LGA Lib Dems: Public Health, E-Cigarettes, Renewable Energy

A quick update on three stories that local campaigners might find useful:

Public Health

The LGA has been working with the King’s Fund to come up with some useful infographics to show how much investing in public health initiatives can save in terms of more expensive clinical intervention later on. Following Lib Dems making sure public health responsibility was transferred back to local councils this gives you some great material to use locally on campaigning on a local health issue. For example, every £1 spent on smoking reduction programmes in schools saves as much as £15 further down the line. Details can be found at http://tinyurl.com/lg5gvu3

E-cigarettes and Renewable energy
Concerns are growing over e-cigarettes and the Oldham Lib Dem Group won cross party support for their motion on the issue; Oldham Lib Dems have also tabled a question on Geothermic Heat which may also be of interest to colleagues, especially those in former coal mining areas.
E-cigarettes – motion from the Oldham Council Lib Dem Group

This Council notes the publication in August by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of a report on e-cigarettes.

Since 2005, the e-cigarette industry has grown to an estimated £2 billion global business with 466 brands. Many manufacturers are unregulated cottage industries in China, but this is a business in which the established tobacco industry is gaining an increasing market share.

E-cigarettes and similar devices are frequently marketed by manufacturers as aids to quit smoking, or as a healthier alternative to tobacco.

The WHO has concluded that:

  • There is insufficient evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers to quit. The organisation therefore recommends that smokers should first be encouraged to quit smoking by using a combination of already-approved treatments.
  • The marketing of e-cigarettes with fruit, candy and alcohol-drink flavours makes them particularly attractive to young people, with an estimate that e-cigarette use amongst adolescents has doubled between 2008 and 2012.
  • Whilst e-cigarettes are likely to be less toxic than conventional cigarettes, they do contain nicotine so their use can harm adolescents and the unborn children of pregnant mothers, and those in the vicinity of a user are exposed to nicotine and other toxicants.

The WHO calls for:

  • The introduction of international regulations to:
  • Impede e-cigarette promotion to non-smokers and young people
  • Minimise health risks to e-cigarette users and non-users
  • Prohibit unproven health claims about e-cigarettes
  • Protect existing tobacco control efforts from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry
  • Further research on the impact of e-cigarette use

The report makes several recommendations to national Governments to:

  • Establish an appropriate body to restrict e-cigarette advertising, promotion and sponsorship, to ensure that these products are not targeted at young people and non-smokers.
  • Enact legislation to end the use of e-cigarettes indoors in public or work places.
  • A ban on e-cigarettes with fruit, candy or alcohol-drink flavours to deter take up by young people.
  • A ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and the prohibition of vending machines
  • Regulate the involvement of the established tobacco industry.

Council notes also:

  • The work of the UK Government’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency review of the efficacy of e-cigarettes in helping smokers to quit
  • With regret, the decision by the Committee of Advertising Practice to issue revised guidance permitting advertisements on television showing e-cigarettes in use from 10th November

This Council resolves to:

  • Ask the Director of Public Health to:
  • ensure that measures are in place to make Council staff and the public aware of the dangers associated with the use of e-cigarettes
  • Promote the use of existing proven treatments and support services, rather than the use of e-cigarettes, as the means to stop smoking
  • Support the recruitment and training of Council employees to become Community Health Champions to help take these messages to their colleagues and to the public .
  • Ask the Chief Executive to write to the Secretary of State for Health, The Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, asking the minister to:
  • Adopt the recommendations of the WHO report as part of Government policy, enacting the necessary legislation and regulations as soon as possible
  • Publish the findings of the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency review at the earliest possible opportunity
  • Ask the Chief Executive to write to the Committee of Advertising Practice drawing attention to the WHO research and asking them to rescind approval of the revised guidance in light of the findings”

Council 22nd Oct. – Question from the Leader of the Oldham Council Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Sykes, on Geothermic Heat

My final question concerns geothermic heat; that is heat sourced from below ground to heat homes.

Let us be clear from the outset – I am not referring to fracking.

The Times reported recently that a 350-million year old volcano located deep beneath Stoke-on-Trent could help to heat more than a thousand homes.

On reading this article I naturally checked the facts as my first thought was that this must be a late-running April Fools’ Day joke.
But no; Stoke-on-Trent City Council has prepared a business case to drill a 2.5km borehole to an aquifer in which the water is heated naturally to at least 85C (185F). This heat would be transferred to the surface to heat homes and the Government has pledged £20million to fund it.

This got me thinking.

It is unlikely that Oldham sits on an ancient volcano, but we do have a rich coal mining heritage (as those amongst you who have seen the 19th Century photographic panorama of the town centre in Gallery Oldham will know).

So I wondered do former coal mines give off residual ground-source heat which we could possibly utilise as part of the borough’s renewable energy strategy?

And guess what they DO….

The Herald in Scotland reported in November 2013 that:

“As much as a third of the heat needed to keep Scotland warm could be provided by tapping geothermal energy from old coal mines across the central belt, a major new study for the Scottish Government has concluded.

“Warm water piped up from abandoned mine shafts between Glasgow and Edinburgh and in Ayrshire and Fife could help heat many thousands of homes and other buildings for decades, researchers said. They are urging ministers to embark on an ambitious attempt to make geothermal energy a major new source of clean, renewable power within a few years”.

As Oldham is far from unique in historically sourcing power from coal, would the Leader be agreeable to looking to commission with the other Leaders of the Greater Manchester Authorities a study of the potential of this power source across our county?

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