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January 11th, 2017:

Hong Kong Customs Enforcement Cases

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Tobacco stats for Hong Kong years 2013-2016

Clear the Air herewith provides our readers with Tobacco stats for Hong Kong years 2013-2016


The figures tell us that the Hong Kong Government preventative health measures are blatantly NOT WORKING.

The sales of duty paid cigarettes continue to spiral instead of decreasing.

The Government takes over $6 billion in tobacco excise taxes then throws only crumbs to tobacco control and prevention resources – the $6bn remainder goes to pouring white elephant concrete.

The excise tax is manifestly insufficient for a 1st world country with such a high cost of living. Hong Kong needs to match Australia, New Zealand, UK , Ireland excise tax levels to have a preventative effect.

Hence tobacco remains affordable to youth here whilst Government apathy and lack of political will to act reign supreme. A form of misconduct in public office for their failure of duty of care to the people.

Meanwhile there is no apparent political will to force a legislative change to place the onus on landlords to prevent smoking in their licensed premises (whereas on the Mainland they have such laws).

As long as people can go out and smoke in places of entertainment with negligible chances of being caught, they will continue to do so.

Abysmal state of affairs. The highly paid incumbents would have been fired long ago in a business enterprise.

People Have Tried to Make U.S. Cigarette Warning Labels More Graphic for Decades

On this day in 1964, the surgeon general officially said that smoking causes cancer. But warning labels in America still don’t show its effects

Health warning labels on tobacco products are just one more proof of the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

It’s been 53 years since a surgeon general’s report unequivocally linked cigarettes and cancer. Today, that conclusion seems completely obvious. But in the past it wasn’t, and the cigarette lobby (as anyone who’s watched Mad Men knows) worked hard to keep it that way. Even when that link was publicly drawn, the industry has worked to downplay it as much as possible, writes the World Health Organization. Today, that’s by fighting to keep their names on packages—and graphic images of the consequences of smoking off them.

“If it has not been proved that tobacco is guilty of causing cancer of the lung, it has certainly been shown to have been on the scene of the crime,” wrote Charles S. Cameron in the January 1956 issue of The Atlantic. In that article, he talks about the dramatic rise in lung cancer since 1900, and the potential reasons that have been advanced for it, but stops short of drawing the direct connection to cigarettes.

But the press of evidence grew, and talk of imposing health warning label requirements began in the U.S. in 1957, write researchers Heikki Hiilamo, Eric Crosbie and Stanton A. Glantz for the journal Tobacco Control. One 1959 bill in the South Dakota legislature would even have made tobacco producers put a skull and crossbones on their product, they write.

But eventually, the industry stopped blocking warning labels, as long as the labels carried only “vague health messages,” like that required by a 1965 Act: “Caution: Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.” And through the rest of the twentieth century, successive generations of public health authorities and politicians around the world fought tobacco companies to place labels on more prominent areas of cigarette packs and make the labels larger and more eye-catching.

After European countries started talking about ways to make warning labels more effective in the 1970s and 1980s, in 1985 Iceland was the first to implement picture warning labels, according to a UC San Francisco press release.The tobacco industry worked hard to overturn those requirements, he writes, but the idea took off.

Picture warning labels could be as simple as an image associated with death, like a skull and crossbones, or as graphic as they are in many countries today: images of smokers’ lungs, decayed teeth, people dying of lung cancer and other images representing the suffering that can be caused—and to millions of people, has been caused—by smoking using tobacco products. No wonder they’re so effective.

In 2000, our northern neighbor Canada became the first country to use these kinds of upsetting photographs of cancer and disease on its cigarette warning labels, and other countries soon followed suit.

In 2011, writes UC San Francisco, it looked like the United States was going to join those countries, but a free speech-related lawsuit by tobacco companies and other factors have meant that to date, the change hasn’t happened.

“Health warning labels, especially labels with graphic elements, threaten the tobacco industry because they are a low-cost, effective measure to reducing smoking,” the researchers write.

Today, health advocates are fighting to have tobacco packaging be even less attractive using measures like requiring tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging and using the world’s ugliest color to turn people off.

UK’s Imperial Brands teams up in joint venture with China Tobacco

Britain’s Imperial Brands (IMB.L) has formed a joint venture with state-owned China National Tobacco (CNTC) in a move to gain a foothold in the world’s largest cigarette market.

The joint venture announced on Wednesday could boost Imperial’s long-term earnings potential and competitive position in the growing e-cigarette market and increase the chances of the world’s fourth-biggest tobacco company attracting takeover interest as the industry consolidates, according to analysts.

Big tobacco companies are facing shrinking markets due to health concerns and are all investing heavily in developing less harmful alternatives to smoking tobacco.

Imperial’s shares closed up 1 percent at 3,626.5 pence in London.

“We think today’s news could make a bid more likely,” said Jefferies analysts, citing speculation that Imperial could be swept up in a wave of consolidation brought on by British American Tobacco’s (BATS.L) $47 billion bid for Reynolds American (RAI.N).

The joint venture, Global Horizon Ventures Limited (GHVL), will be based in Hong Kong and link Imperial with CNTC subsidiary Yunnan Tobacco, which controls over one-fifth of the Chinese market.

Imperial said the joint venture will expand Imperial’s West and Davidoff brands in China, and Yunnan’s Jade and Horizon brands internationally.

“Further tobacco and next-generation product launches, as well as potential M&A opportunities, will also be evaluated by GHVL in due course,” it said in a statement.

China is by far the world’s largest tobacco market, selling about 2.5 trillion cigarettes a year, or about one in every third cigarette smoked.

The market is dominated by state-owned monopoly CNTC, which struck partnerships with Marlboro maker Philip Morris International (PM.N) in 2005 and British American in 2013.

A partnership with China Tobacco could give Imperial more capital and scale with which to expand in the growing market for cigarette alternatives. So far it has stuck to e-cigarettes, which heat nicotine-laced liquid into vapour, unlike Philip Morris and BAT, which also have tobacco-heating devices they say may be more appealing to smokers who can’t quit.

A successful initial partnership could pave the way for an all-out takeover bid down the road, Jefferies analysts said, noting it also makes Imperial more attractive to Japan Tobacco (2914.T), long seen as a likely suitor.

Imperial was advised by Vermilion Partners and Allen & Overy on the transaction, whose financial terms were not disclosed.

BAT is in talks with U.S. peer Reynolds about buying the 58 percent of the company it does not already own. Reynolds’ next-generation technology is seen as a key driver for that move, as smoking declines in Western markets due to growing health consciousness.

(Additional reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Alexander Smith, Greg Mahlich)

AG trying again to raise tobacco purchase age to 21

Washington’s Attorney General is going to make another attempt at raising the tobacco purchase age to 21.

Democrat Bob Ferguson backed similar legislation the last two sessions. Those bills did not pass.

Under his proposal, only those 21 and over would be allowed to buy tobacco or vaping liquids. Current law requires tobacco purchasers to be over 18.

“Hopefully the third time is a charm,” said Ferguson, who said he has the support of health advocates, businesses and Governor Jay Inslee, D-Washington.

Eliminating sales under 21 would result in $16 million in lost tax revenue over the next two years, according to the governor’s budget writers. Ferguson said that factor played a role in the bill dying the last two years.

Critics also defended the rights of those over 18 to buy tobacco products. Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said if someone is old enough to go to war, they should be able to buy cigarettes.

Ferguson said raising the limit will prevent teens from starting smoking as adults.

“It will save lives,” said Ferguson.

Smoking Rates May Decline With Higher Tobacco Taxes

If all countries raise excise taxes on tobacco products, smoking rates may decline by up to 9%.

Smoking kills about 6 million people a year, and costs the world more than $1 trillion a year in health care expenses and lost productivity, but billions of dollars and millions of lives could be saved through higher tobacco prices and taxes, according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US National Cancer Institute.

“The economic impact of tobacco on countries, and the general public, is huge, as this new report shows,” Oleg Chestnov, MD, PhD, the WHO’s assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health, said in an agency news release. “The tobacco industry produces and markets products that kill millions of people prematurely, rob households of finances that could have been used for food and education, and impose immense health care costs on families, communities, and countries.”

Annual tax revenues from cigarettes globally could increase by 47%, or $140 billion, if all countries raised excise taxes by about 80 cents per pack, according to the report.

The report authors predicted this would raise cigarette retail prices an average of 42%, leading to a 9% decline in smoking rates and up to 66 million fewer adult smokers.

Poorer countries suffer the greatest burden from tobacco use. There are 1.1 billion smokers aged 15 years or older worldwide, and 8 out of 10 of them are in low- and middle-income countries.

The research summarized in this report “confirms that evidence-based tobacco control interventions make sense from an economic as well as a public health standpoint,” report co-editor Frank Chaloupka, PhD, professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in the news release.

Why getting farmers to switch from tobacco crops is a struggle

Crop diversification in the world’s top tobacco producers can lower smoking rates in low-income countries, but infrastructure limitations and industry subsidies make it a hard pitch to sell to farmers, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ninety per cent of tobacco is grown within low and middle income countries (LMICs), where four in five smokers live, the WHO outlined in a new report released on Tuesday. More than 40 per cent of the world’s tobacco is produced in China alone, while Brazil, Argentina, Bangladesh, Malawi and Zimbabwe are among the other top producers. About half of all smokers live in either Southeast Asia or the Western Pacific region, the WHO said.

Tobacco kills up to half of its users, resulting in 6 million deaths a year, according to WHO data. More than 5 million of those are the result of direct tobacco use while over 600 000 are non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

“There is a consensus that helping small farmers switch from tobacco to alternative crops can be a useful part of sustainable local economic development programmes and can help overcome barriers to adopting and implementing strong tobacco control policies.”

However, there remain several obstacles to replacing tobacco farms.

“The global trend toward reducing or eliminating tobacco subsidies and price supports in high-income countries (HICs) has significantly affected international production and trade patterns. Production has dropped in the U.S. and Canada that have phased out price supports and traditional producing members of the European Union, such as Greece and Italy,” the report said.

As a result of declining production of good quality leaves in HICs, producers in LMICs have improved the quality of leaf they grow and have received increased farm gate prices.

“Recent trends in the organisation of the tobacco leaf production and marketing chain, including use of integrated production systems, has expanded these multinational corporations’ control over price and other factors while making farmers increasingly dependent.”

The labour-intensive process of tobacco farming provides income to millions of families in producing countries. Once growing and manufacturing are finished in LMICs, the higher phases of the value chain then move to multinational tobacco companies that are largely based in high-income countries, the report explained.

State subsidies for the tobacco-growing sector within LMICs are also high, unlike in HICs where assistance is reduced or eliminated.

But perhaps the biggest hindrance to crop substitution is geography.

Many of the substitute crops that can be as profitable as tobacco, including sweet potatoes and zucchini, require investments in infrastructure, and tend to be highly specific to a country, the WHO report said.

“Tobacco is an expensive crop to grow, but so too are most high-value alternative crops. Building new, and hopefully better, support systems for other crops is a clear challenge for diversification programmes. It will take time for these systems to emerge, and any successful transition from tobacco will likely be a gradual process.”

The WHO found higher taxes and prices on tobacco products remain the single most consistent means to reduce global tobacco use. But tax administration can be challenging for LMICs with limited resources, it added.

Not much proof that e-cigarettes can help people stop smoking

As people become more aware of the dangers of smoking, many have taken steps to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked or to stop the bad habit. Public and private health centres and pharmacies provide smoking- cessation services, which include evidence-based treatment. These studies were based on large-scale population with medication that has been proven to be safe and effective. Nicotine replacement therapy (Nicorette) and Varenicline (Champix) have been used by those who wanted to quit smoking, and they have done so.

Interestingly, there is not much evidence supporting e-cigarette use as an alternative method for smoking cessation.

Recently, the Institute of Public Health, Health Ministry, conducted a survey on the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents and adults in Malaysia (The Tobacco and E-cigarette Survey among Malaysia Adolescents and The National E-Cigarette Survey 2016).

The results were disturbing. The majority of those who use e-cigarette are dual users. This means that they smoke cigarettes and e-cigarette. This is hazardous as it may result in nicotine overdose, which can lead to death. This can strengthen their addiction to nicotine, which hooked them to cigarettes in the first place.

Almost 70 per cent of the dual users stopped e-cigarette but continued smoking conventional cigarettes.

Most school children and adolescents started using e-cigarettes out of curiosity.

The main pull factors were the flavours and smell of e-liquids.

Many other dangerous substances can be introduced by drug pushers and dealers by just lacing the liquids.

Nearly 75 per cent of the study population felt that e-cigarettes were not useful to stop smoking and more than half wanted these to be banned.

DR RASHIDI MOHAMED PAKRI MOHAMED Nicotine Addiction Research Group, Universiti Malaya

Graphic health warning enlargement counterproductive to fight against illicit tobacco trade

A Hong Kong-based advocacy group has urged the government to step up enforcement against illicit tobacco trade while warning against measures that may jeopardise the positive trend.

Pollster Ipsos Hong Kong released in January a survey report on public perception of the black market cigarette trade. Commissioned by the Hong Kong United Against Illicit Trade (HKUAIT), the report interviewed about a thousand Hong Kong adult citizens in December 2016. Results show that 84% of the respondents take illicit cigarettes as a serious issue in Hong Kong.

Ipsos Director Mick Gordon highlighted that approximately three out of four respondents attribute the problem to sophisticated criminal networks, insufficient penalties and drastic excessive tax increases on cigarettes.

According to the latest Asia Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2015 report by Oxford Economics, Hong Kong’s illicit incidence has fallen by 6.7% since 2012 but remains at a relatively high level at 29.1%, amounting an estimated HK$2.9 billion tax loss in fiscal year 2015/16.

Don’t ruin it

While acknowledging Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department’s effort in combating illicit tobacco trade, HKUAIT advisor Jeff Herbert warned that the tax loss could in turn, fund criminal organisations and generate even greater indirect losses in terms of extra enforcement actions and prosecutions. Mr Herbert called for increased penalties, greater enforcement, public education and sensible tax rises amid negative factors such as ever rising costs of living and proximity to the mainland counterfeit market where about 60% of these cigarettes were transported from through land routes.

Meanwhile, Patrick Wong, Executive Director of HKUAIT, expressed concerns over a recent legislative proposal by the government to enlarge the size of health warnings on tobacco products from 50% to 85%, arguing that such a move would further reduce available space for tobacco manufacturers to print security and authentication features, resulting in a less secure supply chain which could facilitate illicit trade.

The LegCo Panel on Health Services will hold a special meeting to discuss the government’s proposal on 17 January, 2017.

“We’ve got to be very wary of doing anything that can aggravate trade and also the high risk of reversing what we have seen as a downward trend. The 85% graphic health warning which some people are advocating would only further cause market to deteriorate as it would be much easier to counterfeit the outside packaging,” Mr Herbert echoed.

Swedish anti-cigarette billboard ‘coughs’ when smokers walk by


Nicotine addicts who find themselves mindlessly smoking through the streets of Stockholm are being reminded that the habit isn’t healthy – but not by a doctor. Instead, a billboard equipped with smoke detectors is ‘coughing’ as they pass by.

The electronic sign featuring a black-and-white picture of a man seems usual enough upon first glance and for non-smokers it will continue to appear ordinary. However, smokers will see a different side of the billboard when they walk by, as the man on the sign begins coughing in reaction to their secondhand smoke.

A video that the pharmacy posted online shows the mixed reactions of passersby, ranging from confusion to amusement. One man looks at the sign while continuing to puff on his cigarette, while a woman starts laughing after realizing she was the one who triggered the coughing.

The billboard ends with an advertisement for nicotine gum products from various manufacturers.

The pharmacy said the sign is “just in time for the New Year” and aimed at helping people “live a longer and healthier life.”

Although the billboard has apparently been placed in an area “where people smoke a lot,” Sweden actually has the lowest smoking rate of all European Member states, just 13 percent, according to a 2012 report by the European Council