From Action on Smoking and Health <[email protected]>
Subject ASH Daily News for 8 April 2024
Date April 8, 2024 11:34 AM
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** 8 April 2024

** UK

** Quitting smoking could redirect £11bn a year into local economies, study says (#1)

** Revealed: How tobacco firms get ads on tube (#2)

** Radio: Is loneliness as bad for you as smoking? (#3)

** Slot machine operator being investigated over cancer patient’s activity (#4)

** UK

** Quitting smoking could redirect £11bn a year into local economies, study says

Almost £11bn a year could be spent in England’s communities from money saved on tobacco products if people quit smoking, according to a study.

Published in the journal Tobacco Control and written by academics at the University of Sheffield, the study looked at how much people spent on cigarettes and other tobacco a year, and analysed how this money could be spent in cities and towns instead.

It examined data from the Smoking Toolkit study, made up of 18,721 smoking adults who estimated how much they spent on tobacco products. This was then compared with figures from government tax receipts and national estimates of illegal tobacco use.

The research concluded: “The total dividend in England is estimated to be £10.9bn each year, which equates to £1,776 per person who smokes or £246 per adult regardless of smoking status.”

Dr Damon Morris, the author of the study, said the money spent on tobacco-related products was money people could “instead spend on other things such as in shops, on entertainment or other services”.

“The total economic benefit of going completely smoke-free would be greater than £10.9bn. As well as the local area benefits, there would be savings made by the NHS with fewer ill smokers, and benefits to the wider economy through fewer people being unable to work due to smoking-related illness.”

Meanwhile, a tobacco and vapes bill has been introduced to parliament. Under the proposed legislation, anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 – in effect anyone who is 14 years old or younger now – will not legally be able to buy any tobacco product in England during their lives as the smoking age is increased by one year every year.

Dr Duncan Gillespie, a senior research fellow at Sheffield’s school of medicine and population health, said: “By reducing smoking rates and freeing up disposable income, policymakers have the opportunity to alleviate smoking-induced deprivation and empower individuals to redirect funds towards essential needs.”

“This reallocation of resources can contribute to economic prosperity and help to reduce geographic inequalities in society.”

A study from last year found the tobacco industry’s £7.3bn annual revenue was from sales of products that were known to kill half of the people who use them.

Source: The Guardian, 8 April 2024


** Editorial Note: This study shows different estimate for expenditure on tobacco from ASH analysis in the Ready Reckoner ([link removed]) . ASH RR estimates of the costs of tobacco spending derived from the Government’s Living Costs and Food Survey whereas this study took reported expenditure in the UCL Smoking Toolkit Study – these studies show different patterns of spending due to different methodologies. Costs in the ASH analysis have also been updated to reflect more recent increases in taxes.
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** Revealed: How tobacco firms get ads on tube

Transport for London is collecting big money from tobacco firms advertising on the tube network, the Islington Tribune can reveal.

Our enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act found half a million pounds has been spent largely on vaping ads. It comes amid concerns that people – particularly younger customers – are using vapes without ever having smoked a cigarette due to their colourful promotion.

The tube ads were booked despite a strict clampdown by London mayor Sadiq Khan on what can and cannot be advertised on the underground, and a ban on fast-food marketing.

The Tribune found that the number of “tobacco and accessories” campaigns which appeared on TfL’s services increased by five fold last year.

Data shows that there were 36 of these campaigns at London tube stations and on buses in the year 2022/23, up from just seven the previous year.

The revenue generated by these campaigns equated to almost £500,000 and was paid for by 10 separate companies. These included brands such as British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Vaporessso. Many tobacco firms have begun producing vape products amid campaigns to persuade people to stop smoking cigarettes.

Japan Tobacco International owns Nordic Spirit, who produce a nicotine pouch that users can place between their lip and gums.

A spokesperson for TfL said: “While the advertising of tobacco was banned in the UK in 2003, our advertising policy allows adverts for vapes and e-cigarette products on outdoor advertising sites as long as they meet the requirements of the UK Advertising Codes.”

But Hazel Cheeseman, the deputy chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health which was set up to “end the harm caused by tobacco”, said: “Rather than TfL selling their advertising space to tobacco companies to market their vaping products it would be great to see this space being used by councils and the NHS to promote the importance of quitting to smokers, including encouraging them to switch to vaping.”

“Even though vaping is less harmful than smoking not enough smokers believe this. It would be good for the health of the capital if TfL advertising was used to encourage smokers to switch, a message far too important to be left to the commercially interested and untrustworthy tobacco industry.”

Source: The Islington Tribune, 5 April 2024

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** Radio Programme: Is loneliness as bad for you as smoking?

Is loneliness as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes per day? That’s the claim circulating on social media.

This 10 minute programme traces this stat back to its source and speaks to the scientist behind the original research on which it is based, Professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad.

Source: BBC Radio 4 More or Less, 6 April 2024

Listen Here ([link removed])

** Slot machine operator being investigated over cancer patient’s activity

The high street slot machine company Merkur is under investigation by the Gambling Commission over its alleged exploitation of a vulnerable customer, the Guardian understands, casting a shadow over its UK expansion drive.

The Guardian revealed in March that staff at Merkur’s Stockport branch looked on as Wendy Hughes, 64, who was being treated for lung cancer at the time, lost more than £2,000 over the course of 16 hours, spread across two days of play.

Staff reserved her favourite slot machine for her when, despite her physical frailty, she went out at midnight to fetch more money when her cash machine withdrawal limit reset.

The Gambling Commission, which can impose financial penalties on companies that break the terms of their gambling licence, is now understood to be investigating the case.

Merkur has blamed the incident on branch staff, saying that customer protection measures required by the regulator were “fully in place”.

In accounts filed at Companies House, Merkur reported revenues up 17% to £202m last year, as it reaped the benefit of a UK expansion project. It has opened 100 new venues since 2020.

The results, and the Gambling Commission’s investigation, come at a sensitive time for Merkur and the wider slot machine sector. The company’s plan to expand its presence on British high streets has sometimes been met with local opposition, including in Sheffield, where the company recently withdrew its application for a new premises in the face of objections from residents.

Despite announcing plans to crack down on the digital slot machines sector earlier this year by reducing maximum stakes to £5, or £2 for those aged 18 to 24, the government is expected to loosen regulations governing high street slots.

Under proposals outlined as part of the government’s white paper on gambling reform, venues are likely to be allowed to stock a higher proportion of £2-a-spin machines relative to the number with maximum stakes of £1.

Source: The Guardian, 8 April 2024
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