Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

July 9th, 2015:

Hong Kong foils smuggling of cigarettes

HONG KONG, July 9 (Xinhua) — Hong Kong Customs announced on Thursday that 100,000 sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes with a market value of about 270,000 HK dollars (about 34,800 U.S. dollars) were seized in an operation on July 7.

Officers of the Customs Marine Enforcement Group in the evening on July 7 intercepted a suspicious fishing vessel towing a small craft in the waters off Cheung Chau, an outlying island of Hong Kong.

After a thorough search, the suspected illicit cigarettes, with a duty potential of about 200,000 HK dollar, were found in the compartments of the small craft and the fishing vessel.

A 65-year-old man and a 59-year-old woman on board were arrested and the vessels were detained.

Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in dealing with, possession of, selling and buying illicit cigarettes commits an offence. The maximum penalty on conviction is a fine of 1 million HK dollars and imprisonment for two years. (1 U.S. dollar = 7.75 HK dollars).

US Chamber of Commerce Shifts Right As It Courts Tobacco Companies, Climate Change Deniers

By John Dyer

July 9, 2015 | 6:15 am

The political Rottweiler of American business, the United States Chamber of Commerce, has been losing fans.

On Tuesday, pharmaceutical mega-chain CVS quit the chamber, citing a recent New York Times expose about its foreign affiliates lobbying against tobacco regulations around the world, from bans on cigarette advertisements to excise tax hikes and restrictions on smoking in public. Last year, CVS stopped selling tobacco, losing $2 billion in annual sales to overhaul its image to be more health-oriented. At the same time, the Rhode Island-based drugstore chain, the second largest in the country, contributed US$750,000 to the chamber as its representatives lobbied against anti-smoking laws in Moldova, New Zealand and Uruguay, reported CNN Money. “We were surprised to read recent press reports concerning the US Chamber of Commerce’s position on tobacco products outside the United States,” said CVS Senior Vice President David Palombi in a statement cited in reports. “CVS Health’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose.”

Related: Public Health Experts Say Tobacco Industry Up to Old Tricks in Pushing E-Cigarettes

The chamber said CVS’s departure was unfortunate and labeled the New York Times’ coverage as part of a misinformation campaign.

“To be clear, the Chamber does not support smoking and wants people to quit,” said a chamber statement. “We promote wellness nationally and globally and we sponsor smoking cessation plans for our own employees. At the same time, we support protecting the intellectual property and trademarks of all legal products in all industries and oppose singling out certain industries for discriminatory treatment.”

CVS acknowledged the Chamber of Commerce’s heft on Capitol Hill, where it represents corporate interests that generally align with conservative Republicans. But Palombi also took a parting shot as he walked out the door.

“We believe the chamber has advocated for many important causes over the years, and we thank them for their leadership on these issues,” said Palombi’s statement. “Given the leadership position we took last year in removing tobacco products from our stores, however, we have decided to withdraw our membership in the chamber.”

The chamber spends almost US$20 million, more on lobbying than any other Washington interest group, underwriting candidates and engaging the resources of massive companies to sway lawmakers and regulators, according to

For all its vaunted strength, however, the chamber isn’t omnipotent.

In 2009, the Washington Post revealed that the chamber was looking to hire an economist to conduct a study to reach the preordained conclusion — damn the evidence — that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was hurting the American economy. “The job qualifications…include the ability to know the outcome of the study before the study begins,” the Post wrote.

Related: Meet the ‘Merchants of Doubt’ Who Sow Confusion about Tobacco Smoke and Climate Change

A few years ago, Yahoo! quit the chamber due to differing positions on intellectual property. In 2009, Apple and a host of other companies left over disagreements concerning the chamber’s support for climate change deniers.

The chamber claims to represent 3 million businesses, but Mother Jones ran a story a few years ago suggesting Donohue has been inflating its membership. The left-leaning magazine estimated the chamber really had around 300,000 members.

“For some reason, the media continues to use that 3 million member figure and it’s just plain wrong,” said the president the nonpartisan Center for Political Accountability, Bruce Freed, in an interview with VICE News. “It allows the chamber to be a blowfish — much larger than it really is.”

It’s clear why CVS left the chamber, said Freed. But he also chided the drugstore chain for not knowing that the chamber was trying to gut smoking rules in former Soviet republics, South Pacific Islands and South America.

“They should have known about it,” said Freed. “The problem is, companies do not request or seek the type of information they need about what their association is doing and how their money is being used.”

Follow John Dyer on Twitter: @johnjdyerjr

Pennsylvania Smoking Age Bill Could Make State Second To Raise Tobacco Sale Age From 18 To 21

By Philip Ross

Pennsylvania lawmakers are moving to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 in an effort to curb teen cigarette use, positioning the state to become the second ever to impose a higher statewide tobacco sale age. The proposed bill, introduced Monday, would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

“Simply put, raising the minimum age of legal access to 21 years of age would likely prevent or significantly delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Philadelphia, in a statement, according to the Morning Call. “We have a drinking age of 21 because, even though you are considered an adult at age 18, most people still have a lot of growing up to do and lack the maturity to make some decisions which could alter their lives forever.”

Capture5 Capture4 Capture3 Capture2 Capture1

An estimated 480,000 Americans die each year from smoking cigarettes. Researchers have said raising the nationwide tobacco purchasing age could decrease annual smoking related deaths by as many as 48,000 people.

The vast majority of adult smokers began smoking before the age of 21. Health officials have estimated that about 700 children under the age of 18 pick up smoking every day in the U.S., according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.


At least 80 localities in eight states have raised the tobacco purchasing age to 21, however only one state has bumped the sale age statewide. Hawaii became the first state to raise the smoking age by three years in April. Lawmakers there described the law as “groundbreaking” and said it would help keep more underage smokers from adopting the habit.

Gov. David Ige signed the bill on June 19. “Raising the minimum age as part of our comprehensive tobacco control efforts will help reduce tobacco use among our youth and increase the likelihood that our keiki will grow up tobacco-free,” said Ige. Keiki is the Hawaiian word for children.