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See what the World is doing against Big Tobacco – Not Hong Kong

Clear the Air says:

Our HK Financial Secretary hob knobs with a tobacco front group dinner instead of mandating tobacco tax increases to match inflation and a regular yearly tobacco excise increase as a preventative health measure.

Our apathetic weak willed wet fish Food and Health Bureau does nothing to make the FS abide by FCTC Treaty requirements.

Both border on Misconduct in Public Office for failing in their duty of care to the public health of Hong Kong people and visitors and blatantly ignoring the FCTC Treaty requirements.

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Sheila Duffy: Standard designs part of package to tackle smoking

CTA says:

Why is there no Government movement in Hong Kong towards standardised packaging ?

FROM Friday, cigarettes will be sold in plain packs, writes Sheila Duffy

Plain, standardised tobacco packaging will come in throughout the UK from Friday. It will make the packaging for an addictive and toxic substance more truthful and will prevent tobacco companies peddling the pack images, colours and designs that have helped entice generations of young people to start experimenting with their brands.

Retailers will have a year to sell through their existing stock before plain packs become mandatory.

This is not primarily intended to reduce adult smoking rates, although it might help. For example researchers in Australia, where standardised tobacco packaging has been in place since late 2012, report that smokers say they are less inclined to pick up the sludge green packs with their simple fonts and prominent picture health warnings, and that they say the cigarettes don’t seem to taste as good in plain packs. Reducing adult smoking rates would be a welcome side-effect if it happens here, but it is not the main aim of standardised packaging nor should we expect to see quick results.

Plain packaging is a long-term measure. It aims to disrupt the carefully targeted brand recognition and image-mongering which tobacco companies use to build familiarity and hook the interest of new and mainly young consumers.

Cigarettes are highly engineered products and for many consumers they can easily become habit-forming or addictive, which undermines free choice. Tobacco packaging has long been used as a lure to entice people to try the contents, and to buy into the sizzle of carefully designed and targeted marketing imagery. It’s what profit-making corporations do.

Tobacco companies go much further than marketing in seeking to protect their profits. They have a long and well-documented history of public scaremongering and of seeking to derail or delay public health measures that aim to reduce tobacco use. Tobacco company Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has seeded the media with misleading images of stark, white packs omitting the mandatory picture health warnings, juxtaposed with unfounded claims that illicit tobacco will increase following their introduction. Tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI) has weighed in with inflated claims about illicit tobacco which fail to stand up under scrutiny.

If you listened only to the tobacco industry and their allies and vested interests, you would think that black market tobacco was booming here. Actually the rates of illicit tobacco in the UK have been declining since the start of the century according to the official figures from HMRC. Illicit tobacco remains a real problem, but not in the way the industry claims. No credible links have been demonstrated between illicit tobacco and either standardised tobacco packaging or tax increases. In fact since 2000 the size of the illicit market in the UK has declined by more than half even though the price of cigarettes has risen significantly over that period.

The Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA), a tobacco industry funded campaign group, recently posted an article under the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association’s ‘Friends of the Scotsman’ slot that perpetuated many myths about the impacts of tobacco reduction measures, in particular the predicted effects on small retailers. For those of us who ten years ago lived through the opposition arguments to proposed legislation to remove tobacco smoke from enclosed public spaces, it is all depressingly familiar.

Standardised tobacco packaging will not stop existing adult smokers buying their usual brands at their usual retail outlets, but it should make the packaging less of a brand accessory or statement for young people. It will work alongside covered-up point of sale displays by putting tobacco branding out of sight and out of mind in our society.

There is no reason why it would increase the illicit tobacco trade, and no evidence that it has done so in Australia. Those working in enforcement say that they will have no problems detecting illicit tobacco just as readily with the new packaging.

Most of all, standardised packaging is truthful packaging. It signals to the next generation that this is a product that damages people’s bodies and their lives. The images of tumours, rotten teeth, infertility and early death represent the contents far more accurately than the previous bright colours and stylish designs. These picture health warnings will also increase in size from Friday. I am wondering where the tobacco companies plan to spend their vast marketing and promotional budgets next.

• Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive, ASH Scotland

CTA says Forbid Smoking and Make the Licensee Answerable for Same

Liquor Licensing Board
Chairman and Members

Dear Sir,

I refer to our letter to the Liquor Licensing Board , already 5 years ago now, attached.
Almost 7,000 people died per year in Hong Kong from smoking related illnesses.
21% of them were from passive smoking, no doubt including workplace staff.

If people cannot go out to bars and smoke, they will stop.
I would urge you to enact the amendment to the licence conditions to specifically forbid smoking and make the licensee answerable for same.

As an example I go to a restaurant near my home, Sawasdee Thai in Yuen Long.
Despite numerous complaint reports and warnings they actually place ash trays on tables, as do many licensed premises throughout HKG as the licensees are basically bullet proof – only the smoker gets targeted and the Tobacco Control Office has been allocated less than 50 staff per shift to cover HKI, Kowloon, NT, Islands, Marine and Planet HKG, so the chances of being caught in flagrante delicto are negligible, as the massively underfunded TCO only can respond days later to such complaints.

The fact that the seeming friend of Big T tax revenues, Financial Secretary, received $6.3 billion in tobacco excise tax (aka the white elephant concrete pouring fund) and allocates only $160 million to tobacco related control measures is despicable, as is the Health Bureau and HK Government abject lack of political will to do anything about this mess.

If you will not make a simple amendment to all licenses, then blood is on your hands and remains there for your previous non action.

The licensees currently encourage smoking with no onus on them otherwise, through flawed legislation.
Only Macau and Hong Kong do not place the onus on the licensee to enforce the law.

You can change that without even going to Legco.
Get moving.

Yours faithfully,

James Middleton

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Hong Kong Customs detects suspected case of smuggling illicit cigarettes by ocean-going vessel

Clear the Air says: how many such containers actually make it through undetected?
What brand and origin were the seized items ?
Genuine DNP product or counterfeit?

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Hong Kong Customs detected a suspected smuggling case of illicit cigarettes at Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound on May 9. About 8.8 million sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes were seized.

Through risk assessment, Customs officers inspected a 40-foot container declared to contain towels arriving in Hong Kong from Sri Lanka. During the inspection, Customs officers discovered about 8.8 million sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes with a market value of about $24 million and duty potential of about $17 million.

Investigation is ongoing.

Hong Kong Customs will continue to carry out stringent enforcement action against all illicit cigarette activities.

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, smuggling is a serious offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.

Members of the public are urged to report suspected illicit cigarette activities by calling the Customs’ 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

See what the World is doing against Big Tobacco

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CTA Letter to the Ombudsman on Tobacco Control in Hong Kong

Dear Ombudsman,

So in a nutshell, tobacco control in Hong Kong is in a major dilemma of its own making due to a lack of political will.

The Financial Secretary should stick to playing with food trucks, watching French movies and drinking middle class coffee and make decisions within his sphere of ability.

Generally, that means if he has to spend less on hospital beds and medical treatment by taking simple preventative measures he should have done so already a long time ago instead of pandering to this nauseous lethal industry.

He should be guided by the expertise of COSH, not ignore it and make decisions accordingly.

He is poorly funding an organisation (COSH) with taxpayer money then ignoring their expertise and advice. That is poor Value for Money in any Auditor’s eyes.

He should not have the power of GOD to ignore preventative health measures that he is obliged to follow through, under the FCTC ratified treaty legal international instrument lodged with the UN.

All senior Government officials, Legco members, District Councillors are paid from the public purse. As such they are public servants/officials under the Laws of Hong Kong.

They all have a Duty of Care to the Health, Welfare and well-being of the people of Hong Kong – they do not have a Duty of Care to pander to and act as ‘honorary advisors’ to the Tobacco companies/fronts who are public enemy number 1 who see youth nicotine addiction as ‘growth’.

This deliberate obstinacy borders in Misconduct in Public Office and suggests an ulterior motive for not doing what should be done.

People are dying due to obstinate bad decision making in a sphere of knowledge outside of that individual’s capabilities, or it seems he prefers the tobacco company corporate taxes ahead of such preventative measures?

His only response is to build more hospital beds to house the sick and dying from what is a totally preventable disease source – smoking highly addictive genetically enhanced nicotine tobacco.

Note that COSH has a deputy director of Health who sits on its Board; so the FS is ignoring the Health Bureau and COSH advice by not having excise tax increases above inflation and yearly preventative increases
that will stop youth being addicted to nicotine.

Meanwhile the leadership of the Health Bureau is apathetic, seemingly without political will to stand up to the FS for what is right, and they should be standing up for the rights of citizens and passive smokers to be free from the tobacco scourge.

The Tobacco Control Office is massively understaffed and needs at least 500% its current manpower to operate properly over three shifts and with preventative patrols. That is for you to establish whether the Health Bureau mandated for regular tax increases or has the FS repeatedly denied them? Either way TCO need 5-fold increase to allow patrols. If people cannot go to pubs and smoke as they can now, they will quit. They will not sit at home smoking and avoid socializing with their friends.

The Liquor licensing board is likewise apathetic and has all along the sole legal power to stop smoking in licensed premises immediately or make licensees lose their licences. They chose the wrong option and need castigating.

I sat in Legco having made a presentation and listened to a member of FEHD bleat how tobacco control was not part of her job and hence unwilling to help.

That seems to have carried through.

At the same meeting I asked a senior woman health official how she intended to enforce smoking laws against visitors, especially those from the Mainland, since they have 21 days to pay the ticket, hence will be long gone.

“We will post a demand note to their provided address (Chou En Lai , tin shack, paddy field 17, Wong Pat An village , Hunan)’ was her daft answer.

The flawed Legislation was wrong from the outset but HKG took what it could or the Liberals were going to stretch out even the initial legislation.

The laws need to be amended to put the onus on licensees’ enforcement to create a level playing field for the hospitality industry: immediately TCO would grow by an number of 13,000.

The laws need to cover cigars and pipe tobacco and shisha tobacco – at present only cigarettes have to be tested for tar and nicotine content.

Laws need to be in place to stop smokers crowding around entrances and windows to premises.

Structures with a roof need to be added as non-smoking areas such as the exits of the arrival and departure halls at the airport, since their sides are open, like an escalator (which is legislated).

Non-smoking in OSA garden areas needs legislation – after all the laws were enacted to protect people in the workplace.

Meanwhile why do we not have Plain packaging , larger graphic warnings, vendor licences to sell tobacco, compliance checking, point of display bans ? A good question for the Health Bureau.

With efficiently staffed TCO officers patrolling nightspots and blackspots the police can concentrate on other aspects of their job; with tobacco costing $120 a packet youngsters cannot start smoking, older smokers will quit and blue collar families will have more income for food instead of addiction and passive smoking in the cramped home.

Meanwhile Government should be pursuing a lawsuit against Big Tobacco as in the Master Settlement Lawsuit action in USA. The merchants of death do not have a gangrenous leg to stand on.

The usual worldwide tobacco company mantra ‘ more tax means more smuggling’ is usually applied. Well in Canada the Government arrested tobacco executives for conspiracy to defraud and sent them to jail. It is a known proven and admitted fact in tobacco documents online and director admissions that the tobacco companies smuggle their own products through their loose supply chains to defeat anti tobacco Government measures, addict youth at a cheaper price and importantly to them, enhance their bottom line, no matter at what cost to society.

Yours sincerely,
James Middleton

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Lion Rock Institute’s Andrew Shuen defames Dr Judith Mackay on RTHK3’s 123 Show

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Government accused not allocating sufficient resources to enforce smoking ban

The Chairman of Clear the Air, James Middleton, has accused the government of not allocating sufficient resources to enforce smoking ban in some places.

He says there is not enough staff to do the job and out of the billions of dollars being collected in tobacco tax, none of it goes towards tobacco control.

Middleton also says the mainland has better laws than Hong Kong on banning smoking.

He tells Ben Tse that when a suggestion was made to the Liquor Licensing Board to strengthen licensing conditions to prevent smoking in places like bars, it refused to do so.

Tobacco Company Marketing to Children

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Tobacco industry ‘should be sued by government’ over smokers’ health costs

Clear the Air says:
When can we expect this insipid SAR Government to stand up for its citizens’ rights and sue Big Tobacco in Hong Kong for the costs of health care caused by their wretched product ?

Don’t hold your breath.
It seems the Financial Secretary, aka the Almighty, prefers the Profits Tax income from the enhanced addictive drug peddling murderers instead.

Australian Council on Smoking and Health says new research showing smokers’ mortality rates is ‘a national catastrophe’

The Australian government should sue the tobacco industry after landmark research found Australian smokers have a three times greater chance of dying today than a lifelong non-smoker, the president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health says.

Up to 1.8m of Australia’s 2.7m smokers are likely to die from their habit if they continue to smoke, losing an average of 10 years of life expectancy, the first Australian large-scale study on smoking and mortality, published in the international journal BMC Medicine, found.

The study findings highlighted the extreme hazards faced by the 13% of Australians who smoked, an author of the study and director of the University of Melbourne’s global burden of disease group, Professor Alan Lopez, said.

“Australia still has a smoking problem,” he said. “Saying Australians are getting fatter, and shifting the focus towards diet and obesity should not mean we forget about tobacco, which is still a major public health problem.”

The research was led by Sydney’s Sax Institute using data from their 45 and Up study. Researchers linked health information from 204,953 study participants aged 45 and over from NSW, with data from the register of births, deaths and marriages.

Previous research from the Sax Institute found pack-a-day smokers had a fourfold risk of dying early, while the risk of death for lighter smokers was more than doubled.

The president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, Mike Daube, said the study revealed smoking as a “national catastrophe” because even though Australia had among the lowest smoking rates in the word, its effects were widespread.

“That smoking will kill 7.5% of Australians means it deserves a massively increased focus, and we need to keep increasing taxes on tobacco, step up public health campaigns and limit the number of outlets that sell it,” Daube said.

“It is time for the Australian government to follow what the US did about 20 years ago and sue the tobacco industry for costs incurred because of smoking, and force them to make internal documents public.

“That would bring in tens of billions of dollars which would help the budget, and enable stronger action on smoking.”

Known as the Master Settlement Agreement, the 1998 court action involved 46 US states and several of the largest US tobacco companies. The tobacco industry was forced to pay the states more than US$200bn in compensation and make public previously secret documents.

The chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore, said the research confirmed smoking as Australia’s most preventable cause of death and disease, killing even more people than previously believed.

It meant politicians and policymakers must do “everything possible” to encourage smokers to quit, he said.

“We cannot stand by and see yet more generations of Australians dying, often painful deaths, because they smoked,” he said.

“Public health leaders campaign on smoking not because of any moral fervour, but because it kills people. Now we know that it kills even more than we had thought. That is cause for deep concern and a call for strengthened action.”