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Driver held over HK$3.6m illicit cigarettes

Customs said today they have seized about 1.3 million illicit cigarettes, worth about HK$3.6 million, at the Shenzhen Bay Control Point yesterday and arrested a 52-year-old male driver.

Officers intercepted an incoming truck declared as carrying assorted goods at the control point last night. After inspection, they found the batch of illicit cigarettes inside 79 cartons mix-loaded with other goods on the truck.

Budget 2020: Cigarette and petrol prices set to increase

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ISO Test methods for cigarette tar and nicotine content Out Of Date – Clear The Air

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Summary of Tobacco Control Measures submitted to HK Government by Clear the Air

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Lincolnshire County Council invests £45m into tobacco firms

Tobacco companies have received more than £45 million investment from Lincolnshire County Council’s pension fund.

Figures published for Lincolnshire County Council’s pension committee next Thursday reveal that one company, British American Tobaccoo, is the fifth highest investment for its pension fund.

The council currently has £2.3 billion in the pension fund, up by £62.8 million in July when it sat at £2.1 billion.

The current investment for British American Tobacco sits at £24.1 million – 1% of the total fund.

This is down from £31.9 million noted in July 2018, however the fund stood at £37.6 million (1.7%) in March 2018.

But the fund did start the year at £19.4 million, according to a report in January.

BAT is not the only tobacco investment the council has made, with more than £21 million going to four others:

Phillip Morris – £11,147,705
Imperial Brands – £4,557,627
Altria Group – £5,543,507
Japan Tobacco – £411,943
The council however, says it has “a legal duty to achieve the best rate of return for the 75,000 pension fund members and ensure its long-term future”.

Jo Ray, the authority’s Pension Fund Manager, said: “For this reason, it maintains a wide and varied portfolio, all of which is managed externally.

“The fund managers seek strong, sustainable companies with good all-round credentials.”

Local authorities have a responsibility under the Health and Social Care Act to improve the health of their local population and promoting healthy communities and behaviours.

Lincolnshire County Council carries out a number of Stop Smoking schemes including its smoke free workplace policy.

It also supports the NHS’ One You Campaign and funds the stop smoking service.

According to council figures, in Lincolnshire there are around 106,000 smokers.

In 2017/18, 5,207 people accessed the council’s commissioned stop smoking service (Quit51).

A spokesman added that on top of this there “will be many more people who have quit or cut down using support from pharmacies, GPs and other services”.

In August, a Guardian report revealed that more than £1.7 billion had been directly invested in tobacco company stocks by healthcare providers, fire authorities and schools via UK council pension funds.

Last September, anti-fracking campaign groups, Platform and Friends of the Earth revealed that in 2016/17, Lincolnshire invested more than £50million in fracking companies including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips.

This time round, the top ten investments equate to around £258.7 million – 10.9% of the total fund.

Royal Dutch Shell is the council’s highest investment at 33.9 million (1.7%) – up from £33 million in July last year.

The full top ten, with their level of investment and the percentage of the pension fund, is:

Royal Dutch Shell – £39.9 million (1.7%)
Microsoft – £33.6 million (1.4%)
Reckitt Benckiser – £29.6 million (1.2%)
HSBC – £24.2 million (1%)
British American Tobacco – £24.1 million (1%)
Unilever – £22.5 million (1%)
Apple – £22 million (0.9%)
Visa – £21.2 million (0.9%)
BP – £20.7 million (0.9%)

The Science to Inform a Tobacco Product Standard for the Level of Nicotine in Combusted Cigarettes

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‘Heat-Not-Burn’ Cigarettes Still Damage Lungs

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Higher taxes show way to cut smoking in Hong Kong

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The UK provides a case study for how tough antismuggling measures, as enshrined in the Illicit Trade Protocol, can enable governments to raise taxes, increase revenues and discourage smoking.

This wasn’t always the case. During the 1990s the government started increasing taxes above inflation to reduce affordability. By the beginning of the 21st century over 20 per cent of cigarettes smoked in the UK were smuggled, up from 5 per cent in the early 1990s. Worse still the illicit market share was predicted to grow to a third of the market within a couple of years if no action was taken. And access to cheap tobacco meant that the tax policy, which should have discouraged smoking and increased government revenues, was failing on both counts.

The tobacco industry lobbied hard, saying it was high taxes causing increased smuggling and the only solution was to cut taxes. But media investigations and parliamentary enquiries revealed that it was the industry itself that was fuelling the illicit trade. Tobacco transnationals were exporting cigarettes to countries where there was no end market, knowing they’d bounce back to the UK, cheap and untaxed. A good example is Andorra. From 1993 to 1997 sales of UK cigarettes to Andorra ballooned more than a hundredfold from 13 million to 1.5 billion. Andorra was importing enough cigarettes for every man, woman and child to smoke 140 a day. And it wasn’t just Andorra, British cigarettes were being exported to all sorts of places with no end market, including Latvia, Kaliningrad, Afghanistan and Moldova.

The tobacco transnationals denied all knowledge, but as one Member of Parliament said to the Chief Executive of Imperial Tobacco, “One comes to the conclusion that you are either crooks or you are stupid, and you don’t look very stupid.” The UK Government held its nerve and continued to increase taxes, while implementing a tough anti-smuggling strategy, which included strict supply chain controls and financial sanctions very much along the lines of the Protocol. Between 2000 and 2016, the last year for which there are figures, the size of the illicit market for cigarettes fell by nearly 60 per cent from 17 to 7 billion sticks, with revenue losses down from US$3.67 billion to US$2.36 billion (at current exchange rates).

Illicit trade is a major and growing global problem but the lesson from the UK is clear. The Illicit Trade Protocol can help countries raise taxes, increase revenues and drive down smoking prevalence.

Deborah Arnott
Chief Executive ASH (UK)


This week, the World Bank will release its Human Capital Index. This index rates countries on how close they are to having a healthy, educated workforce that is prepared for the more highly-skilled jobs of the future; and to compete effectively in the global economy.

The health and economic costs of tobacco are clear: it kills more than seven million people every year and millions more suffer from tobacco-related disease – often during their most economically productive years. The global economic cost of smoking amounts to nearly 2 trillion dollars annually, almost 2 per cent of the world’s GDP.

The tobacco industry pushes a narrative about its own economic contribution as an obstacle to the implementation of tobacco control policies. The true cost of tobacco is to be found in the stories of suffering told by the victims like Ike, a non-smoking mother of two from Indonesia, who developed throat cancer from second-hand smoke exposure, or Sunita, a 27-year old smokeless tobacco user from India, who never smoked but developed fatal oral cancer.

The FCTC and the ITP are solutions to reducing tobacco’s harm. If they are properly implemented, cost savings from improved health and productivity, and increased taxes, can fund investments in a country’s human capital and save lives.

Vital Strategies