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Schenectady County passes Tobacco 21 law

http://cbs6albany.com/news/local/schenectady-county-passes-tobacco-21-law

SCHENECTADY–County lawmakers have passed a new bill banning the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 21.

Schenectady is now the fifth county in New York, plus New York City, to pass this measure.

Nationwide, more than 184 localities, plus the states of California and Hawaii, have passed Tobacco 21 laws.

“The Lung Association applauds Schenectady County for joining Albany County, Cortland County, New York City, Chautauqua County, and Suffolk County in implementing laws raising the legal sale age of tobacco products to 21 years old,” said Jeff Seyler, president & CEO, American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Over 50% of New York’s population is covered by laws where the legal sales age is 21 years old. It’s imperative that the New York State legislature prioritize the health of young adults and act to save lives across the state.”

According to a Siena Poll in December 2015, 59% of Schenectady county residents strongly supported raising the purchase age to 21.

Crackdown by Hong Kong customs nets illegal cigarettes worth HK$57 million

Customs officers made this year’s largest seizure of contraband in the city on Tuesday, with an estimated value of HK$7.3 million

Contraband cigarettes worth more than HK$57 million have been confiscated by Hong Kong Customs in 12 cases of tobacco smuggling from the mainland so far this year, a customs official said on Wednesday.

Details were revealed by assistant superintendent Lau Yuk-lung ,who heads the Customs division investigating illicit cigarettes, after customs officers made this year’s largest seizure of contraband in the city on Tuesday.

The HK$7.3 million haul was discovered when officers intercepted a Hong Kong-bound container truck at Man Kam To Immigration Control Point. The import document claimed it carried more than 800 cartons of assorted goods such as metalware and clothes.

“When the container was opened for inspection, illicit cigarettes were found stashed in 160 cartons,” the assistant superintendent said.

He said initial investigations showed the consignment was intended for local consumption.

The Hong Kong driver, 28, was arrested and the truck was impounded. The driver was released on bail pending further investigations.

Lau believed the seized cigarettes were intended to supplement the illegal market after customs officers seized HK$3.8 million worth of illegal cigarettes from another cross-border truck at Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint on July 20.

“We are still investigating whether there is the same cigarette-smuggling syndicate behind the two cases,” he said.

The two cases were among 12 cross-border tobacco smuggling incidents uncovered by the Customs and Excise Department so far this year. Eleven people were nabbed in connection with the 12 cases.

Lau stressed that there was no evidence to indicate that there was an increasing trend of illegal trade of untaxed cigarettes in Hong Kong. “The situation is under control,” he added.

Meanwhile, customs officers mounted a city-wide operation against illegal cigarettes over the past two weeks.

During the operation, 47 suspected tobacco traffickers and buyers, aged from 14 to 82, had been rounded up with the seizure of HK$150,000 worth of contraband cigarettes recovered. Officers also uncovered eight warehouses used to store 450,000 illicit cigarettes worth HK$1.2 million across the city, and arrested seven people.

Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, the maximum penalty for selling, buying or dealing with illicit cigarettes is a two years’ imprisonment and a HK$1 million fine.

Lau said they would continue to carry out stringent enforcement against illegal cigarette smugglers.

Members of the pubic are urged to call Custom’s 24-hour hotline on 2545 6182 to report suspected illicit cigarette activities.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2001877/hong-kong-customs-crackdown-nets-illegal-cigarettes-worth?edition=international

It’s now illegal to sell e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco to minors

http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/business/its-now-illegal-to-sell-e-cigarettes-cigars-hookah/nsCms/

Federal officials are hopeful that a new law that took effect Monday which expands the types of tobacco products it’s illegal to sell to minors will help curb tobacco use.

The new law prohibits retailers from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars to people under 18, Mitch Zeller, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Product said.

For years, it has been illegal under federal law to sell cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to minors. Now all tobacco products are covered except for accessories.

Retailers are required to check photo ID of anyone under age 27, and are not be allowed to give away free samples of newly deemed tobacco products.

In addition, retailers will not be allowed to sell cigars, hookah tobacco, and e-cigarettes in a vending machine where anyone under age 18 has access at any time.

“While there has been a significant decline in the use of traditional cigarettes among youth over the past decade, their use of other tobacco products continues to climb — putting a new generation of kids at risk of addiction. E-cigarette use, for example, skyrocketed from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015 (an over 900 percent increase) among high school students; and hookah use also increased significantly. And every day, more teenage boys try a cigar than try a cigarette,” Zeller said in a blog post.

The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law, Zeller added, gave the FDA the authority to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco.

“But cigar, hookah tobacco and e-cigarette markets remained unregulated, creating a market environment I have equated in the past to the Wild, Wild West,” Zeller wrote.

In addition to restricting youth access to tobacco products, FDA will now be able to review new tobacco products not yet on the market, prevent misleading claims and help better provide consumers with information to make informed decisions about their tobacco use. This means tobacco product manufacturers will be required to register and list their products with FDA. Manufacturers will also be required to report ingredients and harmful and identify potentially harmful ingredients in their products.

Ann Arbor raises tobacco purchase age to 21

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/08/09/ann-arbor-tobacco-cigarettes-age/88464584/

In a move that has been lauded by some and criticized by others, Ann Arbor became the first Michigan city last week to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The Ann Arbor City Council approved the ordinance to raise the minimum age last Thursday in a 9-1 vote, which was in support of Tobacco 21 — a national movement that has gained traction across the country. The amended ordinance becomes effective Jan. 1.

The ordinance is the latest crackdown against tobacco users in the state. Although Ann Arbor is the first city to enact an ordinance banning tobacco purchases for those under the age of 21, similar moves have been made on college campuses across the state.

Last year, Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees approved a tobacco-free ordinance that goes into effect in just a few days on Aug.15.

MSU’s ban includes the entire spectrum of tobacco products; from cigarettes and chewable tobacco to vaporizers, E-cigarettes and hookahs. It also prohibits tobacco use in buildings, on the lawns and sidewalks, even in personal vehicles on MSU property, according to the university.

Local supporters of Tobacco 21, including Washtenaw County Public Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, have stated they believe raising the legal purchase age will help prevent early tobacco addiction and adverse health effects.

According to a news release from the City of Ann Arbor, tobacco use among youths “continues to be a significant public health concern.” The city said 9.2% of Washtenaw County high school students reported that they had smoked a cigarette.

The ordinance also repeals the penalties for underage possession of tobacco products and instead limits violations and penalties to retailers.

“The passage of this ordinance demonstrates the Ann Arbor City Council’s commitment to the health and well-being of the community,” said Michael Miller, regional chief mission officer of Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, in a statement. “I look forward to other Michigan municipalities following the council’s courageous leadership.”

But not everyone was happy with the move.

More than 50 gas station and convenience store owners signed a petition opposing the move, saying it unfairly targets business owners and makes it hard for them to compete against businesses in neighboring communities with no similar age restriction.

“We should be allowed to offer legal tobacco products to our adult customers,” the petition said. “Raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 is unnecessary given efforts by responsible retailers to prevent underage individuals from buying tobacco products. The majority of individuals under age 18 obtain tobacco products from ‘social sources’ and not from law-abiding retailers.”

State Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, wrote a letter in support of the ordinance, saying it was a “worthwhile public health and economic goal for our state.”

“As a lifelong resident of our community and someone whose family has a generational history of heart-related health problems, I am particularly proud that Ann Arbor is willing to take this commonsense, progressive step toward becoming the first locality in Michigan to adopt a Tobacco 21 policy,” Zemke wrote. “I only hope other jurisdictions will see the many benefits of this life-saving policy and do the same.”

Eastern Michigan University also went tobacco-free in 2014, banning smoking and the use of tobacco products in or on all university-owned, operated or leased buildings and facilities, including vehicles.

Vaping flavor: Dangerous trends in youth consumption of e-cigarettes

Currently, we are experiencing a new phenomenon with youth consumption of e-cigarettes all around the United States. New flavors appear to be one of the main reasons why teens are getting hooked on this product, say researchers.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160809095819.htm

Currently, we are experiencing a new phenomenon with youth consumption of e-cigarettes all around the United States. For the second consecutive year, e-cigarettes were the most popular product among youth. FDA’s newest statistics indicate that more than 3 million middle and high school students were users of e-cigarettes in 2015, representing 540,000 more consumers than in 2014. New flavors appear to be one of the main reasons why teens are getting hooked on this product. In 2013-2014, 81% of the current e-cigarette youth users, pointed to the appealing flavors of e-cigarettes as one of the main reasons of why they started using them, stating that they used e-cigarettes “because they come in flavors I like.” This is even more concerning when we see how quickly this market is growing. In a report released in January 2014, researchers found that every month, an average of 240 new flavors are added to the e-cigarette market.

Although tobacco companies claim that new flavors are simply a response to adult users’ demand for variety, flavored tobacco products primarily serve to attract new users, particularly kids, and to get them addicted. As shown by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, an industry publication stated, “While different cigars target a variety of markets, all flavored tobacco products tend to appeal primarily to younger consumers.” Even the industry leader Lorillard, which sells flavored e-cigarettes such as kool-aid and gummy bears, has admitted that “kids may be particularly vulnerable to trying e-cigarettes due to an abundance of fun flavors such as cherry, vanilla, pina-colada, and berry.”

Previous bans on flavored tobacco

Cigarettes with specific characterizing flavors were prohibited by the FDA in 2009, with the goal of halting the tobacco industry’s strategy and reducing the number of children who start to smoke and become addicted to different tobacco products. It was no secret that before this ban, tobacco companies marketed cigarettes with flavors, images and names in order to appeal to a younger audience. The flavored cigarette ban not only occured in the US but has been a trend in various parts of the world. For instance, in 2012, Brazil became the first place to ban all tobacco flavors. Likewise, in 2014, the European Union passed theTobacco Products Directive, which took effect on May 20, 2016, prohibiting flavored cigarettes, except for menthol, where the ban is delayed till 2020.

Almost seven years have passed since the FDA’s prohibition, and the results have been favorable. In 2006, the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) indicated that 30.2% of male high school students and 21.3% of female smoked cigarettes, while the NYTS in 2013 showed that the smoking prevalence in male students had dropped to 14.1% and to 11.2% in females. The statistics appear to show that the ban on flavored cigarettes has been helpful in reducing prevalence. However, it is important to take into consideration that the ban was not the only change in tobacco regulation. In the last couple of years, there were other policies which could have also been helpful, such as taxation and the restrictions on tobacco sales, labeling, advertising and promotion.

E-cigarette consumption increases overall consumption

The FDA’s ban on flavored cigarettes did not apply to e-cigarettes, which still can come in different flavors such as cotton candy, fruit punch, and chocolate. This is considered to be one of the main reasons why e-cigarette consumption has had such a huge increase. Indeed, studies regarding youth expectations about other flavored tobacco products such as bidis and hookahs, have found that young consumers prefer flavored tobacco over the regular tobacco because they consider flavored tobacco to taste better and be safer. So even though the ban on flavored cigarettes seemed to help in the reduction of youth use, the tobacco industry quickly found another product to replace it and keep targeting kids. This growing use of e-cigarettes can add to the problem by keeping overall youth tobacco use on the rise. A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that there are more young tobacco consumers than before, if we include e-cigarettes. The study published in July 2016 states that among 12th grade students in Southern California, the combined current cigarette and e-cigarette use in 2014 was 13.7%, which was greater than 2004, were cigarette use was 9% (before e-cigarettes were available).
New FDA Measures
This year, the FDA issued a final rule that includes e-cigarettes regulation, and which takes effect today (August 8). It regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution of e-cigarettes. Among the restrictions to e-cigarettes are the prohibition to sell them to all of those under 18 years of age and to give away samples of e-cigarettes including their components and parts. However, the FDA did not ban the different flavors of e-cigarettes, and its spokespeople said that they would consider future regulation related to flavors based on a further study about the health risks and benefits of vaping.
Beyond the health risks and benefits of e-cigarettes, it would be important to consider the ban of all flavors given that the statistics show that a high percentage of young people who use e-cigarettes started because of their attraction to these. Even though the FDA wants further studies, the ban of flavored e-cigarettes has already been proposed by various international health authorities, such as the World Health Organization, which suggested the prohibition in its recommendations for regulating e-cigarettes.
What to consider in flavored e-cigarette banning?
In order to regulate flavored e-cigarettes, it is important to take into account that even when they are seen as a new way to introduce young people to tobacco use, e-cigarettes can also be considered less harmful than cigarettes and thus, as a new way to help older smokers quit cigarette smoking. Several authors have marked this duality and have proposed different ways to regulate them. For example, O’Neill Institute Senior Scholar Eric N. Lindblom in his article “Effectively Regulating E-Cigarettes and Their Advertising — and the First Amendment,” states that one way to stop young people’s use of e-cigarettes is by banning the flavors which attract youth, which can help discourage them from trying “e-cigs” and not affect its use as an alternative to smoking by current cigarette users. Lindblom, like others, propose the ban of flavors that appeal to youth in order to protect children’s health. Others argue against this stating that a ban on flavors limits adult choice and eliminates products that adults may prefer. Additionally, they argue that flavor options exist for different age restricted consumer products and therefore they shall be allowed in e-cigarettes as well. While it is true that adults should be allowed to decide what they want to consume, the government needs to take appropriate measures to ensure the well-being of children when their health is at stake. Similar arguments were made by the tobacco industry and other groups when the government was looking to ban cigarette flavors and yet the government went through with the prohibition of flavors in cigarettes. What is to come?
This year has been important for e-cigarette regulation with the FDA finally publishing a series of rules which can be applied to these products. It will be interesting to see the impact of the new policies on the e-cigarettes market, particularly in youth consumption. The ban of e-cigarettes for those under 18 years of age could be enough to curb the growth in consumption but that still remains to be seen. If in the years to come there is no substantial decrease, it may be necessary to start thinking on banning flavored e-cigarettes, just like it was done with cigarettes.

E-cigarette makers rush new products to market ahead of U.S. rules

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-3729301/E-cigarette-makers-rush-new-products-market-ahead-U-S-rules.html

NEW YORK, Aug 8 (Reuters) – The e-cigarette market is suddenly getting more crowded.

Makers of the “vaping” devices launched a flood of new products in the United States ahead of new federal regulations, taking effect on Monday, that require companies to submit e-cigarettes for government approval before marketing them, according to company officials and industry experts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which announced the regulations in May, will allow e-cigarette devices introduced before the regulations came into force to be sold for up to three years while companies apply and await regulatory review.

The regulations also ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under age 18.

The multibillion-dollar industry had sought to delay the new rules through lawsuits and proposed legislation in the U.S. Congress. At the same time, many of the smaller players hedged their bets by releasing new products during the three-month period between the announcement of the regulations and their effective date.

“I would be surprised if there was any other period when so many products were introduced,” said Bryan Haynes, an attorney with the firm Troutman Sanders who represents several e-cigarette companies.

Not of all the new products may be available immediately to consumers. Many companies beat the regulatory deadline with only limited shipments and product prototypes.

“There are scores of new products getting out ahead” of the deadline, said Oliver Kershaw, founder of the website e-cigarette-forum.com that tracks the industry.

“They’ve been put quietly into the market. Some of them are just brand refreshers. Some are quite interesting products,” Kershaw said, referring to such innovations as “pods” – capsules that can be inserted into the devices – that are prefilled with flavored nicotine.

The FDA regulations for the first time bring regulation of e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco in line with existing rules for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco.

The rules require companies to submit these products for government approval, list their ingredients and place health warnings on packages and in advertisements.

Cigar makers also rushed new products to the market to beat the regulations.

“We have attempted to do in 90 days what we usually do in three years,” said Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman Cigar Co, in business since 1895. “If it wasn’t so serious, it would be comical to see the hoops we’re going through.”

BIG COMPANIES MAY BENEFIT

E-cigarettes are handheld electronic devices: metal tubes that heat liquids typically laced with nicotine and deliver vapor when inhaled. The liquids come in thousands of flavors, from cotton candy to pizza. Using them is called “vaping.”

Reynolds American Inc, Altria Group Inc and Fontem Ventures, a subsidiary of Imperial Brands Plc, are among the leading manufacturers of the devices.
Their use has grown quickly in the past decade, with U.S. sales expected to reach $4.1 billion in 2016, according to Wells Fargo Securities.

The healthcare community remains divided over the devices. Some experts are concerned about how little is known about their potential health risks and about growing use by teenagers, fearing that a new generation will become hooked on nicotine.

Others support them as a safer alternative to tobacco for smokers unable to quit.

The FDA regulations are expected to shutter many “vape shops” that make their own products and cannot afford undergoing the approval process. The rules may benefit the big manufacturers, especially tobacco companies like Reynolds and Altria, which have the checkbooks and experience to navigate regulatory agencies.

Despite the new rules, France’s leading manufacturer of “e-liquids” used in the devices started doing business in the United States last month. The company said it hoped the new market could help double its current sales of about $55 million.

“The vaping consumer is going to be drowned in a lot of new products,” said Arnaud Dumas de Rauly, president of Gaïatrend USA, referring both to new devices and to types of liquids.

Reynolds, which makes the top-selling VUSE, did not introduce any new products this summer. Altria launched new flavor varieties including Menthol Ice and Smooth Cream.

Altria’s Nu Mark e-cigarette company “has a robust pipeline of products and takes a disciplined approach to introducing those products to understand adult smoker and vaper acceptance,” Altria spokesman Steve Callahan said.

Callahan said the company was also mindful of the requirements of the new regulations and complying with the timelines the FDA established.

Mistic E-Cigs had planned to introduce sometime this year a new product called the Mistic 2.0 POD-MOD personal vaporizer, which has pods prefilled with liquids, but said its staff worked 14-hour days to ensure it was ready before the regulations took effect.

“We got a little lucky but we had to work a little extra hard,” said Justin Wiesehan, Mistic’s vice president of regulatory affairs. (Reporting by Jilian Mincer; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Will Dunham)

Protecting the Public and Especially Kids from the Dangers of Tobacco Products, Including E-Cigarettes, Cigars and Hookah Tobacco

This month, for the first time, FDA will be able to help protect the public, and especially kids, from the dangers of all tobacco products.

http://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/2016/08/protecting-the-public-and-especially-kids-from-the-dangers-of-tobacco-products-including-e-cigarettes-cigars-and-hookah-tobacco/

For years, it has been illegal under federal law to sell cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to minors. Under a rule finalized in May, federal law now prohibits retailers from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars to people under age 18.

Beginning today:

 It will become illegal nationwide to sell cigars, hookah tobacco, and e-cigarettes to anyone under age 18 and retailers will need to check photo ID of anyone under age 27.
 Retailers will not be allowed to give away free samples of newly deemed tobacco products.
 Retailers will not be allowed to sell cigars, hookah tobacco, and e-cigarettes in a vending machine where anyone under age 18 has access at any time.

In 2009, the President signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law, giving FDA the authority to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco. But cigar, hookah tobacco and e-cigarette markets remained unregulated, creating a market environment I have equated in the past to the Wild, Wild West.

While there has been a significant decline in the use of traditional cigarettes among youth over the past decade, their use of other tobacco products continues to climb – putting a new generation of kids at risk of addiction. E-cigarette use, for example, skyrocketed from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015 (an over 900 percent increase) among high school students; and hookah use also increased significantly. And every day, more teenage boys try a cigar than try a cigarette.

That’s why this historic rule is so important. It enables FDA to regulate all tobacco products except accessories – improving public health and protecting future generations from the dangers of tobacco.

In addition to restricting youth access to tobacco products, FDA will now be able to review new tobacco products not yet on the market, prevent misleading claims and help better provide consumers with information to make informed decisions about their tobacco use. This means tobacco product manufacturers will be required to register and list their products with FDA. And all newly regulated products will need to get a marketing order from FDA, unless they are grandfathered (were sold in the U.S. as of February 15, 2007.) Manufacturers will also be required to report ingredients and harmful and potentially harmful constituents in their products.

Under these public-health based regulations, tobacco product manufacturers seeking a marketing order from FDA must now demonstrate what is actually in these products, and how these products impact the health of those who use them – important rules to be expected for products that expose consumers to known or potential health risks.

To assist companies in making the transition to an FDA-regulated marketplace, we have published several guidance documents to help businesses, big and small, meet these new requirements. We also continue to offer webinars for retailers and manufacturers and support from our Office of Small Business Assistance.

This historic final deeming rule is a major public health step forward. We believe by restricting youth access to additional tobacco products such as cigars, hookah, and e-cigarettes and by scientifically reviewing these products, we will reduce the public health toll of tobacco use, which remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the country and the world – and keep our kids tobacco-free.

Mitch Zeller, J.D., is the Director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products

Macau legislators resume tobacco bill scrutiny in Oct

https://www.ggrasia.com/macau-legislators-resume-tobacco-bill-scrutiny-in-oct/

Scrutiny of Macau’s revised tobacco control bill will only start again after October 15 at the earliest. The territory’s Legislative Assembly working committee tasked with the job is still awaiting the government’s feedback regarding some comments the committee has made on the content of the bill.

So said legislator and businessman Chan Chak Mo – the head of the relevant working committee – in comments to GGRAsia.

“The government is yet to give us a feedback regarding the content of the bill – namely whether it accepts our opinions on the bill,” Mr Chan told us. “It is only when we have the government’s response, that we’ll be able to resume discussion.”

Mr Chan added that his committee is currently occupied with other bills and will be up to August 15; at which time the assembly starts a two-month summer recess.

A majority on the relevant working committee supported the retention of smoking lounges on casino main floors, Mr Chan had said in comments to the media following a closed-door committee discussion on May 26. The working committee’s tentative support for smoking lounges is on condition that second-hand smoke can be kept away from casino staff and from guests that don’t smoke, Mr Chan said at the time.

“Regarding tobacco control in casinos, that is what our committee has suggested to the government,” Mr Chan told GGRAsia in his latest comments. He added: “But we don’t oppose the [government] suggestion of banning tobacco sales inside casinos.”

“After the government tells us what their opinions are on the bill, I don’t think it will take long for the assembly to process the bill,” the legislator added. “In terms of technicality, the bill is not hard to handle – it’s more the political will from the government that weighs on the progress of the legal revisions,” explained Mr Chan.

The government has proposed a total ban on smoking in the city’s casinos. A number of investment analysts have said that could depress revenue for the already beleaguered industry, which in July had recorded its 26th consecutive month of year-on-year decline in casino gross gaming revenue.

Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam Chon Weng, told media on June 26 that the government was still open to suggestions from legislators regarding the revisions to the tobacco control bill.

“The [smoking control] bill would definitely not be dropped. Because the bill has already been approved through first reading by the Legislative Assembly,” said Mr Tam at the time.

“It’s only that now the [working] committee has raised some suggestions regarding the bill, which we’re open to discuss them. And we’ll have to see if their suggestions are appropriate,” the secretary said.

Medical sector heavyweights go head-to-head for functional constituency place

Former president for the Public Doctors’ Association Dr Pierre Chan Pui-yin, is facing private psychiatry specialist Dr John Wong Yee-him

Competition is expected to be fierce among candidates vying for functional constituency seats in the upcoming Legislative Council elections [1] on September 4. With 12 candidates in 10 functional constituencies being returned unopposed, 43 candidates will run for seats in 18 trade-based constituencies – four more contested functional constituencies than the 2012 Legco polls. Here, we look at the medical sector.

Two doctors actively involved in a recent battle against a government bill to reform the Medical Council are locked in a two-horse race for the medical sector seat in Legislative Council vacated by Dr Leung Ka-lau.

A young rising star in the medical sector, former president for the Public Doctors’ Association Dr Pierre Chan Pui-yin, is facing private psychiatry specialist Dr John Wong Yee-him.

Two other heavyweights who were eyeing the position, University of Hong Kong microbiologist professor Ho Pak-leung, and Medical Association president Dr Gabriel Choi Kin, decided not to run for the position in the last minute.

Chan, 38, a public gastroenterology specialist, gained fame last October when he led the biggest protest in the medical sector in eight years at public hospitals to fight for an extra 3 per cent rise for some senior doctors.

The battle against the authorities was a short one as the hospital chiefs soon bowed to the pressure and agreed to their demands. He stepped down as the president of the association in January.

An insider believed major supporters of Chan would be the public doctors, especially the younger ones.

Chan has been associated with younger groups of doctors in the sector who, unlike elder doctors who were in general more indifferent towards politics, adopted a more active and pro-democracy stance.

On the day he submitted his application on July 26, Chan said he objected to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying being re-elected, and supported the accounting of the truth of the June 4 crackdown.

He would not rule out adopting filibuster tactics in the Legco again, but stressed such radical moves could be avoided if the government had enhanced its communication with all stakeholders.

The other hopeful, Wong, is more likely to draw votes from private doctors.

Wong, who gained his nomination from two vice presidents of the Medical Association, the city’s largest doctors’ group, said he aimed to assist the association in reforming the medical watchdog once he was elected.

The two are eyeing the seat left vacant by Leung, who has been occupying the position since 2008, before being re-elected again in 2012.

Ho, a former president for the association for public doctors and a highly respected scholar in the university, would have been Chan’s major rival if he decided to challenge him. But Ho announced he was backing off on Friday due to family reasons.

Dr Choi also decided to opt out because of multiple concerns.

“In the end I got cold-feet and decided not to go for it,” said Choi, 67, a well-respected private nephrologist. “Someone reminded me that entering the Legco might be a conflict of interest for my role as the president of the Medical Association.

“Also, I am a super-patient myself with all kinds of diseases and ailments one could ever imagine for an elderly [person]. I do not think I can shoulder the workload in the Legco without the likelihood of dying.”

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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2000381/medical-sector-heavyweights-go-head-head-functional

Using e-cigs to quit smoking?

http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/08/07/using-ecigs-to-quit-smoking/

A NEW study reveals that 95% of Malaysian vapers surveyed have either quit or cut down on smoking, while over 80% of them reported improved health.

“More than two-thirds stopped smoking all together. Among the 27% that didn’t quit, the average consumption of cigarettes dropped from 19 to four a day,” Greek cardio­logist Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos said at a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.

Sharing the results of his latest study, the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center and University of Patras researcher says over 7,000 adult vapers – 97% of whom were male – participated in the online survey which was in English and Malay. The average age of respondents was 30.

Over 5,500 ex-smokers and more than 1,500 smokers, who are also vapers, were asked about their experiences with e-cigarettes, and the results were consistent with those from the United States and Europe.

“Malaysian vapers, like their global counterparts, generally use advanced e-cigs and were able to reduce their nicotine consumption gradually, feel healthier and eventually quit smoking.”

This, Dr Farsalinos claims, is the largest cross-sectional survey of adult vapers in Malaysia and Asia. The survey is an extension of his 2014 study involving over 19,000 participants worldwide. While his earlier study on the characteristics, side effects and benefits of e-cigs found that 81% of those surveyed had quit smoking with e-cigs, he admits that there was little participation from Asia. The Malaysian survey, he says, fills the gap.

“The vaping community here is more organised compared with those in other countries in the region. They reached out to me early on. There are lots of questions but no data so it was important to do a study here,” he says, explaining why he decided to conduct his latest survey in Malaysia.

The lack of data, he feels, is why e-cigs are feared. While admitting that some fears are legitimate, he argues that sound policy must be based on facts and data, not fears.

The most common side effect of vaping is dry throat and mouth, he says, dismissing fears that smoking e-cigs would lead to addiction. According to his findings, tobacco cigarettes were the first nicotine product used by 92% of the respondents while 95% denied ever using e-cigs to inhale anything other than e-liquids.

The Health Ministry’s recommendation for e-cigs to be strictly regulated as a pharmaceutical product is a “big step backward”, says Dr Farsalinos, arguing that whether the e-cig is a pharmaceutical, tobacco or consumer product was dealt with in Europe three years ago.

“The e-cig is not medicinal so that argument was thrown out. The EU regulates it under its Tobacco Products Directive but there’s a sepa­rate category for the e-cig where it’s treated as a consumer product.”

He believes the devices should be regulated as a consumer product but with restrictions, like banning its sale to minors.

“Smokers aren’t stupid. They know their habit causes diseases that kill but they like it. Smoking is pleasurable. E-cigs give them the same pleasure.

“Malaysia adopts harm reduction when they tell motorists to wear a seatbelt. Why is this different?” he asks, adding, however, that e-cigs should only be the option for those who failed to quit smoking by themselves or after they’ve tried medication.

Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Muttalif believes it’s better to err on the side of caution as the long-term effects of e-cigs on the body are still unknown and may take years to find out.

He is the chairman of the Health Ministry’s technical committee tasked with studying the health effects of e-cigs and shisha smoking and also a senior consultant chest physician and former director of the Kuala Lumpur Hospital Institute of Respiratory Medicine.

“Look how long it took before we knew that cigarettes cause diseases. As doctors we are very careful,” Dr Abdul Razak says when asked to comment on the Farsalinos study.

When the committee was formed in 2013, there wasn’t much data on e-cigs, he says, but some studies now show that e-cigs could have acute and long-term effects on consumers.

Worried about the nicotine in e-liquids, he warns that it could lead e-cig users to other addictions.

Universiti Malaya nicotine addiction specialist Assoc Prof Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin is also concerned.

“A single survey conducted on mainly Internet users is inadequate to change the understanding of the danger or benefits of e-cigs. Besides the ongoing national study findings, there are a number of studies looking at the prevalence, mode of use, safety of e-liquids and safety to the environment. These are conducted by local universities. Let’s compare their data with Dr Farsalinos’ data.

“If e-cigs are found to be a useful quit-smoking agent in future, it should be regulated as a medicinal device. Still, abstinence is the best way to quit,” he says, adding that nicotine is governed by the Poison Act and its distribution is controlled.

Calling for a ban on e-cigs, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) believes that instead of helping smokers quit, e-cigs just cause them to spend more on a new habit.

CAP education officer N.V. Subbarow insists that many vapers are still smoking.

“Now we have another problem besides smoking. Worse still, teachers and parents are at a loss because kids who have never smoked are vaping now.”

CAP, he says, conducts weekly consumer education programmes in schools, addressing topics like vaping and e-cigs.

“Our survey of eight primary and secondary schools in Penang last year found 150 regular vapers among the students.”