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May, 2008:

End Of Duty-Free Tobacco Can Curb Smoking

Updated on May 31, 2008 – SCMP

Today is the World Health Organisation’s World No Tobacco Day. This year’s theme is to press for a tobacco-free younger generation.

Most smokers start on their habit before they reach 18, leading to a lifetime’s tobacco dependence. Smoking tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. Regular smokers shorten their own lives, on average, by 15 years.

The smoking habit kills between a third to a half of all users eventually. Youngsters do not think of that when they start smoking. The diseases caused by smoking generally surface only later in life so have little deterrent effect on the young. In the last century 100 million people died of smoking-caused diseases, my own father being among them. These diseases include emphysema, cardiovascular diseases, and lung and mouth cancers.

The current global death rate from tobacco-related health problems is thought to be about 10,000 people a day.

Most smokers are feeding an addiction to nicotine and feel bad if they do not continue doing so.

It is not only smokers who are putting themselves at risk from their habit. Those in the vicinity of smokers, the so-called passive smokers, can also be killed.

Two-thirds of the world’s smokers live in only 10 countries, led by China, India, Indonesia and Japan.

I have seen many schoolchildren smoking in Hong Kong on the way home from school.

Clearly more needs to be done to alert them to the grim reality of the severe damage they are doing to their bodies.

It would be appropriate to abolish the duty-free allowances on tobacco products.

The government loses out twice by these duty-free allowances – by the loss of tax on those sales and later by covering the medical costs of the many smokers who end up in hospital. Tobacco products should be priced at a prohibitively high rate, to deter use and especially to deter young people from smoking. Schoolchildren should not be able to afford to buy cigarettes.

We also need to regulate to get smokers away from the open frontages of restaurants and bars, where their exhalations poison the air for others.

Today’s older generation should make every effort to limit the incidence of tobacco dependence in the young and the measures I have proposed can be a start in that direction.

For how much longer can it be thought acceptable to have 10,000 deaths from smoking each and every day?

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels

Unbranded Cigarette Packets Plan

Unbranded Cigarette Packets Plan In New Crackdown On Smoking

Proposals to put heavy restrictions on marketing
Consultation paper opens 12-week national debate

John Carvel, social affairs editor – The Guardian – Saturday May 31, 2008

Under government proposals issued for consultation today, tobacco companies would be obliged sell cigarettes in plain packets, stripped of corporate logos, emblazoned with health warnings.

Further restrictions on the marketing of tobacco products in England have been drawn up by ministers to stop adults smoking and discourage young people from taking up the habit. These include:

· Banning the sale of cigarettes in pack sizes of less than 20, in an attempt to make smoking less accessible to young people who can only afford a pack of 10.

· Banning cigarette vending machines or converting them to take tokens that could only be purchased with proof of age.

· Restricting the display of tobacco products in shops, possibly by requiring they are placed under the counter.

· Banning the advertising of cigarette papers and other smoking paraphernalia.

The proposals are in a consultation paper entitled The Future of Tobacco Control that is being issued by the Department of Health to trigger a 12-week national debate.

A spokeswoman said the government is definite about wanting to restrict the display of tobacco products and limit access to vending machines – measures proposed by the devolved government in Scotland last week. But ministers are more open-minded about the other ideas. She said the proposals were targeted mainly at young people, who were considered to be more susceptible to brand advertising.

Dawn Primarolo, the public health minister, said: “Protecting children from smoking is a government priority and taking away temptation is one way to do this. If banning brightly coloured packets, removing cigarettes from display and removing the cheap option of a pack of 10 helps save lives, then that is what we should do – but we want to hear everyone’s views first.”

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, said: “It is good news that the government has taken many of our recommendations on board. It is essential that cigarettes are made more inaccessible to children and one way to do this is to ban 10-packs of cigarettes and to get rid of tobacco vending machines.”

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Two-thirds of smokers start before the age of 18. We need to aim to stop today’s children from starting to smoke and becoming part of these unacceptable and wholly preventable statistics.”

But the Tobacco Alliance, which represents more than 16,000 independent retailers across the UK, said: “Seeing tobacco on display in shops is not a significant cause of youth smoking and banning it will not solve the problem.” A poll for the alliance found 94% of people believed the main reason under-18s started smoking was because friends and family smoked, and because teenagers regarded it as an act of rebellion.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: “Banning point-of-sale display will make smoking even more attractive to teenagers. Worse, it will drive many smokers towards cheaper counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes … yet again, freedom of choice and personal responsibility are being sacrificed by politicians who think they know best.”

Consultation on the future of tobacco control

Download (PDF, 3.06MB)

Interactive Video Game May Help Smokers Quit

Agence France-Presse in Washington – SCMP – Updated on May 30, 2008

Smokers are about to get help kicking the tobacco habit: an interactive video game that aims to “coach” cigarette users away from their addiction.

Based on the successful “Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking” method which reportedly has helped more than 10 million smokers to stub out their cigarettes once and for all, the game, designed for Nintendo DS, will be developed by Montreal games developer Ubisoft.

It is expected to go on sale in November.

Ubisoft has brought the world games that pit players against an invasion of demonic rabbits or allow them to learn a foreign language using the Nintendo DS, with its interactive touch screen.

In the smoking cessation game, players enter a brief personal smoking history and their tobacco habits and choose a personal coach to guide them through the process of quitting, according to Ubisoft.

Fifteen mini-games help to “dispel the illusions about nicotine addiction” and players can track their progress in kicking the habit using the “Path to Freedom” meter.

And even after that last cigarette butt has sullied the ashtray, “you can still play the game and measure the daily benefits you get from your new life without cigarettes”, Ubisoft promises.

“The player experiences a truly interactive engagement with the game, through which he or she learns that it can actually be enjoyable to quit smoking,” said Christian Salomon, vice-president of worldwide licensing at Ubisoft.

Tobacco Additives

Tobacco Additives – A Study of the Available Literature


Tobacco smoking is the most widespread nonpreventable global cause of premature deaths developed by human beings. The harmless looking cigarette is a cocktail of specially tailored chemical additives, which causes immense addiction in the user, and eases the initial phase for the non-smoker to begin smoking.

No aspect of a cigarette is redundant of superfluous, every single added component has been scientifically designed, through many years of development, to refine and optimize the impact and the effect of the tobacco in the cigarette.

Smoking-related medical conditions, such as emphysema, heart disease, lung cancer and other cancers, are tragic consequences leading to suffering and death among users. These adverse effects regrettably only appear after a long time of repeated impacts, after the addiction to the cigarette has been established. Thus, unfortunately, these effects cannot be discovered and counteracted through early testing.

Benzyl benzoate (Xn: harmful), Allyl Hexanoate (T: toxic), Alpha Pinene (Xn: harmful and N: Dangerous for the environment), Menthol (Xi: Irritant), and Cocoa are just a few examples out of the massive number of additives that are frequently applied to cigarettes and tobacco products in general.


The primary aim of this work is to establish an international knowledge base about the additives that have been reported to the Danish Minister of Health, in order to provide the persons and decision-makers who work with these substances a secure source of exact information about them. We wish to provide insight into the various effects the additives can have on health. Additionally, this report discusses the toxic properties of additives, inform about the formation of countless new chemical compounds during the burning process of tobacco, Pyrolysis, and finally, the report also demonstrates how additives are contributing to tobacco addiction.

Existing legislation

In Denmark at the present moment there exists no legislation intended to govern and control which kinds of additives can be safely added to cigarettes. As this review indicates, a number of additives are hazardously toxic. The EU authorities frequently request from the tobacco companies information on what kind of additives they use, for what reasons, and if there exists some information about their toxic effects. However, such information is not often forthcoming. The lack of legislation on the use of additives in tobacco products have given the tobacco industry a free space here in Denmark, as opposed to in a range of other countries such as the USA, France, and Germany, which at least have some general guidelines for which additives are permitted.

Finally in 2006, House of Prince, a subsidiary to Scandinavian Tobacco Company, reported to the Danish health authorities a list of 299 additives that they claim to use in their tobacco products. 249 of these reported additives seem to be added directly to the tobacco, while the final 50 are used in the production of filter, ink, glue and paper. In this project we have focused only on these 249 directly added substances.

Read the full report on Tobacco Additives here.

Cigarette Makers Still Lure Region’s Youth

Shigeru Omi – SCMP – Updated on May 29, 2008

Did you smoke when you were 13? I did, and so did many of my friends. In those days, it was second nature for youngsters to smoke. Boys did it because they thought it made them look and feel more like men: distinguished, respected, feared. For girls, it showed they were fun loving and grown up.

Years later, as I began to understand the hazards of smoking, I quit. Now, some 20 years on, I have noticed that a number of my friends who carried on smoking are suffering from cancer or heart disease. I can’t help wondering if I should have done more to persuade them to quit.

It has been a long time and I would like to think things have changed. But they haven’t.

Figures from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) from 2000 to 2007 estimate that of children aged 13 to 15 in the Western Pacific Region, an average of 13.4 per cent smoke. The rough average for this age group in the whole of Asia is one out of five boys and one out of six girls. In the Philippines, one out of four boys smoke. And one out of three boys smoke in Malaysia, the Federated States of Micronesia and Tuvalu.

Today, I stopped to think about why I started smoking at such an early age. But the reason I kept on smoking was the image in my head that came from billboards, television and radio.

The tobacco industry is still using the same pernicious techniques. Now, as then, it targets youth in fun and familiar environments – the movies, fashion events, music concerts and sports. Lately, the internet has been the sea where this marketing net has been cast. Today the industry’s marketing net targets half a billion children and youths aged 6-23 in the Western Pacific.

Smoking tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. It is the only legal consumer product that kills one-third to one-half of those who use it as intended by its manufacturers, reducing their lives by an average 15 years.

It is estimated that related health care costs and productivity losses amounted to US$5 billion in China in 2000, US$327 million in Vietnam in 2005, and US$2.8 million in the Philippines in 2003.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is designed to curb this epidemic and to protect young people from the diseases that smoking brings. In Asia and the Pacific, countries are working hard to control a scourge that claims two lives every minute.

Under the terms of the FCTC, signatory governments undertake to curb the kind of inducements that first drew me into tobacco use. These commitments are reflected in the slogan for World No Tobacco Day, this Saturday, which calls on governments to “break the tobacco marketing net” and ban the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products.

The tobacco industry’s tactics may not have changed since I was 13. But years of tobacco control advocacy have resulted in less acceptance of smoking as a norm and higher levels of awareness of the hazards of tobacco use.

Dr Shigeru Omi is WHO regional director for the Western Pacific

US Games Developer Makes Quitting Smoking Child’s Play

29th May 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Smokers are about to get help kicking the tobacco habit: an interactive computer game that aims to “coach” cigarette users away from their addiction.

Based on the successful “Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking” method which reportedly has helped more than 10 million smokers to stub out their cigarettes once and for all, the game, designed for Nintendo DS, will be developed by the Quebec bureau of California-headquartered Ubisoft.

It is expected to go on sale in November.

Ubisoft is the company that has brought the world games that pit players against an invasion of demonic rabbits or allow them to learn a foreign language using the Nintendo DS, with its interactive touch screen.

In the smoking cessation game, players enter a brief personal smoking history and their tobacco habits and choose a personal coach to guide them through the process of quitting, according to a press release issued by Ubisoft.

Fifteen mini-games help to “dispel the illusions about nicotine addiction” and players can track their progress in kicking the habit using the “Path to Freedom” meter.

And even after that last cigarette butt has sullied the ashtray, “you can still play the game and measure the daily benefits you get from your new life without cigarettes,” Ubisoft promises.

“The player experiences a truly interactive engagement with the game, through which he or she learns that it can actually be enjoyable to quit smoking,” said Christian Salomon, vice president of worldwide licensing at Ubisoft.

John Brumby May Ban Smoking In Cars

Article from: Herald Sun – Jane Metlikovec – May 27, 2008 10:31am

VICTORIANS could soon be banned from smoking in cars carrying young children, under a plan being considered in Parliament.

The Queensland Government yesterday said it would slap $150 on-the-spot fines on adults smoking in cars carrying children under the age of 16.

Premier John Brumby said today the Victorian Government had been considering introducing such a law for the past four months.

“It is a matter which is being examined in Parliament at the moment,” Mr Brumby told 3AW.

“We need to weigh up the right of parents to make judgements about their children, but if you are puffing away in a car with two young kids in the back, you are really doing no good to your kids at all.”

Cigarette Bill Treats Menthol With Leniency

May 13, 2008 – The New York Times – By STEPHANIE SAUL

Some public health experts are questioning why menthol, the most widely used cigarette flavoring and the most popular cigarette choice of African-American smokers, is receiving special protection as Congress tries to regulate tobacco for the first time.

The legislation, which would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to oversee tobacco products, would try to reduce smoking’s allure to young people by banning most flavored cigarettes, including clove and cinnamon.

But those new strictures would exempt menthol — even though menthol masks the harsh taste of cigarettes for beginners and may make it harder for the addicted to kick the smoking habit. For years, public health authorities have worried that menthol might be a factor in high cancer rates in African-Americans.

The reason menthol is seen as politically off limits, despite those concerns, is that mentholated brands are so crucial to the American cigarette industry. They make up more than one-fourth of the $70 billion American cigarette market and are becoming increasingly important to the industry leader, Philip Morris USA, without whose lobbying support the legislation might have no chance of passage.

“I would have been in favor of banning menthol,” said Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, who supports the bill. “But as a practical matter that simply wasn’t doable.”

Even the head of the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, a nonprofit group that has been adamantly against menthol, acknowledges that the ingredient needed to be off the bargaining table — for now — because he does not want to imperil the bill’s chances.

“The bottom line is we want the legislation,” said William S. Robinson, the group’s executive director. “But we want to reserve the right to address this issue at some critical point because of the percentage of people of African descent who use mentholated products.”

Supporters of the tobacco legislation, including the Senate bill’s sponsor, Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat, say the bill addresses the potential health risks of menthol by giving the F.D.A. the authority to remove cigarette additives, including menthol, if they are proved harmful.

Menthol is particularly controversial because public health authorities have worried about its health effects on African-Americans. Nearly 75 percent of black smokers use menthol brands, compared with only about one in four white smokers.

That is why one former public health official says the legislation’s menthol exemption is a “cave-in to the industry,” an opinion shared by some other public health advocates.

“I think we can say definitively that menthol induces smoking in the African-American community and subsequently serves as a direct link to African-American death and disease,” said the former official, Robert G. Robinson, who retired two years ago as an associate director in the office of smoking and health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The current lead scientist on tobacco related issues for the C.D.C, Terry F. Pechacek, said the legislation’s exemption for menthol was an issue being discussed in the scientific community. “I would just say this is an area of clear scientific interest and it merits very careful attention.”

The legislation could soon be up for vote in both chambers of Congress, where it has broad support. It is by no means a sure bet — though not because of the menthol exemption.

Despite the support of Mr. Kennedy and 56 co-sponsors in the Senate, the legislation faces some determined opposition from tobacco-state lawmakers who resist industry regulation. And the White House has said it opposes the legislation, arguing that F.D.A. regulation could create the false impression that tobacco is safe.

The legislation is largely a result of negotiations during sessions in 2003 and 2004 between lawmakers, antismoking groups and Philip Morris — the only major American cigarette company that supports the effort to regulate the industry.

“My recollection is that we were able to eliminate the use of flavored cigarettes, strawberry, mocha, and all this stuff that is clearly targeted at young kids and to start them smoking tobacco,” Mike DeWine, the former Ohio senator who helped arrange a series of negotiations between Philip Morris and an influential antismoking group, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a recent telephone interview. “Where the compromise was made as I recall was on menthol,” Mr. DeWine said.

While Philip Morris and other tobacco companies acknowledge the health hazards of smoking, they contend that menthol does nothing to worsen those risks. One of the government’s current top public health scientists on tobacco, however, says there are few definitive answers about the health impact of menthol cigarettes. Still, he points to several studies that suggest menthol smokers may be exposed to higher levels of dangerous compounds than nonmenthol smokers.

“There are multiple lines of evidence, generally consistent, suggesting that there’s reason for concern,” said Dr. Pechacek, the associate science director of the office on smoking for the C.D.C.

Of 45 million smokers in this country, the American Lung Association identifies about 33 million as non-Hispanic whites and 5 million as African-American. Historically, statistics showed that a somewhat higher percentage of African-Americans smoked than whites. Recent figures, though, indicate about the same rate of smoking for both groups — in the 21 to 22 percent range.

But the use of menthol cigarettes is disproportionately an African-American phenomenon, which critics say has been reinforced by decades of advertising aimed at black consumers. Concerns about menthol have circulated since at least 1998, when the C.D.C. reported that menthol “may increase the absorption of harmful smoking constituents.”

Four years later the C.D.C., along with the National Cancer Institute, sponsored a meeting in Atlanta on menthol cigarettes and disease rates in African-Americans. The official report from that meeting said the research up to that point had been inconclusive, but it called for further studies.

In five large studies of menthol to date, only one has found higher rates of cancer among menthol smokers than nonmenthol smokers, and only in men. But a growing body of evidence suggests that menthol makes it harder to kick the smoking habit — a view shared even by many scientists who say that menthol in cigarettes is not itself dangerous.

A tobacco company spokesman, Brendan J. McCormick, said menthol was “an ingredient and a flavor preference that is widely preferred by more than a quarter of adult smokers out there, and it’s got a long history of use.”

Mr. McCormick works for the Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, whose Marlboro Menthol is the second-largest menthol brand in this country and also the fastest growing.

Last year, to counter concerns about menthol, a mint extract that can also be made synthetically, Philip Morris scientists published a 26-page paper in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal. After examining dozens of studies on menthol, the company’s scientists said they found little evidence that menthol cigarettes were any more harmful or addictive than other types or that they encouraged people to start smoking at younger ages.

Its support of the tobacco legislation has put Philip Morris at odds with other cigarette companies, which generally oppose regulation. As the American industry’s biggest player, Philip Morris says it is willing to let the F.D.A. oversee tobacco because as the company tries to develop products that are less harmful, it wants a regulatory agency to evaluate and approve those products. The company also says it would prefer national tobacco regulations rather than a hodgepodge of state and local rules. But the company’s rivals complain that the legislation could help Philip Morris, with its best-selling Marlboro franchise, further entrench itself as the industry’s dominant player by placing new restrictions on cigarette marketing, making it difficult for rivals to use advertising to catch up. Besides banning the marketing of cigarettes on the basis of most flavorings — other than menthol — the new rules would also place additional limits on the types and placement of signs and magazine advertising for tobacco products.

Even with the menthol exemption, the legislation is opposed by Reynolds American, whose R. J. Reynolds unit sells menthol brands that include Kool and Salem. Another opponent is Lorillard, which makes Newport, the best-selling brand among African-Americans and the menthol market leader over all.

“Bottom line, the scientific publications to date have not concluded that menthol cigarettes are more hazardous or addictive than nonmenthol cigarettes,” a Lorillard spokesman, Michael W. Robinson, said in a written response to questions. Lorillard is a subsidiary of the Loews Corporation.

Scientists who study smoking have identified various disparities in the health of black and white smokers. National Cancer Institute data shows that African-American men get lung cancer at a rate 50 percent higher than white men — a gap that most scientists say cannot be fully explained by historically higher rates of smoking by black men.

One theory suggests that menthol in cigarettes, by providing an additional pleasurable sensory cue to smokers, reinforces addiction.

“There is evidence from different studies that it’s harder to quit menthol cigarettes,” said Dr. Neal L. Benowitz, a pharmacologist and professor at the University of California, San Francisco and one of the nation’s leading tobacco researchers. He calls menthol a “public health risk.”

In work published in 2006, Dr. Mark J. Pletcher and colleagues at that same university analyzed smoking behavior for 1,535 people over 15 years. Their findings suggested that menthol smokers were 30 percent less likely to quit smoking and 89 percent more likely to relapse than other smokers.

One African-American woman, Joya Robinson of North Brunswick, N.J., said she began smoking Newport in 1988 and developed a pack-a-day habit. After several unsuccessful attempts to quit, she is now enrolled in a tobacco dependence program. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Ms. Robinson, 46, said.

Dr. Pechacek, the C.D.C. official, said a combination of menthol and genetic factors that predispose African-Americans to certain cancers may be in play for black smokers.

“There is sufficient reason to maintain a strong public health interest in it,” he said.

Woman Fined For Smoking In Car With Children

Posted Mon May 12, 2008 9:02am AEST –

One woman has been fined and other people have been cautioned about smoking in cars with children.

Tasmanians have been caught out by new legislation aimed at reducing the number of people smoking in cars with children on board.

A woman in Devonport has been fined A$120 for smoking with two children in the car and four other people have been cautioned.

Police and tobacco control officers began enforcing the legislation in April, following a three month amnesty.

Tasmania’s environmental health manager, Stuart Heggie, says the fact that smokers have already been caught out should make others think twice before lighting up with children in the car.