25% of Europeans still smoke

A recent survey shows no decrease in the overall smoking rate in the EU since 2014, with more than one in four Europeans still smoking. Amongst people aged 15 to 24 the rate has increased from 25% in 2014 to 29% in 2017.

Significant differences exist between EU countries, with the highest smoking rates in Greece (37%), Bulgaria, France (both 36%) and Croatia (35%). At 7%, Sweden has the lowest smoking rate in the EU. Regular e-cigarette use remains stable at 2%, with 15% having tried such products at some point. With regard to attitudes to tobacco and e-cigarette control measures, the majority of those surveyed (63%) think e-cigarette use should be banned in places where there are smoking bans; and 46% are in favour of plain packaging for cigarettes.

To read the full Eurobarometer on attitudes of Europeans to smoking and e-cigarettes on the ec.europa.eu website

Ex smokers are unstoppable

The European Commission’s 3-year initiative ‘Ex-smokers are unstoppable’ has now finished but it proved enormously successful with one in three of the 480,000 registered users stopping smoking after three months.

The centre-piece of the programme was the iCoach, a digital health coach which was free and available both online and as a mobile app for Apple and Android devices in 23 languages.

It guided users through five progressive phases to quit smoking but also incorporated several personal, phase-specific challenges e.g.

  • Keep track of how many cigarettes you smoke a day as you may be underestimating your habit
  • Postpone the “nicest” cigarette of the day 10 times for 10 minutes and then for 20 minutes
  • Leave your cigarettes at home when you need to run a short errand

These challenges enabled users to set themselves small, attainable goals which once achieved, encouraged them to take on further challenges and gain control over their habit.

To read more about ‘Ex-smokers are unstoppable‘ on the ec.europa.eu website

E-cigarettes harmful to health

Refillable electronic e-cigarettes, and the potential exposure to e-liquids containing nicotine, may pose risks to public health, according to a report recently adopted by the European Commission.

The report included input from an external study that analysed physical samples, scientific literature and data from poison centres in eight EU countries. The study also surveyed the e-cigarette industry on their perception of the risks.

The report found four main risks with refillable e-cigarettes:

  • poisoning from ingesting e-liquids containing nicotine (especially for young children);
  • skin reactions related to dermal contact with e-liquids containing nicotine and other skin irritants;
  • risks associated with home blending
  • risks due to using untested combinations of e-liquid and device or hardware customisation.

The report concludes that although the measures for refillable e-cigarettes set out in the Tobacco Products Directive and secondary legislation, combined with national regulation, provide an adequate and proportionate framework for mitigating health risks, further study of these products is needed.

To read the full report on the risks of electronic cigarettes on the eur-lex.europa.eu website

 

10 key changes for tobacco products sold in the EU

As a result of EU legislation, there are 10 changes to the way tobacco products can be sold in Europe:

  • Graphic pictorial health warnings will cover 65% of the packaging
  • Ban on cigarettes and roll-your-own with characterising flavours such as menthol that mask the taste and smell of tobacco
  • Labelling will now include the fact that ‘tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer’
  • No promotional or misleading packages and no packs of less than 10 cigarettes
  • Mandatory electronic reporting on ingredients by manufacturers and importers
  • Safety and quality requirements for e-cigarettes
  • Packaging and labelling rules for e-cigarettes
  • Monitoring and reporting of developments related to e-cigarettes
  • EU countries may ban cross-border sales
  • Measures to combat illicit trade

For more information about these 10 changes in tobacco trade on the europa.eu website

E-cigarettes and secondary school children

There has been a rapid rise in the retail availability of e-cigarettes in the UK and this study looks at the relationship between e-cigarette point-of-sale displays and e-cigarette use in young people.

A cross sectional survey was conducted in four high schools in Scotland and a response rate of 87 % and a total sample of 3808 was achieved. The survey found that adolescents who recalled seeing e-cigarettes in small shops or supermarkets were more likely to have tried an e-cigarette or intended to try them in the next six months.

To read all the details of this e-cigarette survey on the bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com website

Vaping suppresses the immune system

The annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington was presented with evidence that vaping suppresses 6 times as many immune genes as smoking. After comparing genetic information swabbed from the noses of smokers, vapers, and non-users of both, researchers found that while smoking suppresses the activity of 53 genes involved in the immune system, vaping suppresses those and another 305.

Though research on the significance of that gene suppression is still ongoing, the initial results suggest that e-cig users may have compromised immune responses, making them potentially more vulnerable to infections and diseases.

To read more about the research findings on the arstechnica website.

Smoking in cars banned in England and Wales

It is now illegal to smoke in cars and other vehicles if someone under the age of 18 is present. It is also illegal for a driver to not stop someone else smoking in these circumstances and the fine for either offence is £50.

This new law applies to any private vehicle enclosed by a roof, even if the window is open, the air conditioning is on, or the smoker is sitting in the open doorway of the vehicle (presumably when it is stationary!).

The laws don’t apply to e-cigarettes or convertible cars that have the roof completely down.

For more information, click here on www.gov.uk

Tobacco Policy in a Changing World: Plain packaging and e-cigarettes

February 2015. This seminar  brought together policy-makers and practitioners for a stimulating and informative overview of the situation in Europe and the UK with regard to tobacco use and legislation. Our speakers – Hazel Cheeseman from ASH and Kate Knight from SmokeFree South West – are experts in both the rise of e-cigarettes and the legal battles being waged by the tobacco industry against plain packaging.

The programme gives an outline of the seminar and brief biographies of the speakers, while the full presentation covers this subject in fascinating detail.

The new Tobacco Products Directive

This Directive is a major achievement for public health in the EU, in particular as regards the protection of young people. Once it is implemented, there will be major changes in the type and packaging of tobacco products available on the EU market as the Directive prohibits strong flavours such as fruit or menthol in cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco. It requires that cigarette packages carry big pictures and text warnings that remind consumers of the risks of smoking and bans the use of misleading terms such as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’.

The Directive also introduces measures to combat the illicit trade of tobacco products. New provisions for nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes will ensure that these products are safer and of better quality, and properly labelled. The Directive has already been challenged in court by both the tobacco and e-cigarette industry as well as by one Member State.

The European Parliament and Council are working together, with the help of the Commission, to ensure that the rules agreed by the co-legislators are upheld in Court and that the internal market and public health benefits of the new Directive are not lost. Encouragingly, a number of Member States (France, Ireland and the UK) have signalled their intention to go further and introduce fully standardised packaging. Like Australia before them, these countries are committed to ensuring that tobacco companies do not use packaging to entice young people to use their products. They are frontrunners in the protection of young people and citizens from the harmful effects of smoking.

Smoking prevalence has been falling in the EU over recent years and this Directive will reinforce that trend and mean even fewer young people will be attracted to start.

To read more about the Directive, click here on http://ec.europa.eu

WHO’s rundown on e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine or other substances to a user as an aerosol rather than burning tobacco. The liquid contains four main ingredients: propylene glycol and/or glycerine as a base for producing the aerosol, flavours and optional nicotine. E-cigarettes contain and deliver varying levels of nicotine, some of which can be similar to levels in cigarettes.

About 500 e-cigarette brands are available today, but only a few have been analysed. Evidence  shows that e-cigarettes’ aerosol usually contains cancer-causing compounds, but at levels 1–2 orders of magnitude lower than those in tobacco smoke. E-cigarettes are therefore likely to be less toxic than conventional cigarettes but the levels of carcinogenic agents in some of the analysed brands are as high as those in the smoke produced by some cigarettes.

According to WHO’s 2014 report, “Electronic nicotine delivery systems”, the main health risks from e-cigarettes come from inhaling the nicotine and other toxic emissions and from overdosing by ingestion or through skin contact. Users fill e-cigarettes’ containers themselves so they, not the manufacturers, set the levels of nicotine. Nicotine poisoning can result from the liquid’s accidentally coming into contact with users’ skin or ingestion by children. The United States and the United Kingdom have already seen a tremendous increase in reported nicotine poisoning, often involving children.

Nevertheless, the reduced exposure to toxicants of well regulated e-cigarettes, used by established adult smokers as a complete substitution for cigarettes, is likely to be less toxic than conventional cigarettes or other combusted tobacco products. The amount of risk reduction, however, is unknown. E-cigarettes may carry a risk of addiction to nicotine and tobacco products among young people and non-smokers. However, they are likely to be less toxic than cigarettes for adult smokers if product content is well regulated and if the smokers use them as a complete substitution for cigarettes.

The inhalation of nicotine by nonsmokers, adolescents and pregnant women not only leads to addiction but has also been linked to some cardiovascular problems in adults. In addition, fetal and adolescent nicotine exposure can have long-term consequences for brain development. As young people account for a growing proportion of e-cigarette users, anti-tobacco experts are concerned that e-cigarette use can serve as a gateway for them to nicotine addiction and ultimately smoking. The literature shows that experimentation with e-cigarettes among adolescents doubled in 2008–2012. One of the presumed reasons for this can be the great variety of flavours of e-cigarettes (up to 8000 are available), including flavours like those of fruit, candy and alcoholic drinks. These could entice young people to experiment with e-cigarettes and then become addicted to nicotine.

For all these reasons, WHO can neither dismiss nor accept the use of e-cigarettes globally without further evidence, and regulation is necessary in the meantime both to protect the public from any potential ill effects and to ensure that these products do not contribute to the tobacco epidemic.

For more information on the WHO report, click here      on www.who.int