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ACOSH Advocacy in Action - 12 August 2021

Welcome to the latest edition of the ACOSH Advocacy in Action e-bulletin for 2021.
We aim to provide topical information on advocacy for tobacco control in Western Australia, Nationally and around the world. Please forward to others who may be interested.
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PMI’s surprise embrace of a cigarette-free future must not distract from tobacco control

“The CEO of Philip Morris International (PMI), Jacek Olczak, has made a surprising request for the UK government to abolish traditional cigarettes by 2030–including his own. The tobacco executive told the Mail on Sunday that PMI can “see the world without cigarettes… the sooner it happens, the better it is for everyone.” The headline-grabbing statement, however, is part of a larger communications strategy in Western markets, where falling cigarette sales are denting profits across the UK and US. Olczak’s apparent endorsement of tobacco control masks Big Tobacco’s ongoing sabotage of regulatory efforts in less affluent nations.

“By surreptitiously interfering with public health policies from Indonesia to Zambia, the tobacco industry continues to shore up cigarette sales even as they claim to be “unsmoking our world”. The influence of companies like PMI on tobacco control is particularly worrying given that tobacco use – responsible for more than 8 million preventable deaths each year – disproportionately affects people in low- and middle-income countries, which are home to 80% of the world’s 1.3 billion smokers.”

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Tobacco giant Philip Morris raises bid for respiratory drugmaker

“Tobacco giant Philip Morris has raised its bid to buy respiratory drugmaker Vectura to more than £1bn.

“Vectura makes inhaled medicines and devices to treat respiratory illnesses such as asthma, and counts Novartis and GSK among its customers.

“The Marlboro cigarette maker increased its offer to £1.65 ($2.29) per share after US private equity firm Carlyle offered £958m ($1.3bn) on Friday.

“Vectura has not yet responded to requests for comment on the new bid.

“It previously said it was backing Carlyle’s offer and withdrawing its recommendation for Philip Morris’ earlier bid.

“The London-listed company said on Friday that it believed it could better positioned under Carlyle’s ownership, noting the “reported uncertainties relating to the impact on Vectura’s wider stakeholders arising as a result of the possibility of the company being owned by PMI (Philip Morris)”.

PMI has also recently aquired OtiTopic, a US respiratory drug development company with a late-stage inhalable acetylsalicylic acid treatment for acute myocardial infarction.

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The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World – even less independent from its tobacco company funder

“Funding “independent” research is a long-standing tobacco industry strategy used to sow doubt, offer ineffective “solutions” to industry-caused problems, and legitimize industry efforts to engage in public health policymaking. This research is often funded via third-parties, deliberately established to obscure tobacco industry involvement. Results are then used to obstruct effective public health policy adoption and implementation, prevent or defend against litigation, and maximize tobacco consumption (and thereby increase industry profits). These underhand tactics contribute to large-scale tobacco-caused death and disease that are entirely preventable.

“Litigation against the tobacco industry in the US identified the malign influence of these efforts, forced the dissolution of major tobacco industry third-party funders of research and precluded participating companies from reconstituting similar industry wide organisations. This, however, left a loophole for companies not directly involved in the litigation. Given the history of the tobacco industry utilizing “independent” research to undermine public health, Cohen et al. proposed criteria that would need to be met for a tobacco company to support research in a manner that might be acceptable to the research community; those criteria included transparency and an independent research agenda.”

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Big Tobacco’s price games undermine tobacco taxation

“When a government budget announces an increase on the price of a packet of cigarettes, the tobacco company just passes it on to the consumer, right? No, not quite, according to new research published in Tobacco Control.

“Researchers at the University of Bath found that the tobacco industry uses a variety of sophisticated pricing strategies to undermine tax increases, which keeps the number of people addicted to smoking – and the industry’s profits – high. This is important because research shows that taxation is the most effective form of tobacco control.”

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New Zealand: New rules aimed at stopping youth from vaping come into effect

“New vaping legislation has come into effect today which may make it harder for teenagers to access nicotine products.

“General retailers – dairies, supermarkets and service stations – across the country will now only be allowed to sell three vape flavours – mint, menthol, or tobacco.

“It is part of a roll-out of SmokeFree legislation that is aimed to protect young people from being influenced to start smoking.

“Flavoured vapes are popular among teenagers, and up until November last year, there were no age restrictions on purchasing the products.

“Retailer fines for selling tobacco products to minors can reach up to $10,000.

“Other vape liquids are now only at specialised stores, which have tighter security and prevention mechanisms to deter those under 18.”

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All Eyes on FDA: The Upcoming Regulation of Juul E-Cigarettes — Will the public health be protected?

“For years, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the vast majority of e-cigarettes to stay on the market even though none of them have the premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) orders they need to be sold legally. But all that is changing. Following a court ruling, FDA must issue PMTA orders by September 9, pro or con, for every e-cigarette brand or variant that has applied to stay on the market and take any not receiving permissive orders off the market.

“So, the big questions are whether FDA will issue PMTA orders to allow the continued marketing of any e-cigarettes, and if so, what restrictions and requirements FDA might put on the permitted e-cigarettes, their flavors, and their marketing.”

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Smoking-related cancer twice as prevalent among poor in England

“Smoking causes almost twice as many cancer cases among the poor than the well-off, according to new findings that underline the close link between cigarettes and deprivation.

“About 11,247 cases of cancer caused by smoking are diagnosed among the poorest 20% of people in England each year, but far fewer – 6,200 – among those in the top 20% income bracket.

“Cancer Research UK, which produced the estimates, said the findings underlined why ministers should impose a levy on tobacco firms to help fund the cost of helping tobacco addicts to quit.

“It’s very concerning that smoking causes more cancer cases in more deprived groups,” said Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.”

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Smoking Cessation Resources Can and Should Be Integrated in Lung Cancer Screening

“The study in this issue of CHEST by Shen et al highlights our ongoing inability to recognize and capitalize on the opportunity that lung cancer screening offers for connecting long-term smokers with tobacco treatment. In this detailed analysis of care for 423 smokers participating in lung cancer screening at one of the country’s flagship cancer centers [Seattle, Washington], the authors observe that only 17% of patients were connected to prescriptions for tobacco treatment, and only 5% received both counseling referrals and medication, the long-standing recommendation as the best approach for helping patients quit. Unfortunately, this study is not alone in noting the low provision of tobacco treatment for long-term smokers participating in lung cancer screening.”

“Why are only 5% of patients receiving optimal care? This study and other studies describe a lack of resources and time. Although discussing smoking cessation is not a simple process, and requires considerable empathy and skill by the provider, is it acceptable that we are not putting resources into this component of screening?

“… We should follow a core principle of population-based care of not letting individual patients fall through the cracks because of a lack of time and resources.”

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OPINION: Why controlling the vaping epidemic is a significant challenge not just in schools but society

“We cannot let history repeat itself.

“I am a mother of two teenagers and the principal at a Catholic girls’ school. I have concerns about the rapid rise in vaping among adolescents and the potential effects of the unknown chemicals on the health of our young people.

“Vaping began as an idea to help smokers quit but has quickly developed into a multi-billion dollar industry.

“Australia has one of the lowest rates of smoking in the world. Public health strategies and community campaigns have saved millions in national health costs.

“We have taken our smoking rate from 25 per cent in 1991 to about 11.6 per cent in 2019. Truly amazing.

“It took a long time to make changes to the sale of cigarettes, understand the health implications, and change legislation to reduce consumption. Vaping has caught us by surprise, and I hope we can act quickly to prevent history from repeating itself.

“… I am alarmed that we are allowing tobacco companies to refuel their income with this new revenue stream from vaping. They are actively marketing to our young people, and we need to take action.”

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Tweet of the week

“Our new @HealthProm_J_Au paper: smoking has been banned in pubs and bars for ages, it’s now time to stop selling cigarettes in these same venues,” said Associate Professor Becky Freeman.

Read more
Tobacco purchasing motivations and behaviours in alcohol-licensed venues: A cross sectional survey of Australian young adults – Health Promotion Journal of Australia

Tobacco control news

Return on investment of Canadian tobacco control policies implemented between 2001 and 2016 – Tobacco Control Journal

“The Devil’s Playbook” is a great read – Professor Stanton Glantz Blog

Effect of smoke-free legislation on respiratory health services use in children with asthma: a populationbased open cohort study in Ontario, Canada – BMJOpen

Foundation for a Smoke Free World (funded by Philip Morris International) recruiting for its “Advisory Board for Smoking Cessation Research” – Tobacco Control Blog

Opposing goals: The tobacco industry vs. public health – Action on Smoking & Health