Tobacco Strategy 2015-2020

I am pleased to have been a member of the HSSD Board that proposed the Tobacco Strategy for the next 5 years. Amongst the recommendations were the banning of smoking in cars with children present, the introduction of plain packaging and consideration as to whether there should be regulation of e-cigarettes. I focussed on this issues in my speech, which is set out below.

Sir, I believe the strategy speaks for itself and is fully aligned to the 2020 Vision of promoting, improving and protecting the health and social wellbeing of all. Whilst some may have concerns regarding smoking in cars with children present and plain packaging, these are hardly new ideas. We are really just playing catch up.

In terms of smoking in cars, this will shortly be introduced in England & Wales. Scotland is looking to do the same thing and similar restrictions exist in many other countries such as Australia, Canada, Cyprus, South Africa and several US States.

Of course We must continue to focus attention on preventing children from taking up smoking. Those who start under 18 are the ones that find it hardest to give up and succumb to the worst illnesses. But that is not enough. Children are far more sensitive to tobacco smoke because their lungs and bodily defence mechanisms are still developing, because they inhale far more pollutants per pound of body weight than adults, and because they are more likely to have allergies or other conditions which make them more sensitive to airborne pollutants.  We protect adults from smoking in pubs but not those who have no choice but to get into a vehicle full of pollutants. We require seatbelts in cars, we require children to be strapped into appropriate care seats for their age, BUT we don’t try to protect them from what they breathe in.

This is not about being a nanny state, this is about the future health of our Islanders and our Island.

In terms of plain packaging, again, this is not new. Whatever the tobacco companies like to say, this has been a success in Australia and will shortly be introduced in England & Wales. Claims by the spokesperson  for those with tobacco interests in the Channel Islands that this is illegal have no basis in fact. Indeed, in Australia, the big 3 tobacco manufacturers Imperial Tobacco, BAT and Philip Morris made a legal challenge in 2012 but the High Court ruled ruled that it was not illegal as it did not represent an appropriation of company trademarks by the government. The government was using the brands for its own profit, it was prohibiting their use by the tobacco companies.

Plain paper doesn’t mean plain white. In Australia they are sold in standardised dark brown packaging with large graphic health warnings. There are no tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours or promotional text on the packaging. Brand and product names are printed in small text. The only reports that claim that it does not work are those funded by the tobacco companies, unsurprisingly.

I also found it ironic that the spokesperson said that by having plain packaging in Guernsey and not Jersey will make it less viable to import cigarettes. I’d say that was a result. And then to be told in the last line of his email that CITIMA exists to promote balanced and informed debate around smoking issues in the Channel Islands took the biscuit for me. A bit like American National Rifle Association wants a balanced and informed debate about firearms I suppose.

Finally, e-cigarettes. They sound like the perfect solution – guilt free smoking BUT E-cigarettes maybe smoke-free and tobacco-free, but they’re not nicotine-free. The liquid in e-cigarettes is typically a combination of nicotine, flavorings, propylene glycol, and other additives. The amount of nicotine depends on the mixture of the particular liquid-nicotine cartridge installed in the device. Some products contain nicotine amounts comparable to regular tobacco cigarettes, while others contain levels closer to that of a light or ultralight cigarette. And the problem is the liquid nicotine. According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The number of calls to poison control centers regarding e-cigarette nicotine-infused liquids rose sharply every month between September 2010 and February 2014, from just one call per month to as many as 215 As many as 51.1 percent of those calls involved accidental poisoning of children under the age of 5. Research has also shown Certain e-cigarette devices may also release metals during use — including tin in some cases — as well as other impurities known to be toxic and/or carcinogenic.

Concerns in the US led to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act last year that requires manufacturers to disclose all ingredients in their products, and have FDA approval before marketing them. Additionally, e-cigs can’t be sold to children and all labeling must include health warnings; free samples and vending machine sales are also prohibited. Ecigarettes are also banned in public venues in Australia, Canada and several US States. Despite the marketing claims that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking tobacco, researchers are finding e-cig users experience diminished lung function, airway resistance and cellular changes, regardless of whether or not they currently (or ever) smoke cigarettes. And research has shown cells exposed to e-cigarette vapour show unhealthy changes similar to cells exposed to tobacco smoke.

So, ecigarettes may be the perfect solution but not for those using them. It is no surprise that the major tobacco companies, faced with falling customers for traditional cigarettes in the West are piling into this market. Marketing them as safe alternatives and getting them placed next to the sweet counters in shops. It is for all these reasons we must look at regulation and control of e-cigarettes.

 

The SOG tobacco strategy has been a great success over the years and I urge members to support this, the latest phase in that strategy to enable the good work to be continued.

 



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Email: heidi@heidisoulsby.com