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December 29th, 2008:

WHO | MPOWER: Six Policies To Reverse The Tobacco Epidemic

World Health Organization

The tobacco epidemic is preventable. Hundreds of millions of people do not have to die this century from tobacco-related illness – but only if the leaders of governments and civil society take urgent action now.

WHO has introduced the MPOWER package of six proven policies:

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies,
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke,
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use,
  • Warn about the dangers of tobacco,
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and
  • Raise taxes on tobacco.

The MPOWER policy package can reverse the tobacco epidemic and prevent millions of tobacco-related deaths.

For details, please visit the website of WHO:

You may also contact us ( for more information.

Should Smoking Rooms Be Allowed?

SCMP – Dec 29, 2008

Everyone knows smoking is bad for our health, but smokers talk about their rights and argue they should be free to smoke. However, the health of non-smokers should not be put at risk for smokers’ convenience.

One of the reasons for the ban is to reduce people’s exposure to second-hand smoke and so save lives as well as discouraging smoking.

In order to achieve these aims, smoking rooms should not be allowed and a full ban should be imposed. Smoking rooms will be connected to no-smoking areas and smoke will escape when the door is open. Therefore, non-smokers will still risk exposure to second-hand smoke. Smoking rooms would have to have good ventilation. At certain venues surely the government would have to foot the bill for these changes. Would this meet with the approval of non-smoking taxpayers? In a city like Hong Kong, I just do not think that smoking rooms are feasible.

Smokers should make the necessary changes and adapt to the ban. They should attempt to quit this deadly habit.

Lam Kwan-ling, Kowloon Bay

Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

SCMP – Dec 29, 2008

As a non-smoker, I am getting fed up with Anthony Hedley, Judith Mackay, Annelise Connell and the Clear The Air lobby. I have worked in the bar and restaurant business for 25 years, I am not an owner and my lungs and chest are clear.

I am not saying that this is the same for everyone, as everybody’s genes are different, but this is now more like a witch-hunt against smokers.

Yes, smoking can be bad for your health, but why can there not be smoking and non-smoking bars? What has happened to people’s freedoms? Many countries are now looking at ways to help smokers have their own space to smoke in, as they should have. My mother is 80 and still smokes.

Professor Hedley says he is protecting the health of the staff. Does he not realise that most staff in bars smoke and will he find them new employment when some of these bars close down, as has happened since the smoking ban hit Britain?

Forget about statistics, I have many friends in the industry who have lost their businesses, so let’s work together and find a solution for smokers and non-smokers.

K. Stanton, Pok Fu Lam

To the anti-smoking lobby, I say: “Enough, already.”

Either campaign for an outright ban on smoking – make it illegal – or else stop this increasing harassment of an activity which gives pleasure to many. I am not a smoker, but I do enjoy the very occasional cigar and I don’t deny my guests the pleasure of an after-dinner smoke.

After years of bombardment with anti-smoking propaganda, everyone is aware of the risks of smoking. Despite this, many people still exercise their free choice to light up and engage in a perfectly legal activity. As for bars and restaurants, let people decide, not the nanny state. Non-smoking bars and restaurants will gain non-smoking customers. Smoking bars and restaurants will continue to get business from those – smokers or non-smokers – who don’t care. As for staff, they also have a choice. If smoke bothers them, they can work somewhere else.

Anti-smoking campaigners don’t seem to trust people to make up their minds. Seeing people still making a choice to smoke, they react like petulant autocrats.

Markus Shaw, Central

Tobacco Company Downplayed Risks in China, Report Says

RONI CARYN RABIN, The New York Times – December 29, 2008

An international tobacco company vying for the huge Chinese cigarette market took steps to stall public smoking bans in that country by sowing doubt about the known risks of second-hand smoke and diverting attention to other public health issues, a new report claims.

Beginning in the mid ’90s through at least 2002, British American Tobacco downplayed smoking-related disease in China by suggesting air pollution was a greater public health threat than smoking and arguing that the focus should be on what it characterized as China’s top killer, liver disease, the paper said.

The paper’s researchers based their report on an analysis of internal documents obtained from the London-based company in response to litigation. The paper, published in the December issue of the online journal PLoS Medicine, is sprinkled liberally with damning statements drawn from those documents.

In an e-mail, British American Tobacco officials denied they worked to undermine any laws and issued a statement saying that the company “welcomes sensible regulation” and consistently seeks “to engage with regulators to work towards balanced legal frameworks.”

British American Tobacco is very clear about the risks to health associated with smoking,” the statement said.

But researchers said the company’s own documents revealed a complex strategy that used several approaches to make sure smoking-related health issues were put on the back burner of China’s public health agenda.

“Everyone and their mother wants a piece of the Chinese market,” said Monique E. Muggli, the first author of the paper and a nicotine researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. “What was unique about China was BAT’s efforts to train the local industry in China on their playbook, causing controversy and doubt around second-hand smoke where none really existed, and targeting the local tobacco industry, which is government owned.”

As recently as 2006, despite two decades of research into the harms of second-hand smoke, China’s State Tobacco Monopoly Association was issuing statements that more research was needed to determine the effects of smoke exposure, she noted.

One of British American Tobacco’s initiatives was to fund the Beijing Liver Foundation, which operated under the auspices of an established charitable organization that BAT considered had an “anti”-smoking agenda. BAT used the 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,” according to company documents. The foundation was also used as a platform to promote BAT’s message that liver disease, rampant in China, “is the number one killer” there.

In 2000 and 2001, BAT used the liver foundation’s Web site to disseminate the message that second-hand smoke is not harmful, the documents indicate. The foundation funded research on second-hand smoke that dismissed the risks of environmental smoke exposure and convened expert panels to report the findings to the media.

Awareness of the risks of smoking to nonsmokers is particularly low in China, with only about one-third of Chinese citizens aware of the health risks of second-hand smoke, according to Chinese Ministry of Health estimates.

Even though the consensus among most public health experts is that there is no safe level of second-hand smoke exposure, Ms. Muggli said, BAT promoted the use of air filtration and ventilation systems in restaurants, hotels and other public spaces as a “route to avoid smoking bans,” the paper said. The company also pushed for “resocialisation” of smoking, industry code for accommodating smoking and avoiding public smoking bans, according to the report.

Although many cities in China have public smoking bans on the books, the restrictions are not usually enforced, the paper said.

In other presentations to the media, BAT sought to “present the message that tobacco smoke is just one of the sources of air pollution and a very insignificant one compared with other pollutants,” the paper said, quoting from company documents.

The company held “smoking and health seminars” for representatives of China’s state tobacco monopoly, in which it trained them how to convey the message that there is insufficient data to prove that second-hand smoke is harmful to children or other adults, and hence no need for government regulations.

The Chinese cigarette market is dominated by the state tobacco monopoly, but foreign cigarette companies will have more access to China’s 350 million smokers when the country eliminates tariffs on foreign cigarettes and opens up the market in accordance with international trade agreements, according to Teh-wei Hu, a professor at the school of public health at the University of California, Berkeley and an expert on China’s tobacco policy.

About 540 million Chinese are exposed to second-hand smoke each year, resulting in more than 100,000 deaths, experts say.