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.

Action against the illicit tobacco trade

Eliminating the illicit trade in tobacco would generate an annual tax windfall of US$31 billion for governments, improve public health, help cut crime and curb an important revenue source for the tobacco industry. WHO is calling on Member States to sign the Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products which, once fully implemented will replenish government revenues and allow more spending on health.

For more information, click here on www.who.int

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

New, improved iCoach for ex-smokers

Every year nearly 700,000 Europeans die prematurely from smoking – on average 14 years earlier than non-smokers – yet almost a third of Europeans smoke, with 94% of them having started before the age of 25.

The iCoach was an essential component of the EU’s “Ex-smokers are unstoppable” campaign which saw more than a third of the 431,000 registered users stop smoking after three months with iCoach. A new version of this innovative digital health coach that helps people quit smoking has now been launched and is available both online and as a mobile app for Apple and Android devices. Its latest feature is a special “challenger” function that enables people to set personal, phase-specific challenges.

For more information, click here on http://ec.europa.eu

Empower women: facing the challenge of tobacco use in Europe

One of the most striking things about smoking prevalence in Europe has been the relentless increase in smoking by women and girls. This book looks at the best examples of tobacco control policies and  programmes worldwide with case studies covering marketing, use of mass media, direct marketing to females, protection from exposure, cessation services and labelling.

To download the book, click here on www.euro.who.int

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

Non-smoking is the new norm

Non-smoking is becoming the new norm worldwide, according to a new online WHO  report:   Global Report on Trends in Tobacco Smoking.

New data show a declining rate of tobacco use and an increase in the number of non-smokers across the world, although there are wide regional variations. WHO believes that governments must intensify their actions to combat the tobacco industry and dramatically reduce the consumption of tobacco products still further if they are to really protect public health.

To read more, click here on www.who.int

Plain tobacco packaging

There is evidence confirming the effectiveness of plain packaging measures in smoking prevention and cessation. Consumers perceive such packaging to be ugly and dull and it decreases the attractiveness of tobacco products and smoking – especially to young people and women.

According to information disclosed by the tobacco industry in the context of a Minnesota lawsuit of 1987, when smokers were offered their usual cigarettes at half price – in generic brown boxes – only 21% were interested. The reason, in the view of the industry, was that packaging makes a statement about the consumer, who is deeply affected by how they are perceived by others.

The new Tobacco Products Directive adopted by the European Union in March 2014 will enter into force in 2016, making it possible for Member States to adopt plain packaging measures at the  national level.

For more information, click here

Smoking and health inequalities

In 2012 one in three women and one in four men in the EU were still smoking. This study provides an evidence base for tobacco control interventions and how these interventions affect inequalities in health among smokers.

To read the full report or the executive summary, click here on http://ec.europa.eu