Sheffield: Shop landed with £777,600 tax bill for selling black market tobacco
As part of a new HM Revenue and Customs crackdown on illicit tobacco, HMRC has sent tax bills to businesses which have repeatedly been caught selling illicit tobacco. A total of 51 tax bills totalling £11.5 million have been issued across the country.
As part of this recent uptick in HMRC activity, a Sheffield store has been landed with a £777,600 fine for selling tobacco on the black market. The huge tax bill came after investigations revealed illegal income from the sale of illicit tobacco was equal to 89% of this particular business’ declared turnover.
Source: The Star (Sheffield), 25 September 2018
New Asean tobacco atlas reveals extent of tobacco addiction in South East Asia
The fourth edition of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) Tobacco Control Atlas was released yesterday (26 September), by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) at the 3rd UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases. Among more than 7 million people killed by tobacco-related diseases globally each year, more than 500,000 occur in Southeast Asia, according to the latest data. Among Asean countries, male adult smoking prevalence is highest in Indonesia at 66% and lowest in Singapore at 21.1%.
All 10 Asean countries have implemented pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs, four of which are among the biggest in the world – Thailand (85% front and back of the pack), Brunei, Laos and Myanmar (75%), while Singapore and Thailand are in advanced preparatory stages to require plain packaging. Tobacco tax policies have been strengthened in Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand and have helped to reduce affordability of tobacco products. However cigarette prices remain affordable and low (less than $1 per pack) in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Source: The Nation (Thailand), 27 September 2018
British American Tobacco’s use of social media influencers to sell cigarettes faces legal complaint in Brazil
British American Tobacco (BAT) faces a new legal complaint in Brazil for the company’s use of social media influencers to advertise cigarettes on social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Brazil is the second country in which legal action has been initiated as the result of big tobacco’s clandestine use of social media to advertise cigarettes.
Filed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Sao Paulo and Brazil’s Consumer Protection Agency, the complaint details how social media campaigns for Kent, Lucky Strike and Dunhill cigarettes have violated Brazilian laws designed to curb smoking rates. The complaint was filed by ACT Brazil, a leading Brazilian advocacy group, and was supported by several Brazilian and international public health groups. The social media campaigns identified in Brazil featured industry-driven hashtags with social media influencers hired to promote cigarette brands, making it difficult for consumers to identify this tactic as paid advertisements for cigarettes.
Source: PR Newswire, 26 September 2018
Industry groups call on World Health Organisation to change stance on vaping
An international coalition of vaping industry groups has called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to reform its stance on vaping regulations. Vaping advocacy groups from sixteen countries have called on the agency to reverse its stance that members states can ban vaping products outright as part of their tobacco control plans.
Lead by the UK Vaping Industry Association (which includes tobacco industry members), the group is demanding the WHO aligns its guidance with states such as the UK and New Zealand, which advocate smokers switching to vaping to wean smokers off conventional tobacco products, as part of harm-reduction policy.
Source: City A.M. 26 September 2018
Link of the week
Norfolk man jailed after being caught with more than 1.5 million illegal cigarettes
A Norfolk man who was caught with more than 1.5 million illegal cigarettes disguised as road surfacing material in a warehouse has been jailed. Three men were found hiding at the back of a unit at an industrial estate in South Shields, near Newcastle when HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers swooped.
They uncovered an illegal haul, worth £526,397 in unpaid duty, during the raid when they discovered 24 pallets loaded with packages containing a total of 1,508,300 non-paid UK duty-paid cigarettes. The cigarettes were hidden in wooden containers coated in bitumen, which is often used for road surfaces, and then wrapped in packaging.
Source: Eastern Daily Press, 24 August 2018
USA: Study finds vapers who use e-cigarettes every day are at higher risk of heart attack
Researchers analysed the 2014 and 2016 results of The National Health Interview Survey, which includes interviews from adults living in the US. Some 69,452 participants were asked: ‘Have you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had a heart attack (also called myocardial infarction)?’. The analysis of the increased risk of heart attacks was based on answers to this question.
The researchers found that people who smoke tobacco and use e-cigarettes were most likely to have had a heart attack.
Editorial note: This study does not establish a causal relationship between heart attacks and the use of e-cigarettes. Rather it shows that at the point they were surveyed people who smoked and/or vaped were more likely to have had a heart attack in their lifetime. The study was not able to determine when the heart attack took place, whether it followed or preceded use of an e-cigarette. It is therefore inaccurate to say this research shows that vaping leads to an increased risk of a heart attack. The link between tobacco smoking and heart attacks is well established. See our fact sheet for more information. ASH fact sheet: Smoking, the Heart and Circulation.
Source: Daily Mail, 23 August 2018
USA: FDA bans e-cig liquid products that look like snacks, candies
After warnings sent to a number of e-liquid manufacturers in May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned a number of products which come in packaging that strongly resembles that for candies, cookies and other snacks popular with kids.
The agency told the companies that labels and ads for the nicotine-containing e-liquids were false or misleading, and potentially dangerous. In addition, several of the companies were previously cited for illegally selling the products to minors, the FDA said.
Examples of the products targeted in the warning letters included: “One Mad Hit Juice Box”, which resembled children’s apple juice boxes; “Whip’d Strawberry”, which resembled a dairy whipped topping; “Twirly Pop”, which resembled a Unicorn Pop lollipop and was shipped with one; and “Unicorn Cakes”, which included images of a strawberry beverage and unicorns eating pancakes, similar to those used by the My Little Pony television and toy franchise.
Source: Medical Xpress, 23 August 2018
Link of the week
Labour Communities & Local Government report: Trading Standards
Labour’s latest Local Government ‘Health Check’ report has highlighted deep cuts to England’s Trading Standards where spending has been halved since 2010 (£213m to £105m).
Smoking scenes still common in one third of prime-time TV programmes
A total of 611 programmes, 909 adverts and 211 trailers were analysed for a recent study, which found that smoking remains common on UK prime-time TV despite broadcasting regulations designed to protect children from its glamorisation. Channel 5 was the channel with most tobacco content, while BBC2 had the least.
Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, including paid product placement in TV adverts, is illegal in the UK. But imagery of smoking in TV programmes and trailers is exempt, and is instead regulated by Ofcom’s, broadcasting code.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said “’The number of smokers in the UK has fallen significantly since 2010 yet this research finds smoking is just as common on our screens. Given the proven link to childhood smoking Ofcom and the BBFC, which regulate TV and films, need to take the necessary steps to warn parents of the risks and protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco imagery.”
Tobacco Control, Content analysis of tobacco content in UK television
Source: Mail Online, 14 August 2018
Research raises questions over long term safety of vaping
A new study from Birmingham University suggests e-cigarettes can disable the immune system’s ability to clear the lungs and prevent harmful chemical buildups. The research, which was based on lung cells extracted from healthy volunteers who had never smoked, found some of the harms were equivalent to those seen with tobacco smoking.
However, Professor John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham said: “This study demonstrates evidence that lung cells exposed to electronic cigarette vapour become inflamed, as would be expected given that electronic cigarette vapour contains oxidant and other pro-inflammatory constituents. This indicates that long-term use of electronic cigarettes is likely to have adverse effects, as is widely recognised by leading health authorities in the UK including the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England. However, since electronic cigarettes are used almost exclusively in the UK by current or former smokers, the key question is how this adverse effect compares with that of exposure to cigarette smoke. The harsh truth is that smoking kills, and smokers who switch completely to electronic cigarettes are likely to substantially reduce the likelihood of premature death and disability.”
BMJ, Pro-inflammatory effects of e-cigarette vapour condensate on human alveolar macrophages
Mirror, Vaping can cause serious lung damage and should be treated with caution, scientists warn
Telegraph, Vaping may damage immune system and lead to lung disease, study suggests
BBC News, Vaping ‘can damage vital immune system cells’
Source: Daily Mail, 13 August 2018
West Sussex: Shop fined thousands for selling illegal cigarettes
The director of a shop which sold illegal tobacco has been ordered to pay a £2,000 fine, after pleading guilty to four offences relating to the possession and sale of illegal tobacco.
This followed an investigation by West Sussex Trading Standards, which visited the shop in the True Blue Precinct in Wick in September last year and seized nine packs of cigarettes from the stockroom and more than 100 packets from a vehicle outside the shop, a Trading Standards spokesman said.
Richard Sargeant, trading standards team manager, said: “We are encouraging people to remain vigilant and to report the sale of illicit tobacco and cigarettes.”
Source: Shoreham Herald, 13 August 2018
Rochdale: Festival goes smokefree
This year’s Rochdale Feel Good Festival, which will take place on Saturday 18 August 2018, will make its Family Zone smokefree for the first time. Smokefree events are being held across Greater Manchester this summer as areas consider creating more permanent smokefree outdoor areas. The festival will have plenty of information to support healthy communities.
Source: Rochdale Borough Council, 13 August 2018
Sunderland: Fire chiefs issue safety advice after suspected vape battery fire
Fire chiefs have issued safety advice after a fire in a family home which is thought to have been caused by a vape battery.
They advised that vapers never overcharge or leave e-cigarettes on charge unattended for long periods, not to mix components of different e-cigarettes and ensure they purchase their e-cigarette from a reputable source. Moreover, they recommend that users check the e-cigarette carries a CE certification, always use the correct charger and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
National Fire Chief Council, Guidance on e-cigarettes
Source: Sunderland Echo, 6 August 2018
Norfolk: Roadshow will provide information about illegal cigarettes and tobacco
This Thursday, between 9am and 5pm, residents will be able to meet Yoyo the tobacco sniffer dog at Kings Square in Thetford. This visit is part of a bigger illegal tobacco roadshow, which will also be visiting King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Norwich.
The purpose is to help people find out more about illegal cigarettes and tobacco, and the hazards they pose. So far, a two-year clampdown on illicit traders has seen Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards and Public Health teams seize more than 1.3 million illegal cigarettes in addition to 123kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco, with 11 traders being prosecuted.
Smokefree Norfolk will also be present at the roadshow to provide residents with help on quitting smoking.
Source: Thetford and Brandon Times, 6 August 2018
Former smokers might want to eat more tomatoes
A new study has found that former smokers with diets high in tomatoes and fresh fruit had a slower rate of decline in lung function.
Researchers also found that among all adults, including people who had never smoked or had stopped, those with the highest tomato consumption had the slowest decline in lung function—meaning the benefits may not just be for former smokers. The study offers important evidence for the effect of diet on lung function.
European Respiratory Journal, Dietary antioxidants and 10-year lung function decline in adults from the ECRHS survey
Source: Vice, 6 August 2018
US: Tobacco marketed more heavily in city’s minority neighbourhoods, study finds
Tobacco products in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are more aggressively marketed in stores in African-American and Latino neighbourhoods than in white ones, according to a study led by a public health researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Results are in line with other studies, showing that communities with lower incomes, lower educational attainment and more minority residents are targeted with significantly more tobacco promotion.
This study is the first to document the trend in Milwaukee. “The evidence is increasingly clear that children who are exposed to tobacco marketing in stores are more likely to start smoking,” said Linnea Laestadius, assistant professor in the Zilber School of Public Health.
Tobacco Regulatory Science, Identifying Disparities and Policy Needs with the STARS Surveillance Tool
Source: Medical Xpress, 6 August 2018
US: Secondhand smoke is giving teens severe breathing problems, study says
A study has found that young people are missing school due to breathing problems caused by secondhand smoke. Young people who live with a smoker are more likely to report shortness of breath, wheezing and difficulty performing exercise. Those exposed to more than an hour of secondhand smoke had a 1.5 times increased risk of frequently missing school due to being sick. Additionally, they were 3.5 times more likely to have visited an urgent care facility or an emergency department over the past 12 months. The team of researchers from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, is therefore calling on lawmakers to implement policy changes that further prohibit smoking in public places in all 50 states, to prevent teens from developing a number of health problems including asthma and lung cancer.
Lead author Dr Ashley Merianos, an assistant professor of health promotion and education at the University of Cincinnati, said “There was a [lack] of information about how [secondhand smoke] affects adolescents [without asthma], so we decided to look into this specific group of people.” The young people who took part in the study were part of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study, a US government study that looks at tobacco use and health among adolescents and adults.
Source: Mail Online, 6 August 2018
Tyne and Wear: South Tyneside’s NHS staff urged to lead the way by quitting smoking
Staff at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust are being encouraged to give up once and for all as part of a bid to become a completely smokefree organisation.
According to figures from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the estimated annual cost of smoking to the NHS in South Tyneside is about £7.1 million a year.
The Trust is therefore offering a support programme for NHS staff, as well as their friends and family, recognising the vital role loved ones can play. They will have access to a full range of products, including patches and gum, and medications such as Champix and Zyban.
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust medical director Dr Shaz Wahid said “We are working closely with our local partners to get us to the point of becoming fully smokefree and, as part of this, we want to give our staff and patients all the tools and support we can to help them to stop smoking.
Source: The Shields Gazette, 14 June 2018
Lancashire: Cash and illegal tobacco seized in raids on shop and house
More than £100,000 of unaccounted-for cash plus a stash of illegal tobacco has been seized in a joint Trading Standards and police raid. Lancashire County Council Trading Standards and Lancashire Police seized the tobacco from a shop in Nelson town centre, and the £100,000 cash in bags from a house in the town. Officers served three warrants, all in the Nelson area, after tracking a supply ring operating in the town. More than 680 tobacco packs, with a retail value of around almost £4,000 were seized from a locked hiding place.
Three men and a woman are currently under investigation, and checks into the supply chain are continuing. The traders involved face possible prosecution by Trading Standards in relation to offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016.
Source: Burnley Express, 13 June 2018
Tobacco industry peruse control over anti-smuggling measures
A detailed study from the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, using a range of sources including internal documents and whistleblower testimony, claims the tobacco industry is now going to elaborate lengths to control the global “track and trace” system that the United Nations has said must be put in place to counter smuggling.
Tobacco companies complain about the smuggling of cheap illegally-made copies of their brands, but two-thirds of the illicit tobacco market is made up of genuine product, says the study published in the journal Tobacco Control. “At best, evidence indicates that tobacco companies are failing to control their supply chain, over-producing in some markets (eg Ukraine) and oversupplying others (eg Belgium) in the knowledge their products will end up on the illicit market,” says the paper.
Professor Anna Gilmore, lead author of the paper in the journal Tobacco Control, said: “This has to be one of the tobacco industry’s greatest scams: not only is it still involved in tobacco smuggling, but big tobacco is positioning itself to control the very system governments around the world have designed to stop companies from smuggling. The industry’s elaborate and underhand effort involves front groups, third parties, fake news and payments to the regulatory authorities meant to hold them to account.”
Source: The Guardian, 14 June 2018
Rt Hon George Howarth, MP Labour, Knowsley
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what progress his Department has made with Public Health England Tobacco Implementation Board on implementing the recommendations of the Independent Cancer Taskforce; on what date his Department has held meetings with that Board; and who attended those meetings.
Steve Brine, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care
The ‘Tobacco Control Plan for England: Towards a smoke-free generation’, published in July 2017, takes into account the recommendations of the Independent Cancer Taskforce, and focuses on reducing smoking prevalence within priority groups such as people with mental health conditions, people in routine and manual occupations and pregnant women, tackling the associated health inequalities.
A special meeting of the Public Health England Tobacco Control Implementation Board was held on 20 December 2017 to discuss the Plan. I chaired the meeting which was attended by representatives of the Department, Public Health England and key stakeholders including Cancer Research UK, the Royal College of Physicians, British Medical Association, British Thoracic Society, Action on Smoking and Health and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies.
Source: Hansard HC, 13 June 2018