Saturday April 20, 2019

Will plain packaging help in reducing tobacco smoking?

Australia in 2012 became the first country to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products and there were 108,000 fewer smokers over that period

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France, tobacco store, cigarettes. Image source: HuffingtonPost
  • Almost 6 million people a year die prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses
  • In 2012, Australia became the first country to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products
  • Ireland, Norway, Singapore, Belgium and New Zealand are also planning to implement this measure

The type of plain packaging of tobacco products proposed by the WHO stands in sharp contrast to wrappers featuring rugged cowboys smoking in the great outdoors.

Sample packages are black, with large warnings that smoking kills and graphic images of people dying from cancer.  Douglas Bettcher, the WHO’s director for the prevention of non-communicable diseases, says the point of plain packaging is to reduce demand for tobacco by reducing the attractiveness of these products.

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“It very clearly labels tobacco for what it is, the only legally available product worldwide that when used as intended kills up to half of its users,” said Bettcher.

Many people may be vaping nicotine through e-cigarettes, smoking. Image source: post-gazette.com
Many people may be vaping nicotine through e-cigarettes, smoking. Image source: post-gazette.com

The WHO reports almost 6 million people a year die prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses. The number is projected to rise to more than 8 million by 2030, with more than 80 percent of these preventable deaths occurring in developing countries.

Packaging

Australia in 2012 became the first country to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products, along with new and enlarged health warnings. France and Britain have since followed suit.  The WHO says other countries including Ireland, Norway, Singapore, Belgium and New Zealand are also planning to implement this measure.

Benn McGrady, an Australian lawyer and technical officer at the WHO, says Australia conducted a 34-month review between December 2012 and September 2015 to gauge the impact of plain packaging.

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“Over that period there was approximately a 2 percentage point reduction in the prevalence of smoking in Australia. Zero-point-55 percentage points is attributable to the packaging changes,” he said.

McGrady added there were an estimated 108,000 fewer smokers over that period as a consequence of the changes to packaging and labeling. (VOA)

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This should be done in India too. India is a country with great amount of smokers right from an early age. Initiatives should be taken to do so.

  • Shubhi Mangla

    I think i a country like India this won’t be that beneficial. Almost everyone knows that smoking kills but still they don’t give it up. Large warnings that recently came to be printed failed to make goo efforts too.

  • devika todi

    this is a step taken in the right direction. smoking has been glorified for long. in India, consumption of tobacco is also supported heavily. the government should definitely take measures to ensure that the public is well educated on these matters. the consumption of such products degrades the quality of health and poses as a risk to the consumer’s life.
    while we are on it, maybe we can stop the influential personalities from advertising for products that are dangerous to health, like tobacco.

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This should be done in India too. India is a country with great amount of smokers right from an early age. Initiatives should be taken to do so.

  • Shubhi Mangla

    I think i a country like India this won’t be that beneficial. Almost everyone knows that smoking kills but still they don’t give it up. Large warnings that recently came to be printed failed to make goo efforts too.

  • devika todi

    this is a step taken in the right direction. smoking has been glorified for long. in India, consumption of tobacco is also supported heavily. the government should definitely take measures to ensure that the public is well educated on these matters. the consumption of such products degrades the quality of health and poses as a risk to the consumer’s life.
    while we are on it, maybe we can stop the influential personalities from advertising for products that are dangerous to health, like tobacco.

Next Story

This Tiny Cell is Good News for Cancer Survivors

This approach to fertility restoration is safe," says Bhartiya pointing out to earlier studies carried out in her laboratory in mice which had shown that this method restored the role of non-functional ovaries and resulted in the birth of fertile offsprings

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Cancer
Cancer Ribbon. Pixabay

A scientist at the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH) in Mumbai — an institute under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) — says a new type of stem cell identified by her team can help restore fertility in men and women who have undergone treatment for cancer.

Cancer treatment, or “oncotherapy”, that involves use of radiation and chemicals, renders patients infertile as an unwanted side effect and, while cured of cancer, they cannot beget children.

Though women are born with a lifetime reserve of “oocytes” ( immature eggs), these are wiped out by oncotherapy. In males, the testes responsible for the production of sperms, stop making them following cancer treatment.

Currently accepted approaches for fertility preservation require male patients to deposit their sperm in “cryo-banks” before beginning cancer treatment for later use. Similarly women, wanting to have children, must have their eggs or embryos “cryopreserved” for use after oncotherapy.

“Such approaches are invasive, expensive, technically challenging and depend on assisted reproductive technologies,” reports NIRRH cell biologist Deepa Bhartiya in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research, the flagship journal of ICMR.

According to the report, there is now a way out. Bhartiya says research by her team over the years led to identification of a novel population of “Very Small Embryonic-Like stem cells (VSELs)”, in testis (in males) and ovaries (in females).

Being “quiescent” by nature, these primitive stem cells (VSELs) survive cancer therapy and therefore can offer young cancer survivors options to have children without having to bank their sperms or embryos prior to oncotherapy, says the report.

“The VSELs have remained elusive over decades due to their small size and presence in very few numbers,” says Bhartiya.

Cancer patient
Cancer patient.

The discovery of these unique VSELs (in testes and ovaries) that do not succumb to oncotherapy “opens up an alternative strategy to regenerate non-functional gonads and ovaries in cancer survivors”, says Bhartiya.

While VSELs survive cancer treatment, their original “habitat” (or niche) however gets destroyed by oncotherapy. To make the VSELs functional, their “niche” should be re-created by transplanting “mesenchymal cells” — another type of stem cells taken from the bone marrow — into the testes, says the report.

A simple and direct transplantation of “mesenchymal cells in the non-functional gonads may suffice to regenerate them,” says Bhartiya. “Similarly, transplantation of “ovarian surface epithelial cells” may allow the VSELs to regenerate nonfunctional ovaries.”

“This approach to fertility restoration is safe,” says Bhartiya pointing out to earlier studies carried out in her laboratory in mice which had shown that this method restored the role of non-functional ovaries and resulted in the birth of fertile offsprings.

“Our group also successfully restored spermatogenesis (sperm production) in non-functional mouse testis by transplanting niche (mesenchymal) cells, into the testis,” Bhartiya said.

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In the light of these findings, she says the field of oncofertility may undergo a sea-change and existing strategies of cryopreservation of gametes and gonadal tissue for fertility preservation in cancer patients will have to be revised. “Pilot clinical studies (in humans) need to be undertaken.”

“VSELs may be an alternative cell source for induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) clls,” Balu Manohar, managing director of Stempeutics Research, a Bengaluru-based stem cell company told this correspondent. “But it is still far away from the clinic as isolation and large scale expansion of these cells has to be standardised.” (IANS)