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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.

Mayo Clinic to develop Global Smoke-Free Worksite Challenge

Mayo Clinic announced today at the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting in New York City its partnership with other organizations to develop a Global Smoke-Free Worksite Challenge.

The challenge’s goal is to expand the number of employees of all sectors able to work in a smoke-free environment. The effort is a global multi-sector partnership comprised of private sector companies, nongovernmental organizations and governments. Partners are committed to making their worksites 100 percent smoke-free and commit to assist others to do so.

“Mayo Clinic has had a leading role, as a large employer, in creating a smoke-free worksite for close to 30 years,” says John Noseworthy, M.D., Mayo Clinic president and CEO. “We are committed to the needs of our patients and employees, and we are excited to be a partner in this challenge to help make workplaces around the world smoke-free so all employees have the right to clean air.” Dr. Noseworthy was part of a press conference today to announce Mayo’s commitment.

The challenge builds on the commitment Mayo Clinic brought last year to CGI. That initiative, called Global Bridges, has begun to build and energize a worldwide network of health care providers to lead development of tobacco control and treatment programs in their countries and regions. In less than a year, Global Bridges has trained more than 5,800 health care providers from 31 countries in sessions ranging from short webinars to intensive workshops.

“Secondhand smoke affects everyone,” says Richard Hurt, M.D., chairman of Global Bridges and founding director of Mayo’s NicotineDependence Center. “This challenge protects workers from secondhand smoke who don’t have any choice. Smokers in a smoke-free environment are more likely to reduce their smoking and increase the chances of them quitting smoking, so it’s healthy for everyone. Right now, over 30 countries across the world have smoke-free workplace laws, which is pretty amazing. We’re hoping to increase that number dramatically with this initiative.”

Source: Mayo Clinic

Employees get more help to quit smoking and get active

Employees get more help to quit smoking and get active

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 12 September 2011

New Responsibility Deal pledges on health at work and physical activity

Typhoo, McCain and Centrica – who between them employ more than 35,000 people – have today signed up to help their employees to quit smoking by providing workplace stop smoking services or encouraging them to go to appointments during working hours without losing any pay.

In addition, the Co-operative has today unveiled a new individual pledge to encourage more people to become more physically active.

The pledges are part of the Government’s Responsibility Deal, which is working with business and charities to make changes to help make the population healthier. So far, 285 organisations have signed up to be part of the deal.

Companies are being encouraged to get their staff to use online tools such as NHS Lifecheck to help improve their health and well being. They will also be encouraging their employees to take part in more formal screening programmes.

The new pledges were launched at seminars where organisations involved in the Health at Work and Physical Activity networks of the Responsibility Deal got together with Health Ministers Lord Howe and Simon Burns to talk about their progress so far. More companies are expected to sign up to the pledges over the coming weeks.

Lord Howe said:

“It’s really hard to stop smoking – people who want to quit need all the support they can get.

“Around 21 per cent of adults smoke – so an estimated 7,000 smokers work for Centrica, McCain and Typhoo. I’m really pleased these companies are going to help their employees quit and I hope that more will sign up to the pledge.

“We spend a big chunk of our lives at work so it makes sense that employers look after us as best they can. And it’s good business for them to have a healthy and happy workforce.”

Dame Carol Black, Chair of the Health at Work group said:

“Each and every organisation on the Health at Work group has worked hard to bring the Responsibility Deal to life. I’m delighted we’re able to launch two new pledges today which will go even further to improving the health of employees.”

The Co-operative, which is already committed to inspiring young people to lead an active lifestyle, also launched a pledge with its partner Activate Sport – the UK’s leading sports and activity camps provider for children – committing, by 2012, to:

reach 20,000 young people through sports camps; and

double the number of camps to 500 across the UK.

Simon Burns, Minister of State for Health and Co-Chair of the Responsibility Deal Physical Activity Network, welcomed the new individual pledge from The Co-operative and Activate Sport. He said:

“This pledge on behalf of The Co-operative and Activate Sport is a great example of a major retailer working in partnership to promote a range of sport and physical activity opportunities for children and young people.

“This is particularly important for those children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who often face a range of barriers to participate regularly in sport and physical activity.”

Fred Turok, Co-Chair of the Responsibility Deal, Physical Activity Network, said:

“I am delighted that The Co-operative has moved so quickly in setting the standard for business by making a core commitment to the health of the nation, giving opportunities to young people to increase their physical activity levels through their partnership with Activate Sport.

“It is crucial that we improve the nation’s health through physical activity and embed exercise into the DNA of business and the community. I urge other businesses to follow this example and begin to think about their own commitments and role in improving the health of the nation.”

Earlier this summer, guides were also published to help employers and managers help people with long term conditions. These can be found at: Conds_Employees_Factsheet_A4.pdf nicConds_LineManagers_Factsheet_A4.pdf

Notes to editors

1. Launched on 15 March, the Public Health Responsibility Deal has been established to tap into the potential for businesses and other organisations to improve public health and tackle health inequalities through their influence over food, alcohol, physical activity and health in the workplace. For more information on the Responsibility Deal go to tm

2. Partners signing up to the Responsibility Deal have committed to take action to improve public health. This action is expressed as a series of pledges covering food, alcohol, physical activity and health at work. These pledges are not intended to replace Government action. The Government will continue to develop national policy, define priorities and communicate public health messages.

3. The Department of Health has signed up to all the health at work pledges and the relevant physical activity pledges.

4. NHS LifeCheck is a simple, confidential and easy-to-use online tool that will aim to get people thinking and finding out about their health or the health of their children. For more information go to

5. Businesses at the Health at Work seminar include American Express, Coca-Cola, Centrica, EON, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Philips, Pru-Health as well as a number of smaller organisations including charities. Some of these organisations also attended the Physical Activity Seminar, which included representatives of American Express, Danone, Slimming World and Sodexo.

6. The most effective method of stopping smoking is through Local NHS Stop Smoking Services, where a successful quit attempt is up to four times more likely than unassisted (‘cold turkey’) quitting and twice as effective as medication alone. More information is available at or by calling the Smoking Helpline on 0800 022 4332. Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A tobacco control plan for England was published on 9 March 2011: Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_124917


Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221

Lung function and exposure to workplace second-hand smoke during exemptions from smoking ban legislation

Upcoming Muhammadiyah congress smoke free

muhammadiyahFirst published: March 15, 2010

Source: Jakarta Post

Muhammadiyah is trying to live up to its commitment to making
cigarette smoking haram, starting with its upcoming congress in July.

Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Islamic organization after
Nahdlatul Ulama, will deploy sharia police to enforce the ban on smoking at
the national gathering in Yogyakarta, whose main agenda is to elect new

GE plans new American export: outdoor smoking ban

GE smoking ban

First published: March 4, 2010

Source: Reuters

General Electric Co is known for exporting American products like washing machines and jet engines, and the biggest U.S. conglomerate is getting ready to ship out another American trend – the outdoor smoking ban.

The world’s largest maker of jet engines this week told employees that it plans to ban smoking on all GE property – both indoors and out – worldwide starting in March 2011.


Shanghai declares indoor smoking ban ahead of Expo

Shanghai Expo logoFirst published: March 2, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

Restaurants and office buildings in Shanghai are scrambling to set up nonsmoking areas as the city bans lighting up in indoor public spaces ahead of the World Expo.

There is rising awareness of the health risks of smoking in the mainland, by far the world’s biggest tobacco-consuming country, and this modern city of 20 million is cleaning up its act as it prepares to host the Expo, which begins May 1.

That six-month event, which will showcase the theme “Better City, Better Life,” is expected to attract 70 million people, with exhibits from 192 countries. Most of the visitors will be Chinese from other cities where tobacco use is less strictly controlled.

Getting people to comply with the rules is likely to prove difficult, many feel.

Turkey awarded for its efforts to create smoke-free environment

put that outFirst published: February 27, 2010

Source: World Bulletin

Turkey was awarded in the United States for its efforts to create a smoke-free environment.

The “Global Smoke Free Partnership” award was given to the Turkish National Committee on Smoking and Health which has been working for 20 years to create a smoke-free environment with participation of more than 40 state institutions and non-governmental organizations.

Professor Elif Dagli, chairperson of the committee, received the award at a ceremony at the Hilton Baltimore Hotel.


Big Tobacco still on the march, WHO warns

Big TobaccoFirst published: February 26, 2010

Source: Reuters

GENEVA (Reuters) – Governments must do more to protect workers in bars, restaurants and the entertainment sector from harmful smoke, and curb tobacco advertising and sponsorship, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Developing countries are the new frontier for tobacco companies, which often target women and girls, and smoking rates remain high among poor people in affluent countries, it said.

Tobacco kills more than 5 million people a year from cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and other chronic illnesses, including about 600,000 from second-hand smoke, according to the United Nations agency.

“Most alarming of all, tobacco use is actually increasing in many developing countries. If Big Tobacco is in retreat in some parts of the world, it is on the march in others,” Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, told a meeting to review implementation of a landmark tobacco treaty five years after it came into force.


New York leads the charge in America’s anti-smoking laws


Once, America was in thrall to the Marlboro Man. The hard-smoking cowboy, staring moodily from his horse at a far-off horizon, symbolised a certain kind of freedom and – not coincidentally – helped sell millions of cigarettes.

But now America’s smokers are groaning – or maybe that should be wheezing – under a flood of new measures designed to make them give up. Or, at the very least, to drive their habits from public view to something furtively done in private.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced plans to try to ban smoking in the city’s public parks, adding to the 2002 ban on smoking in offices, restaurants and bars. That would see the Big Apple take on one of the most ambitious urban anti-smoking bans in the world, forbidding its citizens from lighting up in hundreds of city parks and 22 kilometres of beaches.

But the New York move is just the tip of an iceberg of anti-smoking policies spreading across the country in a variety of arenas, ranging from rental cars to the army and people’s homes.

From next month, Avis and Budget will be the first major American car rental companies to ban smokers from puffing away in their vehicles, charging cleaning fees of up to US$250 for those who flout the rules.

Chicago has already taken its ban outside by forbidding smoking on beaches and in playgrounds. In California, the small city of Belmont, just outside San Francisco, has even banned it in apartment buildings, marking the first real advance of anti-smoking laws into personal homes.

Perhaps the biggest recent shock has been a study commissioned by the Pentagon that said smoking should be banned in the military. Though few changes are expected soon in the army, the idea of stopping American soldiers lighting up in a combat zone after a firefight triggered a wave of headlines.

Yet it is still New York that is on the frontline of America’s anti-smoking wars. The city celebrates its global reputation for hard partying, tolerance of different lifestyles and rabid individualism, yet Bloomberg has successfully made the Big Apple’s smokers one of the few social groups it is considered acceptable to ostracise.

On Monday, Bloomberg – a former smoker himself – admitted that when he sees smokers hunkered together outside buildings he gives them “a not particularly nice look” as he walks past.

His comments appeared to be aimed at encouraging other New Yorkers to do likewise. “Social pressure really does work,” he said. It certainly seems to have made New York smokers into a fairly subdued bunch as they faced yet further constraints.

Hurrying across New York’s Madison Square park – one of the areas where a ban would come into place – Janaria Kelly shrugged off the news as he clutched a lighted cigarette.

“They have already banned it in so many other places, that it won’t make much difference,” said the 43-year-old salesman. Kelly added that he understood, and even sympathised with, the reasons for the ban. “Smoking is my choice, but I know it is bad for me, so I get why they are doing it,” he said.

That is music to the ears of the anti-smoking movement. Some reports have shown that smoking-related health care costs are almost US$100 billion a year, and this is against a background of rising health care costs for the government.

Bloomberg, and many others, have made it clear that they see smoking as expensive to wider society, not just as a private habit for the individual, and have not shied away from draconian measures that would be hard to impose on other products.

But smoking rights groups have made no secret of their horror at the latest moves, equating it with a loss of individual freedom being imposed on the public from above.

“The American public is not asking for this. It is coming from government and non-government groups, and it is attacking basic rights of freedom,” said Maryetta Ables, president of Forces International, a conservative group that campaigns on issues of personal freedom in smoking, eating and other consumer choices. But Ables admitted that the climate in the US seemed to indicate that her group was fighting a losing battle at the moment. “There is going to be more of this sort of thing to come,” she said.

That did not seem to bother Paul Collins, 39, another smoker lighting up in Madison Square park as he recovered from the stresses of his morning commute into the city.

“If they do it, they do it,” he said with an air of resignation. “The smoking ban in bars was actually good for me. I cut down a bit. So I don’t really mind.”

That is not the fighting spirit among smokers that the Marlboro Man was meant to encourage.

But then the Marlboro Man is perhaps not the best smoking symbol any more. Several of the cowboys used as models in the campaign contracted lung cancer and became anti-smoking campaigners.

New York banned smoking in most restaurants in 1995, followed by workplaces and indoor public places in 2003, three years before such bans in Scotland and four years before England and Wales.

However, the Department of Health in England said that it had no plans to extend smoke-free areas, saying such moves were up to local authorities.

In Australia, smoking was banned on Sydney’s Bondi beach in 2004, after similar prohibitions on dogs, ball games and frisbees. Soon after, the local council restricted alcohol consumption on the beach.

In Holland, Amsterdam’s coffee shops were not exempted from a ban on smoking in public places. There, pure cannabis or cannabis resin can be legally smoked – as long as it is not mixed with tobacco.

The Guardian