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December 23rd, 2008:

Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

SCMP – Updated on Dec 23, 2008

Peter Crush (Talkback, December 17) continues to make unsubstantiated statements on smoking which need correction.

He says: “Licensed bars and entertainment places are private premises to which customers are invited at a manager’s discretion and are not public places with right of access.”

Bars are only licensed if they possess a general, marine or light refreshment licence and are premises to which the public has access whether paid or by right.

No smoking is allowed in any licensed restaurant unless the premises obtained (farcical) qualified-establishment status.

Mr Crush says: “Nobody disputes that nicotine is an addictive drug and smoking kills, but like it or not, hundreds of millions of people worldwide still choose to smoke.”

This is correct. It is unfortunate he does not realise people smoke because they are addicted to nicotine (see reference), which acts on the brain’s dopamine receptors in the exact same way as heroin and cocaine and hence “choice” is not the main reason. Under occupational health laws, employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, ensure safety and health.

A failure to maintain the workplace in a condition that is safe and without risks to health is an offence. By his own admission smoking (and passive smoking) kills and these bars are unhealthy when smoke is present.

Mr Crush says that governments do not outlaw tobacco, because they do not want to lose tax dollars. However, in 2007 the government received HK$2.8 billion in tobacco taxes.

The actual annual cost of tobacco to Hong Kong’s economy at 1998 rates was HK$5.3 billion in health care and loss of productivity. The cost, when value of life is included, is annually HK$73.32 billion, of which 23 per cent is attributable to passive smoking.

Mr Crush claims that the anti-tobacco lobby is not doing too well. In 1982 there were 23.3 per cent daily smokers here whereas by 2007 it had dropped to 11.8 per cent of the population.

Sadly, due to smoking exemptions, smokers consume 36.5 million more cigarettes per month than in pre-ban 2005-06.

James Middleton, chairman, anti-tobacco committee, Clear the Air


Philip Morris, BAT Sought to Influence Smoking Policy (Update1)

Bloomberg By Simeon Bennett – Dec. 23

Two of the world’s biggest tobacco companies tried to undermine anti-smoking efforts in Asia by seeking to influence health policy in China and scientific research in Thailand, according to two new studies.

British American Tobacco Plc, Europe’s largest cigarette maker, helped form the Beijing Liver Foundation “to reprioritize the agenda of the Ministry of Public Health,” one study said, citing company documents. A senior scientist at Philip Morris International Inc., the world’s biggest cigarette maker, gained a “disturbing” and “inappropriate” influence over teaching at a Bangkok research institute, the second study said.

Smoking could kill 1 billion people this century, 10 times more than in the past 100 years, and is “the single most preventable cause of death,” according to the World Health Organization. The two reports, funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, show how cigarette makers seek to counter anti-smoking measures by forging ties with policymakers and scientists.

“Such links are of great concern to the public health community, which is working hard to reduce deaths and disease due to tobacco,” said the editors of the journal that published the studies, PLoS Medicine, part of the Public Library of Science.

The studies examined the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, a collection of almost 10 million documents produced by tobacco companies in response to litigation in the 1990s.

Companies Respond

“British American Tobacco welcomes sensible regulation and we always seek, wherever possible, to engage with regulators to work towards balanced legal frameworks,” Catherine Armstrong, a London-based BAT spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “Far from undermining laws, we believe our input can mean the laws are workable and realistic and can be implemented effectively.”

The research is being published now because the full collection of documents became available online only this year, Kelley Lee, who participated in the BAT study, said in an e-mail.

“Focusing on decades old documents does nothing to progress the objective of achieving effective and comprehensive regulation of tobacco today,” Marija Sepic, a spokeswoman for Philip Morris in Lausanne, Switzerland, said in an e-mail. “The use of these documents is disingenuous as they do not reflect Philip Morris International’s views today.”

In the first study, Monique Muggli and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, studied reports from London- based BAT, the maker of Dunhill and Lucky Strike brand cigarettes. The company helped form the Beijing Liver Foundation to “reprioritize the agenda of the Ministry of Public Health,” and “to divert the public attention from smoking and health issues to liver diseases” in China, the study says, citing internal reports obtained from BAT.

‘Take Heat Away’

“To focus on liver diseases will take the heat away from anti-smoking and smoking-related issues,” according to a BAT document entitled “Beijing Liver Foundation Report 1999.”

The foundation gave British American Tobacco “a channel to reach our customers” by posting “company positions on smoking and health issues, and balanced views on lung cancer diseases” on its Web site, the study in PLoS Medicine said, citing the same report.

Sixty percent of China’s men smoke, representing one-third of the world’s smokers, a report in the Lancet medical journal said in October.

The second study, led by Ross MacKenzie of the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, said Roger Walk, who became director of worldwide scientific affairs at Philip Morris in the 1990s, “influenced the study and teaching of environmental toxicology” at the Bangkok-based Chulabhorn Research Institute, or CRI, which became a partner of the Geneva- based WHO in 2005.

Toxicology Research

Company documents show Walk formed a working relationship in the 1990s with Mathuros Ruchirawat, the institute’s vice president for research, the study said. Walk was offered a teaching position on a postgraduate course about inhalation toxicology in November 1994, and invited to help develop the curriculum for a United Nations-funded toxicology training program in 1996.

“The active and ongoing involvement of industry consultants in curriculum development and the training of future researchers and regulators is particularly disturbing and, in our view, wholly inappropriate,” MacKenzie and colleagues wrote.

Mathuros knew of Walk’s association with Philip Morris, though other CRI scientists probably didn’t, the study said, citing a 1993 fax from Walk to the company’s lawyers.

The study is “full of innuendos and unsupported facts,” Mathuros said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg News. “Walk has never been involved in CRI research and has no influence on CRI research and educational programs. His part- involvement is teaching six hours per year and a very small part of a course. This involvement ceased in 2006.”

Altria Group Inc. spun off Philip Morris International in March, and Walk now works for Altria’s Philip Morris USA unit. Greg Mathe, a spokesman for Altria, had no comment on the study when contacted by Bloomberg News.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simeon Bennett in Singapore at
Last Updated: December 22, 2008 21:11 EST

Documents Offer Look At Big Tobacco’s Asia Tactics

Associated Press By MICHAEL CASEY – Dec 23, 2008

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Two of the world’s largest tobacco companies, seeking to expand sales into Asia, worked to undermine anti-smoking policies in Thailand and China by infiltrating one research institute and funding another, researchers said Tuesday.

The allegations — highlighted in two separate studies — come as tobacco companies are aggressively marketing cigarettes in the developing world as lawsuits and anti-smoking laws hit revenues in the West.

“As the high income countries put more and more obstacles in the path of the cigarette companies, they have to look for new markets,” said Edouard Tursan d’Espaignet, epidemiologist with the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative.

Critics said tobacco companies are trying to drum up sales by minimizing the dangers of smoking.

In Thailand, Philip Morris, the world largest cigarette maker, planted a scientist in Chulabhorn Research Institute in Bangkok in a bid to get researchers to shift their attention away from secondhand smoking and toward other forms of air pollution, according to one study. Public health researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of Edinburgh produced the study by analyzing internal industry documents made public following litigation in the United States.

A separate study alleges that British American Tobacco, the world’s second-largest firm, provided funding in China for the Beijing Liver Foundation in a campaign to shift focus away from links between smoking and ailments such as liver disease.

Both companies denied the charges presented online in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal. The two studies were partly funded by the National Cancer Institute in the U.S.

However, longtime anti-smoking advocate Stanton Glanz said the tactics are “part of long-running and continuing tactics by the tobacco industry all over the world,” and he called on the two Asian institutions to end their ties with the industry.

Anti-smoking groups say big tobacco for years has sought to covertly influence western government’s smoking policies and squash scientific findings highlighting hazards of smoking.

Now, some charge, the tobacco countries are taking these time-tested tactics to the Asia, Africa and Latin America where the WHO estimates 80 percent of the 8 million tobacco-related deaths will occur by 2030.

The University of Sydney’s Ross MacKenzie, who co-authored the Thai study, said that in Asia, tobacco companies have fought successfully to prevent the publication of ingredients used in their products in Thailand and worked in Cambodia to undermine advertising bans.

“They have shown they are willing to take advantage of economic situations and lax legislation in many Southeast Asian countries to aggressively market their products,” MacKenzie said, citing previously released company documents.

In the Thai study, MacKenzie and University of Edinburgh’s Jeff Collin allege that Philip Morris scientist Roger Walk lectured and organized conferences at the government-funded Chulabhorn from the early 1990s through 2006.

The researchers say this allowed Philip Morris to develop relationships with key officials and scientists in efforts to discount the threat of secondhand smoke.

Spokeswoman Marija Sepic of Switzerland-based Philip Morris International — which was spun off by the Altria Group in the United States earlier this year — dismissed the documents as outdated and said the company never hid its affiliation with Walk.

Walk, who now works for Altria’s Philip Morris USA unit, could not be reached for comment.

Chulabhorn Associate Vice President Jutamaad Satayavivad said the institute was not aware Walk worked for Philip Morris until about a decade into his tenure. After seeing the study, institute officials plan to bar him because he was “not straightforward in sharing with us,” she said.

The other study alleges that London-based British American Tobacco used the Beijing Liver Foundation to lobby China’s Health Ministry in a campaign to forestall smoke-free legislation.

The company also provided training for industry, public officials and the media to spread its message that secondhand smoke was an insignificant source of pollution, it said.

“Despite the tobacco industry’s public efforts to appear socially responsible … there is a fundamental conflict between the interests of tobacco companies and public health,” said the Mayo Clinic’s Monique E. Muggli, who conducted the study with four other researchers.

China’s Health Ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

British American Tobacco spokeswoman Catherine Armstrong said it was illogical to suggest that any link the company has to a medical charity “was an attempt to divert attention away from smoking related disease.”

However, Glanz, a University of California San Fransico professor who has led research into secondhand smoke, said he’s not surprised to hear the studies’ results.

Asia is particularly attractive to tobacco companies because “understanding of the effects of smoking and passive smoking is low,” Glanz said