UKCTAS comment on the latest tobacco control plan for England: “Towards a smoke-free generation”

The new tobacco control plan, ‘Towards a smoke free generation’ is a welcome restatement of the government’s commitment to reduce the prevalence, and hence the burden of death and disability caused, by smoking. The recognition that harm reduction strategies can play a key role in achieving these ambitions is applauded, and puts the UK at the forefront of global tobacco policy. However, the ambition to reduce adult smoking in England from 15.5% to 12% by 2022, representing as it does a reduction of 0.5 of a percentage point per year, is modest given that smoking prevalence has fallen by 2.9 percentage points in the last three years.

Recognising reducing smoking in pregnancy as a priority, and aiming to reduce prevalence in pregnancy to 6% or less, is welcome but will not be achieved without adequate resources, improved care pathways and addressing significant gaps in training for midwives and obstetricians. The commitment to make NHS inpatient mental health settings smoke-free by 2018 is long overdue, but it is disappointing that the same strong commitment is not extended to other NHS settings.

The ambition to make stop-smoking services more available is also welcome, but like the commitments to NHS settings and for pregnancy requires funding: when public health budgets are being slashed, how will local authorities afford to increase their smoking service provision?

What matters now is delivery: Action to achieve and exceed these ambitions is the next and crucial step

PDF of the Press Release

Experts say WHO needs better understanding of the evidence on e-cigs to inform its international tobacco control treaty.

A new WHO report fails to properly evaluate the evidence on e-cigarettes and could even undermine international efforts to reduce smoking, says a group of UK based academics.

UK academics are calling for better understanding of the potential benefits of e-cigarettes to reducing the smoking pandemic ahead of an international gathering of countries that have signed the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.

The 7th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global public health treaty, will be held in Delhi, India from 7th-12th November 2016. At this meeting, Parties to the treaty (countries and other jurisdictions) will discuss whether similar policy measures recommended to reduce tobacco use should be applied to e-cigarettes.

In advance of the COP the World Health Organisation published a report about Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDDS), also known as e-cigarettes. This aimed to summarise the evidence about these devices.

Academics from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence, have today published a robust critique of the WHO report setting out a series of concerns about the content of the document which, in their view, screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-12-37-14does not fairly represent existing evidence on e-cigarettes. Their critique examines each element of the WHO report and identifies flaws in the way the evidence is presented and problems with how the report could be interpreted, potentially encouraging countries to adopt excessive restrictions on e-cigarettes which could undermine efforts to reduce smoking.

The UKCTAS critique points to evidence set out in the recent Royal College of Physician’s’ report ‘Nicotine without Smoke’ and subsequent research which recognise that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking and that smokers who find it difficult to stop should be encouraged to use them.

The WHO report fails to accurately present what is already known about e-cigarettes. In particular, it: positions e-cigarettes as a threat rather than an opportunity to reduce smoking; fails to accurately quantify any risks of e-cigarettes compared with smoking; misrepresents existing evidence about any harms to bystanders; discounts the fact that e-cigarettes are helping smokers to quit; does not recognise the place of some promotion of e-cigarettes to encourage smokers to switch to these less harmful products; fails to understand that the flavours in e-cigarettes are useful for people trying to stop smoking; mischaracterises the current e-cigarette market screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-12-39-18and appears to support very restrictive policies on e-cigarettes without including any good policy analysis. In addition, the WHO report does not acknowledge that significant restrictions on e-cigarettes could lead to unintended consequences, including increases in smoking.

Finally, the researchers point out that the WHO briefing is based on four unpublished papers which are still undergoing peer review, which does not allow for open, transparent scrutiny of the evidence. This does not, therefore, provide a good basis for policy making and risks undermining rather than promoting the aims of the FCTC, which is a treaty that was designed to help countries reduce smoking rates and save lives.

To read the full report click here.

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UKCTAS Air Quality Report used to support the move to #Smokefree Prisons in 2016

Leah Jayes, University of Nottingham:

Our findings provide strong evidence that smoking in prisons in England is a source of high second-hand smoke exposure for staff members and prisoners. We are pleased that these findings have been instrumental in the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) decision to start their smoke-free roll out throughout prisons in England and Wales from next month. The harms of second-hand smoke are well established, this move will improve the health and well-being of those who live and work in prisons in England and Wales.

It is estimated that around 80% of the prison population smoke and we appreciate that this is the start of a long journey towards a completely smoke-free prison estate in the UK. However, we know that Young Offender Institutes and Mental Health Units in England, and prisons in other countries with similar penal systems have all implemented similar smoke-free policy and it often soon becomes the norm.

UKCTAS will continue our collaborative work with NOMS and work closely with the four pilot prisons in the South-West to evaluate their move towards becoming smoke-free in 2016. NOMS have outlined a phased approach for all remaining prisons in England to go smoke-free in the future.

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