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Underage vaping spikes in the north of England

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Coronavirus: ‘Abundantly clear’ smoking makes ‘impact of infection worse’

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PMI sidesteps global health treaty to lobby councils

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Lincolnshire County Council invests £45m into tobacco firms

Tobacco companies have received more than £45 million investment from Lincolnshire County Council’s pension fund.

Figures published for Lincolnshire County Council’s pension committee next Thursday reveal that one company, British American Tobaccoo, is the fifth highest investment for its pension fund.

The council currently has £2.3 billion in the pension fund, up by £62.8 million in July when it sat at £2.1 billion.

The current investment for British American Tobacco sits at £24.1 million – 1% of the total fund.

This is down from £31.9 million noted in July 2018, however the fund stood at £37.6 million (1.7%) in March 2018.

But the fund did start the year at £19.4 million, according to a report in January.

BAT is not the only tobacco investment the council has made, with more than £21 million going to four others:

Phillip Morris – £11,147,705
Imperial Brands – £4,557,627
Altria Group – £5,543,507
Japan Tobacco – £411,943
The council however, says it has “a legal duty to achieve the best rate of return for the 75,000 pension fund members and ensure its long-term future”.

Jo Ray, the authority’s Pension Fund Manager, said: “For this reason, it maintains a wide and varied portfolio, all of which is managed externally.

“The fund managers seek strong, sustainable companies with good all-round credentials.”

Local authorities have a responsibility under the Health and Social Care Act to improve the health of their local population and promoting healthy communities and behaviours.

Lincolnshire County Council carries out a number of Stop Smoking schemes including its smoke free workplace policy.

It also supports the NHS’ One You Campaign and funds the stop smoking service.

According to council figures, in Lincolnshire there are around 106,000 smokers.

In 2017/18, 5,207 people accessed the council’s commissioned stop smoking service (Quit51).

A spokesman added that on top of this there “will be many more people who have quit or cut down using support from pharmacies, GPs and other services”.

In August, a Guardian report revealed that more than £1.7 billion had been directly invested in tobacco company stocks by healthcare providers, fire authorities and schools via UK council pension funds.

Last September, anti-fracking campaign groups, Platform and Friends of the Earth revealed that in 2016/17, Lincolnshire invested more than £50million in fracking companies including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips.

This time round, the top ten investments equate to around £258.7 million – 10.9% of the total fund.

Royal Dutch Shell is the council’s highest investment at 33.9 million (1.7%) – up from £33 million in July last year.

The full top ten, with their level of investment and the percentage of the pension fund, is:

Royal Dutch Shell – £39.9 million (1.7%)
Microsoft – £33.6 million (1.4%)
Reckitt Benckiser – £29.6 million (1.2%)
HSBC – £24.2 million (1%)
British American Tobacco – £24.1 million (1%)
Unilever – £22.5 million (1%)
Apple – £22 million (0.9%)
Visa – £21.2 million (0.9%)
BP – £20.7 million (0.9%)

Britain’s £1bn vaping industry ‘is targeting children’ with flavours that resemble sweets

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The UK provides a case study for how tough antismuggling measures, as enshrined in the Illicit Trade Protocol, can enable governments to raise taxes, increase revenues and discourage smoking.

This wasn’t always the case. During the 1990s the government started increasing taxes above inflation to reduce affordability. By the beginning of the 21st century over 20 per cent of cigarettes smoked in the UK were smuggled, up from 5 per cent in the early 1990s. Worse still the illicit market share was predicted to grow to a third of the market within a couple of years if no action was taken. And access to cheap tobacco meant that the tax policy, which should have discouraged smoking and increased government revenues, was failing on both counts.

The tobacco industry lobbied hard, saying it was high taxes causing increased smuggling and the only solution was to cut taxes. But media investigations and parliamentary enquiries revealed that it was the industry itself that was fuelling the illicit trade. Tobacco transnationals were exporting cigarettes to countries where there was no end market, knowing they’d bounce back to the UK, cheap and untaxed. A good example is Andorra. From 1993 to 1997 sales of UK cigarettes to Andorra ballooned more than a hundredfold from 13 million to 1.5 billion. Andorra was importing enough cigarettes for every man, woman and child to smoke 140 a day. And it wasn’t just Andorra, British cigarettes were being exported to all sorts of places with no end market, including Latvia, Kaliningrad, Afghanistan and Moldova.

The tobacco transnationals denied all knowledge, but as one Member of Parliament said to the Chief Executive of Imperial Tobacco, “One comes to the conclusion that you are either crooks or you are stupid, and you don’t look very stupid.” The UK Government held its nerve and continued to increase taxes, while implementing a tough anti-smuggling strategy, which included strict supply chain controls and financial sanctions very much along the lines of the Protocol. Between 2000 and 2016, the last year for which there are figures, the size of the illicit market for cigarettes fell by nearly 60 per cent from 17 to 7 billion sticks, with revenue losses down from US$3.67 billion to US$2.36 billion (at current exchange rates).

Illicit trade is a major and growing global problem but the lesson from the UK is clear. The Illicit Trade Protocol can help countries raise taxes, increase revenues and drive down smoking prevalence.

Deborah Arnott
Chief Executive ASH (UK)

Groups debate impact of e-cigarettes on public health

Opposing groups continue to debate the government stance on electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes and its impact on public health.

One group insists that e-cigarettes are a viable option to stopping conventional smoking, while the other group claims this alternative also has the same hazardous effects as tobacco.

Local vaping groups maintained the government should trek the path of the United Kingdom with its relaxed regulations on e-cigarettes, insisting that these have reduced the harms associated with tobacco use and help more people quit smoking.

However, Emer Rojas, president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), remains steadfast in its lobbying for government to prohibit e-cigarettes in the country until its safety is fully determined by expert studies.

Rojas noted that the Department of Health (DOH) had already issued a statement that the reduced harm of e-cigarettes is “unsubstantiated and remain unproven.”

On the other hand, Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA), said at a recent forum in Quezon City that the Philippines will remain a backwater country in the area of tobacco harm reduction if the DOH continues its supposed “ill-informed and myopic position” on e-cigarettes.

“It’s high time that the Department of Health take its cue from the UK and other countries that have acknowledged the growing body of scientific evidence supporting e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction,” Dulay said.

Published recently by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the report titled “E-cigarettes” concluded that e-cigarettes should not be treated in the same way as conventional cigarettes, noting that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than conventional cigarettes.

Tool for quitting

In its Tobacco Control Plan 2017-2022, the UK government clearly stated its intention to support consumers in stopping smoking and adopting the use of less harmful nicotine products, particularly e-cigarettes.

However, the parliamentary report pointed out that, “e-cigarettes… are too often being overlooked as a stop smoking tool by the NHS (National Health Service, the UK public healthcare system). Regulations should be relaxed relating to e-cigarettes’ licensing, prescribing and advertising of their health benefits. Their level of taxation and use in public places must be reconsidered.”

According to the report, around 2.9 million people in the UK are currently using e-cigarettes, with an estimated 470,000 using e-cigarettes as a stop smoking tool and tens of thousands successfully quitting smoking each year as a result.

The report called on the UK government to consider risk-based regulation to allow more freedom to advertise e-cigarettes as the relatively less harmful option, and provide financial incentives, in the form of lower levels of taxation, for smokers to switch from conventional cigarettes to less harmful alternatives such as e-cigarettes.

France and UK Unveil Selected Security for Tobacco – But UK Disappoints


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