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June, 2008:

Record Numbers Of Smokers Kick Habit

Health bonus claimed from a year of restrictions

Caroline Davies – The Observer – Sunday June 29, 2008

The number of smokers successfully quitting has soared because of the smoking ban in England, which celebrates its first anniversary this week.

Research shows that almost 235,000 people managed to stub it out with help from the NHS in the nine months from April to December 2007 – a rise of 22 per cent on the year before. The figures, contained in a Department of Health report to be published next week, are being used as evidence that the ban on lighting up in enclosed public spaces has been a success.

In the foreword Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson writes: ‘The significance of the smoke-free laws cannot be underestimated. A significant reduction in second-hand smoke with its damaging health effects has been achieved. We expect many lives have been saved. Everyone has the right to enjoy the benefits of a cleaner, healthier environment.’

Fears that smokers would smoke more at home appear to be unrealised, with 67 per cent imposing a total ban, compared with 61 per cent before the ban, according to the Office for National Statistics, which also shows that 80 per cent of those polled believed the legislation banning smoking was a good thing.

‘That is a key finding,’ said Linda Bauld, from the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies. ‘Lots of people expected that if you stopped people smoking at work and in pubs and restaurants, they will smoke more at home. But there is no evidence of that,’ she said.

The British Lung Foundation yesterday claimed the ban was responsible for keeping people with breathing difficulties out of hospital and for saving lives. In a survey of more than 1,000 people with lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, 56 per cent said they were now able to go out more without the risk of suffering attacks of breathlessness from passive smoking in pubs and restaurants.

‘People with lung conditions are often rushed to hospital with attacks of breathlessness, a terrifying experience which can result in death,’ said a spokesman for the charity. ‘In the past most people with a lung condition have been unable to enjoy a visit to the pub or restaurant because passive smoking could bring on an attack.’ Nearly two-fifths of those questioned said the ban had helped to keep them out of hospital.

Sue Matthews, 54, from Barking, east London, who suffers from COPD, said the ban had allowed her to live a more normal life. ‘Our Breathe Easy support group met in a pub this year – it was the first time we had ever been able to do that without worrying that we might be rushed to hospital fighting for breath,’ she said.

A reduction in the number of heart attacks is also expected as a result of the ban, though experts say it is too early to monitor the full impact in England. In Scotland, which introduced the ban in March 2006, nine major hospitals experienced a 13 per cent reduction in heart attack admissions in the following year.

‘I think we would expect to see a similar reduction in England in heart attack admissions,’ said Bauld. ‘For people who have a pre-existing heart condition, the response can be triggered by exposure to second-hand smoke.’

But the ban contributed to the closure of 1,409 pubs in 2007, compared with just 216 closing in 2006.

Permit Option For Smokers

Sunday Herald Sun – Evonne Barry, Health reporter – June 29, 2008 12:00am

HEALTH Minister Nicola Roxon has warned smokers she is prepared to take radical action to force them to give up.

A smoker’s permit could be among the “innovative options” employed to get Australians to quit.

The permit, which smokers would have to buy annually and display every time they bought cigarettes, has been mooted in Britain.

And Ms Roxon said Australians could face similar measures to cut the national smoking rate.

“They are the types of things that when the (National Preventative Health Taskforce) says, ‘These are the next steps for the comprehensive plan’, that you could take,” she said.

“I think with tobacco, because we have already gone a long way in Australia in terms of regulation of sale and advertising, there will probably be innovative options like that coming forward.”

Ms Roxon said while cutting binge drinking and obesity rates were high on her agenda, curbing smoking demanded the most drastic action. “With alcohol and obesity… the messages are more subtle because there are of course safe amounts of sweet foods and fatty foods you can eat.

“But with tobacco, it’s a pretty clear message – none of it is safe. So I’m looking forward to considering all of those options and I think they will go from the quite small, individual proposals for personal behaviour to what we need to do across the country.”

Under Britain’s permit proposal, smokers would have to renew their permit every year and display it when buying cigarettes. Revenue raised from the licences would be pumped back into the public health system.

Quit executive director Fiona Sharkie said plain packaging was at the top of her wish list for government reform on smoking.

She said the tobacco industry should be forced to remove all colours and logos from its products.

“We want the punishment being put on to the tobacco industry because they are the ones that are getting smokers addicted,” Ms Sharkie said.

Tuesday marks a year since smoking was banned in Victoria’s 7000 pubs, clubs, gaming rooms and cigar bars.

Smoking Ban Forces Record Numbers To Quit

By Patrick Sawer – Last updated: 8:06 AM BST 28/06/2008 – Telegraph News

The smoking ban in pubs, clubs and restaurants has been described as the “single most important health measure for a generation” after record numbers are shown to have quit the habit last year.

A leaked report shows 234,060 people gave up smoking in the months immediately before and after the law was introduced a year ago – a 22 per cent increase on the previous year.

The report by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, says that 76 per cent of people support the ban on smoking in the workplace and other public places while just three per cent of businesses reported a negative impact on trade.

The report, to be officially published on the July 1 anniversary, also shows that 98 per cent of premises inspected complied with the smoke-free legislation.

Air quality in pubs and restaurants has also improved dramatically since July 1 last year. Pollution levels fell 91 per cent inside pubs and restaurants after the ban and is “now comparable to outside air”.

At the same time bar workers showed a 76 per cent reduction in nicotine levels.

In the foreword to his report, Sir Liam says: “The significance of the smoke-free laws cannot be underestimated.

“A significant reduction in second-hand smoke with its damaging health effects has been achieved. We expect many lives will have been saved. Everyone has the right to enjoy the benefits of a cleaner, healthier environment.”

Amanda Sandford, of the campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health, said last night: “This is great news.”

Ministers are set to use the anniversary of the smoking ban in England next week to publicise its success.

However Sir Liam argues more needs to be done to persuade smokers to give up. From this autumn graphic picture warnings are to be printed on cigarette packets, a move described by Sir Liam as “essential”. Ministers are also planning to ban packs of 10, stop newsagents displaying cigarettes and outlaw cigarette vending machines.

Sir Liam said: “The smoking epidemic is far from solved. Tobacco kills 87,000 people annually in England alone. It remains the single greatest cause of preventable illness.”

England was the last part of the UK to ban smoking in public places and workplaces. Bans were introduced in Scotland in 2006 and in Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007.

The British Beer and Pub Association said the smoking ban has had a devastating effect on pubs, with 1,409 pubs closing in 2007 compared with 216 in 2006 – a rate of nearly 30 a week.

Quit-Smoking Option Expenses Spelled Out

May Chan – Jun 28, 2008 – SCMP

A Democratic lawmaker’s proposal to offer smoking offenders a quit course would require the government to pay half the cost of treatment, the Food and Health Bureau says.

Andrew Cheng Kar-foo made the suggestion last week in an amendment to the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance as the Legislative Council considered a government plan to introduce a HK$1,500 fixed penalty for offenders.

The current penalty provides only for offenders to be summonsed to court, where they may be fined up to HK$5,000 – but usually the amount is just a fraction of that.

Mr Cheng said smokers should have a choice of either paying the fixed penalty or paying for a course on quitting.

But in a letter to Legco, the bureau said the average cost of a 12-week course was about HK$3,000.

If a fifth of the projected number of fined smokers opted for the course, the government would have to budget an extra HK$2.8 million. And in the interest of fairness, HK$2.9 million would be needed to subsidise smokers who voluntarily attended cessation clinics.

It may also have to pay HK$13 million to set up four extra clinics.

Overall, Mr Cheng’s proposal would cost HK$18.7 million a year.

The bureau estimates there will be 8,000 prosecutions this year, but if the fine is introduced it estimates total number of smokers penalised this year will rise 20 per cent to 9,600.

Mr Cheng said he was worried that his proposal – due to go before a Legco bills committee on Wednesday – might not even be discussed because of the costs stated in the letter.

He reiterated that if illegal smokers were allowed the option, it would save expenses on medical services.

“Even if I don’t put forward this proposal, the government is still responsible for increasing expenditures on smoking cessation services,” Mr Cheng said.

The smoking ban, covering some designated outdoor areas and all indoor public areas, came into force on January 1 last year.

A total of 5,929 summonses were issued from January 1 last year to April 30 this year for breaches.

Ban Sparks Rise In Smoking Quitters

The Press Association – Jun 27, 2008

Almost a quarter of a million people have stopped smoking since the ban on lighting up in public places was introduced, according to an official report to be published next week.

A total of 234,060 people have stopped smoking with the help of the NHS Quit Smoking Service since the ban was brought in on July 1, 2007. That is 22% more people than in the previous 12 months.

The Department of Health report on the smoke-free legislation will be published on the first anniversary of the smoking ban.

It also states the ban has cut pollution levels in bars and restaurants by 91%.

Fears that the ban would not be enforced have proved groundless with 98% of premises inspected complying with the legislation and 76% of the population saying they back the law.

In the foreword to the report, Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson writes: “The significance of the smoke-free laws cannot be underestimated.

“A significant reduction in second-hand smoke with its damaging health effects has been achieved. We expect many lives have been saved. Everyone has the right to enjoy the benefits of a cleaner, healthier environment.”

Amanda Sandford, research manager at the campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health, said the ban had been a resounding success.

She said: “There are so many benefits from the legislation. For example, we have seen a decline in the number of people being admitted to hospital with heart disease and there has been a 76% reduction in the nicotine levels of bar workers.

“But we can not sit on our laurels. There are still nine million adult smokers in England alone and smoking is still the biggest cause of preventable sickness and death in this country.”

Increased Taxes Drive Down Tobacco Sales

Calgary Herald – June 27, 2008 – Michelle Lang

Reduced revenues replaced by more drinking, gambling

Higher tobacco taxes are discouraging Alberta smokers from lighting up, but gamblers and drinkers are making up for any lost revenue, according to new government figures.

The Alberta government’s annual report, released Tuesday, said provincial coffers collected about $845 million in tobacco taxes during 2007-08 — $45 million less than the budgeted amount — because of “lower than anticipated sales.”

Anti-tobacco advocates hailed the statistic as a turning point for smoking in the province and attributed the change to a 16 per cent increase in tobacco taxes, announced last year, as well as recent anti-smoking legislation.

Action on Smoking and Health said Alberta has seen a six per cent decline in smoking during the past year, noting tobacco sales dropped by about 137,000 cigarettes at the same time the province’s population increased.

“It’s the first drop in consumption in five years in Alberta,” said Les Hagen of Action on Smoking and Health, an anti-tobacco lobby group.

“It means we’ve turned an important corner in tobacco reduction.”

Despite the drop in sales, government still collected about $70 million more in revenue from tobacco, compared with 2006-07, because of the tax increase.

Tuesday’s statistics follow the province’s decision in the spring 2007 budget to boost tobacco taxes by about 63 cents per pack. The increase made Alberta’s cigarettes among the most expensive in Canada.

Last fall, Alberta passed tobacco legislation that introduced a sweeping smoking ban in all public and work places as of Jan. 1.

Representatives with the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission said Tuesday they weren’t surprised by statistics showing a drop in sales, noting higher taxes are closely linked with lower smoking rates.

“It’s one time when we’re delighted with a reduction in revenue,” said Sue Lysachok of the commission.

While tobacco sales are dropping, however, sales of liquor and gaming revenues are growing in Alberta.

The province’s annual report said gaming and lottery revenue have increased from $1.5 billion in 2006-07 to $1.6 billion during the past year.

Liquor revenue increased from $658 million to $678 million over the same period.

Alberta Finance officials said the province’s population boom is likely boosting gambling and liquor revenues.

A spokesperson with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission said the province’s strong economy may also play a role in the higher revenues, with Albertans having more disposable income to spend on entertainment such as gambling.

Robert Williams, a University of Lethbridge professor and a co-ordinator with the Alberta Gaming Research Institute, said the growing number of casinos around the province is partly responsible for the increase.

Delayed Cigarette-Smuggling Trial Begins Without Key Suspect

Chandra Wong – Updated on Jun 27, 2008 – SCMP

The trial of three company heads alleged to have pocketed HK$12.6 million in commissions from a cigarette-smuggling racket started yesterday after months of delay.

But it went ahead in the absence of one of the alleged conspirators, Lu Dayong, 60, former director of Hong Kong-based Nanyang Brothers Tobacco Company, manufacturer of Double Happiness cigarettes.

Lu, who has absconded, is said to have conspired with his girlfriend Ko Kit, 39, Chan Kai-san, 40, and other unknown conspirators who headed two companies, Hang Chun and Golden Leaf, which Lu approved as overseas distributors for his company’s products. The cigarettes are alleged to have been smuggled to the mainland from Hong Kong via other places including the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam.

In a 59-page document presented to open the case yesterday, the prosecution alleged the commissions were paid through various parties from the mainland in the form of deposits, cash and company or casino cheques to bank accounts controlled by unknown conspirators and Ko, who then received and held the funds on behalf of Lu in her bank accounts.

The trio were said to have received the substantial commissions during the 14 months from December 2002 to February 2004, when they were arrested by undercover agents.

The prosecution said anti-graft agents found Lu kept a diary on the commission payments and cigarette shipments.

Ko, a former restaurant receptionist, had no experience in business dealing and was financially dependent on Lu despite holding top positions in the two overseas distributors, the court heard.

The prosecution said the three were caught during covert surveillance discussing the cigarette shipments or commission payments.

All three denied a charge of conspiracy to defraud and another count of conspiracy to arrange for Lu to accept an advantage. Lu and Ko pleaded not guilty to another count of conspiracy to arrange for Lu to accept an advantage.

The trial continues today before Judge Joseph Yau Chi-lap.

Smoking’s Hidden Death Toll Revealed

Scotland On Sunday – June 23, 2008 – Murdo MacLeod

Smoking causes hundreds of thousands more deaths each year than previously thought, dramatic scientific research has revealed.

A study, led by experts in Glasgow, showed heightened chances of dying from cancers of the colon, rectum and prostate, as well as from lymphatic leukaemia.

These illnesses cause 930,000 deaths worldwide each year, in addition to more than five million smoking-related deaths estimated by the World Health Organisation as being caused by diseases such as lung cancer, which have long been linked to smoking.

Scotland’s health minister and anti-smoking campaigners have welcomed the study as further proof of the need to clamp down on the habit.

About 13,000 Scots a year die of lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases, such heart illnesses. Another 1,600 people die in Scotland each year from the cancers newly linked to the habit.

The Scottish Government last month unveiled controversial new plans to curb smoking, by proposing a ban on cigarettes being displayed in shops. And ministers south of the border have suggested scrapping packs of 10 cigarettes because of their popularity among young smokers.

The new study, which has been published in the journal Annals of Oncology, was carried out by a team led by experts at Glasgow University and was based on data from 17,363 male civil servants based in London.

Information about their health and habits has been collated since the 1960s in an effort to gain information about health trends and find links between lifestyle and illness. The original link between smoking and lung cancer was found through similar analysis of medical data.

The study found:

• A 43% increase in the chances of dying from cancer of the colon if the person smokes.

• A 40% higher likelihood of dying from rectal cancer.

• An increase of 23% in the chances of losing one’s life to prostate cancer.

• A 53% rise in mortality from lymphatic leukaemia among smokers.

The study concluded: “Cigarette smoking appears to be a risk factor for several malignancies of previously unclear association with tobacco use.”

Dr David Batty, of the Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, based at the University of Glasgow, said: “What this study shows is that smoking is linked to more kinds of cancer than previously thought. It’s important to remember that cancer is not a single disease and that the various kinds of cancers are different illnesses so you couldn’t necessarily assume that smoking was linked to them in the same way. What’s unclear is how exactly smoking causes these cancers.”

Health Minister Shona Robison said: “This study appears to demonstrate that smoking is even more carcinogenic than was realised.

It also underlines the importance of Scotland’s smoking ban in public places, which is helping to safeguard the health of thousands of people working in previously smoky environments.”

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health Scotland, said: “This large-scale study adds to the weight of existing research confirming the harmfulness of smoking. It’s vital that smokers receive support and encouragement to quit and as a nation we take steps to ensure future generations avoid getting hooked on this lethal and highly addictive substance.”

Ed Yong, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “The dangers of cigarette smoke go far beyond its well-known link to lung cancer. It’s interesting to see that even after 50 years of research, studies are still revealing new dangers.”

However, one leading medical experts questioned the conclusions.

Fouad Habib, professor of experimental urology at Edinburgh University, and an expert in prostate cancer, said: “This study is bit of a surprise and very much the first of its kind. Until now it’s not been thought that there was any link between smoking and prostate cancer and I would have thought that there are factors which play a much greater role, such as genetics.”

Meanwhile, smokers’ groups insisted the research should not be used to push through tougher anti-smoking rules.

Neil Rafferty, spokesman for the smokers’ lobby group the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco, said: “We are not suggesting the smoking is anything other than bad for you. People enjoy it, but they know that it’s not good for them and they take the choice. No doubt the anti-smoking lobby will want to use this to erode our freedoms still further. At the end of the day, we are adults. Let us get on with our lives.”

Hong Kong Bars And Nightclubs

Toast Rack: what a drag

Daniel Jeffreys – Updated on Jun 22, 2008 – SCMP

It makes us furious to see the plight of Paul Newman. Remember the actor with the piercing blue eyes who was Butch to the Sundance and a fantasy in flesh for women of a certain age. It’s said he has lung cancer. It’s bad enough that somebody as smart as Newman could have been conned by the tobacco companies into thinking smoking was a harmless way to look sophisticated. What’s worse is that so many Hong Kong bars and nightclubs will continue to promote the deadly addiction until next July, when their exemption from the city’s smoking ban finally runs out. Maybe these venues could display photos of Newman behind the bar – not the one of him smiling from a bottle of salad dressing but the gut-wrenching shot of him as he left a charity event looking like a dead man walking.

Dutch Tobacco Ban

Cannabis smokers on a downer over Dutch tobacco ban

Bloomberg in Amsterdam – Updated on Jun 22, 2008

As of July 1, marijuana will be the only leaf that can be smoked in public places in the Netherlands. Cannabis devotees are not celebrating.

Pot smokers, who usually cut joints with tobacco, and owners of the “coffee shops” where they are allowed to light up will have to change their habits when the nation implements the indoor tobacco ban.

Puffing a pure marijuana cigarette in public will still be permitted; smoking one with tobacco will merit coffee-shop owners a €300 (HK$3,650) fine for the first offence and €2,400 for a fourth.

“Every customer will have to learn how to smoke pure,” said Robert Kempen, co-owner of The NooN and Mellow Yellow in Amsterdam, which sell marijuana and hashish. The rule made him “sick to death”, he said.

Coffee shop owners said the ban would put some of them out of business as smokers stayed away.

The nation’s 720 outlets that serve marijuana smokers generate a large portion of their revenue from selling drinks, food and rolling papers to their patrons. Dutch sales of cannabis alone totalled €1.2 billion in 2001, the most recent official figures show.

To permit tobacco smoking, shops will have to build separate, unstaffed rooms, and many say they do not have the space or money to do so. Others are investing in water pipes and US$400 vaporisers, initially intended to help people with lung problems inhale medicine, to help smokers light up without tobacco.

“It’s a bad year for marijuana smokers,” Gwydion Hydref said, smoking in Coffee Shop Johnny. The Welshman works for Wickedtrips, which offers holiday packages, including a “no-holds-barred weekender” to Amsterdam ahead of the smoking ban. “Times have changed.”

The Netherlands follows other European countries in banning tobacco. Ireland was the first to forbid smoking in public in 2004. Sweden, Italy, Malta, France, Belgium, Finland, Lithuania, Portugal and England have followed, with full or partial restrictions.

The Dutch ban, which prohibits tobacco smoking in all public places of employment to protect workers’ health, is only for tobacco and makes no change to marijuana policy, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Ab Klink said. The government would have to see if the law was enforceable, she said.

The Netherlands decriminalised marijuana in 1976, though it stopped short of fully legalising the drug because international treaties prohibited it from doing so. The country’s first coffee shop, named after Donovan’s song Mellow Yellow, had opened its doors four years earlier.

The number has dropped by 39 per cent over the past decade as authorities cracked down on sales to young people and revoked the licences of owners committing crimes.

To enforce the new policy, the government has more than doubled its number of food and consumer product inspectors to 200.