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October, 2011:

Signs indicate HK anti-smoking drive works

I used to complain a lot about smokers joining the crowd in streets, those unmindful of the potential health hazards they’ve become. Not that much these days. Not only because I seldom hit the streets lately but statistically there are fewer people lighting up outdoors. At 11.1 per cent of people aged 15 or above, Hong Kong is poised to become the world’s first “smoke-free” city.

A large ‘No smoking’ sign at Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park in Chinese, English, Indonesian and Tagalog.

There are different versions on how one is defined as a smoker. The government defines a smoker as one who smokes at least once a day; to insurers, the title is already tagged on someone who consumed tobacco at least once in the past 12 months.

The figure was the result of a survey of 13,375 households conducted by the Census and Statistics Department from October to December last year. The steady decline in number of smokers can easily be attributed to a number of measures the city has implemented.

First, the government as continuously expanded the locations considered off-limits to smokers. Since July 2007, no person shall smoke or carry a lighted cigarette, cigar, or pipe in indoor workplaces, most public places such as restaurants (after exemptions were lifted), public parks, beaches and transportation terminals. By September 2009, violators are slapped a fixed-fine of HK$1,500 (US$192.8), making it at par with other violations such as spitting or littering. There are still gray areas, such as how the government will implement fines to non-residents and short-term visitors as offenders are allowed up to 21 days to settle their fines. Nevertheless, these measures provide great relief to non-smokers who are used to exposure to second-hand smoking.

Second, the Hong Kong government has imposed hefty taxes on cigarette products. Right after a seven-hour deliberation among city legislators, a buyer of pack of cigarettes that costs HK$50 (US$6.41) would have paid a tax equivalent to 70 per cent tobacco tax. The landslide decision to impose it — 33 support vs. eight against — appears like the plan coasted towards victory line unchallenged. But opposers expressed the idea was discriminatory and sweeps aside the poor, citing smoking as one of the few forms of leisure they have left. The rising cost of cigarettes at shops in the city also encouraged smuggling.

No smoking ads are also pervasive across the territory. From television broadcasts on buses and newspapers to posters at residential estate lobbies and YouTube videos, smoking was generally treated as an unpopular habit that isolates a smoker from the society.

A territory is considered smoke-free once the ratio between smokers and non-smokers reach 5 per cent or less, a similar target imposed by developed economies such as New Zealand and Finland. As Hong Kong tries to squeeze the ratio and approach that “elite” status, tobacco companies are expected to fight for their rights and may take legal actions against these restrictions. Looking back at Hong Kong government’s efforts, not everyone is pleased but, at least to me, it’s done many people a favor. We’ve already suffered from roadside pollution and accused factories at Pearl River Delta many times for record pollution levels. Cigarette smoke is the last thing we’d like to add in our air quality woes.

Even a single cigarette can be hazardous to young adults

Last Updated: Monday, October 24, 2011,18:55

Even a single cigarette can be hazardous to young adults 	Washington: A new study has revealed that smoking even a single cigarette can impair health for young people.

It is understood that smoking leads to a reduction in levels of fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), which is a marker for airway inflammation.

However, there is limited knowledge about smoking-induced changes in the production and exchange of nitric oxide (NO) in young adults.

The Greek researchers studied eight women and eight men with a mean age of 23 years and a smoking history of less than eight pack-years,

They found that after smoking a single cigarette, the airway tissue concentration of NO increased by 26 percent, and the FeNO levels decreased by 15.6 percent.

This reduction can lead to a limited flux of NO in the airways of young adults, significantly impairing health.

This research was presented at CHEST 2011, the 77th annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP).


First Published: Monday, October 24, 2011, 18:55

Prof .   J u d i t h   L o n g s t a f f   M a c k a y , O B E , S B S , J P

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Luxemburg premier JC Juncker smokes in restaurant

Repeat offender Jean-Claude Juncker. Despite a clear ban on smoking in restaurants, Jean-Claude Juncker was  last week again smoking vigorously although many other guests were still eating, Juncker himself used a cigarette in a restaurant in Luxembourg , puffed it merrily to himself and ignored the applicable law of 5 September 2006. It is not the first time that Juncker broke the law using personal greed to smoke tobacco out based on his elected power position. See exclusive pictures in the upcoming Friday ‘Private’ magazine of who was at the table with him.

Wiederholungstäter Jean-Claude Juncker. Trotz klarem Rauchverbot in Restaurants ließ es Jean-Claude Juncker letzte Woche wieder kräftig qualmen. Obwohl zahlreiche andere Gäste noch aßen, steckte sich Juncker in einem Restaurant in Luxemburg eine Zigarette an, qualmte munter vor sich hin und setzte sich wieder einmal über das geltende Gesetz vom 5. September 2006 hinweg. Es ist nicht das erste Mal, dass Juncker dieses Gesetz aus persönlicher Gier nach Rauch und Tabak ausser Kraft setzt. Wo und wann er das letzte Woche tat, wer alles bei ihm am Tisch sass und wie dans Ganze ablief, steht exklusiv am kommenden Freitag in der neuen Nummer von “Privat”!…


Boulevardmagazin Privat, 18.10.2011
21 October 2011

ACT bans smoking in car with kids

Oct. 20, 2011

Smoking inside a vehicle that contains children has been outlawed in the ACT.

The territory’s Legislative Assembly has passed a law that makes it illegal for anyone to smoke inside a car or other vehicle while a child under the age of 16 is in it.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said she was pleased the assembly agreed to pass her bill.

“While it is an adult’s right to choose to smoke, vulnerable groups who cannot always speak for themselves have a right to be protected from second-hand smoke, particularly when exposure can increase the risk of asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and middle-ear infections,” Ms Gallagher said in statement on Thursday.

Similar legislation has already been enacted in most other jurisdictions of Australia.

Blanket ban on smoking at Euro 2012

Thu, 20 Oct 12:28:00 2011

BERNE, Switzerland, Oct 20 (Reuters) – Smoking will be completely banned at stadiums during Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, UEFA said on Thursday.

“UEFA…will enforce a complete ban on the use, sale or promotion of tobacco in all stadia involved in UEFA EURO 2012,” said European soccer’s governing body in a statement.

“The regulation will apply without exception to all spaces within stadia perimeters, both indoors and outdoors.”

UEFA, which in contrast allows smoking at matches in the Champions League, said the policy had been drawn up with the World Health Organisation, World Heart Federation and the European Healthy Stadia Network.

“A tobacco-free EURO 2012 is about respecting the health of our spectators and everyone else involved in the tournament,” said UEFA President Michel Platini.

“We uphold the highest standards of health, safety and comfort at our flagship tournament, and tobacco does not fit within them.”

Tam open to law on donations

Hong Kong Standard, Thursday, October 20, 2011

Officials are open to the idea of coming up with a law to govern donations to political parties, constitutional affairs minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said.

“The administration has no policy stance on the issue,” Tam said yesterday. “We are open- minded and hope to hear more from society at this stage, before studying the matter.”

But he said there have been discussions about the need for such a law.

The majority view is that parties are still in the early stages of evolution and should have more freedom.

“The mainstream view is it is not necessary to have such legislation,” he said.

The League of Social Democrats is reported to have received HK$1 million from Jimmy Lai when it and the Civic Party conducted the “de facto referendum” campaign.

Then league chairman Raymond Wong Yuk-man, now a People Power legislator, said he and two other lawmakers, Albert Chan Wai-yip and Leung Kwok- hung, were not aware of the donation until the by-election was over in May.

“We were heavyweights in the party but no one told us about the HK$1 million,” he said.

Chan, who left the league early this year with Wong to set up People Power, chimed in: “Did I need to hand over HK$100,000 from my own purse for the referendum if I knew there was such money?”

He said a meeting early last year stressed the league should not accept any donation from Lai.

League chairman Andrew To Kwan-hang said none of the three league lawmakers were then in charge of administration.

He also said the league does not accept conditional donations.

Lai’s contributions to the Democratic Party made up 99.4 percent of all donations from non- members in 2009 and 2010.

For the Civic Party, Lai’s cash was about 40 to 68 percent of all donations from non-members.

Children to help parents kick habit

Plain cigarette packaging is not on the cards anytime soon for Hong Kong, but there is to be a program for kids to help parents quit smoking.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Plain cigarette packaging is not on the cards anytime soon for Hong Kong, but there is to be a program for kids to help parents quit smoking.

That was the word from Director of Health Lam Ping-yan as he explained that a watch will be kept on how Australia does with its world- first effort to see all brands of cigarettes in the same drab but alarming packets.

The priority for Hong Kong just now, Lam said, is to introduce more quit-smoking clinics and increase efforts at the ones already in operation.

The Department of Health currently runs six clinics on its own or through joint efforts, and funding will be increased for more services in clinics at Tung Wah and Pok Oi hospitals.

“We’ll also involve the Po Leung Kuk for a school-based program so that children can go home and ask their parents to quit,” Lam said.

In addition, “there is a program for ethnic minorities, and we will finance a hotline service run by University of Hong Kong professors.”

On Australia’s packaging program, the head of the country’s Department of Health and Ageing, Jane Halton, noted that legislation on packaging has yet to clear the Senate.

“Obviously, the tobacco companies are not happy with this, but the legislation has passed the House of Representatives,” she said.

“It’s our belief that we have the numbers for it to pass the Senate. So this will be implemented in 2012.”

The packaging plan, she added, is a major step “in making sure that smoking is in no way glamorized or promoted in Australia – and particularly for young people.”

The packets that will appear if the new law is cleared will be a dull olive color and feature health warnings and photographs of the ill effects of smoking plus a line for the brand.

Photographs on the packs, it is stressed, will be of real people suffering from the effects of smoking-related diseases.

“We will make sure that the images we use are rotated every six months so people don’t get used to seeing them,” Halton said. “We have seven images for use in the first phase.” MARY ANN BENITEZ

Hong Kong may be contravening an international treaty if political parties receive donations from “Big Tobacco,” a concern group warns

Hong Kong Standard – Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hong Kong may be contravening an international treaty if political parties receive donations from “Big Tobacco,” a concern group warns.

In a letter to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam- kuen, Clear the Air calls for a political party donation law amid reports that media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has given millions to democrats.

There are no laws in Hong Kong to make parties disclose donations and funding sources, but Clear the Air chairman James Middleton says in the letter that such legislation exists in the United States, Britain, Japan, Australia, Singapore and others.

Also drawing on overseas examples, Middleton says pro-business political parties are more likely to be backed by giants of the tobacco industry – though that point is not made in the letter.

The letter to Tsang says reports of a non-member funding the Democratic and the Civic parties highlight a need for “urgent legislation on mandatory and transparent publication of all political party donations in Hong Kong and prevention of funding of our political parties by overseas entities.”

Tobacco firms have backed parties elsewhere, it is pointed out, and if it happens here the SAR is in contravention of the World Health Organization Treaty Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

A provision states that governments who have signed the treaty should have “effective measures to prohibit contributions from the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests to political parties, candidates or campaigns, or to require full disclosure of such contributions.”

The public should be able to see who may be influencing party policies and actions, goes the Clear the Air argument.

For it is always the case that there is no free lunch as “donors do not keep on donating to causes that do not benefit their own ends.”

Further, the letter states, “the public demands the right to know what their legislators are doing [and] whether their actions are contrary to electors’ interests and instead more beneficial to the Legco members and their donors only.”

Hong Kong-based anti-smoking advocate Judith Mackay said: “Hidden political donations strike at the heart of democracy itself.

“People seem so concerned about political influence in Hong Kong from north of the border, but [they] should be equally – if not more – concerned about the influence of vested commercial interests.

“If Hong Kong wants to proceed to democracy, then as a minimum first step it must be transparent about these influences.”

Alberta Government Divests Tobacco Stocks

Ottawa – October 20, 2011

Alberta moves away from tobacco investments

Health group calls for other governments to protect health and protect
pension investments by adopting investment policies against tobacco stocks.

PSC welcomes today the news that the Alberta government had directed the
Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) to sell-off its direct
ownership of tobacco companies.

“Government investments in tobacco companies are wrong-headed on many
fronts,” explained Cynthia Callard, PSC’s executive director. “The initial
share offerings provide tobacco companies with the resources to expand their
markets and harm new communities. Continued shareholdings push tobacco
companies to generate profits through sustained or increased sales.”

PSC has long called for all government investment boards, and especially the
Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, to stop investing in tobacco
companies.  This position is supported by the Framework Convention on
Tobacco Control, to which Canada is party. The FCTC directs governments to
protect public health from tobacco industry interference and recommends that
no state agency be involved in tobacco company ownership outside of state

“The Alberta government deserves praise for being the first Canadian
government to acknowledge, however tacitly, that part-ownership of
profit-seeking tobacco companies is inconsistent with its responsibility to
protect health,” said Callard.

A PSC review of institutional ownership of tobacco stocks last year found
that Canadians owned more than $2 billion in tobacco industry shares of the
4 largest companies, and received more than $90 million in dividend payments
from the profits of tobacco sales, including at least $36 million from sales
in developing countries. About 25% of these shareholdings were direct
ownership by investment firms under government control.

“Many countries do not put pension funds in any form of stock market
investment. Those that do should follow the example of Norway, New Zealand
and Alberta and ensure that  pension investments do not worsen the global
tobacco epidemic.”

Government of Nicaragua on Tobacco Plain Packaging: Proposed approach to non-cigarette tobacco products

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