The TackSHS project, an EU funded project tackling tobacco-related chronic diseases in Europe, was recently completed with a Project Final Conference that took place in the European Parliament, in Brussels. The TackSHS was led and managed by Dr. Esteve Fernández, Director of the Tobacco Control Unit in the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO, Spain). It is worth-noting that Dr. Esteve Fernández and ICO is a JATC participant, as the leader of WP6.
Novel data that reveals the results of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) from cigarettes and second-hand aerosols (SHA) from electronic cigarettes on the respiratory health of European population, the burden of associated mortality and morbidity and economic consequences for national and European welfare were presented for discussion to a wide audience of about 100 European stakeholders during the Conference, held on October 8th, 2019.
Researchers from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Spain and Greece had an honor of sharing key messages and recommendations deriving from 4 years of scientific studies under the TackSHS project:
- Daily exposure to SHS among non-smokers is highly prevalent in most European countries (31% overall, ranging between 24% in Ireland and 68% in Greece), especially in indoor and outdoor settings of hospitality venues, workplaces, and homes and cars
- Smoking occurs and SHS is present in almost all outdoor terraces of bars and restaurants across Europe, even in countries with legislation in these settings. Moreover, smoking occurs and SHS is present in most playgrounds and entrances to schools across Europe, especially in deprived neighborhoods and countries with lower tobacco control climate
- Across Europe, three out of five smokers allow smoking in their homes, with very high levels of SHS exposure detected, potentially affecting children and other bystanders. In addition, SHS levels in cars of smokers are very high, with nicotine concentrations exceeding those observed in smokers’ homes
- The annual cost of lost DALYs due to exposure to SHS is 356 million (of Purchasing Power Parity Adjusted euro of year 2017) on average in the EU 28 Member States. Differences around this average value are substantial. Germany is the Member State with the highest losses (1694.69 million euro) and Malta (10.55 million euro) with the lowest ones. Such differences reflect mostly differences in population size but also differences in the prevalence of exposure to SHS
- With regards to electronic cigarette use and exposure to their aerosols, the analysis demonstrated that the prevalence of use is low and diverse in Europe, more frequent among youth and usually concurrent with traditional cigarette smoking. The tests confirmed that electronic cigarette use impairs air quality with particulate matter, nicotine, volatile organic compounds, among others; while individuals exposed to electronic cigarettes aerosol showed immediate alterations of their lung function (respiratory mechanics and exhaled biomarkers) and experienced symptoms of eye, nose and throat irritation
Project Consortium suggests the following measures for urgent consideration of the governments:
- Comprehensive policies and interventions to tackle tobacco consumption continue to be necessary especially for populations groups with higher prevalence rates.
- Increased monitoring and enforcement of smoke-free legislation is necessary, especially in workplaces and hospitality venues.
- Smoke-free legislation should be extended to outdoor areas (terraces, playgrounds, entrances) to discourage smokers, protect bystanders (including specific groups such as children and patients with lung chronic conditions), and to increase public awareness.
- Smoke-free homes should be promoted through evidence-based interventions at multiple levels.
- European governments should set national targets to reduce the proportion of children exposed to SHS.
- European governments should introduce smoke-free policies to regulate smoking inside private cars.
- To protect bystanders from secondhand aerosols from electronic cigarettes, policies to restrict their use in enclosed public spaces should be introduced.
- More research on the mid- and long-term effects of acute and chronic exposure to aerosols of electronic cigarettes by bystanders is needed, targeting specific population groups (children, patients with lung chronic diseases).
Other JATC Institutions who participated in TackSHS work packages were:
- Instituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri (IRCCS, Italy) – WP3 Survey on SHS and electronic cigarettes
- George D. Behrakis Research Lab -Hellenic Cancer Society, (HCS, Greece) – WP6 Clinical impact of passive exposure to e-cigarettes emissions on the respiratory system
- European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP) – WP11 Dissemination of project findings
The outcomes of TackSHS project aim to serve as a solid base for addressing health inequalities caused by the use of conventional tobacco and electronic cigarettes. TackSHS results provide scientific evidence much-needed to facilitate urgent policy changes such as closing legislation gaps in regulation of novel and emerging products, while improving and strengthening comprehensive smoking bans in every EU Member State.
Click here for the official Press Release of the event.