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July, 2010:

Bar staff do have responsibilities

Last updated: July 28, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

I refer to the letter by M. Kang (“Stop bothering the bartenders”, July 26).

Bartenders have an important role. They not only serve customers their drinks and food, they should also make sure the customers are in a safe and clean environment.

For example, if someone has already had too much to drink, the bartender should not serve that person any more alcohol and should try and persuade them to go home.

A good bartender will not tolerate anti-social behaviour in the bar, whether they own it or are “just staff”. The same principle applies to smoking.

If people complain about other customers smoking in the bar, in clear violation of the law, staff should not ignore the problem. And if the smokers start to get abusive, then tobacco control officers and the police should be called.

Under the present law, if tobacco control officers are called, the bar owner is not responsible for customers smoking so has nothing to worry about regarding legal action. It is only the smoking customer who should be concerned.

Wouter van Marle, Tai Po

Environmental protection ministry admits air pollution is worsening

Last updated: July 27, 2010

Source: Agence France-Presse in Beijing

Air pollution on the mainland increased this year for the first time since 2005, the environmental protection ministry has said, due to sandstorms, a rise in construction and industrial projects, and more cars.

The ministry found that the number of ‘good air quality days’ in 113 major cities across the nation had dropped 0.3 percentage points in the first six months of the year compared with the same time last year.

These cities had not recorded a fall in the number of good air quality days since 2005, Tao Detian, a spokesman for the ministry, said in a statement posted on its website on Monday.

The level of ‘inhalable particles’, a major air pollution index, was also up during that time in those cities for the first time since 2005, Tao said, blaming the deterioration in air quality on severe spring sandstorms.

“More construction and industrial projects started this year due to economic recovery and the rapid increase in automobiles should also be blamed,” Chai Fahe, vice head of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, told the China Daily newspaper.

The ministry also found that more than a quarter of the surface water in the mainland was contaminated, and fit only for industrial or agricultural use.

Acid rain was also a problem in the first half of the year – out of 443 cities the ministry monitored, 189 suffered from the harmful precipitation.

And in eight cities, including a district of Shanghai, the rain that fell for the first six months was constantly acid, the statement said.

Tao said that despite some improvements, China still faced a “grim” situation in fighting pollution.

The mainland has some of the world’s worst water and air pollution after rapid industrialisation over the last 30 years triggered widespread environmental damage.

A report published in March by the London-based medical journal The Lancet said air pollution in China was widely to blame for 1.3 million premature deaths a year from respiratory disease.

Duty-free tobacco allowance cut

Last updated: July 27, 2010

Source: Hong Kong Government News

The tobacco allowance for incoming passengers will be tightened to 19 cigarettes, or 25 grams of cigar or 25 grams of other manufactured tobacco, from August 1.(2010)

The Customs & Excise Department said today passengers exceeding these quantities must make a declaration to customs officers or face two-years’ jail and a $1 million fine.

The move will be promoted via television and radio announcements, and leaflets, posters and banners at control points and cross-boundary transportation facilities.

Singapore Looks To Be Tobacco Free

Last updated: July 20, 2010

Source: Government of Singapore

Tobacco  (Control of advertisements and Sale) Act closing speech by Mr Khaw
Boon Wan.

Mr Speaker, Sir, 11 Members have spoken on this Bill. Dr Lam Pin Min gave us
a good account of the harm of tobacco.

Mr Hri Kumar’s passionate speech struck a chord. Your common message is loud
and clear: “tobacco is harmful, let’s do our best to protect our people from
its harm”.

Thank you for supporting this Bill. We will do what is practical to
implement it effectively.

Emerging Products

First, many members support the ban on emerging tobacco products. Mr Seah
Kian Peng’s account on snus, a smokeless product, is instructive. Let’s not
allow them to land here.

However, Dr Lam Pin Min and A/Prof Fatimah Lateef suggested that we do not
ban such products entirely, but to consider some of them as part of a harm
reduction strategy to help smokers quit smoking.

It reminded me of our experience with Subutex as a harm reduction strategy
to get drug addicts off heroin. The West touted this strategy and we tried
it out with disastrous results. It took MHA and I quite some time to reverse
the policy.

A less harmful tobacco product is an oxymoron. I share Mr Hri Kumar’s view
on this subject and agree with his robust approach. In the 1970s, the
tobacco companies introduced cigarettes purported to be “low tar”, “light”
or “mild” as safer alternatives.

They promoted such cigarettes to smokers who had heath concerns and were
thinking of quitting. These products rapidly gained market share. As a
result, there was a net increase in cigarette consumption. Independent
research later on showed that smokers compensated by smoking more cigarettes
or inhaling more deeply.

Prof Lateef quoted the positive experience of snus in Sweden. The Swedish
experience has never been replicated outside of Sweden. I note that snus is
a Swedish product.

The evidence is actually the opposite, with the use of snus resulting in
smokers becoming addicted to both cigarettes and snus. More smokeless
tobacco use does not mean less cigarette smoking.

Smokers use smokeless tobacco products to tide over nicotine craving in
places where smoking is prohibited while continuing to smoke in other places
where smoking is allowed – this perversely reduces the impetus for them to
quit smoking.

Meanwhile, tobacco companies get to entice non-smokers to develop nicotine
addiction, adding to their customer base.

Our experience with Subutex as a less harmful heroin substitute is similar.
Instead of reducing the number of drug addicts, we ended up with more. I
strongly advise against adopting such so-called harm reduction strategy.

But I agree with Dr Lam and Prof Lateef that we should try to help smokers
“to gradually quit in a controlled manner”. There are proper ways to do so,
one is through controlled Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), by following
strict guidelines. We do not prohibit nicotine used in such a manner.

I would like to assure Mr Alvin Yeo that we will, in the assessment process,
undertake the necessary studies before imposing any ban under Section 15. We
will keep an open mind about this.

Education and Smoking Cessation

Second, all the members expressed concerns over the rising smoking
prevalence among certain population groups, including the young, the ladies
and the Malays. Mdm Halimah’s speech in Malay made a heart-felt appeal to
the Malay smokers to think about the welfare of their children and to get
them to stop smoking.

To be credible, they have to walk the talk by quitting smoking themselves. I
join her in this appeal. I also thank Mdm Halimah for highlighting the harm
pregnant mothers bring to their infants if they smoke.

All the Members called for stronger smoking control measures. I agree

We have implemented various programmes, and we will continue to try new
ones. We work with schools, religious institutions, the employers, the
charity sector and the community at large. I note Mdm Halimah’s illustration
of the Sheraton Towers as an exemplary employer who went the extra mile to
get their employees to quit smoking. I applaud such employers and urge more
to join the movement.

I heard Mdm Cynthia Phua’s call for schools to reach out to students who
smoke and get them to quit. I appreciate her sharing several research
findings done in schools overseas on effective counselling, including
telephone counselling. I note her point that with teens, enforcement and
penalty do not work as well.

The psychology often works the other way. What is prohibited becomes highly
valued. We try to tap on the young to guide us on how to reach out to their

I had focus group discussions with young lady smokers. They knew the harm of
tobacco and had tried to quit but when their own family members and close
friends are smokers, they found it difficult. This is obviously a complex
issue. As Prof Straughan noted, one underlying cause could be the larger
problem of some youths needing to embrace “sub-cultures” in order to seek
“affirmation from like-minded peers”.

We will definitely try to do more and learn from others. We have discussed
the various initiatives in this House before. In the interest of time, I
will not repeat them here.

Our efforts have not been futile. Let me quote one indicator. The proportion
of Secondary School students who have ever tried cigarette smoking has
dropped from 26% in 2000 to 16% in 2009. This is a victory for us. But we
need to do better.

Third, Ms Ellen Lee, Mdm Halimah, and Prof Straughan called for stronger
enforcement against sales to the under-age. I agree. We will step up
policing on tobacco retail outlets. We will consider raising the penalty on
repeat offenders. We are also considering disallowing tobacco sales in
outlets frequented by young customers.

FCTC Obligations

Fourth, Dr Lam Pin Min asked about Singapore’s compliance with the Framework
Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and whether we had been tardy. To date,
we will be the third country in the world to fulfil all the obligations on
tobacco labelling should this Bill be passed.

Dr Lam wondered if the delay in implementing the FCTC was a cause for the
increase in smoking prevalence here. I doubt it. We have been ahead of the
curve in tobacco control and in any case were largely FCTC compliant right
from the start.

Dr Lam asked if we should give the tobacco companies more than 12 months to
implement the changes to tobacco product packaging. We decided on “12
months” based on actual past experience when we introduced mandatory health
warning labels. They were able to comply.

I appreciate Mr Sin Boon Ann’s thoughtful piece on “lateral advertising”,
“subliminal marketing” and “advertising through the internet”. Mr Calvin
Cheng made a similar observation. Indeed, these are the innovations that
tobacco companies are mounting to get around the FCTC. It is a hot topic
currently being discussed among international regulators including

We do not yet have all the answers to these challenges. For example, how do
we deal with internet advertising?

How do we censor out scenes of James Bond smoking a particular brand of
cigarette? I have not noticed Mr Sin’s observation that Mark Lee seemed to
be particularly fond of Marlboro cigarettes. I will have a quiet word with
him the next time I see him.

But where we can, we should act. For example, we have removed the exemption
for congratulatory messages and sponsorship publicity.

Mr Hri Kumar has described past misleading behaviours by tobacco companies.
This is unethical behaviour. I agree with his observations.

From a public health perspective, misleading terms are just as misleading,
even if they are part of a trade mark. Mr Alvin Yeo raised several legal
queries on this. The new s17A will affect trademarks if they contain
misleading descriptors.

We are aware of our TRIPS and other international obligations and have
consulted the relevant authorities extensively on this point. The proposed
section 17A is aligned closely to the FCTC and will not violate Singapore’s
international obligations. We are in good company: the EU prohibits
misleading terms and descriptors even if they are part of the trademarks or
brand names.

Other Issues

Lastly, there were some comments which do not pertain to the proposed
amendments in the current Bill. But let me briefly address them.

Ms Ellen Lee and Mr Hri Kumar made a plea on behalf of the non-smokers and
especially innocent children, from the effects of second hand smoke from
inconsiderate neighbours, and irresponsible parents. Ms Lee asked the NEA to
widen the outdoor smoking ban to include more common places in HDB towns,
such as void decks and common corridors.

I will raise her suggestion with the NEA. Mr Hri Kumar asked rhetorically
how we could extend the law to the privacy of the home, in order to protect
the children from second-hand smoke. He knew it is outside my purview. But I
note his point.

Dr Lam suggested that we control retail pricing of tobacco products, to make
them expensive, thus curbing consumption. In practice, price fixing seldom
works, as we live in a region where cigarettes are cheap. For the same
reason, while we have been aggressive in tobacco taxation, there are limits,
but we will continue to use this strategy where practical and feasible.


Mr Speaker, Sir, tobacco related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Let’s
try to make Singapore as tobacco free as possible. When drafting this Bill,
we had extensive consultation with Singaporeans. The amendments received
strong support from them.

Mr Speaker Sir, I beg to move.

Updated version: Action Smoking Health Australia Tobacco industry news – RICO convicted racketeers


2006: US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler’s damning judgment against Big Tobacco in a landmark US government lawsuit against the major companies.

She found they’d violated civil racketeering laws, defrauded the public, lied for decades about targeting of children and health risks of smoking.

See summary at and  full judgment     Some excerpts:

[The tobacco companies] have not ceased engaging in unlawful activity… Their continuing conduct misleads consumers in order to maximize … revenues

by recruiting new smokers (the majority of whom are under the age of 18), preventing current smokers from quitting, and thereby sustaining the industry.

[This industry] … survives, and profits, from selling a highly addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number of deaths…

an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system.

Defendants have known these facts for at least 50 years or more… [but] have  consistently, repeatedly, and with enormous skill and sophistication, denied these facts

to the public, to the Government, and to the public health community… [they] have marketed and sold their lethal products with zeal, with deception,

with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.

Industry Watch

Big Tobacco Guilty As Charged

Justice Department Civil Lawsuit

Updated July 1, 2010

On August 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued a final judgment and opinion in the U.S. government’s landmark lawsuit against the major tobacco companies that found the companies have violated civil racketeering laws and defrauded the American people by lying for decades about the health risks of smoking and their marketing to children.

Judge Kessler also found that the tobacco companies’ wrongdoing continues today: “The evidence in this case clearly establishes that Defendants have not ceased engaging in unlawful activity … Their continuing conduct misleads consumers in order to maximize Defendants revenues by recruiting new smokers (the majority of whom are under the age of 18), preventing current smokers from quitting, and thereby sustaining the industry” (pages 1604-1605 of the opinion).

On May 22, 2009, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a unanimous opinion upholding Judge Kessler’s judgment and almost all remedies she imposed in the case.

On June 28, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals in the case, allowing Judge Kessler’s judgment and the remedies upheld by the Court of Appeals to stand. As a result, the verdict in this case is now final: The major cigarette manufacturers are racketeers who carried out a decades-long conspiracy to deceive the American public and target children with their deadly and addictive products.

This lawsuit began on September 22, 1999, when the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the cigarette manufacturers, charging that they had violated civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and other laws. The trial lasted from September 21, 2004, to June 9, 2005.

Judge Kessler’s 1,683-page final opinion powerfully and thoroughly detailed the tobacco companies’ unlawful activity and the devastating consequences for our nation’s health over more than 50 years.

“(This case) is about an industry, and in particular these Defendants, that survives, and profits, from selling a highly addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system. Defendants have known these facts for at least 50 years or more. Despite that knowledge, they have consistently, repeatedly, and with enormous skill and sophistication, denied these facts to the public, to the Government, and to the public health community… In short, Defendants have marketed and sold their lethal products with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted,” Judge Kessler wrote (pages 3-4 of the opinion).

Despite the overwhelming wrongdoing she found, Judge Kessler felt constrained in the remedies she could impose on the tobacco industry because of a controversial appeals court ruling that restricted financial remedies under the civil RICO law. In her Final Judgment and Remedial Order, Judge Kessler imposed remedies that:

  • Prohibit the tobacco companies from committing acts of racketeering in the future or making false, misleading or deceptive statements concerning cigarettes and their health risks.
  • Ban terms including “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light,” “mild,” and “natural” that have been used to mislead consumers about the health risks of smoking and prohibit the tobacco companies from conveying any explicit or implicit health message for any cigarette brand.
  • Require the tobacco companies to make corrective statements concerning the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke and their deceptive practices through newspaper and television advertising, their web sites and as part of cigarette packaging.
  • Extend and expands current requirements that the tobacco companies make public their internal documents produced in litigation.
  • Require the tobacco companies to report marketing data annually to the government.

Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the judgment and these remedies, it is critical that the trial court move forward with strongly enforcing these remedies.

The government and public organizations had sought additional remedies, including requiring the tobacco companies to fund public education and smoking cessation campaigns and to forfeit illegal profits. However, these were not imposed by the courts.

On July 22, 2005, Judge Kessler granted a motion by six public health groups to intervene and become parties to the case. These organizations are the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund (a 501(c)(4) organization affiliated with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids), American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and National African American Tobacco Prevention Network. funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs