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September 5th, 2011:

More sick days for kids who live with smokers,66111.asp

Children who live in households where they are exposed to tobacco smoke miss more days of school than children living in smoke-free homes, a new nationwide study confirms. The report from investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US – which finds these children have higher rates of respiratory illnesses that can be caused by second-hand smoke and details the probable economic costs of their increased school absence – has been published in the online edition of Pediatrics.

“Among children ages 6 to 11 who live with smokers, one quarter to one third of school absences are due to household smoking,” says Douglas Levy, PhD, of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at MGH, the paper’s lead author. “On a national basis these absences result in $227 million in lost wages and time for caregivers or their employers.”

1 in 3 kids live with smokers

The authors note that one-third of US children live with at least one smoker, and more than half of those aged 3 to 11 have detectable levels of a blood marker for tobacco exposure. Second-hand smoking has been shown to increase incidence of ear infections and several respiratory conditions, and school absenteeism is an accessible measure of serious illness in children. Earlier studies of the relationship between lost school days and household smoking have focused on local populations and did not evaluate the severity of the problem’s impact. The MGH team analysed data from the 2005 National Health Interview Study, an annual in-person survey of representative households nationwide.

Adults responding from households with schoolchildren ages 6 to 11 were asked to evaluate each child’s general health and to answer the following questions:

how many people smoked inside the home

how many school days the child missed due to illness or injury during the previous year

whether the child had three or more ear infections during the previous year

whether the child had a chest cold or gastrointestinal illness during the preceding two weeks

whether the child had been diagnosed with asthma, and if so, whether the child had any recent asthma attacks

Of the 3,087 children whose information was analysed for this study, more than 14% lived in a home with at least one person who smoked in the house – 8% lived with one household smoker and 6% with two or more – which represents 2.6 million children nationwide. Children living with one in-home smoker had an average of 1.06 more days absent, and those living with two or more had 1.54 more days absent than children living in homes where no one smoked indoors.

Quarter of sick days linked to smoking

Illnesses associated with exposure to tobacco smoke – including ear infections and chest colds – accounted for 24% of absences in children living in homes where one person smoked indoors and 34% for those living in homes with at least two in-home smokers. Household smoking did not increase gastrointestinal illness, and while there also was no association with an asthma diagnosis or asthma attacks, the study sample may have included too few children with asthma to reflect smoke exposure’s known role as an asthma trigger.

The researchers also calculated the potential costs associated with the need to care for children absent from school due to smoke-exposure related illness – costs including lost income for parents without paid time off, the costs to employers of the lost work, and the inability of caregivers not employed outside the home to take care of usual household tasks. “The total impact nationwide was $227 million in lost wages and household work for the families of the 2.6 million children living with smokers and for their employers,” Levy says. “Since almost half of the smoking households in our study had low incomes, that impact may be strongest on households least able to afford it.”

He adds: “The health impact of living with a smoker is probably more extensive than our study shows, since the survey only asked about three conditions associated with smoke exposure and we know there are several more. And since the absentee levels we report are averages, there are probably kids who miss much more school because they live with smokers than our study found. More research is needed to help understand the long-term health, developmental and economic consequence of growing up in a home where people smoke.” Levy is an assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  – (EurekAlert!, September 2011)

What the paper said: Smoking ban in Tassie; New bar culture for Perth;

TasPorts in firing line over smoking

Tasports should ban smoking in alfresco dining areas in its jurisdiction, a leading public health specialist says. Heart Foundation president Peter Sexton yesterday called on TasPorts to help support efforts to reduce the high rate of tobacco smoking in Tasmania. “TasPorts had an ideal opportunity to use the powers available under section 67B of the Public Health Act 1997, to support the Hobart City Council indesignating alfresco entertainment areas smoke-free,” Dr Sexton said. The Hobart City Council has banned smoking in outdoor dining areas at restaurants, cafes and pubs in Salamanca and pockets of North Hobart and South Hobart. Since the smoking ban came into place on August 1 there has been confusion over how the rules apply, with smoking still allowed in areas of Elizabeth St Pier, Murray St Pier and Victoria and Constitution docks, which come under the jurisdiction of TasPorts. Dr Sexton said smoking rates in Tasmania were significantly higher than in mainland states. About 23 per cent of Tasmanian adults are either daily or occasional smokers, compared with about 19 per cent nationally. Hobart Mercury, August 15.

DSI targets tobacco giant in tax evasion row

The Department of Special Investigation has decided to file charges against US tobacco firm Philip Morris Thailand for allegedly under-declaring the value of its products to evade taxes.

The DSI’s move contradicts a decision by public prosecutors, who decided in January to drop charges against the firm, 13 other companies and Philip Morris Thailand executive Charonchai Salyapong.

DSI chief Tharit Pengdit yesterday said the agency would refer its decision to the attorney-general as required by law.

If the DSI and the public prosecutors have differing opinions, the attorney-general will have the final say on whether to try the case. If the attorney-general disagrees with the DSI, the case will be dropped.

The DSI probe was launched when the Excise Department filed a complaint against Philip Morris Thailand accusing the firm of under-declaring the value of Marlboro and L&M cigarettes imported into Thailand, resulting in a tax loss of nearly 69 billion baht.

Mr Tharit said yesterday the evidence was strong enough to charge the tobacco company with falsely stating the value of its imports, resulting in financial damage to Thailand.

He noted the value of imports declared by the tobacco company has not changed since 2003 despite foreign exchange rate volatility and rising costs.

He insisted the DSI had not decided to pursue the case to appease the Pheu Thai Party which grilled the Democrats about the matter during an earlier censure debate.

Then the opposition in the House of Representatives, Pheu Thai MPs accused former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of interfering in the justice system and allowing Philip Morris (Thailand) to falsely report the value of its cigarette imports.

“The DSI’s stance has nothing to do with the change in the government,” said Mr Tharit. “If the DSI just wanted to appease those in power, it could simply have agreed with the prosecution months ago. We’re doing our job.”

Philip Morris Thailand said yesterday it was disappointed with the DSI’s decision.

The company said its practices had been confirmed by a World Trade Organization panel which ruled that the declared customs values were consistent with Thai law.

“Based on the public prosecutor’s opinion and the decision of a World Trade Organization panel, we believe that the attorney-general will be able to approve the public prosecutor’s non-prosecution order,” it said.

It also said that the dispute called for a “broader reform” of the cigarette taxation system from the current regime which uses import values to determine taxes to one that uses the retail prices as the basis for excise tax calculations.

Daring to dream: reactions to tobacco endgame ideas among policy-makers, media and public health practitioners



Tobacco control strategies have mainly targeted reducing demand. Supply-side focused measures, though less familiar, deserve consideration, particularly to achieve ‘endgame’ tobacco control aims (e.g. achieving close to zero smoking prevalence). We explored attitudes towards supply-side focused ‘endgame’ tobacco control approaches and how they can be best communicated with senior policymakers, journalists, and public health practitioners.

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Wide support for tobacco-free NZ by 2025


Wide support for tobacco-free NZ by 2025

Research led by the University of Otago, Wellington shows that senior officials, health practitioners, decision-makers and opinion-leaders support bold new ways of thinking being explored to achieve atobacco-free New Zealand.

The research follows a commitment this year by the Government to make NZ tobacco free by 2025, and has been published in the international journal BMC Public Health.

In the study, ‘Daring to Dream’, the researchers carried out in-depth interviews with 19 senior officials from the Ministry of Health and Treasury, along with senior journalists and public health doctors to explore their attitudes to a tobacco-free NZ, and five proposed ways to achieve it.

The interviewees strongly endorsed an ‘endgame’ tobacco-free (Tupeka Kore) vision in which the next generation is protected from tobacco addiction. They also responded positively to many of the proposals, though views varied about the most effective approach to making NZ tobacco free by 2025.

The five proposals focused on interventions and regulation to slowly restrict the supply of tobacco products, and targeting the tobacco industry.

One of the measures discussed was a regular decrease in the importing and supply of tobacco, reducing it to virtually nil over the next 10-15 years. Other measures include establishing a stand-alone autonomous Nicotine Authority to regulate the nicotine and tobacco market; and a not-for-profit Tobacco Control Agency to control the supply and distribution of tobacco products, with the aim of phasing them out altogether.

A key finding of the study was the way that tobacco is portrayed and viewed by policy-makers, media and the public, as a ‘risky but legal commodity’ is acting as a major barrier to more rigorous action.

Lead researcher from the ASPIRE 2025 research collaboration (see second attachment), Professor Richard Edwards says this limited and static view of tobacco needs to change.

“Once tobacco is seen for what it truly is, a highly addictive and toxic product which greatly harms thousands of children and adults, then we may get some real action to achieve the Tupeka Kore vision, and ensure that children are protected from becoming the next generation of victims.”

Co-author, Dr Heather Gifford from Whanganui-based Whakauae Research, says this study shows that there is support amongst key policy-makers and journalists for control of tobacco supply as a policy option, but further research and public debate are needed to identify the best and most practicable approach to achieve a Tupeka Kore, or tobacco-free Aotearoa by 2025.

Sydney police seize 60 tonnes of tobacco

Sept. 1, 2011

A multi-million-dollar Sydney tobacco syndicate has gone up in smoke after police seized counterfeit cigarettes, loose leaf tobacco and enough hard cash to fill several rooms.

Officers from Operation Polaris on Thursday arrested two men, aged 27 and 30, after they allegedly attempted to bribe a commonwealth official at a Sydney cargo terminal on five occasions.

The official reported being offered bribes of between $1000 and $200,000 since June this year to help the men import the illegal tobacco.

It resulted in the seizure from the Sydney waterfront on Thursday of 60 tonnes of loose leaf tobacco and 25 million counterfeit cigarettes, possibly from Indonesia or Malaysia.

Some of the substances and about $450,000 in cash were also seized after properties were raided at Belmore, Greenacre and Lakemba in Sydney’s south-west.

The arrested men, who both have the surname Afiouny, are believed to be the main players in the illegal tobacco syndicate.

“Both men are main figures in an alleged syndicate which had been importing illegal tobacco through the waterfront,” Detective Superintendent Peter McErlain told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

“These illegal imports have the potential of defrauding the commonwealth of over $35 million.

“We are not ruling out further arrests.”

Det Supt McErlain said he could not comment on whether there had been a jump in illegal tobacco importing to coincide with increases on cigarette taxes but acknowledged that such imports were not new.

“There’s definitely a market out there for illegal tobacco,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that illegal tobacco and cigarettes are sold on the black market under the counter through various retail outlets within Sydney and probably throughout Australia.

“(The arrests) send a clear message to anyone out there who intends on importing illegal tobacco to defraud the Australian people.”

The two men have been charged with importation and bribery offences and will appear in Sydney’s Central Local Court on Friday.

Operation Polaris is a joint waterfront operation made up of the NSW Police, the Australian Federal Police, Customs, Border Protection and the Australian Crime Commission.

“(We) will continue to target organised crime on the waterfront, including illicit drug importation, money-laundering, proceeds of crime, container theft and corruption,” Det Supt McErlain said