Link of the week
Tobacco giant buys stake in medical cannabis
One of the UK’s biggest tobacco manufacturers is seeking to diversify from the under-pressure cigarette market by taking a stake in a start-up researching medical uses of cannabis.
Imperial Brands, the FTSE 100 company behind Winston and Gauloises cigarettes, is investing in Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies (OCT). It is thought to be the first time that a Big Tobacco company has invested in cannabis research in the UK.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said: “Imperial talks of there being ‘significant potential’ in cannabinoid products but they’re not a pharmaceutical company, they’re a recreational drug company. This is all about developing the expertise they need to market cannabis not as a medicine, but as a recreational drug. It’s a bad move for a start-up like OCT to besmirch its reputation by taking money from an industry responsible for killing more than seven million people a year. And it bucks the trend. Major investors all round the world, from banks and pension funds, to insurers and sovereign wealth funds, are all getting out of tobacco.”
See also: BBC, ‘Tobacco giant Imperial Brands invests in medical cannabis’
Source: The Times, 29 June 2018
North West: Burnley women urged to stop smoking
Burnley has the second highest rate of women smokers in the country. In Burnley 25.5% of women are smokers, second only to Hastings in East Sussex, with fellow Lancashire area South Ribble having the least amount of women smokers at just 4%.
Lancashire County Council has commissioned a ‘Quit Squad’ which encourages people to stop smoking, and includes support for pregnant women to quit in partnership with midwifes, health visitors and children’s centres.
Shaun Turner, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “We know how difficult it is to stop smoking, but we’re here to help. Current figures show that 16% of Lancashire’s population smokes, which is just above the national average. Rates in the county are falling. However, we are aware of tobacco use hotspots such as Burnley and our targeted work with communities will help us address them. Our aim is to cut smoking rates in Lancashire to 12% or less by 2022.”
Source: Burnley Express, 28 June 2018
The protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products is live
On the 27 June 2018, the conditions for the entry into force of the first legally binding instrument adopted under the WHO FCTC were met. The ratification of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, meant the necessary number of Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was reached, paving the way to eliminate illicit trade of tobacco products.
This achievement is a milestone in the history of tobacco control, as the Protocol contains a full range of measures to combat illicit trade distributed in three categories: preventing illicit trade, promoting law enforcement and providing the legal basis for international cooperation. Moreover, it aims to secure the supply chain of tobacco products, through licensing, due diligence and record keeping, and requires the establishment of a global tracking and tracing regime that will allow Governments to effectively follow up tobacco products from the point of production to the first point of sale.
The Parties can now hold the First session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (MOP1) in Geneva, Switzerland, from the 8th to the 10th of October 2018, following the Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP8) of the WHO FCTC.
Source: FCTC, 28 June 2018
Australia: WTO backs plain cigarette packets
Australia has won a major trade dispute over its pioneering plain packaging for cigarettes, in a decision handed down by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Australia made it mandatory in 2011 for cigarettes to be sold in plain packets that carry health warnings. Seven years on, the WTO has rejected complaints from four nations that the laws violate international trade. Unless there is a successful appeal, the decision is expected to hasten similar regulations around the world.
“Australia has achieved a resounding victory,” its government said in a statement on Friday. Cuba, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Indonesia – all tobacco producers – had argued that plain packaging infringed on trademarks and intellectual property rights. But the WTO rejected those arguments and assertions that alternative measures could achieve an equivalent benefit to public health.
Financial Times, Australia wins landmark WTO ruling over cigarette packaging
The Guardian, ‘Resounding victory’: Australia wins tobacco plain packaging dispute
Daily Mail Online, ‘Australia wins landmark WTO ruling on plain tobacco packaging’
Source: BBC News, 29 June 2018
China: Low funding cited as top reason for lackluster smoking control
Lack of funding has become a major obstacle to the enforcement of tobacco control regulations, according to a new report based on feedback from the governments of 18 major cities on the Chinese mainland. Wang Zhenyu, the head of the law firm that carried out the study, said “We found that lack of government funding is the biggest difficulty in tobacco control for many cities, and the problem has not improved over the past few years.”
Of the 18 cities, nine disclosed the amount of money allocated for tobacco control for 2016. Beijing was top, with total funding of about 4.8 million yuan ($724,000), followed by Guangzhou, Guangdong province, at 4.6 million yuan. Funding on all the other seven cities was below 500,000 yuan.
However, Jiang Yuan, director of the tobacco control office of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that although Beijing has placed more emphasis on tobacco control than most other cities in China, but the funding level is still far from adequate. She said, “Per capita funding is far below many other countries and regions, such as Hong Kong.”
Source: China Daily, 29 June 2018
China: Paternal smoking linked to miscarriage risk
Would-be fathers may increase their partner’s risk of miscarriage by smoking during the pregnancy, or even during the time leading up to conception, a large study from China suggests.
Based on data for nearly 6 million pregnancies, researchers found that women whose partner smoked during the first few months of the pregnancy were 17% more likely to miscarry than women with nonsmoking partners. Women whose partners quit smoking around the time of conception had an 18% lower risk of miscarriage than those whose smoking partner didn’t quit, the study team reports in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
“Although we have known for a long time that if the mother smokes there is an increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, dads who smoke also influence the ‘success’ of the pregnancy,” Dr. Alison Holloway, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
Source: Reuters, 27 June 2018
Japan: Smoke exposure during pregnancy and infancy tied to hearing loss
Kids exposed to tobacco smoke in the womb and early in infancy could have double the odds of developing hearing loss compared with children who were not exposed to tobacco at all, a Japanese study suggests.
Researchers examined data on 50,734 children born between 2004 and 2010 in Kobe City, Japan. Overall, about 4% of these kids were exposed to smoking during pregnancy or infancy, and roughly 1% had tobacco exposure during both periods.
Hearing tests done when kids were 3 years old found that 4.6% of the children had hearing loss. They were 68% more likely to have hearing loss if they were exposed to tobacco during pregnancy, and 30% more likely if they inhaled second-hand smoke during infancy, the study found. When kids had smoke exposure during both periods, they were 2.4 times more likely than unexposed kids to have hearing loss.
Source: Reuters, 28 June 2018
US: Opinion: 12-year-olds can’t buy cigarettes. Why can they work in tobacco fields?
In the US, a 12-year-old cannot legally walk into a store and buy cigarettes, but the law allows that same child to work in a tobacco field. A 16-year-old child tobacco worker told Human Rights Watch that tobacco was “the hardest of all the crops we’ve worked in. You get tired. It takes the energy out of you. You get sick, but then you have to go right back to the tobacco the next day.”
When the seminal legislation the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, it exempted agriculture from its extensive labor protections, including child labor. In 2011-12, the Obama administration attempted to ban teen work in tobacco, but farm groups claimed this would “kill the family farm” and the Obama administration promised to never implement them again during Obama’s tenure. Now, the Trump administration is working to remove hazardous work restrictions for students and apprentices that would allow minors to use chainsaws, meat slicers, compactors and other dangerous machinery for longer hours than currently allowed.
We call on the tobacco industry to raise the minimum age of work on tobacco farms to 18 in the US and around the world immediately. It’s bad enough that the tobacco industry is willing to kill its customers with a dangerous product; it really should move to protect the workers who produce that product.
See also: Guardian, ‘The US children working in tobacco fields’
Source: Guardian, 29 June 2018
Link of the week
Cigarettes and Chimneys
In a short 15 minute programme, Radio 4 tells the story of how Richard Doll’s research in the 1950s identified that smoking caused lung cancer and how the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) had to weigh in to ensure that government took the evidence seriously.
When lung cancer, a new deadly disease, began to grip the nation, the NHS was focused on treatment, not prevention. Lung cancer was a disease that doctors couldn’t treat. The suggestion that something you could prevent – cigarette smoking – might be causing it, led to a radically new way of thinking about the role of the health service.
The RCP has been in the forefront of promoting this change in perspective since its seminal 1962 report Smoking and Health, and it continues to promote the role of prevention in the NHS today with its latest report Hiding in plain sight.
Many other RCP reports are also available for free to download on the RCP website.
Source: BBC Radio 4, 25 June 2018
Release of RCP report and newspaper responses
Release of RCP report and newspaper responses
Royal College of Physicians (RCP) releases ‘Hiding in plain sight, Treating tobacco dependency in the NHS’
Hiding in plain sight: Treating tobacco dependency in the NHS demonstrates that clinicians working in almost all areas of medicine will see their patients’ problems improved by quitting smoking, and that systematic intervention is a cost-effective means of both improving health and reducing demand on NHS services. Smoking cessation is not just about prevention. For many diseases, smoking cessation represents effective treatment.
It calls on doctors to recognise that recognising and treating tobacco dependence is their business, and to incorporate smoking cessation as a systematic and opt-out component of all NHS services, delivered in smoke-free settings.
Source: Royal College of Physicians, 26 June 2018
The Times – coverage of RCP report: Help smokers quit, doctors tell hospitals
The NHS’s failure to help smokers quit is “as negligent as not treating cancer”, top doctors say.
Sanjay Agrawal said: “This is an open goal for the NHS. We can save lives and save money by applying simple effective treatments in the same way that we do for millions of other patients — these treatments are very low cost. The changes would be pretty straightforward to make and we would start reaping the benefits in the first year, taking some of the strain off the NHS. The changes we have recommended have been tried and tested in the UK and Canada and have made a significant impact, so it’s time to apply this approach across the NHS.”
Smokers “put a particular strain on the NHS”, the college warned, with a 36% greater likelihood of being admitted to hospital.
Professor John Britton, chairman of the Tobacco Advisory Group, said: “Smoking, the biggest avoidable cause of death and disability in the UK, is hiding in plain sight in our hospitals and other NHS services; the NHS must end the neglect of this huge opportunity to improve our nation’s health.”
Source: The Times, 26 June 2018
The Independent – coverage of RCP report: NHS staff smokers cost health service £200m a year with cigarette breaks and sick days, report finds
Lost productivity from smoking breaks alone cost £99m with total per smoker approaching £3,000 a year.
NHS staff smoking habits cost the health service more than £200m a year in cigarette breaks, sick days and treatment, a report on the £1bn a year avoidable cost of tobacco dependency has found.
There are more than 73,000 smokers among the 1.2 million NHS employees in England and the lost working hours from their combined smoking breaks add up to £99m a year, the Royal College of Physicians’ tobacco advisory group has said.
Smokers also had 56 per cent more sick days, amounting to £101m in NHS costs, and cost £6m in treating staff with preventable diseases caused by tobacco. In total, the RCP panel said, this amounts to £2,800 per staff smoker.
Professor John Britton, the chair of the RCP tobacco advisory group, told The Independent: “The NHS must end the neglect of this huge opportunity to improve our nation’s health.”
Source: The Independent, 26 June 2018
Daily Mail – coverage of RCP report: Patients ‘should be recommended e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking and be allowed to use them at hospitals’
Patients should be recommended e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking and be allowed to use them at hospitals, doctors’ leaders say. They are calling for patients to be routinely offered help in kicking the habit at GP appointments, outpatient clinics and when admitted to hospital.
The NHS’s failure to help smokers quit is as serious as not treating cancer patients, they added. The recommendations have been drawn up by the Royal College of Physicians which has accused the NHS of being ‘negligent’ in not doing enough to help smokers quit.
Source: Daily Mail, 26 June 2018
Ospreys back anti-smoking campaign at sports grounds across Wales
The Welsh rugby club Ospreys have put their weight behind a campaign by ASH Wales for local sport clubs to adopt no smoking policy at their playing fields. Although most Welsh stadiums have become smokefree zones, many grounds where children train and play have yet to follow suit.
The Ospreys in the Community will work with the charity to encourage regional clubs to adopt a no smoking policy with the aim of protecting young players from being influenced to smoke.
The club will promote the initiative at a beach rugby festival in front of 600 kids.
Source: ITV News, 26 June 2018
Child labour rampant in tobacco industry
Child labour in tobacco is widespread and on the increase in poorer countries, a major Guardian investigation has revealed, in spite of claims by multi billion-dollar companies that they are tackling the issue.
Evidence from three continents shows how children aged 14 and under are kept out of school and employed in hard and sometimes harmful physical labour to produce the tobacco leaf that fills cigarettes sold internationally, including in the UK, US and mainland Europe.
Families are trapped in generational poverty while salaries at the top of the industry run to millions of dollars a year. The companies say they monitor child labour and remove children from the fields to go to school, but experts have told the Guardian that the numbers are going up, not down, as tobacco growing increases in Africa and Asia.
Source: The Guardian, 25 June 2018
BMJ blog: The Kuala Lumpur Charter on Smoke-Free Homes
In accordance with article 8 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, governments, health practitioners and wider society all have a duty to protect non-smokers from the harms caused by second-hand tobacco smoke (SHS) exposure. Considerable attention over the past two decades has been given to implementing smoke-free public spaces and workplaces in many countries.
However, there is the risk that the tobacco control and wider public health research community now wrongly perceives that the ‘SHS exposure problem’ has been successfully resolved and no longer requires international attention. It is possible that this has caused a widening in exposure inequality with adults in countries where smoke-free laws are comprehensive benefitting most while children in poorer communities in those countries where smoke-free laws are partial or poorly enforced have seen almost no improvement.