More than half of UK’s e-cig users give up tobacco

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A survey of 12,000 adults for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found some 1.5 million vapers are now ex-smokers, compared with 1.3 million who still use tobacco.

However, ASH stated that the message that vaping was much less harmful than smoking was still yet to get through to all smokers. Some 9mn still smoke in the UK despite a big rise in e-cigarette use.

In 2012, there were 700,000 vapers in the UK; now there are 2.9mn. The main reason ex-smokers give for vaping is to help them stop smoking. Current smokers say they do it principally to reduce the amount they smoke.

Scientists say evidence suggests that the risks of exposure to toxins for e-cigarette users are likely to be low – and much lower than with tobacco.

Deborah Arnott, the campaigning health charity’s chief executive, said the figures on vapers who had quit smoking were “excellent news” but added that the rate of people switching to electronic versions had peaked. “The rapid growth in e-cigarette use has come to an end,” she said.

This is owing to more than a third of smokers having still never tried e-cigarettes, as a result of concerns about their safety and addictiveness. However, research suggests that 26% of people think e-cigarettes are more – or as equally – harmful as smoking tobacco while only 13% believe they are a lot less harmful.

“It’s very important smokers realise that vaping is much, much less harmful than smoking,” Arnott continued.

People who combine electronic and standard cigarette smoking are still being exposed to the cancer-causing substances in tobacco smoke, increasing their risk of lung cancers, bronchitis and other diseases, although Public Health England believes levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes are unlikely to pose any significant health risk.

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Trump To Roll Back E-cig Rules?

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As vaping has escalated in popularity over the past year, tobacco companies are focusing on new smoking products, which are potentially less harmful. With Trump now in his full role of presidency, the industry sees an opening for rolling back rules on these products.

In November, Trump’s surprise election victory, and his pledges to reduce federal regulations on business, led tobacco lobby groups to create a new plan of action. The immediate objective is to delay the implementation of new regulations on the current generation of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. These devices produce a vapour from liquid nicotine rather than burning tobacco.

Longer-term, they are setting their sights on repealing the 2016 law that treats these devices like cigarettes. Lobbyists have described a wary optimism as they approach lawmakers with their plans for products that they say can help traditional smokers quit and avoid the well-known health threats caused by tobacco.

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With US sales of conventional cigarettes decreasing, Big Tobacco has made a major gamble in the past few years, flying the flag for the e-cigarette industry. Last week, British American Tobacco Plc announced a US$49bn deal to take over competitor Reynolds American, uniting two of the largest e-cigarette players in the United States and United Kingdom and becoming a huge rival to Philip Morris International and US partner Altria Group.

“Suddenly things that were not conceivable became something we thought we could do,” said Cynthia Cabrera, former president and executive director for the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA).

While the potential health risks and benefits of e-cigarettes are still being studied and debated, with regulators in different countries interpreting the evidence in different ways, some industry voices are saying that a change in US regulations could hurt the smaller companies there and cripple development and innovation in the country’s e-cigarette industry.

OTCs in Action Episode 33: NRTs part of WHO tobacco campaign

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Nicotine addiction is a hot news item this month, as Beijing’s historic ban on smoking in indoor public spaces, workplaces and public transport, as well as many types of outdoor areas, becomes effective. Tobacco advertising & promotion, as well as sales to minors, are outlawed as well. It will likely take years for the city to truly become smoke-free, but it’s a start. A pragmatic New York Times article, Beijing Bans Public Smoking, but Enforcement Poses a Challenge, notes: “The municipal Government has banned smoking twice before — in 1996 and before the 2008 Olympic Games — and each time the ban was widely ignored, with smoke continuing to waft through hotel lobbies, public lavatories and gym locker rooms.” Source.

Banning smoking is one of the foundations of the World Health Organization’s crusade against tobacco. In WHO’s Global Report on the Tobacco Epidemic 2015, Assistant Director-General, Dr Oleg Chestnov, cautions: “As tobacco use is the largest preventable risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), strong tobacco control efforts will have a huge role to play in … ensuring countries’ development and prosperity. If we are to succeed in achieving the targets we set for ourselves this year, we must continue our fight to rid the world of its leading preventable cause of death.”

Affordable access to this week’s OTCs in Action, nicotine replacement therapies (NRT), is an important component of the WHO’s strategy. It reports that in 2014:

  • While comprehensive cost-covered services are available in only one in eight countries globally, more than 80% of countries have cessation services available in one or more settings, and three quarters of these provide some cost coverage for these services
  • One in four countries provides some cost coverage for nicotine replacement therapy, and almost a third provide a toll-free quit line. In total, over 90% of countries (with more than 98% of the world’s population) provide at least some form of assistance to quit

However, there’s massive room for improvement, especially in developing countries. While more than 90% of high-income countries cost-cover cessation services, and more than half support a toll-free quit line, low-income countries have the lowest rates of service provision, with only 18% of low- income countries cost-covering cessation services and only 9% funding a quit line.

OTCs in Action Episode 13: Wound healing up in smoke

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Smoking prevents healing of wounds, a problem for many sufferers of chronic diseases, who have pressure sores, venous leg ulcers and foot ulcers.  However, researchers at The Ohio State University College of Nursing have found that doctors rarely counsel patients to quit smoking to promote wound healing. This represents a great opportunity for OTCs in Action to educate physicians and patients about nicotine replacement therapies.

Although nicotine is among the chemicals in cigarette smoke that constrict blood flow and slow healing, researchers say that nicotine replacement therapies do not appear to have the same effect. In fact, according to one researcher: “NRT has a vital role in cessation treatment.”

According to the study, about 6.5mn Americans with chronic wounds suffer from pain and some even need amputations. Surely the healing of these wounds would be a valuable incentive to quit the habit.

The global OTC market for smoking cessation products remained flat at $1.5bn (MAT September 2014), according to Nicholas Hall & Company’s OTC sales database DB6.

OTCs in Action Episode 11: Stigma, statutes and OTCs stub out smoking

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Q: What’s the difference between the 1960s and the 2000s?

A: In the 2000s, a guy goes into a chemist shop and shouts, “Give me a box of condoms!” … and then whispers to the shop assistant, “Oh, and slip in a packet of cigarettes, too.”

Although smoking is stigmatised in many countries in the new millennium, tobacco use still kills approximately 6mn people each year, according to the World Health Organization. It is the leading global cause of preventable death and OTC smoking cessation products can help people quit. This week, OTCs in Action takes a look at recent government initiatives to extinguish smoking – and spotlights nicotine replacement therapy* sales trends in those countries.

Brazil’s National Anti-Smoking Law will take effect this month, prohibiting smoking in enclosed spaces; banning the promotion of tobacco products and requiring warnings to cover a significant part of cigarette packs. Nicholas Hall’s Global OTC Database DB6 reports mid-year sales of NRTs increased by 14% to US$20mn (MAT June 2014) in Brazil.

China is considering raising cigarette prices and taxes and the State Council has issued a draft regulation to ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising. China has more than 300mn smokers and cigarettes are very inexpensive. OTC sales of NRTs increased by 8% to US$25mn.

France unveiled plans to require plain cigarette packaging, increase prices for tobacco and ban smoking in cars containing children. Although the Government more than doubled reimbursement rates for NRTs for those aged between 20 to 25, sales of OTC NRTs declined by 6% to US$82mn, owing to increased use of generics and rising use of e-cigarettes.

India announced that health warnings covering at least 85% of cigarette packs will be mandatory by April 2015. Sales of OTC smoking control products increased by 22% to US$12mn. The diminutive sales figure reflects that fact that most tobacco consumption in India is in the form of chewing tobacco and paan.

Russia’s ban on smoking in most public paces enacted in 2013 was extended to include transportation and leisure-oriented locations last summer. An estimated 40% of Russian adults smoked in 2011 and cigarette prices are among the cheapest in the world. Sales of OTC smoking control products were up by 38% to US$20mn in the mid-year results.

In the brilliant 2005 film, Thank You for Smoking, tobacco executive BR says: “We don’t sell Tic Tacs, we sell cigarettes. And they’re cool, available and *addictive*. The job is almost done for us.”

Maybe not so cool or available anymore.

For more info, Nicholas Hall’s OTC INSIGHT publications for Latin America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America have just published market reports on the smoking control trends in their regions. http://www.insight.nicholashall.com

*Does not include e-cigarettes