From Action on Smoking and Health <[email protected]>
Subject ASH Daily News for 23 April 2024
Date April 23, 2024 12:06 PM
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** 23 April 2024

** UK

** MoD hands out free cigarettes to Ukrainian troops (#1)

** Cigarette prices motivating more quit attempts, study says (#2)

** Elfbar: Vape firm claims it will survive UK disposable ban (#3)

** UK

** MoD hands out free cigarettes to Ukrainian troops

Ukrainian soldiers trained in the UK were given free cigarettes under a deal brokered by the Ministry of Defence, despite the dangers of smoking.

The arrangement allowed tobacco donated to the troops to be imported duty free as part of their rations.

It came after complaints from the soldiers that cigarettes were too expensive in the UK and in too short supply at the training bases to meet their needs.

The deal was facilitated by Ben Wallace, the then defence secretary, working with Oleksii Reznikov, his Ukrainian counterpart, amid claims that the cigarette shortages were impeding the soldiers’ ability to concentrate on their training and posed a risk to morale from the lack of “creature comforts”.

The deal was arranged shortly after the first Ukrainians arrived for training in the summer of 2022, but has been disclosed only now, just days after Rishi Sunak secured the second reading of his Bill to implement a phased ban on smoking.

Mr Wallace and his aides smoothed the duty implications with the Treasury and cleared the legal risks with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which leads on the Government’s public health campaigns to reduce smoking.

The cigarettes were donated by an international tobacco firm and given to the soldiers as part of their rations. They were also offered healthier alternatives such as vapes and nicotine pouches and advice on the risks of smoking. Sources stressed no cigarettes were offered to non-smoking Ukrainians.

The MoD’s Operation Interflex, which has so far trained 60,000 Ukrainian military personnel, was launched in July 2022 with the first soldiers dispatched to several bases across the UK. In March, tobacco giant Philip Morris, which has plants in Ukraine, donated 500,000 packs of cigarettes to the Ukrainian military.

The cigarettes donated to the soldiers training in the UK came from another, unnamed, big tobacco firm but there were concerns within the MoD about whether the importation of them would accrue duty, which is currently £394 per 1,000 cigarettes.

Mr Wallace received assurances from the Treasury that it was legitimate under the rules for the cigarettes to be imported duty free as rations for a strategically important military operation.

The MoD also took advice from the DHSC’s legal department on the legal risks of the proposed arrangement. It is not known what the legal advice recommended, as it is custom for it to remain secret, but DHSC sources insisted the department did not seek to block the deal despite its public health responsibilities to cut smoking.

Source: The Telegraph, 21 April 2024

See also: The Kyiv Independent - Ukraine adds 2 tobacco companies to list of war sponsors ([link removed])
Read Here ([link removed])

** Cigarette prices motivating more quit attempts, study says

The rising price of cigarettes is motivating more people - one in four adults in England - to give up smoking, research suggests.

In a survey of nearly 6,000 people, health concerns were still the top reason for quitting.

But highlighting the money that could be saved by stopping smoking could encourage even more quit attempts, the University College London study said.

The study, which surveyed smokers every year between 2018 and 2023, found a continued rise in the proportion trying to quit since the start of the Covid pandemic - and that could have motivated others.

Latest figures show 12.7% of adults in England smoke - down from nearly 20% in 2011.
When people were asked why they had tried to stop:

** half said it was because they were worried about the effects on their health (both current and future)
** a quarter said it was down to the price of cigarettes - up from a fifth before the pandemic

Writing in the journal BMJ Public Health, the researchers say the pandemic probably raised smokers' awareness of the health dangers, leading to a rise in health-motivated quit attempts in 2020 and 2021.

But Covid also led to the loss of jobs and income for many people, which has since been compounded by a cost-of-living crisis.

"If you smoke, you can reduce your outgoings by switching to e-cigarettes," Dr Sarah Jackson, from UCL, said.

"This might be a helpful message in any future government campaign to get more people to stop smoking."

Previous research, from 2018-22, found smokers spent, on average, £20 on cigarettes each week, with e-cigarette users spending £6.30.

As prices rose, smokers either reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked or switched to cheaper hand-rolled cigarettes - but at some point, there would have been a limit.

Source: BBC News, 23 April 2024

See also: Sarah E Jackson, Sharon Cox, Vera Buss, Jamie Brown, Valeris Crean - Trends in motives for trying to stop smoking: a population study in England ([link removed]) , 2018–2023: BMJ Public Health 2024
Read Here ([link removed])

** Elfbar: Vape firm claims it will survive UK disposable ban

The company behind two of the UK's most popular vape brands says new reusable versions leave it "well-equipped" to deal with the upcoming ban on disposables, despite concerns over producers exploiting "loopholes".

Elfbar and Lost Mary have already launched reusable versions of their popular disposable vapes.

Elfbar said it was "addressing demand" for a tool to help smokers quit.

But critics say the vapes will not achieve the ban's environmental aims.

Councils have also warned that the UK government should not let producers exploit "loopholes" in the ban.

Green Fun Alliance is one of the main distributors in the UK of Elfbar and Lost Mary, which together account for nearly half of the British market.

The latest accounts for Green Fun Alliance show that its sales have skyrocketed as disposable vapes rose in popularity - almost tripling to £117.3m for the year to 31 January 2023.

In a filing with Companies House, Green Fun Alliance noted the government's plans to ban them from next April "will have a detrimental effect on sales and profitability".

"However, management have been preparing for this and are well equipped to pivot their business to the exclusive sale of non-disposable vapes and related products," it said.

Some signs of Elfbar and Lost Mary's future plans are already visible. In the past 12 months, they have launched reusable versions of their disposable vapes.

The main difference is that the liquid which contains the nicotine comes in a replaceable pod, and a USB port at the bottom allows the battery to be recharged. It means the body of the vape can be reused.

But critics contend that the new vapes will not deliver the environmental benefits which a ban was intended to bring.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, was one of the leading voices calling for the ban.

A spokesperson said: "The incoming ban on disposable vapes must ensure that the definition of disposable is locked down, and avoids the potential for producers to exploit loopholes, including producers adding a USB port to disposable vapes to bypass these restrictions."

Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, a non-profit organisation set up tackle electrical waste, noted the growing trend of vapes using pods. "This switch may have negligible environmental impact as these are still items which are low priced and easy to throw away," he said.

Source: BBC News, 22 April 2024
Read Here ([link removed])
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