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Global Epidemic: Consumer Product causes Tooth Loss, Cancer & Male Impotence

Global Epidemic:

  • Consumer Product causes Tooth Loss, Cancer & Male Impotence
  • Kills half of uses, even when used as recommended
  • Aggressively marketed through litigation, millions spent on lawsuits
  • If cars killed half of its users, there would be an uproar
  • The leading cause of preventable death that no one talks about
  • Without action, one billion people will die from tobacco this century

The anti-smoking pressure group whose wackiest ideas always become law

Every few years, Action on Smoking and Health draws up a wish list of all the policies it would introduce if it was king for the day. It then spends the next few years lobbying ferociously and watches with a satisfied smirk as every single one of their brainwaves becomes the law of the land.

The manifesto of this tiny pressure group is, in effect, the manifesto of whichever party is in power. The only difference is that governments often ignore their own manifesto commitments (such as Labour’s 2005 pledge to exempt private members clubs from the smoking ban) whereas the ASH manifesto is always implemented to the letter.

ASH’s last legislative programme – 2008’s ‘Beyond Smoking Kills’ – became obsolete when the Conservatives acted on its wackiest idea, plain packaging, earlier in the year. Total victory set the stage for yet another brainstorming session, the fruits of which will be released in a report titled ‘Smoking Still Kills’ later this month. This document has already fallen into the hands of Guido Fawkes who provided a peek preview today.

If smokers were hoping that the vendetta against them would end with plain packaging, they need to think again. Amongst ASH’s new ruses are minimum pricing for tobacco, annual price rises of five per cent above inflation for cigarettes, a smoking ban in all cars and a ban on smoking outdoors.

In recent years, anti-smoking policies such as banning tobacco displays in shops have been put forward on the not-very-convincing pretext that they will discourage children from taking up the habit. Before that, the smoking ban in enclosed spaces was pushed on the basis that it would ‘protect’ employees.

Drunk with success, ASH has now ditched such rhetoric. The new policies are overtly aimed at hassling and impoverishing adults who choose to smoke.

When the smoking ban came in, anti-smoking campaigners swore on a stack of bibles that they would never consider banning smoking in the open air. They now want a consultation on it. When they lobbied for a ban on smoking in cars with children, they promised that it was not the start of a slippery slope that would lead to a ban in all cars. They are now pushing for exactly that. All this from a group that laughably claims that it is ‘not anti-smoker’.

They even want to get rid of the trifling exemption to the smoking ban that allows actors to smoke in theatrical productions. Seriously, what do they hope to gain from such teeth-grinding fanaticism? Oh, and if you want to watch a film or TV show that portrays someone smoking, ASH think you should be subjected to a hectoring anti-smoking commercial beforehand. Compulsory by law, naturally.

It would be easy to assume that this combination of petty and extreme demands are a way of ASH justifying their state funding at a time of budget cuts (ASH receives a generous grant from the Department of Health every year).

Mission creep is nothing new in pressure group politics, but for organisations like ASH incremental prohibition has always been the game. Mission creep is a feature, not a bug, of ‘tobacco control’. ASH could never have achieved what they have if they had been open about their agenda when they were formed in the 1970s. Even today, they will not admit to being prohibitionists. They just want smoking to be sort-of-prohibited.

The problem with treating smoking as if it is virtually illegal is that smokers start viewing it the same way. The sale of illegal cigarettes has risen by 33 per cent in the last two years, according to HMRC, and it is likely to rise further when branding is abolished next year. In its 2008 manifesto, ASH hoped that the illicit share of the cigarette market would be three per cent by 2015. In fact, it is 10 per cent and rising.

That’s four billion cigarettes entering the country every year without being taxed, in addition to 4,400 tonnes of rolling tobacco, and HMRC’s figures almost certainly underestimate the scale of the problem.

This could be excused as collateral damage if ASH’s legislative diarrhoea led to a dramatic decline in people smoking, but it doesn’t. In its 2008 report, they set an ‘ambitious but achievable’ target of reducing the smoking rate to 11 per cent by 2015. At the time, it was 21 per cent. It has dropped by a mere 1.5 percentage points, to 19.5 per cent, in the intervening seven years despite the government capitulating to all of its demands. There are plenty of countries that achieve bigger drops than this by doing nothing at all. ASH have now reset their target and are now hoping that smoking prevalence will be 13 per cent by 2020. I, for one, am prepared to bet that it will be considerably higher than that.

Anti-smoking activists fear Philip Morris threat is delaying new law

BANGKOK: Anti-smoking activists today (May 4) questioned whether new legislation aimed at curbing smoking has been held up by fierce lobbying from the tobacco industry.

The new law will see the minimum age for tobacco buyers go from 18 to 20.

The proposed legislation would increase the minimum age at which people can buy tobacco from 18 to 20. The aim is to reduce the number of new smokers.

But the Action on Smoking and Health Foundation Thailand (ASH Thailand) has claimed that American tobacco giant Philip Morris International is trying to stall the new law.

ASH Thailand Secretary General Professor Dr Prakit Watheesathokkij, alleged that Philip Morris had submitted a letter to the Ministry of Public Health discouraging the new legislation.

In the letter, Dr Prakit said, the company argued that Thailand need only educate citizens more about the harmful effects of smoking and use existing laws to deter new smokers.

The ASH complaint follows lobbying by a youth network against smoking, which in April urged the government to speed up its deliberation of the bill and forward it to the National Legislative Assembly.

The group’s leader, Supapan Pho-ong, said the group was concerned the bill would run into obstacles after reports it had met with heavy resistance from the tobacco industry.

“We’ve been following the bill’s progress and are wondering why it is being delayed. People have started asking whether foreign corporations have stepped in to block it,” Ms Supapan said.

She said the new law was urgently needed to prevent new smokers as the existing tobacco control law, which has been in force for over two decades, was being undermined by tobacco companies’ marketing strategies.

Philip Morris has frequently brought suits against governments proposing tighter laws, with warnings that it will go for compensation valued in billions of dollars.

It and other tobacco firms sued the Australian government for bringing in plain packaging, with no company colours or logos, but lost. This has not stopped them threatening to sue the British government if it follows the Australian lead.

Philip Morris also sued Norway after that country introduced a ban on cigarette displays in shops. It lost that case, too.

Philip Morris International earns as much as B3 billion a year from sales of tobacco products in Thailand.

UK charity backs tobacco packaging law

CLAIMS that the tobacco industry will be able to sue the British government if it passes a law on Australian-style plain packaging are “ludicrous and unjustified”, an anti-smoking charity says.

ACTION on Smoking and Health says the legislation, which will be debated by MPs on Monday, is entirely compatible with European law and compensation would therefore not be due.

Finland and France have also indicated they will follow the lead set by Australia, which introduced plain packaging in 2012.

Professor Alberto Alemanno, an expert in EU law, said there was such strong evidence to support the new law that any challenge from the tobacco industry would be unlikely to succeed.

“Our analysis demonstrates that, under current EU law, the UK Government is entitled to regulate the packaging of tobacco products well beyond what the EU prescribes,” Prof Alemanno, of HEC Paris, said.

“The UK Government therefore enjoys considerable freedom of action in regulating the presentation of tobacco products, particularly given the overwhelming evidence of the harm that tobacco consumption causes.”

He said the proposals are also admissible under EU law relating to both trademarks and the issue of fundamental rights, which do not prevent member states from introducing legislation to protect public health.

“The legal opinion we are publishing today blows out of the water the ludicrous and unjustified claims by the tobacco industry that it would be due billions of pounds in compensation if the UK proceeds with standardised packaging,” Ash chief executive Deborah Arnott said.

Earlier this week, Ireland became the first country in Europe to ban branded cigarette packets, but is already facing a legal challenge over claims it infringes trademarks and the free movement of goods across the EU.

Don’t fall for the hype. Nicotine is a poison, no matter how it is delivered

Lobbyists and health campaigners are touting e-cigarettes as a safer version of the real thing, but there’s no evidence to prove that they are

It’s rare for pro-smoking lobbyists and health campaigners to stop bickering with one another – let alone agree on something. But this week, the two groups have come out in unison against a new Scottish health policy.

From April, all Scottish health boards (bar one, NHS Lothian) will ban the use of e-cigarettes on NHS premises. The move makes perfect sense, and falls firmly into line with current NHS policies relating to other nicotine-laden items. But smokers’ rights groups have lambasted the ban as “perverse” – and, believe it or not, anti-smoking campaigners at Ash Scotland seem to agree with them.

According to both camps, e-cigs should be considered a vital tool to help smokers cut down and ultimately kick the habit. By banning both cigarettes and e-cigarettes from hospital grounds, they claim, NHS boards are removing a critical incentive for nicotine addicts to switch over to “less harmful” e-cigs. But should we really be encouraging smokers to make that switch?

Lobbyists have been queuing up for a few years now to push the idea that e-cigs are somehow safer than normal cigarettes. One of the most dangerous aspects of your typical, run-of-the-mill cigarette is the tar-filled smoke you’re inhaling with each puff. That tar may contain up to 7,000 different toxins, which are otherwise found in everything from rat poison to nail polish. E-cigs, on the other hand, produce a light, tar-free vapour. But this doesn’t necessarily make them any safer.

E-cigs don’t contain the same type of nicotine you might find in an ordinary tobacco leaf. They contain liquid nicotine, which can be lethal: doctors say a tablespoon of some e-liquids on the market would be enough to kill an adult; half a teaspoon could kill a child. And the worst part is, you don’t even need to ingest these liquids to end up in hospital. Mere skin contact with concentrated liquid nicotine is enough to cause symptoms of poisoning, such as dizziness, elevated blood pressure and seizures.

That should scare even the most devout e-cig user, because the truth is that nobody’s actually regulating the concentration levels of liquids going into each cartridge. This lack of oversight may change next year, thanks to EU legislation that should see the products slapped with a few crucial safety guidelines. But for now, e-cigarette manufacturers preside over a cowboy industry that’s expanding at breakneck speed.

Bearing that in mind, every puff you take on an e-cig is a roll of the dice. After all, how confident can you be that the unbranded cartridges you’ve been purchasing from your local corner shop were filled by a chemist who actually knows what they are doing?

Sixty years ago, we had doctors telling us that one brand of cigarettes was better for your health than another. Today, we’ve got lobbyists telling us virtually the same thing about e-cigarettes. But as research slowly begins to catch up with emerging technology, chances are we’ll soon be scoffing at the health campaigners of today in the same way that we now roll our eyes at the smoking enthusiasts of the 1950s.

As with most new discoveries, we have absolutely no idea what sort of longterm impact e-cigarettes may have on our health. We probably won’t know for decades. So for now we’re just going to have to make educated decisions based on the information we’ve got at hand: namely, that e-cigs are loaded with unregulated contents. And based on this it makes sense to send them packing in the same direction as their tobacco-laden cousins.

E-cigs may or may not be a potential escape route for smokers looking to kick the habit, and that’s great for them. But NHS Scotland is absolutely right in asking e-cig users to take their habit elsewhere.

No matter how you choose to dress it up, nicotine is nicotine, and public health is public health. Let’s not confuse the two.

Tobacco Displays at the Point of Sale

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Guidelines on Engagement with the Tobacco Industry

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