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December 30th, 2008:

‘‘Efforts to Reprioritise the Agenda’’ in China: British American Tobacco’s Efforts to Influence Public Policy on Secondhand Smoke in China



Each year, 540 million Chinese are exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS), resulting in more than 100,000 deaths. Smoke-free policies have been demonstrated to decrease overall cigarette consumption, encourage smokers to quit, and protect the health of nonsmokers. However, restrictions on smoking in China remain limited and ineffective. Internal tobacco industry documents show that transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) have pursued a multifaceted strategy for undermining the adoption of restrictions on smoking in many countries.

Methods and Findings
To understand company activities in China related to SHS, we analyzed British American Tobacco’s (BAT’s) internal corporate documents produced in response to litigation against the major cigarette manufacturers to understand company activities in China related to SHS. BAT has carried out an extensive strategy to undermine the health policy agenda on SHS in China by attempting to divert public attention from SHS issues towards liver disease prevention, pushing the so-called ‘‘resocialisation of smoking’’ accommodation principles, and providing ‘‘training’’ for industry, public officials, and the media based on BAT’s corporate agenda that SHS is an insignificant contributor to the larger issue of air pollution.

The public health community in China should be aware of the tactics previously used by TTCs, including efforts by the tobacco industry to co-opt prominent Chinese benevolent organizations, when seeking to enact stronger restrictions on smoking in public places.

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ACOSH Submission to the National Preventative Health Taskforce

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No Plan To Beef Up Tobacco Control Staff

Peter So – Dec 30, 2008 – SCMP

The Tobacco Control Office has no plan to expand its team of inspectors, even though their workload is expected to increase in July when a fixed-penalty fine is launched to punish people who break smoking laws.

Office head Ronald Lam Man-kin even admitted that not all posts had been filled – there are 60-odd officers in a team meant to have 80.

“Whether we can expand the team will depend on how much budget we will be granted in the upcoming financial year,” Dr Lam said.

The budget for the office was increased by HK$2 million to HK$25 million this financial year.

The workload of officers is likely to increase next year when tighter anti-smoking measures come into effect, such as the fixed-penalty fine. Also, exemptions to an indoor smoking ban will expire for more than 1,000 bars, clubs, bathhouses and mahjong parlours, and nearly 100 public transport interchanges will become no-smoking areas. Inspectors will be authorised to issue fixed penalties while carrying out their current duties, such as handling complaints and promoting the no-smoking law.

Dr Lam acknowledged the inspectors would be allowed to enforce the law in more places, but he insisted the “work model” of inspectors remained unchanged – meaning they would mainly enforce the law after receiving complaints. He rejected fears that the workload would be too heavy. He said officers of the Leisure and Cultural Services, Housing, and Food and Environmental Hygiene departments would also issue tickets.

However, legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said the team should be expanded to about 120 and their pay increased. Inspectors are paid HK$10,000 to HK$21,000 a month.

Should The Smoking Ban Be Extended Further?

Dec 30, 2008 – SCMP

The current law must be extended to work vehicles. Buses and taxis are already smoke-free, as are government vehicles. Work vehicles are mobile workplaces, and the enclosed cabins create an intense toxic atmosphere with tobacco smoke.

Smoking in private cars with children under 18 present should be outlawed immediately. Some countries already have such a law. There is no right to smoke in the Basic Law.

In many locations it is an offence to smoke within 10 metres of a building; bar and restaurant entrances and exits in Hong Kong should be made to follow suit.

Smoking should be banned in all outdoor areas, or patios of bars and restaurants, or other food premises.

The government should follow recommendations made in other countries and demand tobacco products be sold only by licensed retailers under the counter and not displayed, and that the packaging should be plain and bland-coloured to prevent flashy styling attracting young smokers.

In the next budget, the tobacco tax must be at least doubled from its current HK$16 a pack. This is the best way to prevent youths from taking up smoking and to stop current smokers continuing their addiction. Imposing increased taxation is also mandatory under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control treaty, ratified by China in October 2005.

Less than 12 per cent of Hongkongers are daily smokers, and smokers should not be permitted to inconvenience and harm the majority that does not smoke.

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