October 11th, 2017

Is Australia falling behind on tobacco policy?

Sources: Office for National Statistics (UK). Smoking habits in the UK and its constituent countries, 2016.  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2016.

See updates: New Zealand moves / Newspaper interview / Radio interview


I’m visiting Australia next week and looking forward to some good discussions with people holding any and all points of view on vaping, nicotine and smoking.  My aim is to share experience from the US and UK where we are seeing encouraging uptake of low-risk vaping alongside an unusually rapid decline in smoking. Historically, UK has always had substantially higher levels of smoking than Australia, but in 2016 that gap has finally closed. Both countries have comprehensive tobacco policies – albeit with some differences in the details and Australia generally the first to do new measures, like plain packaging. But there is one major difference. UK (and especially England) now encourages smokers to switch to low-risk alternatives like vaping, while Australia actively prevents it and actually criminalises people who try to protect their own health in this way.

Five talking points inspired by the Royal College of Physicians

The case I want to make is that Australia is missing an opportunity, and there is a human cost for that in terms of cancer, heart and lung disease and premature death. I’ve structured my talking points around five of the key findings of the excellent April 2016 Royal College of Physicians (London) report: see Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction and press release.  It was, of course, the RCP that first put the dangers of smoking on the public agenda with its groundbreaking 1962 report, Smoking and Health. >> read the full post

September 26th, 2017

Guest post: BAT executive on disruption of the tobacco industry

BAT’s O’Reilly on the disruption of the tobacco industry

On June 12th, I published a blog, Pariahs, predators or players? The tobacco industry and the end of smoking, in which I tried to guess how tobacco companies are thinking about the future from my vantage point on the sidelines.  But I also asked if any industry figures would like to offer an informed insider’s view and offered a right of reply. Well, to my surprise one executive did reply.  David O’Reilly is BAT’s Group Scientific and R&D Director, and here is his perspective. >> read the full post

September 24th, 2017

Advertising code at fault over e-cigarette public health ad ban

This year’s Stoptober campaign encourages smokers to try vaping – bravo!

Update 24 September: Cancer Research UK says its hasn’t “been prevented from doing anything by the ASA that we are aware of, so don’t know why this story appeared” and PHE ads were still running on TV last night. So please treat the posting below as an analysis of the legal situation.

So newspaper reports suggest we have the ridiculous situation of the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banning adverts for vaping that are part of a public health quit smoking campaign, ‘Stoptober’. The Sun reports UP IN SMOKE: Anti-smoking adverts by Cancer Research see charity in row over barmy Brussels rules that would BAN them.

The ASA is quoted in The Sun’s article:

The ASA said yesterday:  “Our rules prohibits ads for unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, in line with European law which took effect in 2016.  Ads for products and brands are prohibited and have not been seen or heard on TV or radio since last year.”

I have not seen the Cancer Research ads, but the TV advert from Public Health England (screen shot above) clearly mentions e-cigarettes so would be caught by the ASA’s reasoning.

The Sun concludes that the problem lies with the ‘barmy’ EU directive?  But does it?  Not so fast… >> read the full post

July 28th, 2017

Huge FDA announcement on future tobacco and nicotine strategy

FDA’s Scott Gottlieb: “new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation”

It came as a surprise, but today’s announcement from FDA on tobacco policy is huge.  The video of Dr Gottlieb’s speech and background is available here and speech text here.

The new Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb calls for FDA to develop a ‘new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation’ and announced ‘bold and far-reaching measures’ based on ‘ a firm foundation of rules and standards for newly-regulated products’.  FDA announced it would “begin a public dialogue about lowering nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes to non-addictive levels through achievable product standards“.

FDA Press announcement: FDA announces comprehensive regulatory plan to shift trajectory of tobacco-related disease, death

Some highlights… >> read the full post

July 21st, 2017

Challenging the prohibitionists - submissions to Australian parliamentary inquiry into e-cigarettes

Since 2013, UK smoking prevalence fell at three times the rate of Australia despite Australia’s plain packs and sharp tax increases. Why might that be?

Really, it should be a no-brainer!  But here is an effort to encourage Australia’s legislators to look beyond the unaccountable clique that dominate Australia’s tobacco control field, and instead to look kindly on lifting the absurd Australian de facto prohibition of e-cigarettes and other low risk nicotine products.

Let’s boil it down to its essentials: supporters of e-cigarette prohibition somehow think it makes sense to deny at-risk citizens, smokers, access to much safer products that are alternatives to the market leader and to only allow the most dangerous products, namely “tobacco prepared and packed for smoking“, onto the consumer nicotine market. Well, I guess it would make sense if you were trying to protect the cigarette trade and harm as many smokers as possible. In my view, Australia’s policy has no basis in science, ethics or compassion. The approach bears the twin hallmarks of fanaticism and incompetence, and it needs to change.

So, here at some length is my submission to the Parliament of Australia, House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, Inquiry into The Use and Marketing of Electronic Cigarettes and Personal Vaporisers in Australia [link to inquiry]

Submission #271 by Clive Bates (PDF – 30 pages)

Executive summary (1 page) reproduced below… >> read the full post