Vaping may help explain the record fall in UK smoking rates – Press Release with comments from UKCTAS Directors

UK smoking rates showed a record annual fall between 2015 and 2016 of 1.5 percentage points, based on new statistics released today [Link]. The prevalence of smoking among people aged 18 and above in 2016 was 15.8%, the lowest on record. This dramatic reduction is also the second largest annual fall in the last 40 years.

The UK is an international leader in smoking prevention policy, having introduced high tobacco taxes, a comprehensive advertising ban, prohibited smoking in public places, taken tobacco products out of sight in shops, establishing specialist stop-smoking services and a range of other measures. These policies have caused a sustained downward trend in adult smoking prevalence over the past two decades. Over the past five years, however, the rate of decline has increased substantially, falling by 4.4 percentage points, from 20.2%, since 2011.

Today’s new figures indicate UK smoking is falling faster than would be expected from conventional tobacco control approaches. While all the policies put in place will have made a difference, the most likely explanation for the recent rapid decline is the increasing use by smokers of electronic cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco. Data released by ASH last month estimated that there are now 1.5m people in the UK who used to smoke but now instead use electronic cigarettes.

Professor John Britton said:
“Electronic cigarettes were patented in 2004 but we began to see their use in the UK from around 2010. Since then the proportion of smokers using them has risen steadily. They have rapidly become the most popular aid to stopping smoking, and are now used in more than one third of quit attempts. At first we were unsure what their impact on smoking rates would be, but today’s figures suggest that alongside established tobacco control policies, they may have significantly accelerated the downward trend in smoking”

“Overall these findings vindicate UK policy on vaping: and that doing more to encourage more smokers to make the switch could generate huge benefits in public health: especially among those groups in society where smoking remains common.”

Professor Ann McNeill said:
“Since the millennium the UK has implemented a comprehensive tobacco control strategy to encourage and support smokers to stop and to deter young people from taking up smoking. This strategy included encouraging smokers to switch from deadly cigarettes to less harmful forms of nicotine including electronic cigarettes. It is really important that the new government continues this comprehensive approach and publishes its new Tobacco Control Plan as soon as possible, particularly given the need to tackle inequalities in smoking rates across society. In times of austerity, tobacco control is a good investment, as it benefits not just smokers and their families, but services like the NHS which bear the enormous costs of treating smoking-related illnesses”

Professor Linda Bauld added:
“The UK has taken a liberal approach to vaping, supporting the use of these consumer products for smokers who choose to use them. This has been controversial, and other countries have taken a much more restrictive approach. These new prevalence figures for adults, alongside steady declines in youth smoking uptake, suggest that electronic cigarettes may turn out to be a game changer for tobacco control. However, we know that many smokers are still wary of these products and think they are as harmful as tobacco. That needs to change if the positive trend we see from today’s figures is to be maintained.”

• Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2016 – Released 15 June 2017 External Link

• Smoking statistics in England – 15 June 2017 – Latest smoking compendium report signposting to all the up-to-date smoking data. External Link

 

Download the PDF version of this Press Release

 

New evidence finds standardised cigarette packaging may reduce the number of people who smoke as UK legislation bans the use of branding on all cigarette packets from May 2017.

A Cochrane Review published today finds standardised tobacco packaging may lead to a reduction in smoking prevalence and reduces the appeal of tobacco.

According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco use kills more people worldwide than any other preventable cause of death. Global health experts believe the best way to reduce tobacco use is by stopping people starting to use tobacco and encouraging and helping existing users to stop.

plain-packs-620-x-348-heroThe introduction of standardised (or ‘plain’) packaging was recommended by the World Health Organisation, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) guidelines. This recommendation was based on evidence around tobacco promotion in general and studies which examined the impact of changes in packaging on knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour. Standardised tobacco packaging places restrictions on the appearance of tobacco packs so that there is a uniform colour (and in some cases shape) with no logos or branding apart from health warnings and other government-mandated information, and the brand name appears in a prescribed uniform font, colour and size.

From next month, UK legislation on standardised packaging for all tobacco packs comes into full effect.

Australia was the first country in the world to implement standardised packaging of tobacco products.  The laws, which took full effect there in December 2012, also required enlarged pictorial health warnings.

A team of Cochrane researchers from the UK and Canada have summarised results from studies that examine the impact of standardised packaging on tobacco attitudes and behaviour. They have today published their findings in the Cochrane Library.

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Healthier central England or North–South divide? Analysis of national survey data on smoking and high-risk drinking

In England, around 20% of the population are smokers and 13% drink excessively. These behaviours are leading risk factors for several non-communicable diseases, including cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. It is estimated that around 8000 deaths/year are alcohol-related and 80 000 deaths of adults aged 35 and over are attributed to smoking annually. The prevalence and adverse effects of high-risk drinking and tobacco use are not equally distributed across the country, with large regional variations.

A North–South divide exists for smoking, with higher rates of tobacco use, smoking-related deaths and smoking-related harm in northern regions. 

In contrast, excessive alcohol consumption tends to be lowest in central and eastern regions, while an East versus West divide is seen in the prevalence of alcohol dependency and alcohol sales. These regional variations in consumption do not always map onto experienced harm, a phenomenon known as the Alcohol Harm Paradox. In 2014, alcohol-related death rates were significantly higher among regions in the north of England compared with those in the south.

Objectives: This paper compares patterns of smoking and high-risk alcohol use across regions in England, and assesses the impact on these of adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics.

Design: Population survey of 53 922 adults in England aged 16+ taking part in the Alcohol and Smoking Toolkit Studies.

Measures: Participants answered questions regarding their socioeconomic status (SES), gender, age, ethnicity, Government Office Region, smoking status and completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). High-risk drinkers were defined as those with a score of 8 or more (7 or more for women) on the AUDIT.

Results: In unadjusted analyses, relative to the South West, those in the North of England were more likely to smoke, while those from the East of England, South East and London were less likely. After adjustment for sociodemographics, smoking prevalence was no higher in North East (RR 0.97, p>0.05), North West (RR 0.98, p>0.05) or Yorkshire and the Humber (RR 1.03, p>0.05) but was less common in the East and West Midlands (RR 0.86, p<0.001; RR 0.91, p<0.05), East of England (RR 0.86, p<0.001), South East (RR 0.92, p<0.05) and London (RR 0.85, p<0.001). High-risk drinking was more common in the North but was less common in the Midlands, London and East of England. Adjustment for sociodemographics had little effect. There was a higher prevalence in the North East (RR 1.67, p<0.001), North West (RR 1.42, p<0.001) and Yorkshire and the Humber (RR 1.35, p<0.001); lower prevalence in the East Midlands (RR 0.69, p<0.001), West Midlands (RR 0.77, p<0.001), East of England (RR 0.72, p<0.001) and London (RR 0.71, p<0.001); and a similar prevalence in the South East (RR 1.10, p>0.05)

Figure 2Figure 2: Association between Government Office Region and high-risk drinking: (A) unadjusted;
(B) adjusted for gender, age, ethnicity and socioeconomic status (reference region: South West). Note: this shows the relative risk difference for each region relative to the South West (dotted reference region). Increasing red tones reflect increasingly higher significant risk and increasing blue tones reflect increasingly lower significant risk. Regions shaded white have a similar risk to the South West. Online supplementary figure S9 labels the Government Office Regions in England.
Expand Image – More diagrams in the main report

Conclusions: In adjusted analyses, smoking and high-risk drinking appear less common in ‘central England’ than in the rest of the country. Regional differences in smoking, but not those in high-risk drinking, appear to be explained to some extent by sociodemographic disparities.

Strengths and limitations of this study

  • Used a representative survey about smoking and drinking conducted on a large sample of the adult population in England.

  • Based on the most up-to-date information in England on regional differences in smoking and high-risk drinking accounting for disparities in gender, socioeconomic status (SES), ethnicity and age.

  • Respondents may have underestimated or failed to report their drinking and smoking.

  • Patterns of smoking and alcohol use were only available at the Government Office Region level, whereas important variation may occur at a more micro-geographical level.

bmj

Copyright information:
Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited.

 

Read the full report here!

MAJOR NEW REPORT  – UK HOSPITALS FAIL TO MEET NATIONAL STANDARDS IN EITHER HELPING PATIENTS QUIT SMOKING OR PROVIDING ‘SMOKE-FREE ENVIRONMENTS’

 

According to a major new report launched today (7/12/16) by the British Thoracic Society (BTS), NHS hospitals across UK are falling ‘woefully short’ of national standards on helping patients to quit smoking and enforcing smoke-free premises.

Experts f1-mediumpresenting the findings at the British Thoracic Society (BTS) Winter Meeting, will state that many NHS hospitals are missing out on a ‘golden opportunity’ to provide what is often the most effective front-line treatment for smoking patients who are sick  –  support and medication to help them quit tobacco.

The BTS Report ‘Smoking cessation: policy and practice in NHS hospitals’ is
unique in its scope and size; reviewing the smoking cessation & smoke-free policies and practices of 146 hospitals across UK between April and May 2016 – including the analysis of 14,750 patient records.

The main findings of the report are as follows:

  • Over 7 in 10 (72%) hospital patients who smoked were not asked if they’d like to stop
  • Only 1 in 13 (7.7%) hospital patients who smoked were referred for hospital-based or community treatment for their tobacco addiction
  • Over 1 in 4 (27%) hospital patients were not even asked if they smoke
  • Only 1 in 10 hospitals completely enforce their fully smoke-free premises. Rates of enforcement were even lower for hospitals which provided areas where smoking was allowed. The report highlights the importance of a smoke-free NHS – to trigger and support quit smoking attempts for patients and reduce second hand smoke exposure for children, staff and the public
  • Provision of nicotine replacement therapies and other smoking cessation treatments were ‘poor’ in hospital pharmacy formularies
  • Only 26% of hospitals had an identified consultant ‘lead’ overseeing their smoke-free and smoking cessation plans
  • 50% of frontline healthcare staff in hospitals were not offered training in smoking cessation

In the study, 25% of hospital patients were recorded as being ‘current smokers’ – which is higher than rates in the general adult population (19%)   Other studies have shown that approximately 1.1 million smokers are admitted to NHS hospitals a year.

The Society is using the report findings to call for all hospitals to deliver NICE Guidelines in this area (PH48) and that national regulators such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) hold Hospital Boards accountable for the delivery of smoke-free and smoking cessation hospital policies.

The report also highlights a number of key activities that all NHS hospitals should deliver to help more of their patients quit smoking:

  1. Offer a prescription for Nicotine Replacement Therapy to all patients who smoke to help them cope with their tobacco dependence whilst in hospital
  1. Refer all patients who smoke in hospital to specialised stop smoking support services to explore the option of quitting smoking. Patients can opt out if they like – but the NHS should try to offer the most effective treatment and support whatever the illness – and with many smoking-related conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), support and medication to help people quit smoking are the best front line treatments
  1. Employ an appropriately skilled senior clinician within the hospital to oversee, drive forward, and be accountable for the hospital’s smoking cessation service
  1. Employ smoking cessation practitioners in every hospital – this was recommended by NICE in 2013 but the report shows patchy delivery across the country
  1. Hospital Board involvement in delivering plans is key. Delivering smoke-free hospital grounds – as part of a wider smoking cessation policy – requires Hospital Boards to work together including the chief executive, director of human resources, director of facilities and the medical and nursing directors – in partnership with the ‘smoking cessation lead’ at the hospital

The Society is also encouraging more health professionals to become BTS ‘Stop Smoking Champions’ in their hospital. There are over 160 at present and they deliver a range of vital activities to champion stop smoking service provision.

For further information, contact stopsmokingchampions@brit-thoracic.org.uk or to see a video about the initiative go to: https://www.brit-thoracic.org.uk/standards-of-care/quality-improvement/smoking-cessation/bts-stop-smoking-champions/

Dr Sanjay Agrawal, Consultant Lung Specialist & Chair of the British Thoracic Society’s Tobacco Group, who led the audit said:

“Our report shows that many NHS hospitals are woefully failing to meet national guidance on delivering smoking cessation services and smoke-free premises. This is a dangerous situation that is costing the country dear in both health and economic terms. We must do better. Critically, hospitals are missing out on a golden opportunity to help supply often THE most effective treatment for illnesses that smokers are admitted with – support and treatment for their tobacco dependence.  If patients in other disease areas were not offered, by default, the most effective way to treat their condition – there would probably be an uproar. Nevertheless, this happens all too frequently with people with smoking-related illnesses. Many hospital boards need to sort out their leadership, plans and resources on this issue – so they can deliver some simple but life-changing steps: identify patients who smoke, ask them if they’d like to quit – and give effective treatment and support to help them stop.”

Dr Lisa Davies, Consultant Respiratory Physician at Aintree University Hospital and Chair of the British Thoracic Society Board, said:

“Being admitted to hospital should be a real window of opportunity for smokers to quit – given that smoking should be prohibited on the premises, tobacco use may be linked to their health condition, and expert stop smoking advice and therapies are potentially ‘on tap.’ This report shows, however, that we need to fund, plan and deliver smoking cessation work in hospitals far better – so we can fully deliver on this opportunity for our patients.

At a wider level, there is a real fight going on for the future of stop smoking support services in this country.  Many local authorities, facing overall budget reductions, have cut funding for community-based stop smoking services – meaning that people who need support may have nowhere to go.

The NHS must urgently work together, alongside local authorities, to plan and fund these vital services – to ensure no-one who needs treatment and support to stop smoking falls through the net.”

British Thoracic Society – UK hospitals fail to meet national standards in helping patients to quit smoking

British Thoracic Society, Smoking Cessation Audit Report:

capture

External news sources:

AOL – Hospitals ‘woefully failing’ to crack down on smoking

The Guardian – A third of children hospitalised with asthma ‘exposed to cigarette smoke’

Birmingham Mail – Number of patients forced to wait for hospital bed ‘rockets in five years’

NHE – All STPs urged to help patients quit smoking

The BMJ – NHS hospitals must help patients quit smoking, says British Thoracic Society

Teenagers who play video games with alcohol & tobacco content are more likely to drink & smoke.

Images and references to alcohol and tobacco in popular video games may be influencing UK teens who play the games and the age restriction system is not working, according to a new study. 

Experts from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at The University of Nottingham have carried out the first ever analysis of best-selling video games to find out the extent to which the games include this content and to assess the link between playing the games and drinking and smoking behaviour.

They found that teenagers who play video games featuring alcohol and tobacco references appeared to be directly influenced because they were twice as likely to have tried smoking or drinking themselves.

‘Cut scenes’ on YouTube

The research examined the content of 32 UK best-selling video games of 2012/2013 and carried out a large online survey of adolescents playing games with alcohol and tobacco content. An analysis of ‘cut scenes’ uploaded by gamers to YouTube from the five most popular games was also carried out. All the games studied were from the genres of stealth, action adventure, open world, shooter and survival/horror because they involve avatars that look and act like real people.

The study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, found alcohol and tobacco content in 44% of the most popular video games. They also found this content was not reported by the official regulator, the Pan-European Games Information (PEGI) system which informs the Video Standards Council age ratings that help parents decide whether game content is suitable for their children.

Subliminal messages

The researchers used YouGov survey tools to ask 1,094 UK adolescents aged 11-17 whether they had played any of the most popular video games identified as containing either tobacco or alcohol imagery. They were also asked whether and to what extent they smoked or drank alcohol. The study found that adolescents who had played at least one game with tobacco or alcohol content were twice as likely to have tried smoking or consumed alcohol themselves.

Out of the top five most popular games, Grand Theft Auto V & VI contained the highest level of alcohol and smoking content using fictitious brands only. The other top games containing these references were Call of Duty:Black Ops II, Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 3 and Assassin’s Creed III. There was no electronic cigarette content.

Video and Film
FIG. 1.  Percentage of total coding intervals containing alcohol content by category in the five games.
Video and Film
FIG. 2.  Percentage of total coding intervals containing tobacco content by category in the five games.

 

Psychologist Dr Joanne Cranwell from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, said:

”Although around 54% of UK adolescents play video games online, parental concern over exposure to inappropriate content while playing video games seems to be lower than for other media, like movies for example. While 80% of children aged 10-15 play packaged or online video games with an age rating higher than their age, more than half of British parents are unaware of the harmful content this exposes them to.

Video games are clearly attractive to adolescents regardless of age classification. It appears that official PEGI content descriptors are failing to restrict youth access to age inappropriate content. We think that the PEGI system needs to include both alcohol and tobacco in their content descriptors. Also, game developers could be offered incentives to reduce the amount of smoking and drinking in their games or to at least reference smoking and drinking on their packaging and websites.

As a child protection method it is naïve for both the games industry and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, who regulate the PEGI system, to rely on age ratings alone. Future research should focus on identifying the levels of exposure in terms of dose that youth gamers are exposed to during actual gameplay and the effects of this on long- term alcohol and smoking behaviour.”

A copy of the full paper is online here: Alcohol and tobacco content in UK video games and their association with alcohol and tobacco use among young people.

News Reports:

Teenagers influenced by video games with alcohol, smoking content – ScienceDaily

Nottingham study finds teenagers ‘are influenced’ by smoking and alcohol in video games – NottsTV

GRAND THEFT WARNING – Teenagers who play video games are ‘TWICE as likely to smoke and drink alcohol’ – TheSUN

Teens who play Grand Theft Auto are ‘twice as likely to smoke or drink alcohol’ – AngleNews

Does YOUR teenager play Grand Theft Auto? They are ‘twice as likely to smoke or drink alcohol’ – DailyMail

Are recent attempts to quit smoking associated with reduced drinking in England? | Research report

 

This study sought to address the following research questions:

  • What is the association among smokers in England between a recent attempt to quit smoking and alcohol consumption?
  • What is the association among smokers with higher risk alcohol consumption in England between a recent attempt to stop smoking and a current attempt to cut down on their drinking?

The researchers looked at the association among smokers in England between a recent attempt to quit smoking and alcohol consumption. They identified smokers as light or heavy drinkers (light was indicated with an Audit-C score below 5 and heavy was indicated with an Audit-C score greater than 5) and analysed their recent attempt to stop smoking (identified by those who had attempted to quit in the last week with those who had not) and a current attempt to cut down on their drinking.

This was an observational study which means that it cannot demonstrate cause and effect. It may be that smokers choose to restrict their alcohol consumption when attempting to quit smoking to reduce the chance of relapse. Alternatively, it could be that people who drink less are more likely to quit smoking. If this is the case, smokers with higher alcohol consumption may need further encouragement to quit smoking.

Jamie Brown said “We can’t yet determine the direction of causality. Further research is needed to disentangle whether attempts to quit smoking precede attempts to restrict alcohol consumption or vice versa. We’d also need to rule out other factors which make both more likely. Such as the diagnosis of a health problem causing attempts to cut down on both drinking and smoking.”

This study is part of an ongoing Smoking Toolkit Study and Alcohol Toolkit Study, designed to provide tracking information about smoking, alcohol consumption and related behaviors in England. Each month a new sample of approximately 1700 adults aged 16 and over complete a face-to-face computer assisted survey. The Smoking Toolkit Study and the Alcohol Toolkit Study are primarily funded by Cancer Research UK and the NIHR School for Public Health Research respectively.

Background

Alcohol consumption during attempts at smoking cessation can provoke relapse and so smokers are often advised to restrict their alcohol consumption during this time. This study assessed at a population-level whether smokers having recently initiated an attempt to stop smoking are more likely than other smokers to report i) lower alcohol consumption and ii) trying to reduce their alcohol consumption.

Method

Cross-sectional household surveys of 6287 last-year smokers who also completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test consumption questionnaire (AUDIT-C). Respondents who reported attempting to quit smoking in the last week were compared with those who did not. Those with AUDIT-C≥5 were also asked if they were currently trying to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume.

Results

After adjustment for socio-demographic characteristics and current smoking status, smokers who reported a quit attempt within the last week had lower AUDIT-C scores compared with those who did not report an attempt in the last week (βadj = −0.56, 95 % CI = −1.08 to −0.04) and were less likely to be classified as higher risk (AUDIT-C≥5: ORadj  = 0.57, 95 % CI = 0.38 to 0.85). The lower AUDIT-C scores appeared to be a result of lower scores on the frequency of ‘binge’ drinking item (βadj  = −0.25, 95 % CI = −0.43 to −0.07), with those who reported a quit attempt within the last week compared with those who did not being less likely to binge drink at least weekly (ORadj = 0.54, 95 % CI = 0.29 to 0.999) and more likely to not binge drink at all (ORadj  = 1.70, 95 % CI = 1.16 to 2.49). Among smokers with higher risk consumption (AUDIT-C≥5), those who reported an attempt to stop smoking within the last week compared with those who did not were more likely to report trying to reduce their alcohol consumption (ORadj = 2.98, 95 % CI = 1.48 to 6.01).

Conclusion

Smokers who report starting a quit attempt in the last week also report lower alcohol consumption, including less frequent binge drinking, and appear more likely to report currently attempting to reduce their alcohol consumption compared with smokers who do not report a quit attempt in the last week.

Lead author Jamie Brown, from University College London, England, said:

“These results go against the commonly held view that people who stop smoking tend to drink more to compensate. It’s possible that they are heeding advice to try to avoid alcohol because of its link to relapse.”

   Who was involved?

Jamie Brown, Robert West, Emma Beard, Alan Brennan, Colin Drummond, Duncan Gillespie, Matthew Hickman, John Holmes, Eileen Kaner, Susan Michie.

BMC Public Health, 2016; 16 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3223-6

Read the full report on BMC here!

 

 

Research associate position available at the University of Bath | Tobacco Control Research Group | Fixed Term

bathThe University of Bath is seeking to appoint a Research Associate in Public Health/Applied Policy Research based at the University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group within the Department for Health, which is part of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTCS).

The successful applicant will be working on an exciting project, funded by Cancer Research UK, on researching the activities of the tobacco industry, predominantly in the UK but also internationally, as and where necessary. The new post-holder will work as part of a small research team for the University’s widely acclaimed knowledge exchange platform, TobaccoTactics.org, helping the research leader ensure the website’s quality, relevance and timeliness. The Research Associate will also be expected to contribute to and publish their research in high-impact journals in collaboration with other members of the Tobacco Control Research Group and present their work at conferences and events where relevant.

The successful candidate will hold a PhD in a relevant subject (e.g. public health, international relations, political and social sciences, business studies, law, and business), or an equivalent professional qualification and significant relevant experience where applicable. The candidate will ideally have a track record in undertaking mixed methods research and must be highly motivated and committed. Experience in effective knowledge exchange and writing for diverse audiences to secure research impact would be advantageous. Ideally you will have experience of undertaking policy related research in tobacco control or a very similar area.

This is a full time position, fixed-term for up to 9 months.

For more information and to apply click here.