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November, 2011:

Former deputy mayor of Northampton jailed for part in cigarette smuggling ring ordered to pay £250,000

Published on Thursday 24 November 2011 15:40

A FORMER deputy mayor of Northampton, who was jailed for his part in an international cigarette-smuggling ring, must pay a £250,000 confiscation order, despite telling top judges his arrest was the “biggest shock of his life”.

Jozef Raca, who runs Raca International in The Mounts, was handed a four-year sentence after being convicted of conspiracy to evade duty on tobacco products at Worcester Crown Court in February 2005.

At the same court, in March 2007, the ex-Tory councillor for Abington was ordered to pay nearly £250,000 when a judge found millions of cigarettes had been hidden in a shipment of holy water, delivered to Raca’s Northampton-based haulage firm in 2001.

The 78-year-old businessman, of Abington Park Crescent, Northampton, who was once freed after a dramatic kidnapping in South Africa, continued to protest his innocence as he challenged his confiscation order at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, claiming he was an innocent dupe.

But his appeal was dismissed by top judges, who said he had been convicted of the offence and it was likely – on the balance of probabilities – that the holy water shipment had also contained cigarettes.

The court heard Raca was convicted of being involved in a plot which was masterminded by a man named Robert Cooper, from Dudley, West Midlands, who was jailed for six years after admitting his role. Customs officers seized more than 20 million cigarettes in Finland, Austria, Felixstowe and Dover.

The jury found Raca, who owns a European haulage firm, was involved in the plot despite no cigarettes being found at his business premises.

At his later confiscation hearing, a judge ruled the cigarettes had been smuggled into the UK with the holy water which was delivered to Raca’s firm.

Giving evidence before three senior judges, Raca continued to deny any guilt and insisted there were no cigarettes. He said: “When I was arrested and ended up in the court, I thought I was on a different planet. It was the biggest shock of my life.”

His lawyers argued the Crown Court judge who made the confiscation order was wrong to find cigarettes had been stashed with the holy water, suggesting it could have been a “trial run” by Cooper to see whether that method of smuggling was safe.

They also said there was no basis for the judge to set the confiscation order at almost £250,000, as no cigarettes had been found in the shipment.

Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Hooper said it was likely cigarettes were in the container and the tax evaded would “certainly” have been £250,000.

Sitting with Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart and Judge Michael Mettyear QC, he added: “Of course, only Raca, along with Cooper, knows how many cigarettes were in the container.

But he denied any cigarettes being in the container, so we have to do our best to decide, on the balance of probabilities, what the quantity was. In our view it was such that the evaded duty and VAT would certainly amount to £250,000.”

WHO slams tobacco firms for ‘harassment’

Frank Jordans

November 24, 2011 – 7:19AM


The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged countries to stand together against tobacco companies that are trying to “harass” them into softening their anti-smoking stance.

“Tobacco is the only industry that produces products to make huge profits and at the same time damage the health and kill their consumers,” WHO director-general Margaret Chan told officials at a public health meeting in Geneva on Wednesday.

“How can we as an international community allow big tobacco to harass countries?” she asked.

Chan said Australia, Uruguay, Norway and the United States were among the countries targeted by the tobacco industry over their measures to reduce smoking-related disease.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris launched legal action against Australia’s government on Monday, hours after parliament passed new legislation banning all logos from cigarette packages.

The legislation, which takes effect in December 2012, prohibits the use of logos and brand imagery on cigarette packages, instead requiring that brand names be printed in a small, uniform font on dull olive green packets.

Cigarette packs will also include larger health warnings with graphic pictures of the negative health effects of smoking.

A spokeswoman for Philip Morris said the company had been forced to act because the anti-tobacco measures were illegal.

“The laws that we have challenged in Uruguay and Norway have not reduced smoking but contravene numerous laws and treaties,” said Anne Edwards, a spokeswoman for Philip Morris International, which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“As concerns Australia, the government has been unable to demonstrate that plain packaging will be effective at reducing smoking and has ignored the widespread concerns raised in Australia and internationally regarding the serious legal issues associated with plain packaging,” Edwards said in a statement.

“Legal action is not something that we take lightly but in these exceptional circumstances we are unfortunately left with no option,” she added.

In the United States, tobacco companies have sued the Food and Drug Administration over requirements to feature graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking, saying the rules infringe their right to free speech.

Chan, a Chinese citizen from Hong Kong, has been a strong advocate of tighter tobacco control since taking office in 2007. She is the only candidate to lead the WHO for another five years when her first term ends next year.

© 2011 AP

Tougher penalties to curb tobacco smuggling [2011] 23 Nov_ST

Title: Tougher penalties to curb tobacco smuggling
Source: Straits Times
Author: Tessa Wong

Legal News Archive

TOBACCO and cigarette smugglers now face stiffer penalties, including mandatory jail time and increased fines.

These were among several changes made in Parliament yesterday to laws on Customs, goods and services tax (GST), and stamp duty.

Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo explained the need to increase Customs enforcement.

She noted that from 2005 to last year, the number of tobacco-related Customs offences went up by 24 per cent. These offences range from smuggling and buying to selling and possessing cigarettes and tobacco products which have not had their duties paid.

Meanwhile, the number of repeat offenders in the same period increased by more than six times.

All repeat offenders now face an increased minimum court fine of S$4,000.

Repeat offenders caught with more than 2kg of tobacco products also face mandatory imprisonment.

First-time offenders caught with duty-unpaid cigarettes now face a minimum court fine of S$2,000.

Also, anyone who furnishes incorrect information to another for making declarations is now liable for prosecution.

This means Singapore Customs can now go after traders who use third- party agents to declare their consignments.

Information declared by traders can now be made available to domestic government agencies, in situations concerning public interest. But agencies will have to seek approval from the Finance Ministry, and the information would still be governed by the Official Secrets Act.

Some changes were made to improve administration and provide legal clarity.

These include the introduction of a summons system for minor offences; allowing agents to be appointed to recover unpaid duties; and allowing traders to keep electronic images of records instead of only the original hard copies.

Compressed natural gas (CNG) has now been made dutiable. The three-quarter tank rule for Singapore-registered vehicles going into Malaysia now applies to vehicles with CNG tanks too.

Dr Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) asked about the extent of Singapore Customs’ investment in new technology and information technology, how it keeps up with international trade alerts, and how Customs officers handle passengers with infectious diseases.

Mrs Teo said that Singapore Customs ‘intensively leverages’ on IT to improve operation efficiency, and, on Jan 1, it will launch the latest version of an electronic system for the clearance of trade documentation, called TradeNet.

It also actively monitors trade and sanction decisions by the United Nations, and enforces them through compliance and audit checks on companies.

Also passed yesterday were changes to laws on GST and stamp duty, some of which were announced in the Budget statement earlier this year. These include GST measures to promote the marine and biomedical sectors.

Among the changes was one to encourage people overseas to store high-value goods such as art pieces, antiques and gold in specialised facilities in Singapore, and to purchase related services such as auction, insurance and valuation of these goods.

Another change expands the scope for GST recovery – allowing local agents to recover GST on goods imported on behalf of overseas clients.

Where the Stamp Duty Act is concerned, the Government now allows for stamp duty relief for companies converting into a limited liability partnership, and has removed most $2 and $10 nominal and fixed stamp duties on documents.

Laws on stamp duty relief for mergers and acquisitions have been tweaked for greater consistency, and the Finance Minister can now waive conditions for any relief, remission or exemption of stamp duty for specific cases.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Tobacco tax set to rise


The government is preparing a draft law to increase the tobacco tax to be introduced after the ban on indoor smoking comes into effect next year, said Francis Tam

The government is preparing to raise tobacco tax, to be introduced after the ban on indoor smoking comes into effect from January 1, secretary for Economy and Finance, Francis Tam Pak Yuen, said yesterday at the Legislative Assembly.
In Macau, the tobacco tax was last updated in 2009 and is currently at MOP 0.2 per cigarette or MOP 4 per 20-cigarette pack. But the Health Bureau has promised to increase this figure, lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong recalled.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Hong Kong the tax was raised this year to HKD 35 per packet, lawmaker Lee Chong Cheng stressed. And In Australia a cigarette packet can cost as much as HKD 120, he added.
This “fiscal gap” does nothing to help tobacco control, lawmaker Ho Ion Sang said, and can in fact encourage “actions of illegal trade” between the two SARs. Both lawmakers called on the government to raise the tax to a similar level to the one in Hong Kong, “as soon as possible”.
The Administration is preparing a draft law to increase the tobacco tax, Francis Tam confirmed yesterday. However the official gave no timing for when the measure could be implemented. “We will schedule that work with the legislature,” he said.
In Macau, tobacco companies are against a tax rise, “claiming it would only encourage smuggling and would do nothing to help youngsters lose the habit,” Lee Chong Cheng acknowledged. He also admitted that the tobacco tax “is a pittance for the government”.
But “experience tells us that, bar a total ban, the most effective measure to reduce the number of smokers is through a tax raise,” Lee emphasised.
With just a little over a month before the indoor smoking ban comes into effect, Ho Ion Sang also said more promotion is needed, not only among locals but also for visitors. He said authorities should boost activities such as the ones aimed at schools, offices and restaurants while also improving signage on non-smoking areas and handing out flyers at Macau’s border crossings to make sure tourists know of the new restrictions.

Cigarette plain packaging laws pass Parliament

Tobacco Plain Packaging legislation passes in Australia.

(Now Hong Kong’s Administration should have the political will to follow Australia’s lead.)

One example of the 'ugly' cigarette packet packaging unveiled by the Federal Government

The Federal Government’s plain packaging laws for cigarettes have now passed both houses of Parliament.

The Senate agreed to the legislation earlier this month but made a number of amendments, including to the start date, and sent the legislation back to the Lower House.

The House of Representatives has now voted to support the changes.

The legislation means cigarettes will have to be sold in generic dark green packets from December next year, six months later than the original time frame.

Pictures of diseased body parts, sickly babies and dying people will cover 75 per cent of each packet, and tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text will be banned.

Since it was announced last year, the plan has faced fierce opposition from tobacco companies who have vowed to mount a court challenge against the legislation.

Australia will become the first country to introduce plain packaging laws.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates 15,500 Australians are killed by tobacco-related diseases every year and says passive smoking affects the health of children.

Looking forward to a smoking ban on the route of the Tour De France?

21 Nov 2011

Image for Looking forward to a smoking ban on the route of the Tour De France?

The unremarked passage of the Tasmanian Public Health Amendment Bill 2011.

This week was a noteworthy one for reform of tobacco regulation in Australia. Not only did the plain tobacco packaging legislation pass the Senate, but our own Upper House, the Legislative Council, passed a Bill banning smoking in many more outdoor public places in Tasmania, and will eliminate the display of tobacco products at point of sale anywhere in the state, including specialist tobacconists. The Bill comes into effect on 1 March 2012.

Amongst other things this legislation will ban smoking within 20 metres of the routes of organised cycling and running races in Tasmania.

I look forward to hearing the debate when someone proposes a ban on smoking within 20 metres of the entire route of the Tour De France, and for half an hour after every cyclist has passed through!

Even more remarkable was the disinterest of the Tasmanian press in the local tobacco legislation and the lack of fuss in the media generally. Whilst the tobacco lobbyists were paying their legal consultants big bucks to lobby Legislative Councillors, in order to try and delay the display ban for specialist tobacconists, they did not bother to run their arguments in the media. That is because there is no remaining public sympathy in Tasmania for the “purveyors of death”.

The Bill

However, for me the most extraordinary prohibition in the Public Health Amendment Bill 2011,is the ban on smoking around sporting events, within 20 metres of an outdoor sporting venue. This includes “….any part of the venue used to conduct the actual organised sporting event;”

The Member for Murchison, Ruth Forrest, queried whether this would mean that the entire 10 kilometres of the Skilled Burnie 10 kilometre Road Race be a smoke free zone, she was assured by the government representative that this was so! So this means that all cycle races, road races, organised fun runs in Tasmania will be smoke free for their entire route.

See Hansard Legislative Council – Tasmania Wednesday 9 November 2011 – Part 1 – Pages 1 – 66Public Health Amendment Bill 2011(No. 56)Second Reading….

“……The honourable member for Murchison also raised the issue of no smoking at the finish of the Burnie 10 and the answer to that is ‘yes’, there will be no smoking at the finish line plus within 20 metres of the running route marshalling area and the presentation area.

Ms Forrest – To the running route – the whole 10 kilometres?

Mr PARKINSON – Yes, within 20 metres.  The DHHS would approach the organisers of such events beforehand and ask them to promote the smoke-free laws in their registration and promotional material.”

The other interesting issue about the arguments surrounding the smoke free area bans was that it was couched in the language of “denormalisation” of smoking, rather relying solely on the public health issues associated with passive smoking and second hand smoke generally.

The Fact Sheet on the Bill

The Bill is intended to create a culture in which tobacco is less desirable and less acceptable. It will help protect children and others from harmful environmental (or second hand) tobacco smoke.

Denormalising tobacco is crucial to protecting the children from becoming the next generation of adult smokers. This is because most smokers begin smoking as a child. Reducing the incidences in which children are exposed to tobacco and smoking helps to denormalise smoking to children so they are less likely to view it as socially acceptable behaviour, less likely to start smoking and, as a consequence, less likely to suffer the harms of smoking.

There are already a number of tobacco restrictions in the Public Health Act. There are bans on advertising and displaying tobacco products, and restrictions on tobacco related information at point of sale, and certain health notices that must be displayed.It is already an offence to supply a child with tobacco or to smoke in a car with a child. Enclosed public places, workplaces and pubs and clubs are also smoke-free, as well as the areas within three metres of an entrance/exit to a buildingand 10 metres of the air intake for ventilation equipment on a building. Occupiers of premises to which the public has access may also voluntarily designate areas as smoke-free.

The new changes extend smoke-free areas across Tasmania to include other areas in which the public congregate and in which children are invariably present.

These areas include:
• public swimming pools
• between the flags at beaches
• pedestrian and bus malls
• in and within 3 metres of bus shelters
• in and within 10 metres of children’s playgrounds
• in outdoor dining areas and
• within 3 metres of outdoor dining areas that are not surrounded by a screen at least 2.1 metres high and impervious to smoke.

Smoke-free areas will be introduced at all outdoor sporting venues when an organised sporting event is being held. Smoking will not be permitted within 20 metres of:
• any permanent or temporary public seating
• the marshalling and warm up areas,
• podiums or other parts of the venue reserved for competitors or officials and
• any part of the venue used to conduct the sport.

The smoke-free area will apply during the game and for the period 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after.

All sports are included – little athletics, school sports, rostered sports of all leagues and alltypes – from hockey, to netball, to athletics, to football – every sport, regardless of league and regardless of the venue at which it is held, is included.

This will protect competitors, spectators and officials at sporting events. Tasmania is the first Australian jurisdiction to legislate such acomprehensive regime for smoke-free sports.

As part of the changes, the Director of Public Health will also have the ability to designate particular public events as smoke-free. This will begin with those events at which children or teenagers are particularly likely to attend – such as regattas and music festivals.

Other changes to the Act include:
• Extending the restrictions on the sale and display of tobacco products, so that:

• in addition to general tobacco retailers, specialist tobacconists cannot permanently display tobacco packets and cartons or cigars/loose tobacco;
• licensed venues may have only one vending machine in the service area of a restricted area (ie areas in which children cannot enter);
• the sale of tobacco products is banned at public events; and
• tobacco products are removed from shopper loyalty programs.
• Amending the tobacco licensing provisions, so that:

• a licence must be obtained prior to selling tobacco products from additional premises;
• licences are not transferrable to new business owners;
• licences will not be displayed in premises; and
• the licence register will not be available for public inspection (preventing its misuse by tobacco companies).
Further changes are made, so that:

• extinguishing a cigarette upon request is no defence to the charge of smoking in a smoke-free area;
• the Director of Public Health can approve classes of nominated officers (with or without conditions) to enforce particular provisions of the Act; and
• approved nominated officers may confiscate tobacco products in a child’s possession (conducting personal searches or using force is not permitted).

The changes will become law on 1 March 2012.

Philip Morris sues Australia over packaging plan

Nov. 21, 2011

Tobacco giant Philip Morris today launched legal action against Australian laws forcing tobacco products to be sold in drab, plain packaging from late next year.

Australia’s parliament has passed laws compelling cigarettes, pipe tobacco and cigars to be sold in plain olive packs from December 2012.

Tobacco export countries including Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Ukraine have warned they may challenge under world trade rules, while tobacco companies including British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, have said they may challenge the law in Australia’s High Court.

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Philip Morris said it had launched legal action that could trigger compensation claims worth billions of dollars.

“The Government has passed this legislation despite being unable to demonstrate that it will be effective at reducing smoking and has ignored the widespread concerns raised in Australia and internationally regarding the serious legal issues associated with plain packaging,” Philip Morris spokeswoman Anne Edwards said in a statement.

The action is being brought by Philip Morris Asia Ltd, Hong Kong, the owner of the Australian affiliate, through a notice of arbitration under Australia’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong.

The laws are being closely watched by governments considering similar moves in Europe, Canada and New Zealand, angering tobacco companies worried that they may set a global precedent and infringe on trademark rights.

The Himalayan nation of Bhutan banned the sale of tobacco outright earlier this year.

Australia’s Health Minister Nicola Roxon, speaking after parliament’s lower house approved laws already passed by the upper house Senate last week, demanded tobacco companies respect the will of the parliament.

“Plain packaging means that the glamour is gone from smoking and cigarettes are now exposed for what they are: killer products that destroy thousands of Australian families,” Roxon told reporters.

Roxon said while the tobacco industry was fighting to protect its profits, the government was “fighting to protect lives”.

The World Health Organisation in 2005 urged countries to consider plain packaging, and estimated more than 1 billion are regular smokers, 80 percent of them in poor countries.

Industry analysts say tobacco companies are worried that plain packaging could spread to important emerging markets like Brazil, Russia and Indonesia, and threaten growth there.

Legal experts have predicted both legal and WTO challenges to fail, as intellectual property rights agreements give governments the right to pass laws to protect public health.

Conservative opposition MPs, while backing the laws, urged Roxon to accept a three month moratorium on prosecutions and the enforcement of heavy fines for small tobacco sellers to give them time to adjust to the possible impact on sales.

Australia already bans tobacco advertising, smoking in public buildings and the public display of cigarettes in shops. In some states, it is illegal to smoke in a car if a child is a passenger.

Australia wants to cut the number of people who smoke from around 15 percent of the population to 10 percent by 2018. Health authorities say smoking kills 15,000 Australians each year with social and health costs of around $32 billion.

Australia’s tobacco market generated total revenues of around $10 billion in 2009, up from $8.3 billion in 2008, although smoking generally has been in decline. Around 22 billion cigarettes are sold in the country each year.

Contraband seizures

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Hong Kong Customs has smashed two transshipment smuggling cases during the past two days (November 16 and 17) involving unmanifested cargoes violating different ordinances with a total value of about $6.8 million.

Through risk assessment, Customs officers on November 16 selected for cargo examination a 20-foot container declared to contain bath tubs and crafts goods from a river trade vessel destined for Thailand.

Upon inspection, the officers found various contraband goods, including over 310,000 suspected aphrodisiac pills and Chinese medication, 500 cans of refrigerant suspected to be ozone-depleting substances, 498 crossbows suspected to be used as arms, over 50,000 suspected counterfeit vehicle parts with false trade descriptions and 10,000 illicit cigarettes.

In another case on November 17, Customs officers selected for X-ray examination a 40-foot container declared to contain lace and tableware boxes from another river trade vessel destined for Kenya. It was found to contain over 800 unmanifested television sets bearing suspected forged trademarks and/or false trade origin descriptions.

A Customs spokesman said today (November 18) that investigation of both cases was continuing and no arrests had been made so far.

“Hong Kong Customs will continue to fulfill its international obligations by actively detecting contraband and the department will step up efforts in combating transnational smuggling crimes,” he added.

Under the following ordinances, any person found guilty of the following offences can be penalised:

(1) “Importing unmanifested cargoes” is liable to a maximum fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years under the Import and Export Ordinance;

(2) “Importing prohibited article not under and in accordance with an import licence” is liable to a maximum fine of $0.5 million and imprisonment for two years under the Import and Export Ordinance and Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance;

(3) “Dealing in arms by way of trade or business without a dealer’s licence” is liable to a maximum fine of $0.1 million and imprisonment for 10 years under the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance;

(4) “Importing scheduled substances without a licence” is liable to a maximum fine of $1 million and imprisonment for two years under the Ozone Layer Protection Ordinance;

(5) “Importing goods to which a false trade description or forged trade mark is applied” is liable to a maximum fine of $0.5 million and imprisonment for five years under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance; and

(6) “Importing goods to which Dutiable Commodities Ordinance applies” is liable to a maximum fine of $1 million and imprisonment for two years.

Source: HKSAR Government

Doctors urge UK government to ban smoking in cars

LONDON — Britain should introduce a ban on all smoking in cars to protect people from second-hand smoke, a leading doctors’ union said Wednesday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) urged the government to take a “bold and courageous step” and extend current laws to include a ban on smoking in private vehicles.

Britain banned smoking in public places such as pubs and restaurants in 2007 but has avoided legislating for private areas.

“The UK made a huge step forward in the fight against tobacco by banning smoking in all enclosed public places, but more can still be done,” said Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s director of professional activities.

“We are calling on UK governments to take the bold and courageous step of banning smoking in private vehicles. The evidence for extending the smoke-free legislation is compelling.”

Children and elderly people are the worst affected, especially because they are often unable to refuse to take a journey in a smoky car, the BMA said.

It cited research as showing that levels of dangerous toxins in cars can be 23 times higher than in a typical smoky bar.

Around 4,000 adults and 23 children die each year as a result of second-hand smoke in Britain, the BMA said.

The British parliament is due on November 25 to debate a bill calling for a smoking ban in private vehicles when children are present.

Prime Minister David Cameron, a former smoker, has said he supports the smoking ban in public places but is “nervous about going into what people do inside a vehicle.”

British smokers’ lobby group Forest said the evidence that smoking in cars is harmful to other passengers is “weak”.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved

Stub it out

South China Morning Post – 17 Nov. 2011

Peter Singer says the addictive nature of tobacco foils efforts to educate against it, and stronger regulation of the drug is the only way to save lives

US President Barack Obama’s doctor confirmed last month that the president no longer smokes. At the urging of his wife, Michelle, the president resolved to stop smoking in 2006, and has used nicotine replacement therapy to help him. If it took Obama, a man strong-willed enough to achieve the US presidency, five years to kick the habit, it is not surprising that hundreds of millions of smokers find themselves unable to quit.

Worldwide, the number of cigarettes sold – six trillion a year – is at an all-time high. Six million people die each year from smoking – more than from Aids, malaria and traffic accidents combined. Of the 1.3 billion Chinese, more than one in 10 will die from smoking.

Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration announced it would spend US$600 million over five years to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco use. But Robert Proctor of Stanford University argues that using education as one’s only weapon against a highly addictive and often lethal drug is unforgivably insufficient.

“Tobacco control policy,” Proctor says, “too often centres on educating the public, when it should be focused on fixing or eliminating the product.” He points out that we don’t just educate parents to keep toys with lead-based paints away from their children; we ban the use of lead-based paint.

Proctor calls on the FDA to use its new powers to regulate the contents of cigarette smoke to do two things. First, because cigarettes are designed to create and maintain addiction, the FDA should limit the amount of nicotine they contain to a level at which they would cease to be addictive. Smokers who want to quit would then find it easier to do so.

Second, the FDA should bear history in mind. The first smokers did not inhale tobacco smoke; that became possible only in the 19th century, when a new way of curing tobacco made the smoke less alkaline. The FDA should therefore require that cigarette smoke be more alkaline, which would make it less easily inhaled, and so make it harder for cigarette smoke to reach the lungs.

As Proctor says, cigarettes, not guns or bombs, are the deadliest artefacts in the history of civilisation. If we want to save lives and improve health, nothing else that is readily achievable would be as effective as an international ban on the sale of cigarettes.

Some argue that as long as a drug harms only those who choose to use it, the state should let individuals make their own decisions. But tobacco is not such a drug, given the dangers posed by second-hand smoke. Even setting aside the harm that smokers inflict on non-smokers, the free-to-choose argument is unconvincing with a drug as highly addictive as tobacco, and it becomes even more dubious when we consider that most smokers take up the habit as teenagers and later want to quit.

The other argument for the status quo is that prohibiting the sale of tobacco would funnel billions of dollars into organised crime and fuel corruption in law enforcement agencies, while doing little to reduce smoking.

But that may well be a false comparison. After all, many smokers would actually like to see cigarettes banned because, like Obama, they want to quit.

Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. Copyright: Project Syndicate