ACOSH Advocacy in Action - 3 June 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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Big Tobacco and National Retail Association receive 2021 Dirty Ashtray Award

Big Tobacco and the National Retail Association have jointly been awarded the AMA/ACOSH 2021 Dirty Ashtray Award for their relentless attempts to undermine Australia’s tobacco control programs.

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day the award was presented to Philip Morris Australia (Limited), British American Tobacco Australia (Limited) and Imperial Tobacco Australia (Limited) and the National Retail Association, by AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid last Sunday in Perth.

Dr Khorshid said decades of public health initiatives which had put Australia at the forefront of smoking reform were at risk.

“These companies continue to market the world’s most lethal consumer product, that each year kills over 20,000 Australians,” he said.

Dr Khorshid urged all governments to build on Australia’s success over the last 40 years by focusing on proven and evidence-based strategies.

Dr Khorshid said the AMA and ACOSH wanted to see the federal government drive a stronger comprehensive national program including:

• A sustained public education program,
• A ban on tobacco advertising, lobbying and political donations,
• Expansions of smoke-free workplaces and public places,
• A reduction in the number of retail tobacco outlets,
• Hold the tobacco industry accountable for healthcare costs,
• Regulate the contents and design of tobacco products to  significantly reduce appeal and addictiveness.

“These commitments by the federal government could reduce the prevalence of smoking among adults to less than 5 per cent and among teenagers to less than 2 per cent and enable the phasing out of the commercial sale of cigarettes by 2030,” he said.

Related media:
10 News First Perth

Still plenty of smoke in the vaping wars – Australian Financial Review

Calls for stronger action on tobacco control in Australia to counter industry lobbying – Croakey

NT Govt judged worst in the nation on efforts to stamp out smoking – NT Times



Still plenty of smoke in the vaping wars

“Last year the Australian Retailers Association’s newish chief Paul Zahra spectacularly tore up a contract tied to the group’s lobbying for the legalisation of e-cigarettes. It was “the right decision”, he later told this newspaper, and he had “no regrets”.

“Anyway, the somewhat niche issue wasn’t worth his members’ time. Even if it came with a $250,000 payment every six months, secretly sourced (through a PR firm) from Philip Morris International.

“That left a gap in the market, almost immediately filled by the smaller (and rival) National Retail Association. Its CEO, Dominique Lamb, was soon lobbying politicians about how her members (being mostly nicotine-dependent convenience stores) weren’t allowed to make money off the “less harmful” nicotine vapes.

“It’s never been confirmed whether the NRA is now the recipient of the ARA’s spurned contract (it’s “confidential”). But the relationship – whatever its specifics – between the nation’s small retailers and the local outfits of the world’s international tobacco giants appears closer than ever.

“Ahead of World No Tobacco Day, the Australian Medical Association on Sunday gave out its annual Dirty Ashtray Award, jointly to Philip Morris Australia, British American Tobacco Australia, Imperial Tobacco Australia and the National Retail Association.

“The first three go without saying. But the last earned the opprobrium for “consistently promoting the policy position of the tobacco industry to make nicotine e-cigarettes available as an ordinary consumer item”.

“The AMA is highly concerned about the uptake of these products among young Australians,” the ‘award’ citation continued, noting that Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, and Imperial Tobacco all own e-cigarette brands.

“It might have been a weekend, but it took the NRA only three hours to respond.

“In a release that referred to the NRA as Australia’s “peak retail industry body”, it announced its own inaugural Dirty Mirror Award, for “breathtaking hypocrisy in public affairs”.



Calls for stronger action on tobacco control in Australia to counter industry lobbying

“Nearly 150 global public health organisations have published an open letter today to mark World No Tobacco Day (31 May), calling on governments to phase out commercial cigarette sales and treat them like “other equally dangerous products” such as asbestos, and leaded paint and petrol.

“They quote the Danish Institute for Human Rights as saying “tobacco is deeply harmful to human health, and there can be no doubt that the production and marketing of tobacco is irreconcilable with the human right to health.”

“Their letter comes as the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) announced that the winners of the 2021 Dirty Ashtray Award were tobacco companies Philip Morris Australia (Limited), British American Tobacco Australia (Limited) and Imperial Tobacco Australia (Limited) and the National Retail Association.

“AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said public health initiatives which had put Australia at the forefront of smoking reform were at risk, with the tobacco industry using its “economic power, lobbying and manipulation of the media to discredit research and influence governments to minimise restrictions on the marketing and availability of tobacco”.



Medical misinformation in the 1980s

Maurice Swanson and Noni Walker reflect on how Australian lawyers and health experts took on the tobacco industry and won.

“Thirty years ago, working in an office where people smoked, eating at a cafe where people smoked at the next table and being surrounded by people smoking at the footy was common. In Australia, this all changed after Federal Court Justice Trevor Morling handed down a judgement in February 1991, finding that second-hand smoke causes lung cancer in non-smokers and asthma attacks, as well as respiratory disease in children.

“The decision was the first of its kind by a superior court anywhere in the world.”



Risk of lung cancer increased almost 10-fold among Australians smoking as few as 1-5 cigarettes per day

“The Daffodil Centre released an Australian first study, with findings showing tobacco smoking significantly increased the risk of 12 types of cancer and that 1-in-7 current smokers will get lung cancer in their lifetime.

“The risk of cancer increased with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, and even ‘light’ smokers of 1-5 cigarettes per day had an almost 10-fold increased risk of lung cancer.

“The findings were drawn from the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study, one of the largest ongoing longitudinal studies of health and ageing in the world, surveying more than 250,000 Australians.

“Globally, there is very little evidence on the impact of light smoking, and for Australia, this is the first large scale study to present estimates of smoking-related cancer risk. Study findings include:

• Lung cancer risk increased by 7% with every cigarette per day.

• For current smokers, the lifetime risk of lung cancer ranged from 14% overall to 26% (1 in 4) for those who smoked more than 35 cigarettes per day, compared to 1% risk for never-smokers (1 in 100).

• Tobacco smoking significantly increased risk for cancers of the lung, larynx, liver, oesophagus, bladder, pancreas, head and neck, stomach, colorectum, kidney, gallbladder, and cancers of unknown primary site.”




Commitment to quit is essential for tobacco harm reduction

“World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is marked by the World Health Organization on 31 May each year. In 2021, under the shadow of the most significant viral pandemic in over a century, WHO has chosen ‘Commit to Quit’ as the theme for WNTD and this is important for two key reasons. First and sadly, this pandemic has a long way to run, particularly in resource-constrained countries and a significant proportion of severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) illness and mortality is related to the higher risks in current and past smokers. Second, even in a pandemic, continued focus on non-communicable diseases including those tobacco-related is needed. Comparisons are odious but that fact is that, during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to this point, three times as many people will have died from tobacco-related disease as have died from COVID-19.

“For 60 years, under various guises, the tobacco industry and some of its academic acolytes have expounded and amplified the Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) concept. It was, and remains, a classic tale of spin over substance and it is a history worth reflecting on.”

“At this critical time for world health, the THR debate should be dismissed as no more than an untimely distraction. Increased commitment to quit can be achieved using proven effective interventions. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control remains the roadmap for national and regional action. Mass media campaigns based on health harms should be integrated with information on the benefits of cessation during this pandemic. It appears crucial to provide specific support for those living with anxiety and related disorders,” said Professor Matthew Peters, Macquarie University.



Cancer Council WA call on WA Government to commit to making tobacco control a priority

“Today is World No Tobacco Day. We are using today to call on the WA Government to commit to making tobacco control a priority, with new data revealing that the tough approach on tobacco has saved around four lives a week from death due to lung cancer since 1982.

“Our Cancer Prevention and Research Director, Melissa Ledger, said new research conducted by researchers at The Daffodil Centre, the University of Sydney showed thousands of West Australian lives have already been saved and will continue to be saved by a tough approach to tobacco.

“Over the last four decades, Australia has implemented numerous tobacco control initiatives, including tobacco excises, bans on tobacco advertising, smoke-free legislation, plain packaging, point-of-sale legislation, and state and national public education campaigns,” Ms Ledger said.

“While these initiatives have been relentlessly opposed by tobacco companies and their front-groups, our research has shown that because of these tough measures, more than 7,200 West Australians have been spared a tobacco-caused lung cancer death in the past 35 years.”



The Hon Greg Hunt MP: World No Tobacco Day 2021 – helping more Australians quit smoking

To mark World No Tobacco Day in 2021, the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, announced a package of new measures to support smoking cessation and treat nicotine dependence.

“With approximately 20,000 Australians dying each year from tobacco-related illness, the Australian Government is investing $3 million through Cancer Council Victoria towards a new national best practice support service for nicotine cessation to ensure health professionals have up-to-date evidence-based resources.

“Additional initiatives in the 2021–22 Budget aimed at encouraging people to quit smoking include the expansion of telehealth and face-to-face services to support patients’ access to general practitioner consultations.

“Research shows having the support of a health professional greatly improves a smoker’s chances of successfully quitting.

“There has never been a better time to quit smoking. The World Health Organisation notes that smokers face a 40-50% higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19. Quitting smoking now could reduce the severity of disease for anyone who contracts COVID-19,” said Hon Greg Hunt.



Langford Aboriginal Association launches smoke-free policy on World No Tobacco Day

Langford Aboriginal Assocation celebrated its smoke-free policy this World No Tobacco Day in partnership with Yarning it Up – Don’t Smoke it Up, East Metropolitan Health Service, Cancer Council WA and ACOSH.

Yarning it Up-Don’t Smoke it Up project officers, Robert Morrison and Len Thorne, presented Langford Aboriginal Association Acting Senior Executive Officer, Sophie Walker, with a framed copy of the smoke-free policy and artists’ Addellamay and Catherine with a framed copy of the artwork.

Langford Aboriginal Association developed the smoke free artwork and messaging. Catherine Bynder and Addellamay Ryder-Bartley described the artwork’s meaning and how it represents the values of the centre and the community.

The handover was celebrated with a Welcome to Country in Noongar Language by Catherine Bynder and a walk around the grounds to show the stakeholders the smoke-free signage and to talk about where it all began.

Langford Aboriginal Association is a not-for-profit community organisation which delivers programs to the local Aboriginal communities of Langford, Thornlie, Cannington and Gosnells.

Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia – World No Tobacco Day ‘Commit to Quit’

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA’s Board, CEO’s and staff came together for World No Tobacco Day to stand proud and show their support of the 2021 message ‘Commit to Quit’.

Watch the video of them sharing their “I Commit” messages here.

Covid 19: How harm reduction advocates and the tobacco industry capitalised on the pandemic to promote nicotine

“Scientific papers suggesting that smokers are less likely to fall ill with covid-19 are being discredited as links to the tobacco industry are revealed, report Stéphane Horel and Ties Keyzer.

“In the early days of the pandemic, media outlets around the world reported that smokers seemed to be under-represented among patients seriously ill with covid-19 in China and France. The headlines asked, does nicotine protect against covid-19?

“It has since been roundly disproved that smoking protects against covid-19. Among other studies, the OpenSafely dataset, based on the primary care records of 17.3 million adults in the UK, found that smoking, when adjusted for age and sex, was associated with a 14% increased chance of covid-19 related death.

The BMJ can today also report on undisclosed financial links between certain scientific authors and the tobacco and e-cigarette industry in a number of covid research papers. This follows the high profile retraction of one such paper in the European Respiratory Journal last month, after two authors failed to disclose conflicts of interest.”



Vaping and e-cigarettes are glamourised on social media, putting young people in harm’s way

“Despite their widespread reputation as a “safer” alternative to cigarettes, e-cigarettes (also known as electronic cigarettes or vapes) are far from harmless, particularly for adolescents, whose developing brains may suffer lifelong adverse effects from nicotine-containing products.

“Yet vaping and e-cigarettes are widely promoted on social media by the industry and influencers, using advertising tactics that were outlawed for tobacco in Australia in the 1980s for traditional media. This blatant promotion is not tolerated offline, so why is it happening on social media?

“On Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, e-cigarettes are frequently depicted as a safe and healthy alternative to cigarettes. This is at odds with the opinion of health authorities such as the Office of the Surgeon General, the Federal Health Department and the World Health Organization (WHO). There is substantial evidence e-cigarettes have adverse health effects but because they are relatively new (they were first introduced to the US market in 2007) their long-term effects are less clear.”



Industry tactics in anticipation of strengthened regulation: BIDI Vapor unveils non-characterising BIDI Stick flavours on digital media platforms

“In January 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance for the electronic cigarette industry, which resulted in a limited prohibition of flavoured cartridge or ‘pod’-based e-cigarette products but allowed for the sale of other flavoured e-cigarette products.

“BIDI Vapor, a Florida-based electronic cigarette company, produces the disposable e-cigarette brand BIDI Stick … In August 2020, the company launched a campaign on Instagram, Facebook and its official website to unveil new ‘non-characterising’ flavour names.”

“… The concept flavour naming that the company is using appears to be an increasingly widespread tactic used across tobacco and nicotine product categories to maintain flavoured product sales and evade regulation. These strategies align with historic tactics modifying product characteristics, labelling or packaging to subvert flavour restrictions and maintain sales.”



City of Vincent moves to ban tobacco outlets

“A ban on future tobacco outlets is on the cards in the City of Vincent.

“The proposal comes after the City set a target of having smoke free town centres by 2025 in its public health plan 2020-2025.

“At the May 18 meeting, Cr Jonathan Hallet received unanimous support for his motion to investigate changing Local Planning Scheme No.2 to not permit smoking and cigar rooms, tobacconists and outlets who primarily sell tobacco and smoking products in the future.

“The City will advocate the Departments of Health and Planning, Lands and Heritage and the ministers to instigate measures that reduce the number of tobacco outlets.

“Cr Hallet, who is also a senior public health lecturer at Curtin University, said his motion sought options to ensure premises whose primary service was to sell or use tobacco or smoking implements were not permitted in the City.

“Western Australia has led the way when it comes to tobacco reforms and I hope that this State Government does so again,” he said.



Tweet of the week – Vaping advocates say the darndest things!

“Vaping advocates say the darndest things! “Vaping prohibitionists have been punished, hurt, suffered & damaged by #BigTobacco”  The 7th installment in my blog series,” said Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman.


Tobacco control news

Number of smokers has reached all-time high of 1.1 billion, study find – The Guardian

It is illegal to sell e-cigarettes containing nicotine – Coast Community News

What does Australia’s tobacco plain packaging win mean for other countries? – McCabe Centre

Smoking Cessation during the Second Half of Pregnancy Prevents Low Birth Weight among Australian Born Babies in Regional New South Wales – Int J Environ Res Public Health

What we can and cannot say about the immediate effect of SF’s flavored tobacco product ban – Professor Stan Glantz Blog

Juul Finds Hell Hath No Fury Like an Army of Really Rich Parents – Bloomberg

New Report Details Tobacco Industry’s Predatory Marketing to Women and Girls and the Devastating Health Consequences – Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids