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ACOSH Advocacy in Action - 15 July 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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A decade on from plain packaging, what is the result?

“Cigarettes today are sold in drab olive-brown boxes, replete with yellow warning labels that shout “SMOKING KILLS” next to ugly photographs of gangrenous and rotting toes.

“There’s a whole generation of younger people who haven’t seen them sold any other way in Australia.

“But more than a decade ago, plain packaging was far from reality as tobacco companies and libertarians fought against plans by the Rudd and Gillard governments to introduce it, alongside a hike in tobacco excise, aimed at reducing the number of smokers.

“Ten years ago, Mike Daube watched from the public gallery at Parliament House as then-health minister Nicola Roxon introduced the plain packaging legislation.

“We are taking this action because tobacco is not like any other legal product. When used as intended, it is lethal,” Roxon said in her speech on July 6, 2011.

“Despite Australia’s success in reducing smoking rates over recent decades, tobacco remains one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease … killing over 15,000 Australians each and every year. It is therefore incumbent on us to do all we can to stamp it out.”

“Daube, an Emeritus Professor of health policy at Curtin University, chaired the committee that researched and recommended plain packaging as a way to reduce smoking rates. He says that moment was a huge step in public health for both Australia and the world more broadly.”

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US Graphic Warnings Pushed Back to July 2022

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has delayed the effective date by which cigarette manufacturers will be required to print graphic health warnings on their products by three months to July 13, 2022, reports The Winston-Salem Journal.

“It is at least the fourth delay for the graphic warning labels when counting previously set launch dates of June 18, 2021, Oct. 16, 2021, Jan. 14, 2022, and April 14, 2022.

“The FDA released its final rule requiring new graphic warnings for cigarettes in March 2020. The rule calls for labels that feature some of the lesser known health risks of smoking, such as diabetes. The graphic warnings must cover to cover the top 50 percent of the front and rear panels of packages, as well as at least 20 percent of the top of advertisements.

“In April and May 2020, cigarette manufacturers and retailers sued the FDA, arguing that the graphic warning requirements amount to governmental anti-smoking advocacy because the government has never forced makers of a legal product to use their own advertising to spread an emotionally charged message urging adults not to use their products.

“In a more recent challenge, tobacco companies argued that the deadline was too onerous due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. They also pointed to the risk that they would lose their investments in new packaging if the graphic health warning requirement were to be thrown out in court.”

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Alcohol, cigarette use down: The budget hit that will affect all taxpayers

“Falling rates of smoking and drinking combined with the rise of electric vehicles will punch a hole in the federal budget worth tens of billions of dollars that will have to be picked up by taxpayers, according to figures in the latest intergenerational report.

“Tobacco consumption has plummeted in the past two years, partly due to sharp increases in cigarette excise, which is the fourth-largest individual tax collected by the federal government. While the excise is aimed at encouraging people to give up smoking, the fact that it is working is eating into government revenue. In the 2022-23 financial year, the tax is now expected to bring in $2.4 billion less than previously forecast.

“Similarly, alcohol consumption is down and more electric cars are on the road (up 62 per cent in the past year), hitting alcohol and fuel excises respectively. Grattan Institute CEO Danielle Wood said without major tax reform more heavy lifting would be done by workers, while Deloitte Access Economics director Chris Richardson warned “a reckoning is coming”.

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148 organisations call for phasing out the commercial sale of cigarettes

ACOSH along with 147 organisations, universities and cancer centres from around the world have called on governments to commit to ending the commercial sale of cigarettes.

“We cannot simply burden future generations with an epidemic we can and should solve now. It’s time to go beyond only convincing people not to start or to quit smoking; we must remove the most dangerous consumer product in history from shelves.

The idea of phasing out tobacco sales is neither radical nor theoretical.

“Society has banned the sale of products that are far less harmful and even useful, like lead gasoline, chlorofluorocarbons, and asbestos. What is radical is allowing an addictive product that kills when used as intended to be more readily available than milk.”

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Fines on the cards as Australia tightens vaping product standards

“Businesses will face fines of up to $11 million from later this year if they supply nicotine vaping products that fall foul of a strict new set of safety guidelines from the medicines regulator.

“From October, minimum safety and quality standards will come into effect for vaping goods that are supplied into Australia and are not registered in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. There are currently no nicotine vaping products in the register.

“The move comes as part of an overhaul of vaping regulations which will mean Australians must have a prescription before buying e-cigarettes and vaping products online from overseas.

“The new quality rules specify that the products must not contain any active ingredients other than nicotine. They also detail set labelling and packaging rules, including warnings to keep the goods out of reach of children.

“A TGA spokeswoman said supplying non-compliant products was a criminal offence and could also result in civil penalties and fines “up to 5,000 penalty units for an individual – up to $1,110,000 – and 50,000 penalty units for a corporation – up to $11,100,000”.

“Changes to Australia’s e-cigarette regulations mean that from October, the pharmacy sector will have a much larger role to play in sales of the product. Liquid nicotine will be able to be legally supplied domestically by pharmacists upon the presentation of a prescription.

“The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says the move will be a significant change in the industry. “It is important for pharmacists to be assured that unapproved vaporiser nicotine products have met a minimum safety and quality standard prior to supply to a patient,” the group said in its submission on the new rules.”

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Pharmacies supplying prescription nicotine e-cigarettes may, in some circumstances, be allowed advertise, TGA says

“Advertising the availability of nicotine e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine to patients with a prescription may, in specified circumstances, be allowed by pharmacies, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) says.

“The announcement follows the listing on Friday 2 July of a special permission for pharmacists to make ‘restricted representations’ of these products.

“In a statement released today (Monday 5 July), the TGA said “generally, it is not lawful to advertise prescription medicines. However, the TGA has granted a legal permission which allows pharmacies and a pharmacy marketing groups to advertise (i.e. promote), through certain media, where to obtain nicotine e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine with a prescription”.

“This means that patients who have been prescribed liquid nicotine for smoking cessation will know where they can fill prescriptions,” the statement said.

“The pharmacy must ensure that such advertising is within the terms of the Therapeutic Goods (Restricted and Prohibited Representations – Nicotine) Permission 2021.”

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Vaping side effects unclear: ‘Wild West’ all over

“Researchers fear they don’t yet understand vaping and e-cigarettes’ impacts on young people, as the products surge in popularity among teens across Australia without enough medical data to track their effects.

“A new study from Monash University’s School of Public Health & Preventative Medicine monitored more than 500 people’s smoking and breathing habits, uncovering higher rates of asthma symptoms and irregular breathing patterns in those who smoked e-cigarettes.

“While the sample tracked breathing patterns of over 18s, Monash University clinical epidemiology Professor Michael Abramson said younger people in the sample were more likely to have vaped or smoked an e-cigarette.

“Prof Abramson said the trend was “a great concern” because the popular nicotine products were so new compared to cigarettes and tobacco, so the long-term impacts were not yet fully understood.”

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Electronic cigarettes: Modern instruments for toxic lung delivery and posing risk for the development of chronic disease

“Following the emergence of electronic cigarette, or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI) in 2019 in the US, regulation of e-cigarettes has become globally tighter and the collective evidence of the detrimental effects of vaping has grown.

“The danger of cellular distress and altered homeostasis is heavily associated with the modifiable nature of electronic cigarette devices. An array of harmful chemicals and elevated concentrations of metals have been detected in e-cigarette aerosols which have been linked to various pathogeneses.

“Vaping is linked to increased inflammation, altered lipid homeostasis and mitochondrial dysfunction whilst also increasing microbial susceptibility whilst the long-term damage is yet to be observed. The scientific evidence is mounting and highlighting that, along with traditional tobacco cigarette smoking, electronic cigarette vaping is not a safe practice.”

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How corporations influence science, and why they do it

“The Covid pandemic has brought science and scientists to the forefront of public attention. And public trust in science – science which informs unprecedented policies that protect public health – has never been so essential. To be “guided by the science” means that the public, academics, health professionals, policy-makers, and the media must have confidence that scientific research has been conducted with integrity.

“Science, and the messages drawn from it, can be manipulated by vested interests. And major industries have used science to delay progress in tackling threats to human and planetary health.

“This new study from the University of Bath brings together, for the first time, literature on eight corporate sectors to understand how they use science to weaken policy, prevent litigation, and promote industry products and practices to maximise corporate profitability.”

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WHO study group on tobacco product regulation: Report on the scientific basis of tobacco product regulation

“This report of the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation provides the Director-General with scientifically sound, evidence-based recommendations for Member States about tobacco product regulation. The outcomes and recommendations address a number of issues concerning novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products, such as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS) and heated tobacco products (HTPs) and improves understanding of Member States on these products.”
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Smoker’s butts causing global litter havoc

“The world’s 1.3 billion smokers “improperly dispose of” an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarettes each year, making the butts “the most littered item on the planet”, according to STOP, an anti-tobacco organisation.

“But even that deluge is “only a portion of the environmental harm caused by the tobacco industry,” STOP said, as tobacco is not only “grown on deforested lands” but its production “degrades soil and pollutes air, land and water.”

“Billions of trees are chopped down each year to make cigarettes, accounting for five per cent of global deforestation, according to STOP, which said cigarette butts make up around 20 per cent of debris gathered during ocean clean-ups.

“Chemicals leaching from a cigarette butt could be toxic enough to kill 50 per cent of the saltwater and freshwater fish exposed for 96 hours, going by experiments cited by STOP that saw butts soaked for 24 hours in a litre of water.”

See also

The Tobacco Industry and the Environment – ExposeTobacco.org

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Juul: Taking Academic Corruption to a New Level

“Juul, the Times reports, “paid $51,000 to have the entire May/June issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior devoted to publishing 11 studies funded by the company offering evidence that Juul products help smokers quit.”

“The $51,000 fee included $6,500 to unlock the entire journal for public access—so you can read the entire special 219-page Juul issue here. It’s fascinating. There are 26 named co-authors on the 11 studies. According to the “Conflict of Interest” statements associated with them, 18 of the co-authors are either current full-time employees of Juul, or were full-time employees at the time they conducted the research. Five others are consultants with PinneyAssociates, working “on an exclusive basis to Juul Labs.” And the final three, who co-authored one of the 11 studies, are employees of the Centre for Substance Use Research, an “independent” consultancy that designed that study under a contract with … Juul Labs.”

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Smoke screens: vaping on film looks less glamorous than the Hollywood smoking of yesteryear

“The murder investigation hits another dead end. Tired and frustrated, the detective stomps out of the station. She stares into the middle distance, forcefully sucking on a vape and expelling smoky puffs. Actor Kate Winslett has smoked on screen before, but not like this.

“The tobacco and entertainment industries have long and tangled histories — including product placement in movies, television sponsorships and promotional relationships with glamorous Hollywood stars. In 2012, the US Surgeon General’s report found “a causal relationship between depictions of smoking in the movies and the initiation of smoking among young people”.

“Now new forms of nicotine consumption are being reflected in popular culture. Is vaping in movies and television merely a case of history repeating or something else entirely?”

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Tobacco Control Advocates Help End Industry PR Opportunities

“Big Tobacco knows it has a reputation problem; it’s one of the reasons the industry is strategically pivoting its narrative. Certain companies are even denouncing some of their own products, claiming they wish to move away from cigarettes. They are trying to portray themselves as ambassadors of science, corporate responsibility and even COVID-19 economic recovery, rather than hawkers of products that kill more than 8 million people every year.

“Tobacco control advocates aren’t falling for it. Here are six recent examples of the industry being called out and prevented from trying to push its PR agenda.”

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Tweet of the week

“Woolworths continues its greenwashing campaign while being responsible along with Coles and IGA for over 50% of cigarette sales contributing to over 20,000 preventable deaths in Oz each year,” said Maurice Swanson, ACOSH Chief Executive.

Tobacco control news

Philip Morris International makes £1bn offer for UK pharma firm Vectura – The Guardian

Victorian schools install sensors that are able to send a text alert to staff to catch students vaping – 7News

Lessons for tobacco control from climate-change action plans – Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada

Big Tobacco Initiatives Undermine Efforts to End Tobacco Smuggling – International Policy Digest

Smokers of menthol cigarettes have a harder time quitting, large new study finds – STAT

Tobacco supply and demand strategies used in African countries – World Health Organization Bulletin

Support for New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 goal and key measures to achieve it: findings from the ITC New Zealand Survey – Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health