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May, 2011:

Hu Angang recommends that China lead other nations in effort to control tobacco

05/31/2011, (Xinhua News Agency), 21 media hits —  On the eve of World No Tobacco Day, Hu Angang, director of the Research Center for Contemporary China, Tsinghua University, said the tobacco sector is biggest health-hazard industry in China and has become the target of public censure because of its supporting role in China’s economic restructuring project. Hu said the government absolutely cannot allow the industry to grow any bigger or stronger. Hu Angang said China is home to 300 million smokers; 740 million people in China are exposed to secondhand smoke. China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco. It is also the biggest victim of tobacco use. China should start out by ensuring the people’s right to good health, and then do more to fulfill its pledge to the FCTC, ultimately becoming the nation leading the tobacco control effort.

Government to take suggestions from public regarding “Chongqing Secondhand Smoke Hazards Prevention Act”

05/31/2011, Chongqing Daily [Chongqing Municipality], 1 media hit — The latest figures for exposure to secondhand smoke in Chongqing show 15 million city residents exposed to secondhand smoke, and smokers comprising nearly a third of the city’s population. The smoking rate among men is 54.1%, and the smoking rate among women is 4%. These are both higher than the national average. Exposure to secondhand smoke at public venues and workplaces is very serious; 69.1% of respondents said they were exposed to secondhand smoke, with the exposure rate among men at 74.3%, and the exposure rate among women at 66.5%. Chongqing is now creating a smoke-free environment in public venues, and to this end has put forth the “Chongqing Secondhand Smoke Hazards Prevention Act”. The municipal government is planning to solicit public opinion regarding the proposed legislation by way of the media.

Expert recommends raising tobacco tax and correlating tax rate with price

05/31/2011, Economic Information Daily, 40 media hits — May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, and using taxes to control tobacco has stirred a heated debate once again. During an interview Doctor Hu Linlin, member of the “China Cigarette Tax” research group and Strategy Consulting Research Center, Chinese Academy of Governance, told an Economic Information Daily reporter that he has recommended raising the Class II cigarette tax rate 10% this year, bringing the excise tax on one pack of cigarettes up to CNY 0.5 from the current CNY 0.06. Hu has also recommended linking the tax rate to the retail price.

21 public venues fined for lax tobacco control

05/31/2011, Oriental Morning Post [Shanghai], 16 media hits — Today is the 24th World No Tobacco Day. It also marks one month since the Ministry of Health’s revised Implementation Guidelines for Public Venue Health Management Policies went into effect. The Q1 tobacco control monitoring report from the Shanghai Health Advancement Commission Office shows that compared to last year, the smoking rate in venues where smoking is prohibited has dropped significantly, the number of people actively discouraging smokers from violating the ban has continued to grow, and awareness of tobacco control regulations among city residents has gradually expanded. According to the Q1 monitoring report, of the 318,614 public venues in Shanghai inspected between March 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, 4,501 establishments were given a rectification order; 3,559 complied with the rectification order in a timely manner; and 21 were placed on record and fined a combined CNY 49,400. Four internet cafés, 7 entertainment venues, 3 hotels, 3 medical facilities, and 4 public/financial institutions comprised the 21 venues fined. In addition, the Shanghai Municipal Transport and Port Authority’s team of enforcers created a record and fined 178 operators of public transportation – mainly taxi drivers – a combined CNY 8,300.

World No Tobacco Day 2011 Awards – the winners

World No Tobacco Day 2011 Awards – the winners

Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Every year, WHO recognizes individuals or organizations in each of the six WHO Regions for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control. This recognition takes the form of WHO Director-General Special Recognition Awards, World No Tobacco Day Awards, and in 2011, one WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Certificate.

WHO Director-General Special awards

  • His Excellency the Prime Minister George A. Papandreou, Greece
  • Dr York Yat-ngok CHOW, GBS JP, Secretary for Food and Health, China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition certificate

  • The Honourable Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing, Australia

African Region awardees

  • Associação para a Defesa do Consumidor, la République du Cap-Vert
  • M. Ibrahima Sory Cisse, Président – Fondateur de GENERATION SANS TABAC, la République de Guinée
  • M. Haja Ramamonjisoa, Président de NY SAHY, la République de Madagascar
  • Dr Dionko Maoundé, Conseiller juridique du Ministre de la Santé Publique, la République du Tchad
  • M. Ebeh Adayade Kodjo, Directeur exécutif de l’Alliance Nationale des Consommateurs et de l’Environnement, la République Togolaise
  • Mr Killian Manyengawana, Graphic artist for Blue Africa LTD Company, the Republic of Zimbabwe

Region of the Americas awardees

  • Chile Libre de Tabaco, República de Chile
  • Ministerio de Salud del Perú y Comisión Nacional Permanente de Lucha Antitabáquica (COLAT), República del Peru
  • Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), the United States of America

Eastern Mediterranean Region awardees

  • Dr Mariam Al-Jalahma, Assistant Undersecretary for Primary Care and Public Health, the Kingdom of Bahrain
  • Dr Hamdy El Sayed, Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Head of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, the Arab Republic of Egypt
  • Dr Alireza Mesdaghinia, Deputy for Health, Ministry of Health and Medical Education, the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Mrs Mawya Zawawi Hammad, Founder and General Director, Lina and Green Hand Society, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
  • Dr Jawad Ahmed Al Lawati, Director of Non-Communicable Diseases Department, Ministry of Health, the Sultanate of Oman
  • Dr Alaa Aldeen Abdalla Abo Zed, Associated Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Khartoum University, the Republic of the Sudan

European Region awardees

  • Action on Smoking and Health, the United Kingdon of Great Britain and Northen Ireland
  • Ms Fiona Godfrey, Regional Advisor, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
  • European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention
  • Smoke Free Partnership
  • German Cancer Research Centre, the Federal Republic of Germany

South-East Asia Region awardees

  • His Excellency Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa, Minister for Health, the Kingdom of Bhutan
  • Salaam Bombay Foundation, Mumbai, the Republic of India
  • Dr Ing. H. Fauzi Bowo, Governor, Jakarta (Special Capital Territory) Provincial Government, the Republic of Indonesia
  • Her Excellency Dr Aminath Jameel, Minister of Health and Family, the Republic of Maldives
  • Ministry of Health and Population, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
  • His Excellency Mr Jurin Laksanawisit, Minister of Public Health, the Kingdom of Thailand

Western Pacific Region awardees

  • His Excellency Dr Mam Bun Heng, Minister of Health, the Kingdom of Cambodia
  • Dr Ly Ngoc Kinh, Senior Consultant and Former Director, Standing Office of Viet Nam Steering Committee on Smoking and Health (VINACOSH), Ministry of Health, the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
  • Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines, the Republic of Philippines

Hong Kong’s fight to stub out smoking

South China Morning Post — 31 May 2011

The city can be a model for the mainland in its efforts to stop people lighting up but there is still much more the authorities can do in the battle against first- and second-hand cigarette smoke

There’s a world war on. The enemy: tobacco.

Some 173 countries have ratified the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first treaty under the WHO constitution. It came into force in 2005, and its goal is to “to protect present and future generations from the devastating … consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke”.

Today is World No Tobacco Day, and it comes as the fight for cleaner air and cleaner lungs has gone global.

The countries that have ratified the treaty represent 87 per cent of the world’s population. By signing, they have agreed to standards meant to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, put health warnings on packages, bar sales to minors, protect citizens against second-hand smoke, and raise taxes on tobacco. They are also supposed to share health data and information.

Hong Kong is in position to be a leader in its region, a tobacco control expert says. The Western Pacific Region, which covers Hong Kong, has the most smokers of the WHO’s six regions. But it is also the only region to have all countries ratifying a global health treaty on tobacco control.

“If there were no FCTC, there would be no co-ordination and liaison between countries,” World Lung Foundation senior adviser Professor Judith Mackay said. “The tobacco industry would be more able to pick off countries one by one.”

Scientific studies show that smoking kills one in two smokers, but the habit is becoming less popular in the West. According to the Tobacco Atlas, the smoking rate in developed countries fell by about 30 per cent in the past two decades.

So tobacco companies are switching their attention to the developing world, where the smoking population is rising. Global sales of cigarettes reached 6.3 trillion sticks last year – up from 5 trillion in 1990 – and three-quarters of the buyers were from developing countries.

And it is a profitable strategy. According to The Independent on Sunday, the big four tobacco companies – Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco – made more than HK$324 billion profit last year, up from HK$312 billion in 2009.

Mackay said Hong Kong was not doing badly in the battle to reduce smoking. Its smoking rate of 12 per cent is the lowest in the region. But, it could do more, Mackey said. It should start a five- or 10-year plan to raise the tobacco tax, she said.

It should change the pictorial warnings on cigarette packaging every two years, “as smokers tune out after a while”. Plain packaging should be introduced in the next three years, and owners of places such as bars, pubs, restaurants and malls should be held responsible if people light up in their venue. At present, it is just smokers who can be fined if caught by the Tobacco Control Office.

The city should take more action against illicit cigarettes and smuggling, and should insist that cigarettes sales become “under-the-counter” in shops, she said.

But the city’s experience could also be a model for the mainland, which she said was “moving slowly in the right direction”. The mainland banned smoking in all indoor public spaces, although compliance has been unsatisfactory.

She urged the central government to commit to tobacco control and fully implement the framework convention as soon as possible.

Hong Kong is one of the better performing parts of the world when it comes to quitting smoking.

Between 30 per cent and 43 per cent of smokers who joined quit programmes by the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health stayed smoke-free for a year, data from the schemes show. That is higher than the international average of 25 per cent to 33 per cent.

The quit centres operated by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals claim a success rate of 40 per cent. Helen Chan Ching-han, supervisor of the group’s Integrated Centre on Smoking Cessation, said this was because it offered counselling for individuals with regular follow-ups.

“A lot of services focus on medication, but we focus on psychology. We try to understand why smokers pick up the habit, and help them avoid temptations,” she said. She said if smokers were counselled as a group, it could be embarrassing for them to raise personal questions.

Every year, more than 6,000 of the city’s 750,000 smokers try to break the habit through an organised programme. They can either call a hotline, 1833 183, or visit any of the clinics operated under the department, the authority or the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals.

The Pok Oi Hospital offers traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture sessions to smokers who want to quit. The hospital’s fleet of 18 vans ferry acupuncture practitioners and herbalists to give help and advice six days a week around the city.

The University of Hong Kong also operates quit-smoking hotlines, focusing on groups such as young people and women.

The average waiting time for Health Department services is one week, while authority patients need to wait for up to four weeks.

Smokers who choose the TWGHs centres can join the service in less than three days, with the longest queue in the Mong Kok clinic. A new clinic, the organisation’s fifth, will open in Kwun Tong tomorrow, joining others in Sha Tin, Wan Chai and Tuen Mun.

Kwok said the authority would offer free nicotine patches and other medications – enough to last around three months – in October, after the government injected more funding and increased the number of counsellors for the programme.

The department is talking to the World Health Organisation to set up a centre to train medical workers as quit-smoking counsellors. The centre will be part of an international network and called the Collaborating Centre for Smoking Cessation and Treatment of Tobacco Dependence. But it is still in the planning stage.

In the authority’s programme, 43 per cent of participants successfully stopped smoking for a year.

Ruby Kwok Lai-ping, the authority’s senior manager in primary care, said the figure was so high because most of their clients were already suffering from tobacco-related diseases. “Our clients are referred by doctors and nurses. They are already hospital patients, and their motivation would be stronger than those who have not suffered from disease,” Kwok said.

The Tobacco Control Office will launch an e-learning programme for medical workers later this year on quitting smoking.

Smokers ignore health warnings

31 May 2011

No one would drink a glass of poison if it was emblazoned with large letters warning that it would kill them. But millions of people every day ignore similar warnings on cigarette packets. Do seasoned smokers ignore the stark health warnings that declare “smoking kills”, “smoking seriously harms you and others around you” and “smokers die younger”, or are their eyes trained not to see them? That’s what academics at the UK Centre for Tobacco Studies – based at Bath and Bristol universities – decided to investigate using eye-tracking technology. Their aim was to find out whether the government’s introduction of health labels – which began in the 1970s with the message, “Warning by HM Government. Smoking can damage your health” – was effective at preventing the habit or encouraging addicts to stop.

What they discovered won’t please the tobacco giants. The academics’ findings suggest that the best way to stop non-smokers from picking up the habit is to force cigarette-makers to box up their fags in plain packets devoid of any branding whatsoever. The work was carried out by Marcus Munafò, professor of biological psychology at Bristol University, and Linda Bauld, professor of socio-management at the University of Stirling, who noticed that tobacco firms had enjoyed significant surges in sales after jazzing up their packet designs.

The academics point out that, as governments around the world bought in increasingly strict restrictions on cigarette adverts on billboards, TV, cinema and more, tobacco firms began spending more time and money investigating new ways to attract customers. And, slowly but surely, their cigarette packaging became increasingly imaginative.

Munafò points to an example of when Sterling introduced price-marked packs to emphasise their value in 2008. “Its market share increased from 5% to 6.1% in four months,” he says, before going on to flag up a limited edition “Celebration” pack of Lambert & Butler in 2004, which included pictures marking the brand’s 25th anniversary. That, say the academics, helped to increase Lambert & Butler’s market share by 0.4% – or some £60m – during four months on sale. Munafò points out that a couple of years later, Benson & Hedges Silver introduced a new “slide pack”, which opened via a side panel rather than flip-top, and saw sales rocket 25% over six months, then a further 32.5% (or more than £74m) after a year. “In the latter two cases, spokespeople for the producers, Imperial Tobacco and Gallaher, explicitly attributed sales success to the packs,” Munafò adds. “And an industry paper, Tobacco Journal International, pointed out that ‘tobacco packaging is no longer the silent salesman it once was – it now shouts.’ Thetobacco industry clearly acknowledges that the pack is a marketing tool.”

So Munafò and Bauld called in 43 non-smokers, light smokers and daily smokers to look at both plain and branded cigarette packets to help them to work out the different effects. All of their research packs featured health warnings, but while the branded packets were samples from 10 of the UK’s most popular cigarette-makers, the others were simple, unadorned white packets, with their brand name and number of cigarettes displayed only nominally in a standard font. The academics then fitted their volunteers with eye-tracking technology to see how they responded to the packets.

“We measured the number of times each person viewed the top half of the pack, which contained the brand information, and the bottom half of the pack, containing the health warning information,” explains Munafò, who as an experimental psychologist specialises in investigating the cognitive and biological basis of addictive behaviours. After analysing their findings, the researchers found that non-smokers and light smokers paid more attention to the stark health warnings on plain packs than on those adorned with names like Marlborough. By contrast, the frequent smokers did not – Bauld and Munafò believe they might have conditioned themselves to ignore them.

It might not sound surprising that stark health warning stood out more, and had a more significant impact, on plain packets, but the researchers say their evidence adds support to the idea that the government should force the tobacco industry to dump decorative packaging. Munafò reckons if the likes of British American Tobacco, maker of Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall, amongst others, were forced to standardise the colour and design of cigarette packaging – with all branding removed apart from a standard typeface including the name, relevant legal markings, and health warnings – it would boost the effectiveness of warnings. He adds that previous research suggests that the deterrent of plain packaging would be most powerful among children and young people, or those who believe they are smoking “healthier” cigarettes.

“Studies with teenagers – those not yet smoking or not smoking regularly – have found that they are brand-aware, including awareness by cigarette pack colour and design alone,” says Munafò. “And smokers can believe that some brands of cigarettes are less harmful than others due to packaging, for example substantial false beliefs about the relative risks as a result of terms such as ‘light’ or ‘mild’, brand descriptors of ‘taste’ or lighter colours being used on packaging. Plain packaging reduces levels of these false beliefs.”

The government has committed to consulting on the idea of introducing plain packaging. Bauld and Munafò have sent their findings to the Department of Health for discussion with its tobacco policy team. But other countries are ahead of us: in January next year, Australia will be the first to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

In the meantime, Bauld and Munafò are furthering their research, including using brain imaging to look at how the brain responds to plain and branded packs. But Munafò is clear about what he thinks the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, should do. “The government should introduce plain packaging of tobacco products and maintain text and visual health labels on packs,” he says. “There is good independent evidence on the impact of visual warnings on attitudes to smoking and smoking behaviour.”

BAT Wins Australia Court Hearing on Plain Cigarette-Packaging Legislation

May 31, 2011

British American Tobacco Plc (BATS)’s Australian unit won an appeals court hearing in a bid to force the government to turn over documents relating to a plan to restrict cigarette sales to plain packages.

The Full Federal Court of Australia agreed to hear the request, according to a letter from Judge Shane Marshall, provided by British American Tobacco. No date has been set for the hearing, the company said.

Parliament is set to vote on the law in the Australian winter to limit cigarette packaging to plain dark-olive coloring with pictorial health warnings instead of company logos, Health Minister Nicola Roxon said last month. British American Tobacco has sought the legal advice the government received on the plan under Australia’s Freedom of Information Act and has been denied, the company said.

British American Tobacco “suspects that Minister Roxon hasn’t released the legal advice because it’s likely to demonstrate her plain packaging laws are flawed,” the company said in today’s statement.

Health Ministry officials didn’t respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comment.

The Australian proposal is the first in the world aimed at banning logos and color variations on cigarette packages.New ZealandCanada and the U.K. had considered the move but dropped it out of concern it would be illegal, British American Tobacco said. The Australian proposal may infringe international trademark and intellectual property laws, the tobacco company said.

The name of the cigarette brand would be printed in a uniform font at the bottom of the package. The legislation, if passed in parliament, will take effect Jan. 1.

The government plans to spend more than A$10 million ($10.7 million) on legal fees fighting opposition to the proposal, British American Tobacco said, citing documents obtained through the FOI process.

The case is British American Tobacco Australia Ltd. v. Secretary, Department of Health and Ageing. VID314/2011. Federal Court of Australia (Melbourne).

Banning smoking in public venues proves difficult – tracking progress in MOH implementation

05/30/2011, (Xinhua News Agency), 61 media hits — May 31 is the 24th World No Tobacco Day. It also marks one month since the Ministry of Health’s Implementation Guidelines for Public Venue Health Management Policies – revised in accordance with the FCTC – went into effect. The China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 26 released the 2011 China Tobacco Control Report, which includes a frank admission of the many challenges and hurdles facing the ban on smoking. Over the past few days, Xinhua News Agency’s Xinhua Angle reporters have visited public venues in several cities, concluding that implementation has fallen short of expectations.

Shanghai government offices to come within range of tobacco control

05/30/2011, [Shanghai], 6 media hits — According to a report in Labour Daily, tomorrow is the 24th World No Tobacco Day. Shanghai’s version of the tobacco control regulations have been in effect for more than a year now. According to the latest statistics from the health administration, the standard for smoke-free medical facilities has been achieved at 99.4% of all public hospitals in Shanghai. Having said that, the city still has a ways to go before it reaches the smoke-free objective. This reporter learned yesterday that Shanghai is getting ready to add government offices to its tobacco control program; there will also be a gradual phasing out of smoking in some neighborhoods and business districts.