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May 18th, 2009:

Tobacco Control Must Be Elevated As A Public Health Priority

Medical News Today, May 18, 2009

An Essay published this week in the open access journal PLoS Medicine calls for the President Obama to “make a strong public commitment” to tobacco control by mobilizing US Government departments and agencies to achieve a coherent policy after eight years of neglect.

In their paper, Thomas Novotny and Joshua Yang, researchers in tobacco control and public health from San Diego State University and University of California San Francisco respectively, emphasize the huge potential for the US Government to reduce tobacco mortality and morbidity if action is co-ordinated across agencies. Presently tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States – responsible for at least 443,000 deaths between 2002 and 2004 – and exacerbates health disparities in the country, with African Americans, Native Americans, people in poverty and those with lower educational attainment suffering from a higher burden of the diseases and disabilities that result from smoking.

Critically the authors argue that simple tobacco control measures – such as creating smoke-free environments, and engaging a mass media public education campaign – can come at little cost to the government. Programs that do require investment, such as providing comprehensive smoking cessation services and expanding regulation over tobacco products, marketing and promotion, could eventually yield economic return. Smoking is currently a huge fiscal burden, resulting in the loss of $96.8 billion in productivity losses and over $75 billion in annual US medical expenditures.

The paper outlines the agencies that can play an important part in a revitalized approach and stress three key tobacco control issues that should be prioritized to frame a national policy coherence plan.

Firstly, the ratification of the first ever global health treaty, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – which was not sent to the Senate by President George W. Bush – could act as a framework for national policy.

The bill to grant the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over tobacco products, recently passed by the US House of Representatives, should contain the strongest possible language without concessions to the tobacco industry.

And thirdly, the authors point towards settling the case that the Department of Justice brought against the tobacco industry, currently in appeal, which orders the industry to cease false and deceptive activities.

“We believe this change in direction is based on sound science, is acceptable to the almost 80% of non-smoking Americans and the 70% of smoking Americans who want to quit, and in the best fiscal and health interests of the United States”, say the authors. Furthermore, by implementing the FCTC the United States can demonstrate international commitment to tobacco control and spur other countries to implement the treaty.

Funding: Financial support for this project was provided by National Cancer Institute Fellowship Funding CA-113710-02 (JSY). The funder had no role in the preparation of the manuscript.



Policy Coherence in US Tobacco Control: Beyond FDA Regulation

PLoS Med 6(5): e1000079. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000079

Yang JS, Novotny TE…

Editor’s note: The PDF of this article is not yet available. Please look out for an offer from Stan Shatenstein in a future edition of MJU.

Source: Medical News Today
Category: Legislation & Politics
Date: 18 May 2009

Rally to Seek Two-year Delay in Bar Smoke Ban

Ng Kang-chung, SCMP – May 18, 2009

Bar owners are calling on staff and patrons to join them next Sunday to protest against a ban on smoking in nightclubs, bars and mahjong schools set to come into force in July.

They claim the ban could force more than half the city’s 1,000 or so bars and clubs to close, because smokers are their major clients.

The owners want the government to postpone the ban for two years, saying their businesses have already been hit hard by the economic downturn. Next Sunday’s protest, with the theme “no smoking, no job”, is a fresh bid by the sector after a failed attempt last week by legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip to move a private member’s bill seeking to push back the implementation of the ban.

Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing ruled that Mr Chan’s attempt breached a ban on lawmakers introducing bills related to “government policy”.

The Hong Kong Bar and Club Association, which is organising the protest, expects a turnout of at least 2,000 people. Chairman George Tsai said: “We have been hit by the financial crisis and the swine flu. The July 1 smoking ban is set to be the last straw.

“Many bar owners have reported that business turnover has dropped by up to a third in recent months. We understand that more than half of the bars and pubs could be forced to close if the smoking ban is imposed.”

He also blamed the drink-driving measure introduced in February, under which police can carry out random checks on drivers to see if they have drunk alcohol.

A bar usually hired about 10 people, he said, meaning that if 500 closed, as many as 5,000 people could be thrown out of work.

Bartender Candy Wong, who works at a pub in Causeway Bay, said she was worried she could lose her job if the ban is introduced.

“Business is already bad. The boss just recently cut our pay by 20 per cent. I don’t want to lose my job,” Ms Wong said. “A friend of mine who got sacked idled away three months at home before she could get another job at another bar. And she is paid much less than before.”

Lillian Chan Yun-lin, convenor of the Entertainment Business Rights Concern Group, said: “We are not against anti-smoking measures. We also care about people’s health. We only want the government to give us more time to adapt.”

A review of the science base to support the development of health warnings for tobacco packages

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