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April, 2009:

HK Gazettes Legislative Amendments for Tobacco Duty Rates

Xinhua, Web Editor: Hu Weiwei, – 2009-04-30

The Hong Kong government Thursday announced the gazetting of the legislative amendments required for giving effect to the Budget proposal of increasing the duty rates on tobacco by 50 percent.

The Hong Kong government Thursday announced the gazetting of the legislative amendments required for giving effect to the Budget proposal of increasing the duty rates on tobacco by 50 percent.

In his 2009-10 Budget, the financial secretary proposed to increase the duty rates on various types of tobacco by 50 percent for public health reasons.

The proposal came into immediate effect from on Feb. 25 this year under the Public Revenue Protection Order 2009.

As the order gives provisional legal effect to the proposal for only four months, it is necessary for the government to introduce a Bill containing the proposal into the Legislative Council for enactment.

“The proposed increase in tobacco duty will strengthen our tobacco control efforts to protect public health and will further discourage smoking. It can also reduce the long-term disease burden for Hong Kong,” a government spokesman said.

The Bill will be introduced into the Legislative Council on May 13.

Clear the Air says: Smoking is addictive , quitting is contagious

Clear the Air says

Smoking is addictive , quitting is contagious

UK Government Signs Agreements To Tackle Tobacco Smuggling

20 April 2009

The Government has today taken another significant step in the fight against tobacco smuggling as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Angela Eagle today signed anti-smuggling agreements with two international tobacco manufacturers.

The agreements – with Philip Morris International (PMI) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) – complement the legislation that the Government introduced in 2006, requiring all tobacco manufacturers to help prevent smuggling through careful control of their supply chains.

The Exchequer Secretary Angela Eagle, said:

“These agreements are an important new element in the fight against tobacco smuggling. In the last decade we have halved the size of the illicit cigarette market in the UK and by signing these agreements, we are demonstrating that we are determined to continue working with tobacco manufacturers to tackle smuggling.”

Since the UK’s first Tackling Tobacco Smuggling strategy was published in 2000, HM Revenue & Customs and the UK Border Agency have:

  • reduced the proportion of illicit cigarettes from 21% in 2000 to 13%;
  • seized more than 14 billion cigarettes and more than 1000 tonnes of hand rolling tobacco in the UK and abroad;
  • broken up 370 criminal gangs involved in large-scale smuggling;
  • prosecuted more than 2,000 people and issued more than £35m worth of confiscation orders.

Notes for Editors

1. Under the new agreements, PMI and JTI are committed to working with the European Commission, the UK Government and customs authorities across the EU to tackle the smuggling and counterfeiting of their products. They will do this through measures which include Know Your Customer rules and track-and-trace technology. The agreements also require PMI and JTI to make payments to the UK authorities if their genuine products are seized by HMRC.

2. Further details of the two agreements can be found in the following European Commission press releases:

3. The Government announced its intention to conclude negotiations on signing these agreements at the time of the 2008 Pre-Budget Report, when it publishedTackling Tobacco Smuggling Together: An Integrated Strategy for HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency (HMRC website). This document sets out the Government’s record on and future plans for tackling tobacco smuggling.

4. In April 2009 HM Revenue & Customs established inland detection teams to target the illegal trade in tobacco, alcohol, and oils. (HMRC Press Notice no. NAT 29/09) The UK Border Agency operates detection functions at UK borders having brought together officers staff from HM Revenue & Customs, the Border and Immigration Agency and Foreign and Commonwealth Office visas. UKBA began operation on 3 April 2008 and was officially launched by the Home Secretary at Gatwick Airport. Its formation was announced in November 2007 (Home Office Press Notice no. 178/2007).

How smoke-free laws improve air quality: A global study of Irish pubs

Download (PDF, 154KB)

Urine Test Could Gauge Smokers’ Lung Cancer Risk – 18 Apr 09

Those with higher levels of a compound had nearly 9 times the risk, scientists say

SUNDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) — Someday, a simple urine test might spot smokers at highest risk for lung cancer, scientists report.

The research is still in its preliminary stages, and it may be years before such a test becomes publicly available. But if it works, the urine-based screen could give added motivation to smokers who can’t find other reasons to quit, said study author Dr. Jian-Min Yuan, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota.

“You can focus on the higher-risk people, maybe have them come into smoking-cessation programs,” Yuan said. “Hopefully, it can reduce the amount of tobacco that is consumed.”

The findings were to be released Sunday at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting in Denver.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 23 percent of adult Americans are smokers, and smokers account for about 87 percent of cases of lung cancer, the number one cancer killer.

Currently, there is no way to determine which smokers are most likely to develop lung cancer. Doctors do know that smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or a prior family history of lung cancer are at higher risk, said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer with the American Lung Association.

In the new study, researchers in Minnesota, Singapore and China examined findings from two prior surveys.

One study looked at more than 18,000 men who enrolled when they were aged 45-64 in Shanghai, China. The other study included more than 63,000 men and women of Chinese descent, aged 45-74, and was conducted in Singapore between 1993 and 1999.

In the new study, the researchers focused on 246 smokers who developed lung cancer and 245 smokers who were similar to them. The researchers examined urine samples from the subjects and tried to figure out if a biologic marker known as NNAL could predict cases of lung cancer.

The team found that the third of smokers who had the highest levels of NNAL and a marker called cotinine were 8.5 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those with levels in the lowest third and similar histories of smoking.

“We compared apples with apples — people who smoked the same amount of cigarettes and for the same amount of years,” Yuan noted.

Scientists could perfect the predictive powers of the test, which costs about $100 to $120, within a few years, Yuan said.

But there’s a catch: Currently, no intervention — outside of quitting smoking — reduces a smoker’s chance of developing lung cancer.

A screening test could help doctors figure out which smokers should undergo more sophisticated screening, Edelman said, but at the moment it’s difficult to detect tumors in their early stages.

“We need better and more sophisticated strategies to allow us to screen for early lung cancer, as that is only when it is curable but also when there are no symptoms,” he said.

More information

There’s more on the smoking-cancer connection at the American Cancer Society.

Smoking Rooms Can’t Stop All Fumes: Study

Peter So, SCMP – Apr 15, 2009

Smoking rooms do not necessarily protect non-smokers outside the room from second-hand smoke, a government study has found.

The study conducted for the Food and Health Bureau suggests it would be “practically impossible to prevent leakage” of smoke when people moved in and out of the rooms.

The research, by the University of Science and Technology, also suggests the fresh air ventilation rate outside the room needs to be at least three times the rate of a typical office to keep the leaked second-hand smoke at an undetectable level.

“None of the evidence gathered suggests that smoking rooms can be effective in fully protecting non-smokers from second-hand smoke,” according to the study findings set out in a paper for legislators.

The bureau launched a feasibility study in 2006 on introducing smoking rooms in bars and clubs when their reprieve from the ban on smoking in public venues ends in July, followed by introduction of a HK$1,500 fixed penalty in September.

Venue operators have touted the rooms as a lifeline to save their businesses after the ban takes effect.

But the study raised doubts on the practicability of installing and operating smoking rooms in the city’s buildings because of the technical complexity and high cost.

“It is difficult for business to comply with the stringent requirements for the construction, operation and maintenance of smoking rooms … and even more difficult for government to ensure all smoking rooms are always properly constructed, managed and maintained to standard at all times,” the study says.

The Legco paper lists 91 indoor or covered transport interchanges that will ban smoking in September. The ban will cover boarding and waiting areas, and areas passengers pass to get to the interchanges.

Implementation Of Smoking Offence Fixed Penalty System And Designation Of Statutory No Smoking Area At Public Transport Interchanges

Legislative Council – 14 April 2009

This paper gives an account of the past discussions by Members on the implementation of smoking offence fixed penalty system (FPS) and designation of statutory no smoking area at public transport interchanges (PTIs).

For more information, please visit:

Tourists’ attitudes towards ban on smoking in air-conditioned hotel lobbies in Thailand

Copyright © 2009 by the BMJ Publishing Group Ltd.


V Viriyachaiyo1 and A Lim2

1 Division of Respiratory and Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Thailand
2 Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Faculty of Science and Technology, Prince of Songkla Unversity, Pattani Campus, Thailand

Correspondence to:
Dr Vilaiwan Viriyachaiyo, Division of Respiratory and Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Thailand 90110;

Background: Thailand is internationally renowned for its stringent tobacco control measures. In Thailand, a regulation banning smoking in air-conditioned hotel lobbies was issued in late 2006, causing substantial apprehension within the hospitality industry. A survey of tourists’ attitudes toward the ban was conducted.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 5550 travellers staying in various hotels in Bangkok, Surat Thani, Phuket, Krabi and Songkhla provinces, October 2005 to December 2006. Travellers aged 15 years or older with a check-in duration of at least one day and willing to complete the questionnaire were requested by hotel staff to fill in the 5-minute questionnaire at check-in or later at their convenience.

Results: Secondhand cigarette smoke was recognised as harmful to health by 89.7% of respondents. 47.8% of travellers were aware of the Thai regulation banning smoking in air-conditioned restaurants. 80.9% of the respondents agreed with the ban, particularly female non-smokers. 38.6% of survey respondents indicated that they would be more likely to visit Thailand again because of the regulation, 53.4% that the regulation would not affect their decision and 7.9% that they would be less likely to visit Thailand again.

Conclusion: Banning smoking in air-conditioned hotel lobbies in Thailand is widely supported by tourists. Enforcement of the regulation is more likely to attract tourists than dissuade them from holidaying in Thailand.

Texas Lawmakers Push to Raise Smoking Age to 19

NewsWest 9 by Victor Lopez

They’re considered adults for just about everything. If passed, a bill headed to the Senate, would make 18-year-olds minors when it comes to smoking and tobacco products.

The idea behind it is to cut back on the number of teens that smoke. But everyone NewsWest 9 spoke to, agrees. People should be allowed to make up their own mind, especialy if they’re already adults in the eyes of the law.

“It’s just a perogative, dude. If you choose to smoke, you choose to smoke, plain and simple,” one man, said.

Bryan Allen owns and runs The Tobacco Shack in Midland. His customers range from the barely legal to retirement age. He says, by this time, they should be allowed to smoke if they want too, “I get people from 18 years of age all the way to 80. If you’re 18 and you’re old enough to go fight for your country in war and die, then you ought to be old enough to smoke cigarrettes.”

To him, raising the age by one year, isn’t going to change things much, if at all because if they want it bad enough, they’re going to find a way to get their hands on a cigarette. “If they’re 18 they’re going to know somebody that’s 19 and they’re going to be able to get one of their friends to buy it for them.”

Some Midland residents, like Jan Lawbaugh, have their own similar opinions, “If the kids are going to buy cigarettes, they’ll get them somehow, if that’s what they want to do. So I don’t think it will make any difference what age they put on it.”

Midland mom, Linda Palmer had this to say, “I think it would be pointless. The legal age is 18. You can vote at 18. You can do anything at 18, so why not be able to buy cigarrettes at 18?”

Her 16-year-old daughter Ariel English agrees, “I think it’s pointless. I think their friends would buy them for them.”

Buying underage or selling tobacco products to minors is a punishable offense. Allen makes sure they follow the letter of the law, “We just ID them. We need a Texas ID. You know, that’s the law, sorry. It’s not worth the fine or the hassle.”

Four other states have already raised their legal age to 19. The same bill was passed by the Texas Senate, but failed in the House back in 2007.

Trade In Illicit Cigarettes Soars After 50pc Tax Increase

Clifford Lo, SCMP – Apr 10, 2009

Seizures of smuggled illicit cigarettes and sales of such cigarettes rose sharply last month, in the wake of the increased cigarette tax in February’s budget, the Customs and Excise Department said yesterday.

It reported a 127 per cent rise in cases of smuggling, distribution, sales and storage – from 126 in March last year to 287 last month. There were 639 cases in the first three months of this year, a 90 per cent rise from 336 in the same period last year.

There was also an increase in complaints from the public about solicitations to buy illegal cigarettes.

Seizures of illegal cigarettes rose by 11 per cent to 8.64 million cigarettes last month, from 7.77 million in March last year. The increase came after the introduction of the 50 per cent rise in tobacco tax in the budget on February 25.

Chow Chi-kwong, head of customs’ revenue and general investigation bureau, attributed the increase in seizures to stronger enforcement measures, which were mounted in anticipation of the sharp rise in smuggling.

“We deployed more officers to fight the illicit cigarettes problem,” he said. “That’s why we came up with more seizures and more cases.”

Seizures of illegal cigarettes also rose, to 18.48 million in the first three months of this year from 16.23 million in the same period of last year. Yesterday, Mr Chow announced the conclusion of a series of operations against illicit cigarette businesses that continued from March 1 to Wednesday. In that period, customs officers arrested 43 people, including 19 buyers, and seized HK$270,000 worth of cigarettes.

Officers also stepped up inspections at control points to stop smuggling from the mainland. They arrested five drivers and seized HK$17.75 million worth of smuggled cigarettes.

Officers found 16 storage areas for illicit cigarettes that were used to supply telephone orders. Nineteen people were arrested in the storage areas and HK$2.4 million worth of illegal cigarettes were confiscated.

Officers also arrested 67 people in 63 cases of telephone orders and deliveries, seizing HK$210,000 worth of cigarettes during the operation.

The department said it was getting an increasing number of complaints from the public about leaflets promoting the sale of smuggled cigarettes.

Mr Chow urged people to report such activity on customs’ 24-hour hotline on 2545 6182.

The maximum penalty for trading in illicit cigarettes is a HK$1 million fine and two years’ imprisonment.