increased stillbirth risk
Experts at Stellenbosch University, which is situated in South Africa, have found that women who drank alcohol and smoked during pregnancy had an almost three times higher risk of stillbirth compared with women who completely abstained from these behaviours. Between 2007 and 2015, the study followed the drinking and smoking behaviour of nearly 12,000 South African and American women during pregnancy.
Smoking alone had a relative risk of 1.6 for stillbirth, while drinking alone had a relative risk of 2.2. This risk increased when these behaviours continued beyond the first trimester of pregnancy. The study also found a 12 times higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in cases where women drank and smoked during pregnancy. In cases where the women drank but did not smoke, the risk for Sids increased by four, and when they smoked but did not drink, there was a five times higher chance for Sids.
Professor Hein Odendaal, who led the South African chapter of the study said, “What’s particularly alarming is that these behaviours were quite common among study participants. More than half used alcohol (52.3%) sometime during pregnancy, and 17% continued drinking throughout the entire pregnancy. Almost half of them smoked (49%) sometimes during pregnancy, and a third (33%) continued smoking for the duration of the pregnancy,” Odendaal said.
Safrica 24, Drinking alcohol and smoking during pregnancy even more deadly than we knew: Study
Stellenbosch University, Drinking and smoking in pregnancy compound the risk for stillbirth, SIDS
Source: MFA News Network, 8 July 2018
Australia: Health warnings need updating after research shows smokers still unaware of health risks
There are calls for cigarette packets to show more graphic images, with research showing smokers are still unaware of the health risks. The graphic health warnings introduced in 2012 – including images of a lung with emphysema and a mouth with tongue cancer – are in need of a update to maintain their effectiveness, new research by Cancer Council Victoria has found.
The research findings, published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday 9 July, said the images were effective for increasing knowledge about the harms of tobacco, but they require ‘updating regularly to maintain salience and impact’. The Cancer Council research also identified a host of health conditions – including acute leukaemia, diabetes and bladder cancer – that more than half of respondents did not realise were caused by smoking.
Public health researcher, Mike Daube, said ‘We know what needs to be done, the evidence is there, let’s get on with new, research-based health warnings and a major media campaign that will make us world leaders on both counts again.’
See also: Medical Journal of Australia, Population awareness of tobacco-related harms: implications for refreshing public health warnings in Australia
Source: This is Money, 9 July 2018
Scotland: Health board backs ASH Scotland’s smokefree charter
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), has signed ASH Scotland’s Charter for a Tobacco-Free Generation, which seeks to make Scotland tobacco free by 2034.
The charter is designed to drive down smoking rates, with smoking remaining the biggest single preventable cause of ill health and premature death in Scotland.
The NHSGGC director of public health and board member John Matthews OBE said, “our work already focuses on key charter principles and by signing the ASH Scotland charter we are committing the board to further sustained action to reduce tobacco-related harm by encouraging people not to start, supporting them to stop or protecting them from tobacco smoke.”
See also: Milngavie & Bearsden Herald, Health board signs charter on smoking
Source: Dumbarton & Vale of Leven Reporter, 18 June 2018
Scotland: Ban on smoking outside South Ayrshire cafes could be removed
Labour Councillor Phil Saxton is to table a motion calling for a rethink of South Ayrshire’s three-year-old ban on smoking outside cafes, which has been labelled a threat to small businesses
Councillor Saxton, who is looking for “compromise” is now expected to lead calls for a mixed smoking zone outside cafes or bars which use council-owned pavements.
That vote is scheduled to take place on the 28th of June when the council holds its last full meeting before the summer recess. It is understood that members are currently divided on the issue.
Source: Daily Record, 18 June 2018
US: Smoking hits another all-time low
About 14% of US adults were smokers last year, down from about 16% in 2016, government figures show. The findings come from a national health survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
K. Michael Cummings, from the tobacco research program at the Medical University of South Carolina, said “everything is pointed in the right direction,” but that the new figures mean there are still more than 30 million adult smokers in the country.
Experts say a comprehensive suite of tobacco control campaigns, cigarette taxes and smoking bans have contributed to this overall decline. The launch of electronic cigarettes and their growing popularity has also likely played a role, since e-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine into a vapour without the harmful by-products generated from burning tobacco.
Source: The New York Times, 19 June 2018
US: Tobacco companies’ websites to post court-ordered warnings
Tobacco companies must now include statements on their websites that clarify the health impact of smoking and secondhand smoke, the addictive nature of smoking, that cigarettes labelled “low tar” and “light” are no less harmful, and the way in which nicotine delivery has been enhanced by cigarette design.
The statements were ordered on the 1st of May as part of a 2006 federal court decision that found major cigarette manufacturers, including R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, had defrauded the public about the health risks of their products. The companies affected are Philip Morris USA and its parent company Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Lorillard, which is now owned by Reynolds American.
Robin Koval, CEO and president of the Truth Initiative, a tobacco control nonprofit, has said “the corrective statements are fine, but we would have rather seen corrective action from the tobacco industry.” He also points out that these statements will have little impact on smoking in young people, since such websites are not available to those under 21.
Source: CNBC, 18 June 2018
US: Vermont tobacco control group calls for smokefree area
A tobacco control group in Vermont has urged Montpelier leaders to create a half mile long smokefree zone in the city’s downtown area. The Central Vermont New Directions Coalition will present a petition to the Montpelier City Council later this month, and so far the group has collected about 1,500 signatures.
Coalition member Ann Gilbert says the organisation is trying to protect families and elderly residents who visit the downtown area, claiming that a smoking ban is a big part of creating a health community.
Source: US News & World Report, 18 June 2018
Thailand: Uttaradit province runs tobacco control campaign on social media
A tobacco control campaign is underway in the Uttaradit province of Thailand to encourage community health leaders to create tobacco control video clips for distribution on various social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, highlighting the dangers of cigarettes.
The Uttaradit Mass Communication Club will be working with ASH Thailand and other health and public relations volunteers to discourage smoking and call for strict enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act 2017.
Source: National news Bureau of Thailand, 18 June 2018
Australia: Secret website selling cheap tobacco
Australia is the most expensive place in the world to buy cigarettes, with the average cost at nearly $40 a packet. The Treasurer, Scott Morrison, has also planned the second of four consecutive 12.5% tobacco excise increases for the 1st September. This is expected to add another $3 to the price of a typical packet.
However, some smokers are now using a secret website called ‘Ciggies World’ to buy packets of cigarettes at prices up to 70% lower than retail price. Whilst a packet of Marlboro Gold cigarettes retails for about $30 in Australia, the Ciggies World website sells a pack of 20 for $4.
Although the prices are comparatively cheaper, smokers may have to wait for over a month before they receive their cigarettes, and could be forced to pay unexpected taxes.
Source: Mail Online, 19 June 2018
Devon: Men jailed after international tobacco smuggling operation used fridges and vacuum cleaners to evade £12m in tax
Two men from Devon have been jailed for their role in a gang which smuggled illegal tobacco hidden inside fridges, microwaves and vacuum cleaners to evade £12 million in tax.
Ivybridge man, Kyle Langdon, 31, was jailed for two years and Andrew Carver-Trotter, 35, was sentenced to one year in March. The gang were sentenced to a total of 21 years and five months with the last member of the 11-strong operation to be sentenced at Manchester Crown Court yesterday, with a three-year jail term.
Investigators observed the smuggling ring at work in a large warehouse where hollow white goods were being used to smuggle tobacco into the UK.
After being emptied in the UK, the carcasses were returned to the warehouse in Luxembourg to be re-filled with more illicit tobacco destined for the UK.
Source: Devon Live, 15 Jun 2018
Scotland: Experts dismiss pub ‘smoking room’ idea
A poll of more than 1,000 Scots, by Forest, a pro-smoking lobby group, has found that 57% of respondents thought bars and private clubs should be allowed to provide specially ventilated smoking rooms.
The poll findings were released in advance of the Scottish government publishing its Tobacco Control Action Plan, restating the aim of a tobacco-free country by 2034.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland, dismissed claims made by Forest stating “Tobacco companies and their allies have long argued in favour of expensive solutions that don’t work, while trying to derail cheap and effective ones that do. Ventilation cannot and does not protect workers from being exposed for hours to breathing a toxic substance that is harmful to health and easily prevented”.
She added: “Two thirds of Scotland’s smokers want to quit. Hardly anyone is ambitious for the children in their families and neighbourhood to take up smoking. We need to support people and communities looking to improve their health, wellbeing and finances by relegating cigarettes to the past.”
Source: The Sunday Times, 17 June 2018
Scotland: Smokers offered £160 incentive to quit
Smokers across Scotland are being given shopping vouchers in a publicly funded attempt to help them ditch the habit. In Lanarkshire, about half of smokers living in the poorest parts of the area ditched cigarettes after being offered a financial incentive for 12 weeks.
From next month, a new initiative in Greater Glasgow and Clyde will see pregnant smokers given up to £160 to ditch cigarettes, after a successful pilot scheme.
Medical experts have welcomed the schemes as a “cost effective” way to improve the health of patients. But opposition politicians warn many taxpayers will be “sceptical” about this approach, despite the early results being positive.
Source: The Scotsman, 17 June 2018
Ireland: Smokers held responsible for most littering
19% of Irish people smoke but their litter is responsible for more than half of that found on the country’s streets.
Cigarette butts accounted for 52.5% of the rubbish left on streets last year, but when boxes, wrappers, matches, matchboxes and lighters were added, smoking paraphernalia accounted for 56%, local authorities said.
Denis Naughten, the environment minister, has implored smokers to clean up after themselves, stating “Smokers in particular can bring about a significant improvement in the litter situation through relatively minor behavioural changes. Everyone must accept that, ultimately, it is their own actions that will ensure whether or not we live in a litter-free environment.”
Source: The Times, 18 June 2018
Australia: Majority of Australians want e-cigarettes to be legalised – as thousands of former smokers are forced to illegally import nicotine
Most Australians want the ban on electronic cigarettes lifted, according to an Australian Retailers Association survey.
Conducted by the Crosby Textor Group, the poll shows 61% of 1200 adults backed a move towards legalising e-cigarettes.
Almost half of those surveyed agreed that vaporisers, used by 4.4% of smokers at the time of the 2016 Australian National Drug Strategy Household Survey, were a safer alternative than traditional tobacco cigarettes.
“More and more Australians are buying personal vaporisers with nicotine online from overseas, simply because they can’t buy them locally. It is clear that smokers are not prepared to wait around for the government to act and improve their health” said ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman.
Source: Mail Online, 18 June 2018
Wales: Smoking ban plan for playgrounds and hospital grounds
A ban on smoking in the outdoor grounds of hospitals and schools in Wales has moved a step closer. The Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, has launched a consultation, with the ban planned for summer 2019.
Voluntary bans are currently in place in some school and hospital grounds and also in public playgrounds. If the new law is passed, it will mean patients and visitors will have to leave hospital grounds to smoke. This would contribute to a change in culture around smoking, by presenting it as unacceptable in places where children could be influenced or where good health is meant to be promoted.
Public health experts believe smoking still accounts for more than 5,000 deaths in Wales each year, around one in every six of all deaths in people aged 35 and over.
Source: BBC News, 25 May 2018
Somerset: Over 1,000 babies born smokefree
The Smokefree Somerset Alliance recently celebrated the news that over 1,000 babies have now been born smokefree as a result of their Mums2Be Smokefree service. Midwives now refer women to this Somerset County Council funded Mums2Be service, where specialist advisors work with them on a one-to-one basis throughout their pregnancy, helping them to quit smoking and stay quit.
Councillor Christine Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing at Somerset County Council, said: “Smoking in pregnancy is a major public health challenge and one where we are making good progress. It remains one of the few modifiable risk factors in pregnancy. There are significantly increased risks for the pregnant woman and baby due to smoking and pregnant women who smoke increase their risk of early miscarriage. I would encourage any smoker who is either pregnant or planning to start a family to get support to stop smoking immediately.”
Source: Somerset County Council Newsroom, 24 May 2018
Australia: Are tobacco health warnings are burning out?
Explicit images and dire health warnings advertised on tobacco packaging to deter smokers may be losing their impact, a Queensland researcher has found.
Aaron Drovandi, a pharmacy lecturer and PhD candidate at James Cook University, analysed the response of more than 900 people, including both smokers and non-smokers, to shock advertising tactics used on tobacco packaging.
He found younger consumers with less exposure to tobacco packaging were less jaded than older people, but were more likely to ignore health warnings. Overall, however, research participants believed health messaging had a greater deterrent value than those without, with more than 80% still supporting the warnings.
Source: This is Money, 24 May 2018
New Zealand: Expert tells Government to ban cigarette sales by 2025 as smokefree goal is “a train wreck for Maori and Pasifika”
A Maori health leader and anti-smoking campaigner has told politicians they should pass a law now to make selling cigarettes illegal by 2025.
The chief executive for Maori Public Health Lance Norman sounded a warning to the first combined meeting of the Health and Maori Affairs select committees that the goal of making New Zealand smokefree in seven years time will not be achieved. Currently 35% of Maori smoke and 25% of Pasifika.
One suggestion was to to ban the sale of cigarettes, with Mr Norman stating, “you should pass legislation now to make it illegal to sell cigarettes by 2025.”
Source: One News, 23 May 2018
New Zealand: Response: A ban on cigarettes would criminalise addiction
Banning cigarettes in New Zealand would be a premature and unjust step for those already addicted, smokefree activist says. This comes after calls for the government to move towards banning cigarettes. Boyd Broughton, from Action for Smokefree Ateoroa, said there are a number of steps that need to be taken before New Zealand considers banning smoking.
“The problem with banning something is that if it’s legal and then one day it’s banned you make criminals of people who were previously addicted to it and that’s the issue that we face if we make it illegal immediately,” Mr Broughton said.
Source: One News, 23 May 2018
USA: Using Facebook to help young adults to quit smoking
A national clinical trial testing a smoking cessation intervention for young adults that was conducted entirely on Facebook has found that smokers are 2.5 times more likely to quit after three months with the Facebook-based treatment than if they were referred to an alternative online quit-smoking program. The study was published on the 24th of May in the journal Addiction.
Researchers said they believe the method is promising, and that it can be used effectively to support short-term positive behaviour change, especially among young adult smokers. This is especially interesting because this has been a challenging group to reach and treat.
Source: Medical Xpress, 24 May 2018
USA: Lung cancer incidence in young women surpasses that in young men
A collaborative study between the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute finds rates of lung cancer, historically higher among men than women, have flipped among white Americans and Hispanic Americans born since the mid-1960s.
However, smoking behaviours have become increasingly similar between men and women in the United States, with previous reports indicating incidence rates among women and men were converging. As a result, the historical patterns of higher incidence rates of lung cancer among men than among women have reversed among white Americans and Hispanic Americans born since the mid-1960s.
The authors conclude that this “may foreshadow a higher future burden of overall lung cancer among women than among men as younger cohorts age, which further underscores the need to intensify anti tobacco measures to decrease smoking among young women.”
New England Journal of Medicine, Higher lung cancer incidence in young women than young men in the united states
Source: Ecancer news, 24 May 2018
Damien Moore (Southport)
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps his Department is taking to tackle the sale of illegal tobacco.
Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury
The joint HMRC/Border Force strategy to tackle illicit tobacco (‘Tackling Illicit Tobacco: From leaf to light’) published on 24 March 2015 reinforced the government’s commitment to tackle illicit tobacco at all points in the supply chain. This was further demonstrated by increased investment in resources to fight this fraud announced at Summer Budget 2015 and Budget 2016.
Effective action requires collaboration across government and HMRC and Border Force work closely with other enforcement agencies, including Trading Standards and the police to target those involved in the fraud. In the last two years alone, over 2.8 billion illicit cigarettes and over 660 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco have been seized resulting in approximately 700 prosecutions.
HMRC has also reviewed the impact of sanctions and is currently developing options, with particular focus on the approach taken to repeat offenders.
In accordance with international commitments, HMRC is also developing a new track and trace system for tobacco products. This will go live in May 2019 and will make it easier to identify where genuine product has been diverted into the illicit market and more difficult for illicit goods to enter the legitimate market.
Source: Hansard, 24 May 2018
Australia was the first country in the world to require standardised packaging of tobacco products, prohibiting company logos and colours. The law, which took effect from 1 December 2012, also requires enlarged pictorial health warnings on both sides of the pack.