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January 9th, 2014:

SCMP Editorials: China must do more to discourage its people from smoking; Cadres’ smoking ban good but not enough, Chinese media say

from the SCMP Editorial:

After Xi Jinping’s crackdown on official extravagance, many mainland officials must have felt that smoking remained one of their few pleasures. It is also a habit shared by more than 300 million compatriots. This helps support more than 20 million growers on the land, 500,000 employed in factories and 10 million involved in retailing, but it also kills an estimated 1.2 million a year through related causes. The Communist Party’s Central Committee and State Council are therefore to be commended for asking officials to “take the lead” in toeing the line on a smoking ban in public places. Flouting of the ban by officials has made a mockery of China’s ratification in 2005 of the WHO framework convention on tobacco control, which includes a ban on smoking in indoor workplaces and public areas. How can smokers be expected to take it seriously?

The tallying of the social and fiscal benefits claimed by the state tobacco monopoly against attempts to quantify the terrible health and economic costs is bizarre. In a rare regulatory filing last year, China National Tobacco Corp revealed it made more than 300 million yuan (HK$381 million) a day in net profit in 2010. The industry paid an estimated 753 billion yuan in industrial-commercial taxes in 2011. No matter how profitable it may be, governments have no business being in the tobacco business except to run it down and get out of it, regardless of arguments that if the government doesn’t control it, someone else will. That is a matter for law enforcement.

The authorities have banned officials from smoking in schools, hospitals, sports venues, public transport vehicles or any other venues where it is banned. That is a start. Given the social tentacles of tobacco addiction, such as dependence on it for livelihoods, the government cannot close the industry down overnight. But it can learn from other places that have cut smoking rates drastically, including Hong Kong, by raising tobacco taxes progressively to make the habit ever more expensive, especially for young people before they earn enough to afford to become heavy smokers.

3 Jan 2014

Tougher laws needed to ensure officials light the way for health campaign to cut down on tobacco use, commentators insist

FT: EU reaches breakthrough deal on tighter tobacco rules

by Andrew Byrne in Brussels, reporting for the Financial Times:

EU lawmakers approved a deal on Wednesday on stricter tobacco rules that require bigger health warning on cigarette packets and cap the amount of nicotine in so-called e-cigarettes .

The deal, struck between negotiators for the EU’s 28 member states and the European Parliament, will allow a nicotine level of 200mg in a 10ml refillable e-cigarette cartridge – more than in a carton of 200 cigarettes.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, had sought a total ban on refillable nicotine cartridges. The market for e-cigarettes is estimated to be worth $2bn in the US alone and tobacco companies had complained that such restrictions would stifle the industry.

Proponents of a ban on refillables said the health effects of such consumption were uncertain and could be dangerous.

But the ban was opposed by some negotiators from the European Parliament. The compromise deal caps the nicotine level in refillable cartridges and would allow the commission to extend a ban on the products across the EU if three member states introduce one nationally.

Liberal members of the European Parliament have criticised the open-ended threat of a ban on refillable cartridges, which many see as a less harmful alternative to tobacco.

“This creates legal uncertainty that could harm the nascent e-cig industry and the growing number of smokers who are turning to the new electronic products,” said Frédérique Ries, a Belgian Liberal MEP.

The new regulations would also phase out menthol-flavoured cigarettes by 2019 and ban other flavoured tobacco. Packaging rules will force tobacco companies to place graphic health warnings on their product covering 65 per cent of the packet.

Countries will also be allowed to go further on packaging mandates – the Irish government has published draft legislation enforcing plain, non-branded packaging rules for all cigarettes there. The British government has begun a public consultation on the issue.

The EU’s health commissioner, Tonio Borg, said the directive “will ensure that tobacco products look and taste like tobacco products and help discourage young people from starting to smoke.”

The political process around the tobacco products directive has been dogged by controversy. Tobacco companies have been intensively lobbying European parliamentarians and officials on the revised rules for almost two years.

The commissioner responsible for the initiative, John Dalli, was forced to resign last year when the EU’s anti-fraud office alleged that he sought a $60m bribe from a Swedish tobacco firm. Mr Dalli denied the allegation and an investigation cleared him of direct involvement, finding only circumstantial evidence.

Officials familiar with the negotiations said there was an urgency to efforts to have the rules agreed by the end of this week, before the Greek government, seen as softer on tobacco, takes up the EU’s rotating presidency in January. The agreement will be formally approved by MEPs and governments in the coming weeks.

18 Dec 2013

World Lung Foundation: Hundreds of Millions of Chinese Men Could Die From Tobacco Related Diseases

Chinese Version of The Tobacco Atlas Catalogues State of the Tobacco Epidemic And How To Save Millions of Lives

(Download Chinese release)

(Beijing, China) –– More than 50 per cent of Chinese men smoke cigarettes, placing hundreds of millions at serious risk for heart disease, cancer, other lung diseases, and many more serious illnesses, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS) and World Lung Foundation (WLF), co-publishers of The Tobacco Atlas – 4th Edition. Representatives from China Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control joined WLF and ACS in the release of the Chinese version of the Atlas.

The Tobacco Atlas, and its companion website, graphically detail the scale of the tobacco epidemic, progress that has been made in tobacco control, and the latest products and tactics being deployed by the tobacco industry – such as the use of new media, trade litigation, and aggressive development of smokeless products. It also outlines steps governments can take to reduce deaths from tobacco use, such as increasing tobacco taxes, warning people about the harms of tobacco use, protecting people from secondhand smoke and banning tobacco advertising.

The World’s Largest Consumer and Producer of Tobacco

According to The Tobacco Atlas, 38 per cent of all cigarettes consumed in the world are smoked in China, more than the other top four countries combined. 50.4 per cent of all men smoke, meaning that approximately 340 million people are at significant risk for death from tobacco-related diseases. Tobacco use is already responsible for 12 percent of all deaths among men in China, and that number could rise significantly.

China also produces 41 per cent of the world’s cigarettes, and 43 per cent of the world’s tobacco, which is more tobacco leaf than the other top nine producing countries combined.

Exposure to secondhand smoke is also a significant cause of mortality in China. According to The Atlas, 600,000 people die in China every year from secondhand smoke exposure, most of them women and children. In China, 47% of youth ages 13-15 are exposed to secondhand smoke in the home, further increasing the risk of tobacco related diseases and death for this generation.


Bloomberg: China Party School Proposes Stronger Tobacco Control Laws

from Bloomberg News:

The main training institution of China’s Communist Party proposed legislative changes to tighten tobacco controls and curb the state cigarette monopoly’s regulatory powers, signaling increasing political will to rein in an industry generating more than $95 billion in tax revenue.

The Communist Party’s Central Party School, headed until January by President Xi Jinping, detailed its tobacco-control recommendations in a 200-page document. It includes a proposal to remove the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration’s membership of a government group implementing tobacco control measures.

The document also suggests that the State Council establish a national tobacco control office or designate a specific health department to “take charge, supervising the control of tobacco in all processes from production to sales.” Such a step would overcome a dilemma created by the fact that the regulator and China National Tobacco Corp., the world’s largest and most profitable cigarette maker, are essentially the same organization.

“This is unprecedented,” said Judith Mackay, a Hong Kong-based senior adviser to the World Lung Foundation, who received a copy of the document yesterday. “Work on the book started two years ago, when Xi Jinping was still in charge of the party school.”

While the proposals don’t represent government policy, Mackay said at a briefing in Beijing today that she was led to believe by an official at the school that such recommendations tend to be officially adopted. The document, which Mackay assisted with, was written by Chen Baosheng, Lu Zhongyi, Zhang Zhongjun and six other authors.

Smoking Bans

China’s legislature has been conducting research this year on a proposed national law to ban smoking in public places, an official at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control said.

“Optimistically, I expect that we can have a national smoke-free law in China within a year,” Yang Jie, deputy director of the CDC’s Office of Tobacco Control, said at the same briefing.

China should also legislate to include photographic warnings on cigarette packages similar to those in Hong Kong, and also ban the tobacco industry from conducting promotional activities such as sports and cultural activities, the central party school’s document said.

11 Dec 2013

Child smoking figures strengthen case for plain packs, say researchers

by Sam Wong, published in the Imperial College news:

Almost 600 under-16s take up smoking every day in the UK, suggests research published online in Thorax.

The calculations indicate that in London alone, the daily tally is 67 – more than two classrooms-full.

The researchers say the figures reinforce the importance of introducing standardised packaging for cigarettes, which the government is considering, and other measures to reduce smoking uptake in children.

The researchers wanted to estimate smoking uptake among children to inform prevention campaigns and focus attention and resources on what they say is a “child protection issue”.

Smoking at a young age is an even greater risk to health than starting later in life, they say. Smoking at a young age affects lung development and boosts the risk of progressive lung disease.

In addition, people who start smoking before the age of 15 run a higher risk of developing lung cancer than those who take up the habit later on, even if the cumulative number of cigarettes smoked is smaller.

Dr Nick Hopkinson, from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Unit at Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and Imperial College London, said: “Smoking is one of the biggest causes of preventable deaths worldwide. Children are especially vulnerable to long-term health effects, so it’s important that we take action to reduce smoking uptake further.

“These figures emphasise the importance and urgency of introducing standardised packaging for tobacco products to prevent children being lured into nicotine addiction. That should happen alongside other measures that are recognised to be effective, like putting all cigarettes out of sight in all shops, which is due to be implemented in England in Spring 2015, and the extension of smoke free legislation to private vehicles. Banning additives such as menthol which make cigarettes more palatable for children is also an important objective.”


Global Mail: Big Tobacco’s Lawsuits Of Mass Destruction

from Michael Sofi, reporting for the Global Mail:

If Big Tobacco’s ongoing legal onslaught against the Australian government is intended to intimidate other countries considering plain-packaging laws, it’s not working. Not according to the architect of Ireland’s incoming plain-pack scheme, at least.

“It makes me more determined,” Irish Health Minister Dr James Reilly tells The Global Mail.

“It indicates to me that the tobacco industry know [plain packaging] is going to work, and that’s why they fear it.”

Draft legislation modelled on Australia’s plain-packaging laws was approved by the Irish cabinet in November, clearing the way for a bill to be introduced into Ireland’s national parliament, the Oireachtas, early next year.

It follows a surprise announcement on November 28 by British Prime Minister David Cameron, of an independent inquiry into the effectiveness of Australia’s laws, with a view to implementing similar legislation in the UK before 2015 national elections. In July this year, PM Cameron had appeared to abandon the tobacco-control measure.