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June 3rd, 2009:

What Can Be Done to Prevent Drug-driving?

Updated on Jun 03, 2009

I refer to the article (“Drivers on drugs pose enforcement dilemma”, May 28).

Hong Kong, like Britain and other first-world countries, legislates against driving while using a mobile phone and while under the influence of drugs but astonishingly does not legislate against smoking or holding a lit tobacco product while driving.

Smoking has the exact same stimulant effect on the dopamine pleasure receptors of the brain as heroin and crack cocaine, which are narcotics. In fact, nicotine reaches the brain in less than seven seconds after inhalation, faster than heroin or cocaine.

While it is an offence to drive under the influence of drugs here, it is not an offence to drive holding or smoking a lit cigarette, thereby driving one-handed and with impaired control, care and concentration.

Local authorities should adopt the contents of Britain’s Highway Code section 148 into the local Road Users’ Code Chapter 5. Section 148 states: “Safe driving and riding needs concentration. Avoid distractions when driving or riding such as loud music, map reading, tuning a radio, arguing with passengers or other road users, eating and drinking, smoking.”

The latest Highway Code effectively deems smoking while driving as careless driving.

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

WHO Calls For Enforceable Policies To Restrict Smoking In Movies

WHO – June 3, 2009

Backed by evidence that smoking in movies causes youths to want to light up, the World Health Organization is calling upon countries to enact enforceable policies that would severely restrict such depictions.

The report recommends that all future movies with scenes of smoking should be given an adult rating,with the possible exception of movies that reflect the dangers of tobacco use or that depict smoking by a historical figure who smoked.

Studies show that smoking continues to permeate movies, including those rated as suitable for youth. The policies recommended would help ensure that movies that are marketed to youth do not include tobacco imagery.

“Voluntary agreements to limit smoking in movies have not and cannot work,” the report says. It continues, “Logic and science now support enforceable policies to severely restrict smoking imagery in all film media.”

“The WHO recommendations are evidence-based and very much needed,” said WHO Assistant Director-General Dr Ala Alwan.
“Tobacco kills more than five million people per year. Each day approximately 100,000 young people take up smoking. Restricting smoking in movies will go a long way towards stemming the tobacco epidemic.”

Studies show that smoking in movies misleads youths into thinking that tobacco use is normal, acceptable, socially beneficial and more common that it really is. Studies also show that such movies rarely portray the harm of tobacco, instead portraying the product as conducive of a cool and glamorous lifestyle.

From Hollywood to Bollywood and beyond, movies are a global commodity. National policies to restrict smoking in movies can produce wide-ranging global benefits.

“Smoking does not belong in youth-rated movies”, said Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative. “The more smoking adolescents see on screen, the more likely they are to start smoking. These simple policies can save generations of young people from a lifetime of addiction and an early death from tobacco.”

The report also recommends that movie studios should:

* certify that they received no payoffs from tobacco companies to display tobacco products or their use
* stop displaying tobacco brands onscreen
* require strong anti-tobacco advertisements before all movies that have tobacco imagery

The report stresses that enforceable policies eliminate smoking from movies must form part of any comprehensive tobacco control programme.

See related items:

WHO Report: Smoke-free movies: From evidence to action (PDF)

New York State Health Department press release: Commissioner Daines Calls for Smoke-Free Movies for Children