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March, 2012:

Singapore Moves to Turn Off Shisha Smokers

A brochure from Singapore’s Health Promotion Board aims to drive home the point that shisha smoking has the same health risks as cigarette smoking, including cancer. (ST/HPB Photo)

brochure from Singapore’s Health Promotion Board aims to drive home the point that shisha smoking has the same health risks as cigarette smoking, including cancer. (ST/HPB Photo)


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Singapore. Every three months, Singaporean Collette Claire Miles, 20, meets a few friends at a shisha cafe in Kampong Glam’s Haji Lane in Singapore. There they puff on fruit-flavored tobacco from a shared mouthpiece for an hour or so, in between chats.

The polytechnic graduate, who first smoked shisha when she was 15, said: “They are all my friends, so I trust they are not sick.”

But viruses could abound in the mouthpiece, exposing users to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and influenza, said the Health Promotion Board (HPB). Furthermore, shisha cafes do not regularly wash their equipment, it added.

HPB wants shisha smokers like Miles to know these facts about the Middle Eastern practice of inhaling tobacco smoke that is passed through water, via its new campaign starting tomorrow.

It is banking on the “ick” factor to turn off some shisha smokers who may not bother about the main reason that it is bad: It has the same health risks as cigarette smoking, including cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.

From Friday till April 6, SingTel mobile phone subscribers who come within 1km of shisha hot spot Kampong Glam will receive a multimedia message in the form of an 18-second video.

In it, a man called Tony urges them to “draw deeply on the hose, that will give them a better chance of catching TB or whatever virus that may be left behind by the person before you’.” The video ends by directing viewers to a nine-minute clip which will bring home the dangers of shisha smoking.

Tomorrow, young people in bright yellow T-shirts will distribute flyers against the practice in Kampong Glam.

The campaign launch coincides with the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health at Suntec Singapore, which ends on Saturday.

Though it is not known how many people in Singapore have taken up shisha smoking, there were 44 such cafes in January, up from a single one in 2002. Most are in the Kampong Glam area.

HPB is targeting a shisha hot spot for the first time. Previously, it concentrated its outreach efforts on secondary schools and polytechnics.

It is worried about young people’s mistaken belief, highlighted in focus groups, that shisha smoking is a safe alternative to cigarette smoking due to its fruity smell and lack of tobacco aftertaste, said Dr K. Vijaya, director of HPB’s youth health division.

Another worry is that the number of smokers has grown, from an-all time low of 12.6 per cent of the population in 2004, to 14.3 per cent in 2010. The habit is most prevalent among young adults in the 18 to 39 age group.

This campaign comes after the ban on lighting up was extended to more public areas earlier this month.

Five shisha cafe operators interviewed yesterday think the campaign will not hit their business hard, as less than 10 per cent of their customers smoke shisha.

One of them, Shima Haqeem, 29, said offering shisha is not lucrative, but her cafe does so to retain customers.

“When a big group of 15 to 20 people come and one or two of them ask if we offer shisha, we lose the whole group to other cafes if we reply no.”

When shown the anti-shisha brochure, technician Mohamad Razali, 38, who smokes shisha daily at Kampong Glam after work, was unfazed.

He knows it is bad for health but said: “If I get a disease from shisha smoking, then what can I do?”

He and two shisha cafe operators said that the only way to make people stop shisha smoking is to ban the practice.

But Miles, who had been unaware that shisha smoking had so many adverse health effects, made an immediate decision to quit after reading the brochure.

Four public hospitals with smoking cessation programs have not had patients who seek help to quit shisha smoking.

But smoking tobacco in any form — even shisha smoking which is seen as a social rather than addictive habit — puts one at risk of adverse health consequences, said Associate Professor Loo Chian Min, the head and senior consultant at the department of respiratory and critical care medicine at Singapore General Hospital.

Psychiatrist Munidasa Winslow, who runs a private clinic, warned that former smokers who use shisha, even infrequently, put themselves in danger of relapsing.

Tobacco companies getting creative

BATTLE AGAINST SMOKE. Anti-tobacco advocates aggressively push the line against smoking. AFP Photo.

BATTLE AGAINST SMOKE. Anti-tobacco advocates aggressively push the line against smoking. AFP Photo.

SINGAPORE – The Philippine health department saw through the unbelievably numerous scenes depicting smoking in the movie, “Manila Kingpin: The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga.” It is, an agency official said Thursday, a form of indirect advertising and promotion of cigarettes, which is prohibited by law.

Earlier this week, select journalists from different countries were asking Matthew Myers, president of the US-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), just that: Aren’t movies just depicting reality — that there are people who smoke — when they include such scenes?

Myers’ reply: Characters holding a cigarette or puffing it in a movie scene is “not reality” because majority of people are non-smokers. Including smoking in movie scenes therefore “misleads” the viewing public to think that it represents a habit of more people.

The recently launched Tobacco Atlas shows that only nearly 20% of the world’s adult population smokes cigarettes.

Besides, he said, “You don’t watch movies to see people smoke,” and so those smoking scenes are really unnecessary. There’s no other way to interpret those scenes but as indirect advertisement influenced by the tobacco industry.

The Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 prohibits tobacco companies from placing advertisements in the paid media — TV, cable channels, radio, newspapers and magazines, cinemas, and billboards. The law doesn’t allow them to sponsor public events or hire celebrity endorsers. They cannot engage in any activities that promotes or displays their brands and logos, except inside the retail establishments where the cigarettes are sold.

The ban has since driven tobacco firms to subtle advertising by influencing the content of so-called free media such as news and movies. Newsbreak reported in 2009 that they have been providing “grants” to filmmakers to include smoking scenes in their movies, regardless of whether brands are shown.

“Manila Kingpin,” which starred Laguna Gov E.R. Ejercito, showed actors smoking in half of the movie — in 44 out of 91 scenes. Anthony Roda, acting chief of the government’s National Center for Health Promotion, noted that the film “is filled with tobacco and smoking scenes from the first 4 minutes of the movie up to the last few minutes towards the end. Smoking is also very obvious in the movie’s trailer, music video, print advertisement and poster.”

Roda said smoking scenes “send the wrong message to our children” and “entice people to crave for cigarettes.”

SUBLIMINAL. Smoking in public places has been banned but government regulators find resistance. AFP photo.

Look glamorous

This was exactly Myers’ point. Movies make smoking look glamorous, especially to young people who are vulnerable to such subliminal messages.

Experts support this. In 2011, Simon Racicot of Concordia University in the US said, “Kids who see others smoking are more likely to take up the habit because they don’t perceive cigarettes as unhealthy.”

John Pierce of the University of California in San Diego found in a study in 2005 that, “If movie stars smoke, especially in romantic films, they are effectively encouraging young girls to smoke.”

Myers recalled that the Marlboro Man, the “worst US export,” was conceptualized after psychologists and advertising experts identified the vulnerability of young people — they were looking for an identity and found it fashionable to model the cowboys which they didn’t have in their countries.

As early as 1975, Philip Morris had said in confidential corporate documents that the best time to entice people to smoke is during their youth when “conformity to peer-group norms is greatest.” RJ Reynolds in 1998 said they should target the young because “younger adult smokers are the only source of replacement smokers.”

That is why, Myers said, the youth have to be protected from the tobacco industry’s marketing schemes. In 2008, Myers and CTFK became instrumental in pressuring Philip Morris to withdraw its sponsorship of 2 concerts in Southeast Asia, as this violated the advertising bans in those countries — the Eraserheads reunion concert in the Philippines, and R&B singer Alicia Keys’ show in Indonesia. –

HPB aims to stub out shisha smoking – Channel NewsAsia


Shisha smoking.

SINGAPORE: 12 local and international youth volunteers prowled the lanes of Kampong Glam on Friday evening to spread the word on the harmful effects of shisha smoking.

This is part of the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) first shisha awareness programme in Singapore.

Youth volunteers Camelia Tang and Ridzwan Rahmad are members of the ‘Live It Up Without Lighting Up’ Global Movement, an initiative that aims to empower young people to adopt smoke-free lifestyles.

Armed with specially designed brochures and videos, Camelia and Ridzwan hope that speaking to youth about the ills of shisha smoking will dissuade them from picking up the habit.

Camelia said: “I am taking part in this because I feel it’s quite meaningful to dispel myths before about shisha, the harms of shisha, before it becomes facts that everyone believes in. So what I am doing now is to advocate and to tell people that it’s actually harmful.”

Dr K Vijaya, director, Youth Health Division Health Promotion Board, said: “We know that shisha smoking is a very social event for youth and young adults. So during a typical one hour session of shisha smoking, the shisha smoker would have inhaled smoke equivalent to 100 cigarettes or more.”

According to HPB, water pipe smoking delivers the addictive drug nicotine, and is at least as toxic as cigarette smoke.

However, many believe that shisha smoking is safer than cigarettes, largely due to the fruity smell of shisha smoke, as well as the lack of tobacco aftertaste.

A shisha smoker said: “I didn’t know how harmful it was and when I saw the video about how much germs and rust was inside, I was surprised, cos I thought smoking was worse than shisha.”

There are currently 44 shisha outlets in Singapore.

The Health Promotion Board hopes to reach at least 50,000 people through their six-week campaign

Health worries may cloud fun of shisha smoking fad

Popular pastime in Hong Kong bars seems to have got around restrictions on smoking, but it may not the safe habit that some who indulge think it is

Jennifer Ngo 
Mar 25, 2012

The surge in popularity of shisha pipes has exposed loopholes in Hong Kong’s anti-smoking laws, which is fooling people into believing the water pipes are a healthy alternative to cigarettes.

Instead, studies show an hour spent smoking shisha tobacco, which is generally mixed with molasses and fruit-flavoured, could be equal to smoking 100 cigarettes.

“Depending on the type of shisha tobacco, in one session the smoker can inhale the equivalent of 100 to 400 cigarettes,” said James Middleton, director of non-profit organisation Clear the Air, in an e-mail to the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583announcementsnews) .

One study carried out by Britain’s Department of Health showed that carbon monoxide produced in an average shisha session, about 40 minutes, was four to five times higher than from one cigarette. High levels of carbon monoxide intake could cause brain damage and unconsciousness, the study stated.

The government seems to be unaware that the latest smoking trend is passing through its gates unregulated. Shisha tobacco is possibly neither taxed nor tested for tar and nicotine levels, with the Government Laboratory and the Customs and Excise Department failing to come up with evidence to the contrary.

Middleton said that meant shisha sold and smoked in Hong Kong was unregulated and illegal.

The government also had no figures on how many shisha bars there were in the city.

The Health Department, however, confirmed that water pipes fell within the smoking public health ordinance, were not allowed indoors and should bear health warnings. But it was unable to say if the rules were enforced in bars and restaurants where shisha was available.

Nav Lalji, who imports herbal shisha made with tea leaves, said there were at least 40 shisha bars in Hong Kong, with most having sprung up in the past two years. Herbal tobacco does not need to be declared at customs, so it could even be hand-carried into Hong Kong, he added.

The manager of one shisha bar in Lan Kwai Fong said most bars stuck to tobacco shisha. “You don’t get that kick without [tobacco], but the amount is very small,” he said.

“We used to be the only shisha bar here, but in two to three years this has grown to more than 10,” said the man, who did not wish to be named. His bar is often filled to the brim, especially on weekends.

The bar imports shisha tobacco from the United States, but the manager said he knew some other bars imported theirs from the mainland. He said the bar received shipments through the mail, which were not taxed as the amounts of tobacco in shisha tobacco mixtures were small.

Dr Roland Leung Chung-chuen, a specialist in respiratory medicine, said shisha smokers took in a larger volume of smoke than cigarette smokers, which meant exposure to toxins was amplified.

“Water is not a good filtering system as most chemicals are probably not water soluble,” he said.

He also questioned whether herbal shisha was healthier. ” Even if there is no tobacco, it can still be dangerous and detrimental for health.”

Nothing new about puffing habit
Jennifer Ngo 
Mar 25, 2012

It may be a new fad in Hong Kong, but the shisha – also called the hookah, hubble-bubble, narghile or just waterpipe – dates back to 16th-century India when pipes were made out of coconut shells.

Within a century, as tobacco smoking was spreading throughout the world, the shisha had become firmly established throughout the Middle East and the waterpipe completed its evolution into the shape we know now, according to a World Health Organisation report.

Smoking waterpipes has also been a tradition among the indigenous people of Africa and part of Asia. It is only in recent decades, that the shisha became popular in Europe and North America.

Originally, cannabis leaves were mixed with other herbs and spices and the resulting sticky paste was smoked; the name shisha may have come from the use of hashish in these pipes.

The shisha comprises a head, body waterbowl and a hose. Tobacco is placed in the head then covered with lit charcoal. When a smoker inhales through the hose, the tobacco and charcoal are drawn down the long body to the water bowl and then onto the smoker. Despite popular belief, the water has no filtering effect.

A worker prepares shisha at shisha bar Felfela in Lan Kwai Fong. The Health Department says pipes are not allowed indoors.

Tobacco use is top cause of death in China – World – The Boston Globe

Tobacco use is top cause of death in China


MARCH 22, 2012

BEIJING – Tobacco use killed almost 6 million people last year and was the top cause of death in China, the world’s biggest cigarette market, a report by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation said Wednesday.

Four of every five deaths were in low- and middle-income countries, and 1 billion people may die from tobacco use and exposure this century if current trends continue, according to the report, released in Singapore.

Tobacco-related deaths almost tripled in the past decade amid a 17 percent jump in cigarette production and increased affordability of the cancer-causing products in low-income nations. The tobacco industry generates about $500 billion in annual sales, with the six biggest companies making a combined profit of $35.1 billion in 2010, said Judith Mackay, who co-wrote the report.

“The tobacco industry is among the top-10 most influential industries in the world because of its sheer magnitude of wealth and sales,’’ Mackay, a physician and adviser to the World Lung Foundation and the World Health Organization, said n Tuesday.

Governments have been trying to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global treaty endorsed by more than 174 countries and recommended by the Geneva-based United Nations agency, to curb smoking.

Producers have been increasing efforts to combat those measures with legal challenges in every region of the world, according to the World Lung Foundation.

These include objections to smoke-free legislation, and opposition to advertising bans and graphic warnings of disease on cigarette packs.

Tobacco Plants Turn into Living Vaccine Factories | Inserogen SwiftVax | LiveScience

Tobacco Plants

The startup called Inserogen is turning tobacco plants into biological factories for producing vaccines and medical therapeutics.
CREDIT: University of California, Davis

View full size image

Tobacco use is responsible for almost half a million deaths in the U.S. each year, but the tobacco plant could find redemption as a savior for public health. That’s because a U.S. biotechnology startup has transformed tobacco plants into living factories for making new vaccines and medical treatments.

The “SwiftVax” tobacco plants are designed to act as quick, cheap biological factories for churning out bioengineered proteins needed for human or animal vaccines. Faster vaccine manufacturing could allow the world to respond rapidly to future outbreaks of infectious diseases — a problem it faced while racing to stockpile vaccine during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

“Thousands of lives and millions of dollars were lost because current technologies for production were not able to provide vaccines fast enough,” said Lucas Arzola, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at the University of California, Davis. “The use of tobacco plants as biofactories of vaccines can provide a solution to this problem.”

Arzola’s startup, called Inserogen, has already begun lining up bioengineered products made by the SwiftVax tobacco plants. First, it’s creating a vaccine for the poultry illness called Newcastle disease — an infectious disease capable of rapidly spreading among chickens or other farm birds.

Second, a therapeutic protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) could help human patients suffering from the genetic disorder known as AAT deficiency, because the missing protein typically protects the lungs and liver from damage. But Arzola envisions the SwiftVax technology making a wide variety of vaccines and proteins used in medical treatments.

“The technology is easy to customize, and can be engineered to produce not only vaccines, but virtually any recombinant protein,” Arzola told InnovationNewsDaily. “A unique aspect of our technology is that we are repurposing tobacco, a plant that is viewed as negative, for a positive purpose: manufacturing vaccines and therapeutics to improve quality of life.”

Arzola originally founded Inserogen alongside fellow Ph.D. candidates Oscar Ortega-Rivera and Michelle Lozada-Contreras, as well as Karen McDonald, a professor of chemical engineering at UC-Davis. Inserogen went on to win first place among 40 teams competing in the Big Bang! Business Plan Competition at UC Davis in 2010.

The startup’s breakthroughs have built upon years of funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation — it was accepted into the new Innovation Corps Program that awards a $50,000 grant to university teams. More recently, it received a $20,000 E-Team Grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) to do a proof-of-concept for producing an animal vaccine.

Inserogen will also represent one of 14 student teams participating in the NCIIA’s Open Minds exhibition being held at the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco on Friday, March 23. The startup team hopes to share tips with fellow entrepreneurs and perhaps find interested collaborators or investors.

Arzola had several tips for fellow entrepreneurs: build a team with complementary skills, don’t be afraid of talking about the startup idea, and get involved with supporting organizations such as NCIIA.

“You must seek advice from experienced individuals who have built a similar company or have commercialized a similar technology or product before,” Arzola said. “They have been there, done that, and you can learn a lot from their successes and mistakes. You will be surprised by their willingness to mentor and to provide valuable advice.”

This story was provided by InnovationNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. You can follow InnovationNewsDaily Senior Writer Jeremy Hsu on Twitter @ScienceHsu. Follow InnovationNewsDaily on Twitter @News_Innovation, or on Facebook.

Cigarette machines in Kyoto, Japan. Global profits for big companies totalled $35bn last year, while smoking deaths reached 6 million.

Cigarette machines in Kyoto Japan. but excludes China

Revenues from global tobacco sales are estimated to be close to $500bn (£316bn), generating combined profits for the six largest firms of $35.1bn – more than $1,100 a second.

Much of this profit is ultimately channelled to pension and insurance investors in the UK – British American Tobacco andImperial are two of the largest companies listed on the London stock market.

London’s role as a hub of the multinational tobacco trade is in part a legacy of the British empire. While BAT sells very few cigarettes in the UK, for example, it is a big player in many emerging economies. In Turkey it sells Viceroy and Pall Mall brands; its Kent cigarettes are big sellers in Russia, while Gold Flake and John Player Gold Leaf are popular in Pakistan. Rothmans in Nigeria and Kent and Montana in Iran are also important for BAT. India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Iraq, Egypt and Yemen are also promising markets for the company.

The big four tobacco firms – Philip Morris, BAT, Imperial and Japan Tobacco – insist they do not recruit new smokers in developing countries; rather, they grow sales by converting existing smokers of local tobacco products to their stable of aspirational Western brands – often “safer” products, they say.

British American Tobacco spokesperson said: “There is constant speculation that we’re breaking into emerging markets to avoid regulation. But this is not true. We didn’t invent smoking, nor ‘export’ it anywhere, and we have been in many of these developing markets for hundreds of years – in the case of Africa, India and Brazil, since the early 1900s.

“As disposable income grows around the world, particularly in developing countries, more smokers are upgrading to premium brands rather than low quality local alternatives – and this doesn’t just apply to cigarettes.”

And yet almost 80% of the 6 million people killed last year by tobacco-related illnesses were from low- and middle-income countries, according to new research from health lobby campaigners.

The study identified tobacco as the No 1 killer in China, where smoking is said to cause 1.2 million deaths annually. It is also blamed for more than a third of male deaths in Kazakhstan and in Turkey – other major smoking nations.

China accounts for about 40% of the global market for tobacco. The big four western firms have been eager to gain a foothold, but the industry remains firmly in state control.

The New Tobacco Atlas – produced by the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society and published in Singapore at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health – found that tobacco-related deaths had tripled in the last decade: they now account for more than 15% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths.

The study indicated cigarettes had become an average of 21.7% more affordable in low and middle-income countries.

Health campaigners insist the industry is in fact lobbying hard to block international standards on tobacco control. “The tobacco industry thrives on ignorance of the true harms of tobacco and using misinformation to subvert health policies that could save millions,” said Peter Baldini, chief executive of the World Lung Foundation.

Smoking is a drag on world economy – Tobacco Atlas

Reuters, Wednesday March 21 2012

By Mark Tay

SINGAPORE, March 21 (Reuters) – Smoking costs the world 1 to 2 percent of its gross domestic product each year and could kill about 1 billion people this century, authors of the fourth edition of the Tobacco Atlas said at the book’s launch in Singapore.

The economic losses include direct and indirect costs such as healthcare spending for treating smoking-related illnesses and the value of lost productivity, say the authors of the book, which is published by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation.

The cost of smoking could be even greater, as co-author Hana Ross said it was difficult to measure intangible costs like the suffering of family members or pain felt by patients.

“During the 20th century, tobacco killed 100 million people. The estimate is that in the 21st century, tobacco will kill 1 billion people,” lead author Michael Eriksen said at the launch of the book at a global health conference in Singapore.

The world’s population has grown by more than four times in the last century, passing the 7 billion mark last year.

Eriksen said there are about 1 billion tobacco users around the world and 600,000 non-smokers die each year because of exposure to second-hand smoke – 75 percent of them women and children.

China is by far the world’s largest consumer of cigarettes, with 38 percent of them in 2009, and saw costs due to smoking more than quadruple to $28.9 billion between 2000 and 2008, the authors said in the book.

“China has quite a problem because the tobacco industry is part of the government,” co-author Judith Mackay said, noting that Beijing’s move to raise tobacco taxes two years ago did not change the purchase price of cigarettes but merely manipulated the way taxes were paid to the government.

“China is in a process of change. It needs a little bit of the stick but quite a lot of encouragement to really take the process forward,” Mackay said.

The world’s most populous nation is one of the 174 countries to have signed and ratified the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Some countries, including the United States and Argentina, have signed but not ratified, while Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe have done neither.

Eriksen described such treaties as “toothless”.

“Any treaty is written by the member states who are the ones who are going to have to ratify it, so it is not in their interest to have penalties,” he said.

“If you ratify and don’t do anything, there is no financial penalty, which is wrong because there should be teeth. It is a life and death situation.” (Editing by Robert Birsel and Jon Boyle)

Tobacco duty up 37p, tax on alcohol 2% above inflation – 50p top tax rate cut

12:07pm Wednesday 21st March 2012

By Nigel Burton

The Chancellor risked the wrath of the British people by cutting tax for millionaires at the same time as warning workers on lower incomes they may have to work longer.

George Osborne promised a simpler tax system, far reaching reforms, a system where millions on low pay are lifted out of paying tax altogether.

Among the major announcements was a new pensions system that will be easier to understand and a major reduction in corporation tax.

Alcohol duty will rise by 2% above the rate of inflation as part of automatic increases implemented in 2008 while duty on tobacco rises 5%. The result is over 5p extra on a pint and a staggering 37p on a packet of cigarettes. Road tax increases by inflation and the increase in fuel duty already proposed will go ahead later this year. Duty was frozen for road hauliers.

Perhaps most controversially, the 50p top rate of tax for the richest in society has been cut to 45p from 2013.

He pressed ahead with the move – unpopular with some Liberal Democrats – after revealing that an official report by the taxman had found it was raising ‘‘next to nothing’’.

He also reduced proposed cuts to child benefits paid to the better off.

But he increased the threshold at which everyone starts paying tax to £9,205, claiming millions of working people would be £220 a year better off as a result.

The cut in the top rate of income tax to 45p in the pound for all income over £150,000 from April 2013 was countered with a hike in stamp duty on homes worth over £2 million from 5% to 7%.

The Chancellor also confirmed a crackdown on various tax loopholes used by the rich including a 15% stamp duty rate on homes held through companies.

Overall, Mr Osborne claimed his measures would raise five times more from the wealthy than the 50% top rate introduced by Labour.

The Chancellor also watered down plans to withdraw child benefit from rich families. Child benefit will only be withdrawn if someone in the house earns more than £50,000 – and only gradually.

This means an extra 750,000 families earning substantially more than the average wage will keep some form of child benefit.

He said: “We will earn our way in the world by providing new growth friendly planning rules.”

However, he warned of the risks posed by the Eurozone crisis and Iran. He said the Office for Budgetary Responsibility expected the UK economy to avoid a recession. The OBR’s growth figure for 2012 is 0.8 per cent and 2 per cent next year, and 2.7 per cent in 2014.

According to the OBR, unemployment will peak at 8.7 per cent this year before falling back.

The claimant count estimate revised down by around 100,000 for each of the next four years, peaking at 1.67 million this year, rather than the predicted 1.8 million.

Inflation is expected to fall to 1.9 per cent next year – just below the Government’s 2 per cent target.

The deficit is also falling.

The borrowing forecast has been revised downwards by £1 billion to £126 billion for 2011/12, then £120 billion in 2012/13, £98 billion in 2013/14, then £75 billion and £52 billion, reaching £21 billion by 2016/17.

“We must stick to the course,” said Mr Osborne. “There will be no giveaways today.

“Some would have been tempted to spend the windfall.

“I do not propose to spend it. Instead, I have used it to pay off debt.”

However, he warned that millions of workers may have to work longer before they can retire.

Mr Osborne told MPs: ‘‘I can confirm today that there will be an automatic review of the state pension age to ensure it keeps pace with increases in longevity.’’ That raised the prospect of ever long working lives.

Mr Osborne also set a target for savings in the welfare budget of £10 billion by 2016.

“We will also maintain our control on welfare spending.

“The passing of the Welfare Reform Act two weeks ago was an historic moment.

“I pay tribute to my Right Honourable Friend the Work and Pensions Secretary and to all my coalition colleagues for supporting him against determined opposition from those who defend unlimited welfare.

“But even with the Act, the welfare budget is set to rise to consume one third of all public spending.

“If nothing is done to curb welfare bills further, then the full weight of the spending restraint will fall on departmental budgets.

“The next Spending Review will have to confront this.

“So I am today publishing analysis that shows that if in the next Spending Review we maintain the same rate of reductions in departmental spending as we have done in this review, we would need to make savings in welfare of £10 billion by 2016.

“We will also address the rising costs of an ageing population, and the burden this places on future generations.

“We will be publishing a White Paper on social care.

I’ve also said that we would consider proposals to manage future increases in the state pension age, beyond the increases already announced.

“I can confirm today that there will be an automatic review of the state pension age to ensure it keeps pace with increases in longevity.”

One area where future government spending is expected to be lower than planned is Afghanistan.

Mr Osborne also announced a £100m improvement in Forces’ accommodation.Forces serving overseas will also receive 100 per cent relief on the average council tax bill, and the families welfare grant will be doubled.

Among the transport infrastructure announcements was a plan to extend the electrification of the Trans-Pennine route.

The Get Britain Building Fund, which provides finance for construction, is to be expanded. The Finance Partnership is to be expanded by 20 per cent and the Enterprise Finance Guarantee will also be expanded.

The UK must ‘‘confront’’ the lack of airport capacity in the south east, said Mr Osborne. Announcements are due later this summer.

The Government is to support £150 million of tax increment financing to help councils promote development and provide an extra £270 million for the Growing Places fund.

Ultra-fast broadband and wi-fi is to be pioneered in ten of Britain’s biggest cities, including Newcastle.

New tax breaks and incentives for the film, animation and video games industry were also announced.

To roars of approval the Chancellor joked: “I intend to keep Wallace and Gromit here, where they belong.”


© Copyright 2001-2012 Newsquest Media Group

Customs swoops on illicit cigarette smuggling syndicate in Sai Kung

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Hong Kong Customs today (March 20) swooped on an illicit cigarette smuggling syndicate in Sai Kung.On board a lorry and a van, a total of 87 boxes containing about 1.04 million sticks of duty-not-paid cigarette were found. The total value is about $2.6 million with a duty potential of about $1.7 million. In the operation, three men (aged from 21 to 34) were arrested, a lorry and a van were seized.

At about 1.30pm, while conducting an anti-illicit cigarette operation in Sai Kung area, Customs officers of Anti-illicit-cigarette Investigation Division spotted a suspicious lorry inside Tseng Tau Tsuen. Three men were seen off-loading some carton boxes from the lorry to a van. Customs officers then took action and found 87 boxes of illicit cigarette. Three men were arrested immediately.

Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in dealing with, possession, selling and buying illicit cigarettes commits an offence. The maximum penalty on conviction is imprisonment for two years and a fine of $1 million.

Customs will continue to take stringent enforcement against cigarette smuggling activities to protect government revenue.

Members of the public are urged to report any suspected illicit cigarette activities to the Customs’ 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

Source: HKSAR Government