From Action on Smoking and Health <[email protected]>
Subject ASH Daily News for 12 March 2024
Date March 12, 2024 12:21 PM
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** 12 March 2024

** UK

** Council members sign official declaration around tobacco use (#2)

** National No Smoking Day could change your life (#4)

** Health bosses push for smoking law change (#1)

** Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: ministers doing ‘next to nothing’ to tackle obesity (#3)

** UK

** Council members sign official declaration around tobacco use

Walsall Council has signed the Local Government Tobacco Control Declaration, demonstrating its commitment to ensure tobacco control is part of mainstream public health work and taking action to address the harms of smoking.

The declaration was signed on Friday, March 8 by Leader of Walsall Council, Councillor Mike Bird, chief executive Emma Bennett and interim director of Public Health Nadia Inglis.

Deputy Leader and portfolio holder for resilient communities Councillor Garry Perry and portfolio holder for wellbeing, leisure and public spaces Councillor Gary Flint also added their signatures to the declaration.

The declaration was relaunched in March 2022 to bring it in line with the Government’s ambition for England to be smokefree by 2030 and the commitments detailed in the declaration are complementary to Walsall’s new Tobacco Control Plan and We are Walsall 2040 Borough Plan.

Councillor Flint said, “Smoking is the leading preventable cause of ill-health and premature death nationally.

"Although Walsall has seen a steady decline in people smoking, there is still more work to be done, especially in supporting those groups in highest need.

"This includes pregnant women, routine and manual workers and those with long-term mental health conditions.

“To support residents to quit smoking, we already have a range of excellent services commissioned by Walsall Council Public Health.

"This includes Be Well Walsall provided by Maximus UK, the More Life Digital ‘My Smoke Free Life’ App and specialist support for pregnant women delivered by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust.

“We plan to enhance services, prevent residents from starting smoking or vaping, enhance local regulation and enforcement, including vaping, and work effectively with key partners to support the ambitions in our Tobacco Control Plan over the next four years.”

Source: Express & Star, 12 March 2024
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** National No Smoking Day could change your life

Smokers are being urged to stub out their habit to mark the 40th anniversary of National No Smoking Day on Wednesday.

And there will be plenty of free support on offer for those who want to quit, including nicotine replacement therapies.

National No Smoking Day, which encourages smokers to take a 24-hour break from cigarettes, and highlights the numerous benefits of quitting smoking, even for a short period.

Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of death in England as up to two in three smokers will die as a result of long-term smoking.

The benefits of giving up smoking are clear, providing almost immediate health improvements and typically saving £2,000 a year that smokers spend on buying tobacco products.

Lynn Donkin, Director of Public Health at Bolton Council said: “If you smoke, quitting is one of the best ways to improve your health and the benefits are immediate whatever your age and no matter how long you’ve smoked.

"People are on average three times more likely to quit with professional help and here in Bolton there’s a variety of free help available to support residents to quit.

“This No Smoking Day we encourage residents to step towards a healthier life and quit smoking.”

Source: The Bolton News, 12 March 2024
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** Health bosses push for smoking law change

Health leaders have called for new smoking laws to be passed before a general election is called.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill was announced by King Charles in his first King's Speech as monarch.

It would see the legal age at which people can buy tobacco products increase each year meaning those turning 15 this year would never be able to buy one.

Julia Weldon, the director of public health in Hull, said the bill is the "the most important change to public health in our lifetime".

The government announced plans to phase out cigarettes in England last year with the proposal receiving cross-party support.

But, four months after the announcement by the King, a new law still has not been passed in the UK.

Scott Crosby, associate director for the Humber and North Yorkshire Centre for Excellence in Tobacco Control, said: "Protecting our children from this harm is not just a moral imperative, it's an investment in our nation's future."

The Humber and North Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership claims 83% of smokers start before the age of 20.

It also said the area it covers has some of the highest smoking rates in the UK, compared with national averages.

Source: BBC News, 11 March 2024
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** Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: ministers doing ‘next to nothing’ to tackle obesity

The celebrity chef and Green party supporter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has clashed with the UK health secretary, Victoria Atkins, over what he says is the government’s failure to tackle the obesity crisis.

Fearnley-Whittingstall challenged Atkins during a live discussion on BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, accusing ministers of doing “next to nothing” to tackle obesity in England.

The row comes after Rishi Sunak delayed some of the government’s key anti-obesity policies until October 2025, even as evidence mounts that the pandemic made childhood obesity rates in the UK far worse.

Fearnley-Whittingstall told the health secretary: “Treating obesity is the single biggest cost to the NHS … [There are] a raft of policies, of levers that you could be pulling to address the obesity crisis. You’re not pulling any of them. You’ve done next to nothing to help [the] ailing, struggling, sick citizens of the UK find healthier food.”

Atkins said the government was committed to tackling obesity, but as part of a wider scheme to prevent illness. “I will be, over the coming weeks, setting out a prevention strategy, which of course will include obesity,” she said. “But we make the mistake I think of silo-ing obesity by itself. We know that it can have many, many other conditions, including causing type two diabetes.”

Referring to the government’s plan to phase in a complete ban on smoking, the health secretary added: “The biggest public health intervention we can make – we are making – is creating the first smoke-free generation.”

Meanwhile, reports suggest the pandemic has worsened obesity rates among children in particular, with unhealthy eating habits and a lack of exercise having become embedded into young people’s lifestyles.

A study published in the journal PLOS One this year found obesity rates in England increased by 45% in four- to five-year-olds and by 21% in 10- to11-year-olds during the first year of lockdowns. Nearly one in four 10- to 11-year-olds in England are obese, according to the report.

Tackled specifically on why those policies had been postponed, Atkins said: “We’ve got to reflect the society in which we serve, in which the NHS serves.” She went on to talk about the £3.6bn that the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, announced in this week’s budget to improve efficiency in the health service.

Source: The Guardian, 10 March 2024

See also: Iván Ochoa-Moreno, Ravita Taheem, Woods-Townsend K, Chase D, Godfrey KM, Modi N, et al. Projected health and economic effects of the increase in childhood obesity during the COVID-19 pandemic in England: The potential cost of inaction ([link removed]) . PLOS ONE. 2024

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