ACOSH Advocacy in Action - 30 April

Welcome to the latest edition of the ACOSH Advocacy in Action e-bulletin for 2020. 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. Thank you for your support.

The work of ACOSH is generously supported by Healthway and Lotterywest.

Dear subscribers to the ACOSH Advocacy in Action e-bulletin – Please keep safe during this challenging period for public health.

Graphic attached reproduced with the kind permission of AMA WA.

FDA Warns Manufacturers and Retailers to Remove Certain E-cigarette Products Targeted to Youth from the Market

“Today [27 April], the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued ten warning letters to retailers and manufacturers who sell, manufacture and/or import unauthorized electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) products targeted to youth or likely to promote use by youth.

“The warning letters were sent to establishments marketing unauthorized products, such as a backpack and sweatshirt designed with stealth pockets to hold and conceal an e-cigarette, ENDS products that resemble smartwatches, or devices appearing as children’s toys such as a portable video game system or fidget spinner.

“Warning letters were also issued to companies marketing e-liquids that imitate packaging for food products that often are marketed and appeal to youth, such as candy, or feature cartoon characters like SpongeBob SquarePants.”

“…The FDA is especially disturbed by some of these new products being marketed to children and teens by promoting the ease with which they can be used to conceal product use, which appeals to kids because it allows them to conceal tobacco product use from parents, teachers, law enforcement or other adults,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.



British American Tobacco’s ‘resilience’ does not herald a ‘Better Tomorrow’

“As British American Tobacco (BAT) prepares for tomorrow’s Annual General Meeting, the University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), are calling out the tobacco company for undertaking a rebranding exercise intended to hook a whole new generation of young adults to its tobacco and nicotine products, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Rather than recognise the potential harm smoking might be playing in the pandemic, BAT’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Bowles, reassured investors that the cigarette company remained a safe bet: “I would like to emphasise two things, one – our business is one of the most resilient sectors of the global economy. And second, to date, we have seen no material disruption to our business,” he said.[7]

Bowles and other senior executives then outlined BAT’s new strategic mission which was “about stimulating the senses of new adult generations”, i.e ensuring that it hooked a whole new generation of young adults into addiction.”


Criminal Investigations and Lawsuits: BAT’s Not-So-Great Month

“When British American Tobacco’s (BAT) shareholders convene for the company’s 2020 Annual General Meeting this week, the company might have some explaining to do.

“BAT may want to start with why another criminal investigation has been opened against the company. Adding onto its ongoing 2017 bribery and corruption probe by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office, the company is now also under criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

“… In addition to managing a new criminal investigation, the company launched a lawsuit in the U.S. and Germany against Philip Morris International (PMI), claiming patent infringement.”



Review of Controversial French Studies Related To Smoking and COVID-19

“On April 21, 2020, two encouraging studies were released. The linked studies argued that nicotine can both protect tobacco users from COVID-19 and serve as a treatment option for the novel disease.

“However, these studies are problematic and deeply concerning because:
• neither study is peer reviewed,
• the first study was based on results from one small hospital where patients were not representative of the larger population and,
• the lead author of the second study has a deep and long-standing link to the tobacco industry.

“Media coverage has failed to identify the weaknesses of these studies, in some cases even prompting the panic-buying of nicotine. Studies such as these undermine the clear and consistent messaging on COVID-19 that is critical for public health and understanding.

“Read more about how these smokescreen studies were conducted and why they can’t be trusted.”


Tobacco Tactics: COVID-19 pandemic

“The COVID-19 pandemic is of particular relevance to the tobacco industry due to the nature of the disease. It is a viral infection of the lungs that can be severe and fatal. A host of tobacco-related conditions have been identified as associated risk factors for a severe form of the disease including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Tobacco products and their associated health risks have therefore received increasing negative attention.”

Read more on Tobacco Tactics website (produced by the Tobacco Control Research Group in the Department for Health at the University of Bath) on the following topics:

• Attempts to confuse the science linking smoking to COVID-19
• Tobacco industry participation in vaccine development
• Targeted donations and corporate social responsibility
• Policy interference and delayed regulation
• Criticism of tobacco control organisations and advocates
• Relevant resources
• COVID-19 and Tobacco Industry monitoring resources



Urgent need to help young people with mental ill-health quit smoking

“Most young smokers with mental ill-health want to quit, but they are not confident in their ability to do so, a study by Orygen has found.

“The research, published today in the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, found that 42 per cent of young people with mental ill-health smoke tobacco, and 75 per cent of them want to quit.

“Orygen research fellow and lead author on the study, Dr Ellie Brown said that despite young people acknowledging that they should quit in future, most young people did not have a solid plan to do so.

“Of the young people in our study who were smoking, only 23 per cent had plans to quit smoking within the next month,” she said.”



Leaked PMI documents on illicit trade

“A new paper looks at leaked Philip Morris International (PMI) documents which suggest that the company may have intended to use third parties in the UK to promulgate arguments about standardised packaging and an increase the illicit tobacco trade. The paper, in the British Medical Journal, was co-authored by Dr Karen Evans-Reeves, Dr Jenny Hatchard, Andy Rowell and Prof Anna Gilmore from the University of Bath.

“It found that two-thirds of newspaper articles (63%, 99/157) mentioned a PMI consultant; 36% of which did not disclose this industry funding. Most articles mentioned counterfeit tobacco, illicit whites or both (72%, 113/157), while few (4%, 7/157) specifically mentioned tobacco industry illicit tobacco and none explained that the latter can include tobacco-company involvement. Freedom of Information documents revealed that the PMI consultant sought to build relationships with Trading Standards officers, conducted undercover test purchases (UTPs) in illicit tobacco ‘hotspots’ and may have promoted unrepresentative findings in the media. While the data set featured PMI data predominantly, other TTCs also engaged in third-party techniques to promulgate messages on illicit tobacco.”


COVID-19 and smoking: resources, research and news

Tobacco Control’s News Editor, Marita Hefler, has compiled a comprehensive blog on tobacco and COVID-19. It brings together a range of up-to-date information including research, WHO updates, quit support and info, media reports, tobacco industry responses and actions, specifically about COVID-19 and smoking/tobacco. This page is being updated regularly as additional resources are published.


Tweet of the Week

“As the global death toll from #COVID19 exceeds 175,000 & confirmed cases rise above 2.5m, let us note #tobacco giant PMI’s concerns about the pandemic – declines in duty-free sales, lower demand for their products & ‘increasingly restrictive regulatory measures’.

Good to know.”



From the archives: ACOSH and AMA WA proposal to remove nicotine exemption from the WA Poisons Act

A proposal by ACOSH and the AMA WA on the need to review the exemption provided for nicotine in tobacco from scheduling in the WA Poisons Act was presented to the WA Poisons Advisory Committee on 26 October 1995, and released simultaneously at a media conference. This proposal caused great consternation for the Tobacco Industry worldwide and generated massive media coverage.


Tobacco Control News

Industry Watchdog Warns Governments of Tobacco Industry Attempts to Take Advantage of COVID-19 Pandemic – Expose Tobacco

Coronavirus: France bans online sales of nicotine products – BBC News

The tobacco industry is trying to get cigarettes classified as an ‘essential’ item during lockdown – The Independent

COVID-19: QUIT TO REDUCE YOUR RISK – Make Smoking History

Smoking is Associated with Doubling of COVID-19 Progression Risk – Glantz S, UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education

COVID-19: Never has it been more important for smokers to quit and for individuals to avoid damaging their lungs by vaping –  Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids