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July 4th, 2008:

Anti-Smoking Restrictions In Japan

Smokers face more and more anti-smoking restrictions in Japan

The Earth Times – July 4, 2008

Another smokers’ paradise in Asia is disappearing as Japanese smokers face ever more restrictions in the nation’s effort to join the global anti-smoking campaign. Japan used to be a smokers’ haven with very few laws and restrictions. Commuters lit up on station platforms morning, noon and night. People smoked while strolling around and at work.

Cigarettes are available in vending machines and convenience stores on every street corner.

But since the United States spearheaded the global anti-smoking campaign, the former smoker’s paradise has become uncomfortable for the 43.3 per cent of Japanese men and 12 per cent of women who smoke.

First, the price of cigarettes went up to an average 3 dollars per pack, which is still cheap compared to the prices in other parts of the world.

Train stations limited hours of smoking to non-commuting hours because platforms were becoming too crowded and non-smokers feared they might suffocate on the open platforms.

Then Tokyo districts began banning smoking outdoors. No-smoking signs began appearing on the streets of Tokyo, and police roamed the suburbs handing out tickets to the ordinance violators.

Many cities across Japan have since adopted the non-smoking ordinance. A fine of up to 20,000 yen (186 dollars) applies in most places.

Smokers can now only light up in closed booths, set up by the city council on the streets and near train stations.

Restaurants and bars in Japan still allow people to smoke. But they have begun designating sections of their premises as smoking areas in a bid to join the global health movement.

Legal gambling establishments or Pachinko parlors, which were hitherto famous for a smoker-friendly atmosphere, have also jumped onto the “clean environment” bandwagon.

Their policy is “smoke-free, noise-free” pinball.

The ultimate blow to smokers takes effect throughout Japan in early July when the Tobacco Institute of Japan introduces an identification card called Taspo to buy cigarettes from vending machines.

The card must have photo identification. Those of a legal age to smoke, 20 and over, will soon receive the rechargeable cards.

It may be easier and more convenient for smokers to just flash the Taspo card at a machine, but many have felt burdened by the idea of filling out an application form together with photo ID.

Cigarettes are still available at individual tobacco stores and 24-hour convenience stores in Japan, which do not require ID. Some experts wonder what Taspo can accomplish in this environment.

Japan Franchise Association in May reported a 15.9-per-cent increase in non-food sales, which include sales of tobacco, compared to a year before.

The association said the Taspo requirement helped boost tobacco sales at franchise convenience stores as some provinces began setting up Taspo-only vending machines in May.

Nonetheless, as the smoker’s paradise slowly disappears amid all the restrictions, the nation’s smokers are gagging for some air, space and freedom to light up.

Linking Second-Hand Smoke And Lung Cancer

Medical News Today – July 4, 2008

It is a widely accepted notion that second-hand smoke (SHS) is linked to lung cancer. However, medical professionals and researchers have not reached consensus on the extent of the increase in cancer risk due to SHS. In an article published in The Lancet Oncology, Dr Ahmad Besaratinia and Dr Gerd Pfeifer, Beckman (Research Institute of the City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, CA, USA) suggest that a better approach to establishing risk level may be to screen for biological markers that are targeted to SHS and associated with lung cancer.

SHS is a mixture of two types of smoke that result from tobacco consumption: mainstream and sidestream smoke. Mainstream smoke is created when a person puffs a cigarette (or other tobacco product) and draws smoke from the burning cone and hot zone of the product. Mainstream smoke can either move through the filter or out of the mouthpiece (depending on the apparatus used). The second type of smoke, called sidestream smoke, comes from the smoldering coal of a tobacco and is generated between puffs. Researchers have found that mainstream and sidestream smoke have similar chemical compositions and carcinogenic compound, but sidestream smoke has different quantities of these chemicals due to a lower burning temperature. Mainstream smoke is often partially filtered and scrubbed by the lungs and comprises less than 15% of SHS (sidestream smoke comprises 85% of SHS). Smokers intake more carcinogens than individuals exposed to SHS because smokers are actively inhaling high doses of mainstream-smoke carcinogens.

“However,” note the authors, “the finding that sidestream smoke-condensate is more potent than mainstream smoke-condensate in inducing mouse skin tumours suggests that SHS imposed on non-smokers might be even more carcinogenic than mainstream smoke inhaled by active smokers.”

Many of the carcinogenic compounds found in smoke are able to create additional substances that lead to DNA lesions called DNA adducts. In fact, these genotoxic carcinogens often create mutations at certain locations, which are like unique signatures genes that are related to cancer. Two laboratory techniques – DNA-lesion footprinting (locates the site of DNA damage) and mutagenicity analysis (finds changes in DNA sequences) – are used together to find these carcinogen signatures. Though these techniques have already been used to find DNA lesions that are linked to smoke-derived carcinogens such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the researchers suggest that they be implemented in cancer-relevant genes that are frequently mutated in smoke-related lung cancer.

Besaratinia and Pfeifer also note that more research is needed that can determine how the type, frequency, and distribution of DNA adducts in cancer-related genes are different for non-smokers exposed to SHS and smokers exposed to mainstream smoke. This type of comparative analysis would provide analysts with information to determine if the different risks of lung cancer development are just due to the different doses of smoke exposure seen by smokers and those affected SHS.

Further, the authors place importance on discovering if SHS can lead to lung cancer through an epigenetic pathway. That is, without changing the order of DNA molecules (the primary DNA sequence), environmental factors may cause the gene to express itself differently. They write that, “Future investigations using in-vitro systems, animal models, and biospecimens from chronically exposed individuals will be needed to determine whether SHS induces lung cancer through an epigenetic pathway.”

To conclude, Besaratinia and Pfeifer mention that environmental carcinogens contained in food, drink, and air, make it extremely difficult for models to specifically focus on the association between SHS and lung cancer in humans. In addition, SHS is not consistent in its composition and concentration, providing further barriers to research. They write: “Although the causal link between SHS exposure and lung-cancer development is well established, the estimated risk for lung cancer development consequent to SHS exposure remains somewhat debatable. Elucidation of the mechanisms of SHS action that are relevant to carcinogenesis can help identify unique biological markers that can be used for assessing lung cancer risk in relation to SHS exposure.”

Pub Chain Stubs Out Smoking Ban Effects

Edinburgh Evening News – July 4, 2008 – Michael Blackley

Strong food sales within its pubs since the smoking ban has helped profits at Lothians-based Belhaven surge by 16 per cent.

The Dunbar-based firm, which owns Edinburgh pubs including the Albanach and the World’s End on the Royal Mile, Pivo on Calton Road and Drouthy Neebor’s on West Preston Street, saw revenues rise six per cent to £126.1 million in the year to May 4.

Operating profits climbed to £27.5m, compared to £23.3m last year.

It attributed the success to repositioning specialist pubs to appeal to a wider customer base through an increased focus on food and value for money.

Greene King, the pub company that owns Belhaven, said the performance of its Scottish operations was particularly encouraging.

Following publication of its full-year results today, Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said: “Although all our divisions have performed well in difficult circumstances, I am particularly encouraged by Belhaven’s result.

“Scotland’s smoking ban came over a year before England’s. In the second year of the ban, the Belhaven team have developed the business significantly towards food and families, and delivered operating profit growth of 18 per cent.”

During the last year, the number of Belhaven pubs trading increased from 299 to 321, 95 of which are managed and the rest leased or tenanted.

The company said that like-for-like rents and beer supply income from the leased and tenanted pubs were both positive.

And its managed pubs enjoyed “an excellent year” with strong profit growth. Mr Anand said: “Growth came from the successful repositioning of a number of specialist pubs to appeal to a broader consumer base, increased focus on food and value for money, and an impressive improvement in the rate of conversion of sales to operating profit.

“Food business development has been a key theme throughout the estate. Overall, Belhaven’s food revenue has increased by more than 50 per cent over the last two years.”

The Belhaven Brewery also performed well, with beer volume sales increasing despite the overall on-trade market being down six per cent.

Volume sales of Belhaven Best increased by 4.6 per cent, giving it a “substantial” increase in market share.

Greene King also acquired Loch Fyne Restaurants for £64.2m last August. It said the 41-outlet chain, which has a branch at Western Harbour, has now been successfully integrated into the group and is trading well.

Overall Greene King pre-tax profits increased by two per cent to £142m, while revenues rose five per cent to £960m.

Mr Anand said: “The year saw an unprecedented set of challenges for the industry but I am pleased to report exceptional performance across the business.”