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UK Department of Health awarded American Cancer Society “Exemplary Leadership” award for tobacco policy achievements

March 19 2015

In the week that the standardised tobacco packaging regulations passed into law, the UK Department of Health has been recognised as an International Tobacco Control Leader by the American Cancer Society.

During the 2015 Luther L. Terry Awards ceremony at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health taking place in Abu Dhabi, the Department of Health will receive the award for Exemplary Leadership in Tobacco Control.

The Luther L. Terry Award recognises outstanding global achievement in the field of tobacco control in six categories: outstanding individual leadership, outstanding organization, outstanding research contribution, exemplary leadership by a government ministry, distinguished career, and outstanding community service.

This prestigious triennial award by the American Cancer Society honours the UK as a world leader in tobacco control, alongside previous award winners such as Australia, Uruguay, South Africa and the Republic of Ireland. It is the commitment shown by successive UK governments, supported by Parliamentarians, which provides the foundation for this award.

Over the past decade, the Department of Health has steered through important tobacco control legislation including smokefree public places, stopping smoking in cars with children, ending tobacco displays in shops and standardised packaging of tobacco products.

Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy for ASH said:

“The steady decline in smoking in England is a tribute to the commitment of the Department of Health to tackle the biggest preventable cause of disease and premature death.  The UK is now acknowledged as one of the world leaders of tobacco control.  We hope this well-deserved award will inspire the next Government to commit to a new, and even more ambitious, tobacco control strategy.”

John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society said:

“Tobacco-related diseases are the most preventable cause of death worldwide, responsible for the deaths of approximately half of all long-term tobacco users. We are pleased to recognize these exemplary individuals and organizations who carry on the noble and incredibly important work of ending the deadly spread of tobacco around the globe.”

Clear the Air says :

When can we expect the Hong Kong Government to catch up with the rest of the world on tobacco control and follow the guidelines of the FCTC  and Mpower?

When can we expect tobacco excise tax increase to be annual, regular and in excess of inflation , which is currently running at 4.1% per year ?

China needs an all-out fight to curb tobacco consumption

25 March, 2015

Kamilia Lahrichi

China, the planet’s largest tobacco consumer and producer, is the only nation where tobacco consumption does not fall when the government imposes higher taxes on these products, as incomes are rising faster than the tax hikes. This is creating a serious public health issue.

In general, health pundits consider that taxing tobacco products is one of the most effective measures to control consumption. In high-income countries, if the state raises taxes on such products by 10 per cent, there is usually a 4 per cent drop in consumption, according to experts at the recent 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi, where health professionals and government officials called for tobacco controls.

Worryingly, wages in China are expected to rise further, thereby giving more purchasing power to the 300 million Chinese smokers. In addition, packets of cigarettes are much more affordable in China than in many other places. Some Chinese brands cost as little as HK$3.70, compared with HK$17 in South Korea, HK$41 in Japan and HK$75 in Singapore last year.

Although China has ratified the international treaty on tobacco control, imposing high taxes on cigarettes alone does not make sense, given that the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration and the China National Tobacco Corporation – the largest cigarette producer on the planet – monopolise cigarette production in China.

From the state’s standpoint, decreasing the number of smokers would hit economic growth: state-owned businesses employ hundreds of thousands of Chinese and generate state revenue.

Not surprisingly, Euromonitor International has forecast that the number of cigarettes sold in China will rise at about 14 per cent per year.

As a result, tobacco consumption rates and related diseases are skyrocketing in China. An estimated one million Chinese die every year from tobacco-related diseases; the highest number in the world and one-sixth of the annual global toll.

“It is important that China takes appropriate action to reduce tobacco consumption,” said World Health Organisation director general Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun in Abu Dhabi. In fact, it is vital, given that the number of smokers has ebbed across the globe.

On the bright side, the Beijing authorities passed a law last year to ban smoking in public places in the capital. It will take effect in June. China is also considering regulations to prohibit indoor smoking, limit it in outdoor public places and curtail the advertising of tobacco products across the country.

The government also needs to implement other policies, such as including graphic warnings of the health risks on cigarette packs, in order to enhance Chinese people’s knowledge of tobacco-related diseases.

A 2009 WHO study found that only 38 per cent of smokers in China knew that smoking can lead to coronary heart disease, while just 27 per cent knew that it can cause a stroke.

Thus, it’s vital for the Chinese government to enforce these policies outside its large cities in order to curb smoking habits.

Kamilia Lahrichi is a foreign correspondent and the recipient of the 2014 United Nations Foundation’s “Global Issues” Journalism Fellowship.

CTA says: someone tell our tobacco company friendly Food and ?Health Minister !

It seems he and his ‘Policy Bureau’ do not get the message.

The way past excise tax increase does not even match inflation and tobacco remains affordable to children.

We deem that Misconduct in Public Office as no preventative health measures are being effectively used to stop children

becoming nicotine addicts.

Onus on licensed premises’ owners to stop smoking indoors?

Plain packaging to remove the glitzy pack colors?

Track and Trace Tax stamps on packets?

Ban the import and use of shisha products?

Fines and jail sentences for tobacco executives who fail to control their supply chain and Duty Free products ?

Licensing of tobacco retailers?

Mandatory prison sentences for buying duty-not-paid products?

Increased Tobacco Control Office staffing so they can actually patrol ?

Control on nicotine and tar content and ban flavorings ?

Ban the sale of flavored tobacco such as ‘Peel’ made by HK Tobacco Company Ltd whose owner remains the Protector of the Bauhinia Research Foundation, an arm of Govt ?

Mandate any structure with a roof as a no-smoking area such as parasols in OSA areas, exit of  airport arrivals areas? –  Smoking is banned

on escalators which have a roof but are not 50% enclosed – what’s the difference ?

Use excise revenue to fund anti tobacco measures instead of pouring more concrete ?

Fire your ‘Policy Bureau’

Do something!

Multinational tobacco companies don’t want to see Ireland introduce plain packaging because they know it works, writes Minister James Reilly

Feb 20 2015

James Reilly

CIGARETTE PACKETS ARE now sold in slim packets that resemble lipstick with glitzy colours, creative designs and stylish writing. That is advertising.

Standardised packaging of cigarettes will end this.

All cigarette boxes will be the same shape and size and will feature a graphic picture warning on the front and back of the box. The brand name will be printed in a standardised font and size.

It will strip away the illusions created by shiny, pink packets and replace them with shocking images showing the real consequences of smoking. Cigarette packets will be transformed into grim warnings about the stark realities for smokers.

Let’s dwell on the reality of smoking:

Smoking is responsible for almost one in five of all deaths in Ireland – 5,200 deaths every year; 14 deaths every day.
Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body.
Half of smokers will eventually die from a smoking-related disease.
To maintain smoking rates at their current levels, the tobacco industry needs to recruit 50 new smokers every day.
78% of smokers start smoking before they are 18 years old – while they are children.

Our smoking rate is falling

The premature death of 5,200 people per year is a major public health concern. But we are tackling it head on. Last year Ireland became one of the few countries in the EU to have a smoking rate under 20%. Our smoking rate has fallen from 33% in 1998 to 19.5% today. Our aim is to have a Tobacco Free Ireland – defined as a smoking rate of less than 5% – by 2025. We are winning this battle thanks to the determination of successive governments.

The smoking ban, the ban on the sale of packets of ten, the ban on the display of cigarettes in shops and consistent tax increases have all contributed to this progress. Our policies are working. We must continue our battle.

Standardised packaging is the next step in driving our smoking rates down further towards achieving a Tobacco Free Ireland.

We know the impact that it will have.

When standardised packaging was introduced in Australia, so many smokers complained that the cigarettes now tasted differently that a tobacco company issued a statement denying that they had changed their ingredients.

Australia’s quitline received a flood of additional calls.

Research from Australia shows that when smoking cigarettes from a plain pack, smokers are:

• 81% more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day and rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives
• 70% more likely to say they found them less satisfying
• 66% more likely to think their cigarettes are of poorer quality

Smoking rates in Australia are now at the lowest level since records began. They are declining at the fastest pace in 20 years.

The tobacco industry is vigorously opposing this legislation

Most importantly, standardised packaging will reduce the number of children who become addicted to a product that kills one in two of its long-term users.

The tobacco industry is vigorously opposing this legislation because they fear it. They fear it because they know that it works. They are afraid that Irish smoking rates will tumble and that others in Europe will follow Ireland and Australia.

It looks like they are right. When Ireland became the second country in the world to commit to passing standardised packaging legislation in May 2013, many countries were waiting for legal proceedings against Australia in the World Trade Organisation to conclude – a process that still has not finished.

Since then, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have progressed legislation in their Parliaments. France, Norway and Finland have all indicated their intention to follow suit. Standardised packaging will be the future of cigarettes – not just in Ireland and Australia but throughout the world.

The tobacco industry will move to protect its profits. However, the State has a moral duty to protect the health of its citizens and to prevent our children from being lured into a killer addiction by marketing gimmicks. This Government will not put the profit of multinational tobacco companies ahead of the future health of our children. What kind of a society would we be if we prioritised the intellectual property rights of the tobacco industry over the future health of our children?

I look forward to progressing this legislation to Report and Final Stage in the very near future.

Pressure to bring in tobacco plain-packaging

Mar 2, 2015

Martin Johnston

The Government is being lobbied to bring the tobacco plain-packaging bill back to Parliament for a final vote, now the policy has been found to work “almost like a vaccine against tobacco” in Australia.

The health select committee last year supported the bill but the Government has delayed bringing it back to the House pending the outcome of the challenges against the Australian law by the tobacco industry.

But National support partner the Maori Party and lobby group Action on Smoking on Health (Ash) now say the decline in smoking seen in Australia since its “standardised” packaging law came into force in 2013 means New Zealand can dally no longer.

And public health expert Robert Beaglehole, a University of Auckland emeritus professor, says plain packaging in New Zealand “must be passed with urgency”.

“The Australian evidence shows standardised packaging of cigarettes has had an immense impact on smoking and has worked almost like a vaccine against tobacco use in children and young people.”

Standardised packaging involves removing all brand imagery and colours. The Government-mandated packs in Australia all have the same drab olive-green background with large pictorial health warnings that state “SMOKING KILLS”. The aim is to make smoking less attractive, especially among children and teenagers.

Australian survey data shows the prevalence of daily smoking in those aged 14 or older declined from 15.1 per cent in 2010, before the new law came into effect, to 12.8 per cent in 2013.

Canberra is defending its law in two cases: before World Trade Organisation adjudicators in a case brought by tobacco-producing countries including the Dominican Republic, and at a United Nations commission’s Permanent Court of Arbitration in a case linked to Hong Kong and tobacco firm Philip Morris Asia.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell rejected the Government’s waiting on the legal challenges. “Waiting for the World Trade Organisation decision means more people die or are sick from smoking-related illnesses. We’re tired of standing at the graveside of loved ones who have had their lives cut short from this highly addictive and poisonous drug.”

Last week, Ireland became the second country in the world to pass a plain-pack law. British MPs are expected to vote within weeks on introducing the policy to England.

In New Zealand, a UMR survey for Ash last year found 75 per cent support for plain packs, including 55 per cent among smokers, if there was evidence they were less attractive than branded packs to young people.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said he was determined the plain-packs bill would become law.

“Our stance remains the same, that it is prudent to await the World Trade Organisation decision, but as minister I am always looking for ways to bring down the incidence of smoking.”

Tobacco companies oppose the plain-packs bill. “Plain packaging is failing in Australia,” said British American Tobacco’s Australian spokesman, Scott McIntyre.

The firm claimed plain packs had “seen a 32 per cent jump” in Australian teen smoking, from 3.8 per cent in 2010 to 5 in 2013, but the Age reported a Government statistician saying it was not possible to say there had been an increase as the sample size was too small and the change was not statistically significant.

Solomon Islands introduces Australian-style cigarette packet warnings

28 Jan 2015

Solomon Islands has followed Australia’s lead and introduced new graphic health warnings on its cigarette packets.

The new packets feature graphic imagery in combination with warning statements in Solomon Islands pidgin, the local lingua franca.

They warn of issues such as lung cancer, blindness and the impact on unborn babies.

“These graphic health warnings will deter our younger generation to reduce smoking,” said Dr Geoff Kenilorea, from the ministry of health.

“Also [we hope] people who want to start smoking will refrain from smoking.”

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 40 per cent of the Solomon Islands population are current tobacco smokers.

Some 24 per cent of young people, aged between 13-15, are current cigarette users.

The graphic health warnings were first proposed in 2007 but faced several parliamentary hurdles and legislation was not passed until 2010.

Dr Kenilorea told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program that the introduction of new packaging was further delayed because of “interference” from the tobacco industry.

“There was quite a battle in the Solomon Islands with tobacco industry interference and we eventually got [regulations associated with the legislation] through at the end of 2013.”

The new measures were introduced on January 1 and apply to all commercially manufactured tobacco products.

But they do not apply to loose tobacco, which is popular in the Solomon Islands and commonly found at markets.

“It’s another issue we’re having some difficulty with,” Dr Kenilorea said.

“We are trying to figure out how we can best address that by looking at some examples from other Pacific Islands like Tonga and elsewhere.

Similar graphic health warnings were introduced in Australia in 2006, New Zealand in 2008 and Canada in 2012.

Northern Ireland backs plain tobacco packet plan

02 February 2015

Northern Ireland’s health minister has backed plans to introduce standardised cigarette packaging.

Jim Wells said the region would be included in the UK Government’s proposals for plain tobacco product packets, which is set to be voted on by MPs in Westminster before the General Election.

Wales has already backed the potential UK-wide law change, with Scottish ministers also signalling their support for the measure.

If backed by MPs, plain packaging could be introduced by May 2016.

Some Conservative MPs have voiced opposition to the plans.

Announcing that he was giving consent for Northern Ireland to be included in the proposed legislation, Mr Wells said: “Smoking remains the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland. Half of all smokers will be killed by their use of tobacco products.

“Branding on cigarette packets provides one of the last opportunities for tobacco companies to promote their products. Evidence shows that young people are more receptive to this type of advertising than adults. I believe that standardised packaging has the potential to contribute to a further reduction in child and adult smoking prevalence and look forward to this measure being introduced in Northern Ireland.”

Standardised packaging will require all cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco for retail sale to meet certain conditions including:

:: Standard colour (dull brown on the outside and white on the inside)

:: All text on the packaging, including brand name and variant, to be in a standard typeface

:: No branding, advertising or promotion on the pack (except the use of the brand name)

All tobacco products will continue to carry health warnings.

Women on the front line in battle against smoking

14 Jan 2015

Tribune News Service

Females tiny minority among smokers and are leading the charge for tougher laws on tobacco

Nearly every day on the mainland women go to work in smoke-filled offices, exposed to the fumes of cigarettes smoked mainly by male colleagues. After work is over many go home to breathe secondhand smoke created by husbands or other members of their family.

China is known as the Smoking Dragon, but its addiction to tobacco is not shared between the sexes. According to the most recent national survey, 288 million men smoked regularly in 2010, compared with 13 million women.

Lately, however, women have been striking back. The State Council proposed last autumn the nation’s toughest restrictions yet on indoor smoking and the marketing of tobacco. The announcement was a major victory for the tobacco-control movement, which includes several women who have been on the front lines for decades.

“This is a very important step,” said Yang Gonghuan, an epidemiologist who has been documenting tobacco’s toll on public health since the 1980s.

“It is very difficult to push for these kinds of changes on a national level. It has taken many, many years.”

Although the mainland is known for its smog and other environmental problems, no public health issue poses more of a threat than tobacco. An estimated one million people die each year from lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases across the country.

The nation’s anti-smoking movement includes many prominent men. Former NBA basketball player Yao Ming and other celebrities have lent their names to the cause. An activist named Li Enze filed a lawsuit in 2013 against the country’s tobacco monopoly, alleging that it had fraudulently marketed a low-tar cigarette brand called Black Tiger.

Yet in government and among tobacco-control groups, women are leading the charge. National health commissioner Li Bin has been outspoken in seeking a national indoor-smoking ban. Li sits on a top-level panel that drafted the restrictions unveiled in November. Two of her key deputies are women.

Among academics, Yang is known for her extensive research into tobacco use and disease. Brookings Institution researcher in the United States, Li Cheng, said Yang had played a crucial role in the country’s anti-smoking campaign, particularly by co-authoring an influential 2011 report that documented the health effects.

Chinese have smoked tobacco for centuries and up until the early 1900s women regularly could be seen with men puffing on pipes. But with the advent of cigarettes, Chinese intellectuals and foreign missionaries started frowning on women who smoked. According to Carol Benedict’s book Golden-Silk Smoke: A History of Tobacco in China, 1550-2010, society started to describe female smokers as “modern women”, a label also given to the promiscuous and unpatriotic.

As a result, women quit smoking, even as leaders such Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping smoked openly in public, encouraging the habit among men.

Today, the mainland is the world’s biggest consumer of tobacco. It is also the largest manufacturer, producing more than 2.3 trillion cigarettes yearly, nearly half the world’s total.

Unlike in the United States, private companies such as Philip Morris do not dominate the market. Instead, China National Tobacco, an arm of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, controls nearly all the cigarette brands sold.

That puts the central government in an unusual dual role: one arm, the health ministry, tries to restrict tobacco use and warn of its dangers, while other government agencies benefit from tobacco’s profits and tax revenues, which totaled nearly US$120 billion in 2012.

“This is why tobacco control in China happens so slowly,” said Yang, a professor of medicine in Beijing. “The tobacco industry is very powerful.”

In recent years, attitudes towards smoking have started to shift. Top leaders in the Communist Party are either nonsmokers or are careful not to be spotted lighting up in public. Late in 2013, the party banned government officials from smoking in public or giving cigarettes as gifts. Individual cities have enacted their own restrictions on tobacco.

The draft regulations unveiled in November, if enacted and enforced, would take the mainland into another realm. The proposed rules would ban indoor smoking and make private businesses responsible for enforcing the ban, subject to fines if they did not do so. It would further limit the marketing of tobacco and require larger warning labels on cigarette packs.

A smoking gun

16 Jan 2015

We have to wonder what could possibly be causing the Westminster Government to drag its heels on a commitment to introduce plain, standardised packaging for tobacco products.

The early evidence, following the launch of plain packs in Australia, is positive, with no sign of the dire consequences predicted by opponents. The coalition government initially pressed ahead on the issue, then backed down as the tobacco companies threw millions of pounds at opposing a measure which poses a fundamental threat to their profits.

Following huge support from the health community, and a positive report from an independent expert review, draft regulations were published and it seemed that plain, standardised packaging was once again on the way.

The Scottish Government, which strongly supports the measure, agreed to hold back and put its trust in UK-wide action.

Time is running out for regulations to be passed before Parliament dissolves before the May elections. To ensure sufficient time for the various parliamentary processes to be negotiated, ministers must be making preparations to vote on plain packs now. Yet still we wait for news.

The coalition government needs to make up its mind very soon. There is robust evidence that removing branding and designs from packaging will help make tobacco less attractive to young people. There is strong public support for a measure which was supported overwhelmingly in votes at both Westminster and Holyrood. The health community is united in demanding action.

We call on Westminster to keep on track and prepare for a vote in March. To buckle to industry lobbying now would be to fail the next generation.

Sheila Duffy

ASH Scotland

Simon Gillespie

British Heart Foundation Scotland

(Dr) James Cant

British Lung Foundation Scotland

(Dr) Sally Winning

British Medical Association Scotland

Gregor McNie

Cancer Research UK

David Clark

Chest Heart & Stroke 

Theresa Fyffe

Royal College of Nursing Scotland

(Prof) Derek Bell

Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

Brian Auld

Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS)

Andrea Cail

Stroke Association

(Dr) Alan Rodger

Retired Oncologist

Plain tobacco packaging encourages more people to stop smoking and fewer to start

15 Jan 2015

Evidence shows that plain tobacco packaging measures encourage more people to stop smoking and fewer to start. Consumers perceive plain packaging as ugly and dull — it decreases the attractiveness of tobacco products and smoking, particularly to young people and women.

“When we offered them Marlboros at half price — in generic brown boxes — only 21% were interested, even though we assured them that each package was … identical, except for the different packaging, to what they normally bought at their local tobacconist. How to account for the difference? Simple. Smokers put their cigarettes in and out of their packets 20 to 25 times a day. The package makes a statement. The consumer is expressing how he wants to be seen by others,” according to information disclosed by the tobacco industry in the context of the 1987 Minnesota lawsuit.

The tobacco industry has always used the packaging of tobacco products as a powerful advertising tool and as a way to circumvent bans on promoting tobacco products.

Australia adopts plain tobacco-packaging measures

Australia is the only country in the world that has adopted and introduced plain-packaging measures. They came into effect in December 2012. Despite the short time span since the measures were adopted, there is evidence showing a sustained 78% increase in calls to the tobacco quit line since such packaging was introduced. That increase is not attributable to anti-tobacco advertising activity, higher cigarette prices or other identifiable causes.

Policies in synergy to reduce tobacco consumption

A new evidence brief by WHO/Europe — Plain packaging of tobacco products: measures to decrease smoking initiation and increase cessation — provides evidence of the effectiveness of plain packaging measures in smoking prevention and cessation.

The guidelines for the implementation of articles 11 (effective health warnings) and 13 (advertising ban) of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control recommend the adoption of plain-packaging measures to decrease smoking initiation and to increase smoking cessation. The new Tobacco Products Directive adopted by the European Union in March 2014 will enter into force in 2016, making it possible for Member States to adopt plain packaging measures at the national level.

The Directive is a step in the right direction and supports the vision of the Ashgabat Declaration for a tobacco-free European Region.

Facts point to the success of plain packaging

Jan 16 2015

Nicholas Talley

Persistent discourse about what some critics see as the failed effectiveness of plain packaging does not detract from proven, consistent facts from reliable sources.

In the 22 months after plain packaging was introduced in December 2012, tobacco and cigarette spending fell by 7.3 per cent, according to ABS statistics.

Until we see evidence proving otherwise, it is crucial we question counterarguments. All too often, these arguments are influenced by Big Tobacco’s attempts to erode the very legislation created to reduce death and disease caused by smoking.

Yes, tobacco excise has played a role in smoking rates falling. But why would we criticise this when it has been part of the united solution? It’s a simple notion — fewer people smoking cigarettes means fewer people dying.

But with smoking rates continuing to fall, who would want to attack life-saving legislation?

The answer is Big Tobacco. So it comes as no surprise the Institute of Public Affairs, which receives Big Tobacco funding, continues to use unreliable data in its arguments to discredit plain packaging.

To say plain packaging has resulted in increased illicit tobacco use is problematic.

Health groups have questioned the validity of the internet surveys used in industry studies as part of KPMG’s report on illicit tobacco. These same surveys have been used to form these claims.

Cancer Council Victoria has shown that data from sources independent of the tobacco industry indicate there are relatively low and stable levels of illegal tobacco use in Australia.

Furthermore, their critique offers alternative estimates on illegal tobacco use in Australia and refers to results from the 2013 National Drug and Alcohol Survey.

These suggest a decline since 2007 in the percentage of smokers who are aware of unbranded tobacco, who have ever smoked it and who currently use it.

Yet time and time again we see Big Tobacco quick to laud dubious evidence in its arguments that plain packaging has failed.

Plain packaging laws are absolutely necessary. They play a pivotal role as part of a raft of measures designed to help smokers quit.

Importantly they prevent people from taking up smoking and, as a result, less people die and suffer from smoking-related disease.

The opinion piece on Wednesday by Simon Breheny, Legal Rights Project director at the Institute of Public Affairs, is just the latest example of a Big Tobacco smoke-and-mirror job.

Will it be Big Tobacco’s last attempt at peddling their message that plain packaging does not work? Certainly not.

Will their attempts undermine the fact that preventing people from smoking saves lives? Never.

Prof Nicholas Talley is president of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians