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November 17th, 2011:

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