From Action on Smoking and Health <[email protected]>
Subject ASH Daily News for 13 May 2024
Date May 13, 2024 10:19 AM
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** 13 May 2024

** UK

** Smoking ban: Why are young people still taking up smoking? (#3)

** Schoolchildren are falling victim to vape spiking, police warn (#7)

** Obesity increases the risk of more than 30 types of cancer (#2)

** Obese people twice as likely to be off work (#6)

** UK

** Smoking ban: Why are young people still taking up smoking?

The government is planning one of the toughest smoking laws in the world, which would effectively ban it.

Smoking has been on the decline for two decades. In fact, more young people now vape than smoke tobacco. But one recent estimates suggests that about 350 young people still take up smoking each day in the UK. Among 15-year-olds, nearly one in 10 say they sometimes smoke. So why does this deadly habit still hold appeal?

Louis, 22, started smoking aged 19 while at university. "I thought I might as well give it a try," he says.
The student from Barnstaple, Devon, is among the 11.6% of people aged 18-24 in the UK who smoke and says he mostly does it "on nights out drinking outside pubs". But his first cigarette was not his first taste of nicotine. He was already hooked on vapes. He thinks lots of people his age are drawn to smoking by vaping, even though they were designed to help smokers quit.

There is, however, no strong evidence that vapes lead to smoking. At least one study suggests vapers may be more likely to become smokers. But we don't know that there is a direct link from one to the other, says Dr Sarah Jackson, from University College London's Alcohol and Tobacco Research Group.

"It may be these people have a sort of propensity for nicotine use or risk-taking behaviour, so someone who tries vaping is also more likely to try smoking," she says.

One of her big concerns is that negative publicity about vaping may be putting smokers off using them as a quitting tool.

Eleanor, a 23-year old graduate from Widnes, Cheshire, says she is addicted to nicotine - first a smoker, now a vaper too.

Hers is a familiar tale. Aged 15, she was introduced to smoking at house parties. And when she later left home to study, it became a regular vice.

Smoking was a big part of Eleanor's university social life. Outdoor areas at house parties were always "way better" than inside, as her smoker friends would all spend the evening there, she says.

Jo, a 22-year-old smoker from Sheffield says "peer pressure" was a factor. Jo also believes smoking is sometimes a "backlash against vaping", by people concerned with their image.

There is strong evidence the inclusion of smoking in films, on TV and in music videos is a risk-factor in young people taking up the habit. More recently, the depiction of smoking on social media has also been linked with uptake.

But while the rich and famous may have some influence, it's those closer to home who undoubtedly make the biggest impression.

Children whose parents smoke are up to four times more likely to take up smoking.
Ryan, 22, from Cumbria, has smoked since he was 13. He sometimes now vapes to top up nicotine hits from cigarettes.

"Everyone around me did it. The old lad did it, my nana did it, my grandad did it, all my mates did it and all their older brothers and sisters always did it. My grandfather would light his new fag with the dying embers of his last fag".

Ryan thinks he would have been "less inclined" to smoke without this influence.

But he said he and his friends also did it for fun: "Coming from Cumbria, it's such a poor area, there was nothing to do. It was kind of something to cure the boredom, it was exciting... it was worth taking the risk for a bit of excitement and something to do."

Despite how harmful smoking is, Dr Jackson believes "young people tend to be more likely to discount the health risks as being something that is not going to affect them anytime soon".

Jo said they were not worried about health when they began smoking, even though they have family members who have died as a result of smoking.

"I feel like my generation or people my age are very much in the moment.”

"I know about the health risks," says Louis. "The risk of cancer, emphysema, COPD, but obviously I think if I do it now while I'm young and get it out of the way it won't be that bad.

Source: BBC News, 11 May 2024

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** Schoolchildren are falling victim to vape spiking, police warn

Vape spiking cases in the UK are a “new threat”, with schoolchildren among those falling victim to the offence, i has been told.

Police have warned they are increasingly concerned after officers found devices containing substances such as THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, and spice, a powerful synthetic drug.

“Many of you are aware of the rise of vapes. They’re very much a new threat,” said Dean Ames, the Metropolitan Police’s forensic drugs operation manager. “People might be offered a vape but might not necessarily know what they are about to inhale. There are vapes out there which are dangerous.”

Spiking – when a substance is put into a person’s body through a drink or injection without their consent – is typically considered a risk in pubs and clubs. But police warned it was also an issue in schools because of the popularity of e-cigarettes among young people.

The Met’s chief licensing officer, Ian Graham, told i that Scotland Yard is “aware of vapes being used at school and of young people being spiked there”.

Vape spiking can occur when a person purchases an e-cigarette containing unexpected intoxicants, when a person accepts a vape unaware that it has other substances in it or when someone’s vape is tampered with. Trading Standards has found around a third of vapes may be illegal, for reasons including containing banned substances.

But Helen Millichap, the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Local Policing, suggested that cracking down on spiking in general was proving difficult, with the arrest figure “not as high as we’d like it”.

Part of the problem appears to be the challenge posed by detecting vape pens because of their size and because their smell fades quicker than cigarettes in busy venues such as nightclubs.

E-cigarette detection is also problematic in schools, where vape pens have been designed to look like highlighters, keyrings, and even functional pens, according to teachers and campaigners.

Though vape spiking in schools has been reported in the press, the true scale of the problem is difficult to pinpoint, according to the Met’s Mr Graham, who added: “It’s such a new methodology, we don’t know. It’s so easy to put those substances into a vape and pass it.”

A report from Action on Smoking (ASH) found that almost half (47 per cent) of the young people surveyed said their main source of procuring vapes was other people, rather than purchasing the devices themselves.

Source: The I, 11 May 2024

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** Obesity increases the risk of more than 30 types of cancer

Obesity can increase the risk of more than 30 different types of cancer, according to a study revealing how unhealthy diets are driving up rates of the disease.

Being overweight or obese was found to increase the development of cancers that account for four in ten of overall cases, a much greater proportion than previously thought.

The research, presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Venice, involved 4.1 million adults who were tracked for four decades.

It confirmed established findings that obesity causes 13 types of cancer including breast and bowel, and identified a further 19 types of cancer associated with weight gain, including some skin cancers and cervical cancer.

These forms of cancer make up 40 per cent of all new cases, affecting tens of thousands of people in the UK each year. Until now it was thought that only 25 per cent of cancers were obesity-related.

Although in most cases obesity is unlikely to be the direct cause, the study concluded that “a substantial proportion of cancers could potentially be prevented by keeping a normal weight”.

Every five-point increase in BMI — equivalent to gaining about three stone for someone who is a healthy weight — was found to increase the risk of several common cancers by 24 per cent in men and 12 per cent in women. This is because fat cells send out signals that increase inflammation, make extra hormones and growth factors, which increases the risk of tumours.

Obesity rates in the UK have doubled since the 1990s, with one in four adults now obese, and this study shows this is likely to lead to a “significant increase in cancer cases”.

Ministers have been urged to treat the findings as a “wake-up call” and impose tough new measures on obesity to prevent a cancer time bomb costing thousands of lives.

Ming Sun, the lead researcher, said: “Our findings suggest that the impact of obesity on cancer might be greater than previously known, in that it is a risk factor for more cancers, especially of rarer kind. Some of these have rarely or never before been investigated in relation to obesity.”

Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “This should be a wake-up call to the government to urgently implement public health policies which will make a meaningful difference, such as restrictions on junk food marketing and levies on unhealthy food. We need to make the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone.”
Malcolm Clark, from Cancer Research UK, said: “The link between being overweight and obese and cancer is well-established. It’s the second-biggest cause of the disease in the UK after smoking. But the government has failed to implement its own strategy and legislation. They should urgently implement the delayed restrictions on both advertising and promoting unhealthy food and drink.”

Source: The Times, 10 May 2024

See also: Body Mass Index and Risk of Over 100 Cancer Forms and Subtypes in 4·1 Million Individuals in Sweden: The Obesity and Disease Development Sweden (ODDS) Pooled Cohort Study ([link removed]) , Sun, M., et al. Preprints with The Lancet April 2024
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** Obese people twice as likely to be off work

Obese people are up to twice as likely to take time off work, a study has revealed, fuelling a crisis that is stifling Britain’s economic growth.

Analysis of data representing millions of workers across Europe found that people take more sick days the heavier they are, owing to complications including joint pain, diabetes, depression and heart disease.

Severely obese adults were 2.5 times more likely to have had at least one week off with poor health in the past year, compared with those of a healthy weight, with absence rates 22 per cent higher among people who were overweight but not obese.

The study, presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Venice, is the first to provide a detailed breakdown of the toll of obesity on workplace absenteeism and productivity — with Britain “among the worst” of the 28 countries examined.

It provides the strongest evidence yet that soaring obesity is underpinning the UK’s record sickness levels, with 2.8 million people signed off work. The number of sick notes issued by the NHS has doubled in the past decade, with rising sick leave costing an estimated £33 billion a year in productivity.

Rishi Sunak has announced reforms to tackle this “sick-note culture”, warning that benefits are “becoming a lifestyle choice”. However, experts said that these attempts to get people back to work would fail unless ministers also addressed obesity, which is the “root cause” of health problems driving millions out of the workforce and making Britain “the sick man of Europe”.

The new study was led by a team at the Health Economics and Health Policy Research Group at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna. It looked at national survey data from 122,598 people, representing a population of 147 million working- age people across 26 European countries.

Those in employment were asked if they had taken sick leave in the past year, and if so, how many days. This showed a clear association between increased body mass index (BMI) and increased absenteeism.

Across Europe, those with a BMI of 25-30, classed as overweight, were 22 per cent more likely to have had at least seven days off sick. This increased to 38 per cent in those with a BMI of 30-35, and 52 per cent for those with a BMI of 35-40. Severely obese people, with a BMI above 40, were 147 per cent more likely to have had seven days off.

Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “This research lays it bare — high rates of obesity related disease is driving down economic productivity, with devastating economic impacts. Prioritising the nation’s food-related ill health is vital for any government serious about improving wellbeing, increasing growth, and ensuring the sustainability of the NHS.”

Source: The Times, 12 May 2024

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