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March, 2012:

FDA: Big Tobacco must tell you what you’re smoking – AlertNet

FDA: Big Tobacco must tell you what you’re smoking

30 Mar 2012 18:38

Source: reuters // Reuters

By Anna Yukhananov

WASHINGTON, March 30 (Reuters) – U.S. health regulators said on Friday tobacco companies must report how much formaldehyde, nicotine or any of 18 other harmful chemicals are in their products, as part of a larger government effort to regulate the tobacco industry.

Another draft rule places limits on misleading advertising that attempts to show some tobacco products are less harmful than others, such as “tar-free” or “light,” without providing evidence these claims actually make products safer.

The guidelines are part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s enforcement of a 2009 law that gives it broad authority to oversee the manufacturing and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

“Tobacco products, in this country at least, are the only mass-consumed products that consumers don’t know what’s in them,” Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, told reporters.

“Today, we are ending that era.”

Some 8 million Americans have smoking-related illnesses, and as many as 443,000 Americans die each year from smoking-related causes such as lung cancer. Smoking is estimated to be the No. 1 preventable cause of illness and death in the United States, and contributes about $96 billion each year to health care costs.

The guidelines would force companies to tell the FDA whether their products contain any of 20 harmful or potentially harmful ingredients found in tobacco or tobacco smoke, and the amount of each.

The ingredients won’t go on the packaging; rather, the FDA would compile information for each product and provide it to the public by April 2013. The FDA said it hasn’t yet decided how it will present the information.

These 20 chemicals are the easiest to test for immediately, but the FDA will later make companies provide information for a full list of 93 chemicals.

Deyton, head of the FDA’s tobacco center, said most people are aware of the dangers of smoking in general, but may not know specifically which chemicals in tobacco are harmful, and why.

For example, ingesting carbon monoxide – produced any time you burn something, and present in tobacco smoke – is known to increase the risk of heart disease and lung disease, the FDA said.

Besides informing the public, regulators said they hope the rules would encourage tobacco companies like Lorillard Inc and Altria Group, parent of Philip Morris USA, to make their products safer and less addictive.

Representatives from the companies could not be immediately reached for comment.

The announcement comes only a month after the government suffered a blow in court in trying to enforce another tobacco law that requires companies to put large graphic warnings on cigarette packaging. A U.S. District Court judge sided with the companies and ruled the labels were unconstitutional. The United States is appealing the decision.

The second draft rule requires FDA approval for companies to sell products they claim to be less harmful than typical tobacco products, known as modified risk tobacco products.

The companies must submit scientific studies and analyses to the FDA in order to prove their tobacco products actually benefit public health, or reduce harm.

To counter a decline in smoking in the United States, cigarette makers have focused on smokeless tobacco and other “modified risk” products. (Reporting by Anna Yukhananov, additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Richard Chang)

Wen fires alcohol, tobacco warning (South China Morning Post)

Bloomberg in Beijing
Mar 28, 2012
Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to ban the use of public funds to buy cigarettes and “high-end” alcohol, warning that corruption may endanger the Communist Party’s survival.

Wen, at a State Council meeting yesterday, also said state-owned enterprises and agencies must strictly control funds used to renovate luxury office buildings or buy artwork, a statement on the government’s website said.

“Corruption is the biggest danger facing the ruling party,” Wen said, according to the statement. “If not dealt with properly, the problem may change the nature of, or terminate, the political regime.”

Wen, who didn’t give specific cases or identify any officials, earlier this month said the mainland must continue overhauling its political system or risk a return to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.

Consumption by government officials using public funds has helped push up the prices of products such as China Kweichow Moutai 106-proof liquor. Mao-tai, the sorghum-based liquor that Premier Zhou Enlai used to toast visiting US president Richard Nixon in 1972, sometimes sells for twice the maximum retail price set by the company.

A half-litre bottle of Flying Moutai, the company’s best-selling brand, costs 1,980 yuan (HK$2,430), the Sam’s Club online shopping website shows.

China Kweichow Moutai fell 6.4 per cent in Shanghai trading, the biggest drop in two months. Rival Wuliangye Yibin dropped 6.5 per cent in Shenzhen, also the biggest drop since January.

Wen, due to step down next March after his second five-year term, said yesterday government agencies must publish detailed information about spending related to car purchases and use, and overseas travel.

State-owned enterprises and financial institutions should not sponsor events unrelated to their businesses, he said.

Sun Liping, a sociology professor at Tsinghua University, said the number of mainland protests, including strikes and demonstrations, rose to at least 180,000 in 2010, double the number four years earlier.

Smoking Kills: Child Labour on Malawi’s Tobacco Farms | Think Africa Press

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Smoking Kills: Child Labour on Malawi’s Tobacco Farms

Tobacco is Malawi’s top export but at the cost of its children’s health and education.



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A young girl in Malawi.

Landlocked and with approximately 80% of its population living in rural areas, Malawi’s economy is largely structured around its agricultural sector. Agriculture accounts for more than one third of the Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 90% of its export revenues. Tobacco alone comprises over half of Malawi’s exports.

While large-scale cultivation of tobacco has historically been concentrated in the United States, today approximately 75% of the world’s tobacco is harvested in developing countries. Malawi is now one of the world’s five largest producers, and it appeals to cigarette companies “largely due to low tariffs on unmanufactured tobacco imports, cheap labour and lack of regulations.”

But although the tobacco industry brings in a significant amount of foreign capital, the rapid growth of Malawi’s largely unregulated tobacco industry raises questions about the health and wellbeing of the industry’s workers.

Child labour

The transfer of tobacco cultivation to countries such as Malawi has increased the profits enjoyed by cigarette companies. However, a portion of these profits is derived from the use of child labour. According to Professor Stanton Glantz, “replacing child labour with adults paid the minimum wage would increase the production costs by $10 million per year in Malawi alone.”

Although Plan International’s campaign against the use of child labour in Malawi has successfully deterred larger farms, small-scale farms continue to exploit children. A study by the group revealed the true extent of such labour, finding that “37% of children aged between 5 and 15 were involved in labour”, and that “of these, 53.5% worked in agriculture – including fishing, forestry and hunting – but most were working in tobacco production”. Children earn approximately $0.17 for working 12-hour days.

The Malawian government has been particularly lenient in prosecuting those found to be employing children. According to MacDonald Mumba, Plan International’s Malawi advisor, “over the past two years, only 49 farm owners have been prosecuted in Malawi…most received a $34 fine.” Although Malawi is a member of the International Labour Organisation, the government appears to be prioritising the procurement of foreign capital over protecting the rights of the country’s children.

Progress in realising the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in particular goal two (the achievement of universal primary education), is being undermined as the government turns a blind eye to the 80,000 children working illegally on tobacco farms. Malawi’s potential for reaching goal two has previously been characterised as “possible to achieve if some changes are made”, but if the government fails to redress the violation of child labour laws, further progress will be jeopardised.

It must be noted, however, that many of the children working on tobacco farms do so to supplement their families’ meagre earnings. In order to successfully eliminate child labour then, a holistic approach including the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, must be undertaken.

Health Concerns

The health of those working in the tobacco fields are also at risk. Due to the lack of protective clothing, many of those working on the farms suffer from Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS). According to the World Health Organisation, symptoms of GTS include “severe headaches, abdominal cramps, muscle weakness, breathing difficulties, diarrhoea and vomiting, high blood pressure and fluctuations in heart rate”. It is estimated that people working in tobacco fields without adequate protection absorb close to 54 milligrams of nicotine per day. That is equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes.

While GTS is dangerous to all, it is particularly hazardous to children. A child’s brain is particularly susceptible to nicotine absorption. As Neal Benowitz, Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry and Biopharmaceutical Sciences, explains “numerous animal studies have shown that administration of nicotine during childhood and adolescence produces long-lasting changes in brain structure and function, as well as behavioural changes, that are not seen when nicotine is administered to adults. Thus the brain of a child or adolescent is particularly vulnerable to long-lasting adverse neurobehavioral effects of nicotine exposure.”

The Malawian government’s continued prioritisation of foreign currency earnings over its commitment to abolishing child labour has serious repercussions. Not only does the government’s leniency directly contradict its commitment to the MDGs, but it also imperils the health of child workers. Abolishing child labour in Malawi will only be achieved through a multilateral commitment that includes the government, the growers and the purchasers of Malawi’s tobacco.

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Pakistan raids shisa

KARACHI: Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) has tightened the noose on restaurants serving sheesha, followed by a notification by the home department on Monday.

According to the KMC commissioner, Roshan Ali Sheikh, KMC raided two places, Damascus and Thali Inn, and confiscated 10 sheeshas.

The home department has banned sheesha under Section 144. However, the issue is not new. In 2009, the Sindh government?s health department issued Statutory Regulatory Order of 2009 which declared all public places to be completely smoke-free. It did not even allow designated smoking areas at work or public places. In May 2010, the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed a resolution against smoking sheesha in restaurants and public places. The government had issued notices to 22 restaurants in June 2011, but then became lax about it.

Meanwhile, the joints had continued to serve sheesha in rude defiance of the official orders issued.

However, this time, Commissioner Sheikh ordered his deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners of all the five districts to crackdown against, not only against the cafes but sheesha smokers as well.

While expressing his gratitude to the provincial government for introducing the ban, Sheikh said that the city administration was already raiding places because of the large number of complaints being received by them from concerned parents, who argued that smoking sheesha was often a precursor to the use of hard drugs. He said that a grand operation will be launched later this week, a plan has already been outlined for indiscriminate action against anyone involved in flouting the ban. ?We will not to succumb to any pressure whatsoever till all the sheesha joints are closed for good,? he vowed. ?This is a serious health hazard as identified by Pakistan Medical Association.?

Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2012.

Breathing new force into smoke laws

SCMP – 28 March 2012

Beijing is weighing up amendments to regulations that would ban smoking in all indoor public places

Beijing city authorities are considering implementing a complete ban on smoking in indoor public spaces, a move that some see as the precursor to a similar ban nationwide.

The Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress has released draft amendments to the capital’s anti-smoking regulations for public consultation. They would prohibit smoking in lifts, corridors and underground passages in all public places, as well as at outdoor bus stations and sport venues.

The draft marks out indoor workplaces, public transport waiting rooms and vehicles, and indoor public places as areas that must be free of smoking. Smokers would also face fines of between 50 and 200 yuan for smoking in places such restaurants, museums and hospitals, where smoking has been banned since 2008. The current fine is 10 yuan.

Managers of public spaces may also be fined between 10,000 and 30,000 yuan if they fail to persuade smokers to put out their cigarettes.

Another amendment would require tobacco retailers to halt sales on World No Tobacco Day, which falls on May 31 each year.

Progress on tobacco control has been slow in Beijing, even though the city introduced its first ban on smoking in public places in 1995 and another in 2008 ahead of the Olympics.

On May 1 last year, the mainland introduced a ban on smoking in indoor public places. However, workplaces were not included and the ban, initiated by the Ministry of Health, has proved difficult to enforce. A survey in November found that just one in five restaurants in Beijing was obeying the rules.

“China has hundreds of millions of smokers and many tobacco producers are state-run. I don’t think the ban can work effectively,” said Ginessa Huang, who works as a clerk in Shenzhen, said. “I’m a second-hand smoker every day in the office.”

Shanghai introduced a smoking ban covering most public places in 2010, but it is not well enforced. Harbin , the capital of Heilongjiang province , banned smoking in all public indoor areas, including workplaces, in May last year.

Shisha pipe trend poses health risk

SCMP – 27 March 2012

Our trend-conscious society has a habit of embracing what is fashionable first and thinking of the consequences later. Most times, it is just a new clothing line or electronic gadget, so there are minimal, if any, risks. Shisha tobacco does not fall into such a category. The increasing prevalence of bars and restaurants that offer customers water pipes to smoke the fruit-flavoured substance raises questions about whether authorities are aware of the potential health hazards.

An apparent absence of efforts to educate and regulate would suggest not. This is despite overseas studies showing that, depending on the tobacco used and smoking method, a shisha pipe is as bad for health as a cigarette – and perhaps dramatically worse. Although the smoke first passes through water from a bottle, it still contains the carcinogens present in nicotine that can cause respiratory problems, heart disease and cancer. Carbon monoxide levels are so high that World Health Organisation research indicates a usual 40-minute session could be equivalent to smoking several hundred cigarettes.

The risks are not made clear to people patronising places offering shisha pipes. While cigarette packets by law have to carry health warnings, no such provision would seem to be enforced for shisha paraphernalia. The anecdotal evidence of bar and restaurant owners is that it is brought into Hong Kong in such small quantities that customs officials are not usually involved. The one saving grace is that the ban on indoor smoking at least appears to be observed.

Research into shisha smoking is not as extensive as for cigarettes, so there is no conclusive proof that the long-term effects are the same. That lack of evidence and the use of tobacco flavours that smell sweet and taste smooth have led to perceptions that it is less harmful than cigarettes and perhaps not at all. But credible studies reveal otherwise. With authorities not even knowing where shisha smoking is on offer, it is time they paid closer attention to the trend.

Smoker gets jail sentence for assault

March 26, 2012

A 48-year-old man who assaulted a tobacco control inspector has been sentenced to two months in prison, suspended for 12 months.

Kwun Tong Magistrates’ Courts also fined the man $1,000 each for obstructing tobacco control inspectors in the exercise of their duty, and for smoking in a no-smoking area.

The incident took place in Kai Tin Shopping Centre in Lam Tin on January 28.

Police arrested and charged him after he assaulted the inspector.

Fight may cost Big Tobacco a packet

"The success in Australia is going to be the success of the world" ... Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organisation.

“The success in Australia is going to be the success of the world” … Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organisation. Photo: Simin Wang

Australia’s plain-pack laws are pivotal in the global battle to cut smoking, writes Amy Corderoy.

The troops are rallying. And as their tiny general takes the stage, the feeling of victory in the air is palpable.

Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organisation, will fight this battle to the death.

She addresses her enemy: ”You run a killing and intimidating industry, but not in a crush-proof box. The number and fortitude of your public health enemies will damage your health – tobacco industry.”

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Her army, equipped with research papers and funding grants, gathered this week for the World Conference on Tobacco or Health.

And all their eyes are on Australia.

”The success in Australia is going to be the success of the world,” Chan tells the audience filling the vast ballroom of Singapore’s Suntec Convention Centre. ”It has to be a success because many countries are looking to Australia for leadership and inspiration.”

”Can we allow this to fail?” she asks.

”No,” the crowd mumbles.

”You are soft today, say it again!”


The stakes are high. Tobacco campaigners used to quote the shocking figure that in the 20th century tobacco killed 100 million people, more than all wars combined. Based on present smoking rates, in the 21st century 1 billion people will die from tobacco-related illnesses.

When federal laws requiring plain packaging for all tobacco products come into force in December, Australia will become the first country in the world to completely ban all tobacco advertising.

Public health advocates believe the legislation could be the beginning of the end for Big Tobacco – and that thought must also have crossed the mind of the industry.

There are now three separate court cases fighting the laws. In February last year, Philip Morris Asia bought Philip Morris Australia, allowing it four months later to launch a suit claiming the legislation violated a trade agreement with Hong Kong.

The company, along with British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and JT International, have launched an action in the High Court claiming the move is unconstitutional.

And Ukraine, a country in which nearly half of 13-year-old boys and one in three 13-year-old girls have tried cigarettes, has begun proceedings against Australia under World Trade Organisation laws.

Anti-tobacco campaigners have long argued that sleek market-researched cigarette packets are the last method tobacco companies can use to promote their brand.

The director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute and a professor of health policy at Curtin University, Mike Daube, says he has no doubt the fight against tobacco is being won in developed countries. ”For the first 20 to 25 years I worked in tobacco, people would be saying: ‘You’ve failed, you’ve failed.’ Now they’re asking: ‘What’s the secret to your success?”’

This week Daube was awarded the equivalent of the Oscar of public health campaigning, the American Cancer Society’s Luther L Terry distinguished career award.

His personal success, and popularity, he can’t walk five metres around the conference centre without a wave hello or a friendly word, reflects Australia’s golden moment on the global stage.

The Department of Health and Ageing and Victorian researcher Melanie Wakefield were also recognised, meaning Australians took a third of the award’s prizes.

Daube believes that by 2025 only 5 per cent of Australians will smoke, down from 15 per cent now and 30 per cent in the late ’80s. ”We are definitely winning,” he says.

Daube argues the court challenges are to delay plain packaging, and they will not be able to stop its implementation. And as soon as there is a major victory a domino effect is likely, with Britain, New Zealand and some Nordic countries likely to follow.

All it takes is for countries to appoint health ministers willing to take on the fight. And it’s for that reason the tobacco industry will use everything it’s got to fight this to the bitter end, Daube says.

Perhaps unluckily for them, Jane Halton is no stranger to a fight. Before moving to health after the 2001 election, the secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing ran the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and survived brutal political scrutiny of her role in the ”children overboard” affair.

She says that in her 30-year career in the public service she has never seen anything like the tobacco industry’s response to plain packaging. ”It’s unprecedented.”

Since April 2010, her department has received 54 Freedom-Of-Information requests on the policy, 53 of which were from the tobacco industry. Unlike most requests, which are finely crafted to hone in on a particular document, they seem designed to cause the department as much trouble as possible.

”This is not a quest for information, this is a very deliberate action to actually drain my resources, there’s no two ways about it,” Halton says.

After months of negotiations the claim is often withdrawn or modified, which can begin the costly process all over again. Halton says every line of redaction is appealed. The requests often involve calling back hundreds of files from archives and thousands of documents.

”They might ask for all documents pertaining to a particular topic for a 10-year period,” she says.

One FOI request from British American Tobacco alone cost her department $643,000 to process.

Halton, who describes Chan as a personal friend, seems comfortable on the world stage. But the second-generation career public servant (her father, Charles Halton, ran the Department of Transport under Gough Whitlam), is probably not used to the role of bureaucrat-as-hero she has been bestowed in Singapore.

She says the department is aware of the intense international interest focused on plain packaging and just why the tobacco industry is so worried about it.

”It’s not that hard to work out that the techniques that we have been using, which have had a demonstrated effect in our country, can and will be picked up by other countries,” Halton says. ”Ultimately there is a logical end point to that, which is why tobacco companies are fighting so hard.”

Australia is committed to achieving a smoking rate of 10 per cent and is one of several countries that are on the cutting edge in terms of their low smoking rates.

”I would be delighted if the rate of smoking in Australia was zero. I’m not sure ultimately what the final number will be, I don’t have a crystal ball,” Halton says.

She says developing new anti-smoking measures is as important today as it ever was. ”There is a new generation coming forward every year who are the potential customers of Big Tobacco,” she says.

And that is what keeps the battle going. For every adult that quits there is a teenager waiting to take their place. For every developed country that implements anti-tobacco measures there is a developing country with an emerging market ready to be tapped.

In the Solomon Islands, more than 41 per cent of the population smoke. In Nauru, it’s almost 53 per cent. Chinese men alone smoke one-third of the world’s cigarettes.

On a typically sweltering day 10 years ago on Singapore’s Orchard Road, a glamorous young woman paused for a moment, gazing in a shop window. She reached into her designer bag and pulled out a white tipped ”mild seven light” cigarette.

Joanna Koh was 18 when she started smoking, on her breaks at work. ”I liked the sense of relaxation and fun, we were young and we could do whatever we wanted,” she says.

In Singapore, Koh is the perfect example of what anti-tobacco campaigners fear most. Young, educated women who are fashion conscious and now have money to burn on the deadly habit. The difference is Joanna eventually quit and has joined a Singapore government campaign to convince other young people to do the same.

Singapore reached a historic low smoking rate of 12.6 per cent in 2004, before creeping back up to 14.3 per cent in 2010, and in that time the number of female smokers increased more rapidly than male smokers.

While the overall number of women smokers is still low (a little more than 4 per cent compared with almost 25 per cent among men), it will take only a small increase in women picking up the habit to have a massive public health impact.

”We are very concerned about young women smoking primarily because the industry is targeting women,” says Susan Mercado, the team leader of the Tobacco Free Initiative in the WHO’s western Pacific regional office. Her job is to help the 37 countries in the region, including Australia, to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the bible of tobacco control. Mercado says increasing prosperity is a double-edged sword for women, as they become a bigger target for the tobacco industry.

”They know that women in this day and age, especially in Asia, they have got jobs, they are independent, and they see women as their new market, they are very aggressive,” she says.

Mercado says tobacco marketing links smoking with freedom and independence, and cigarettes and their packets are often brightly coloured or decorated with popular characters such as Hello Kitty.

”The cigarette packet is becoming a battleground now and the tobacco industry doesn’t want to let go of that,” she says. ”Plain packaging for us is a cutting-edge intervention – I think it’s inspiring a lot of countries to go above and beyond what they are already doing.”

Mercado says as the tobacco industry has lost credibility in its fight with public health advocates, it has shifted its tactics. ”The industry is moving towards trade and litigation and away from our area of comfort, which is public health,” she says.

The WHO is now being forced to take on the role of legal defender, to add lawyers and trade experts to its panels of doctors and health professionals, with the backing of rich philanthropists such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies. The latter this week announced $US220 million ($211.5 million) to go to anti-tobacco campaigns, bringing its total contribution to more than $US600 million.

Amy Corderoy attended the World Conference on Tobacco or Health courtesy of the Singapore Health Promotion Board.

Read more:

New Tobacco Atlas Estimates U.S. $35 Billion Tobacco Industry Profits and Almost 6 Million Annual Deaths

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