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June 27th, 2008:

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.