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March 6th, 2017:

Japan’s tobacco lobby seeks to head off indoor smoking ban

Push for country to adopt global norms opposed on grounds of existing outdoor prohibition

https://www.ft.com/content/785b1b46-ffdd-11e6-96f8-3700c5664d30

A Japanese plan to ban indoor smoking in public places before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, bringing the country in line with most of the developed world, is facing fierce resistance from the country’s powerful tobacco lobby.

Japanese smoking rates fell from 27.7 per cent of adults in 2003 to 18.2 per cent in 2015. But the nation’s remaining smokers, who are still able to pursue their habit inside restaurants, bars and workplaces, enjoy a level of freedom long ago stripped from counterparts elsewhere in the world. Nearly 50 countries have imposed blanket bans on indoor smoking and early drafts of the health ministry’s proposed revisions to Japan’s Health Promotion Law cite the success of legislation in the UK, France, and elsewhere. However, 231 municipalities in Japan, including in Tokyo and other major cities, have since the mid-2000s prohibited smoking in the street. The bans are largely in the name of hygiene and aesthetics, but with more than half an eye to passive smoking. The “manners” drive has created the often bizarre situation where smokers sitting on terraces outside restaurants or bars are obliged to come indoors to light up. Japan Tobacco, the world’s fourth-biggest cigarette maker by sales, which is 33.35 per cent owned by the state, has seized on this oddity in an effort to dilute the blanket ban on indoor smoking initially proposed by the health ministry.: Pragmatism on nicotine could save lives Encouraging safer alternatives to smoking can help end epidemic It is not fair to cite the success of smoking bans in places like the UK, continental Europe and the US, said a JT spokesman, because most Japanese smokers do not have the same option of going outside. JT’s argument appears to have borne fruit. On Wednesday, when the health ministry unveiled a revised proposal, the demands were heavily watered down from earlier versions, allowing exemptions for Japan’s thousands of bars and restaurants occupying less than 30 square metres of floor space. Finance minister Taro Aso, whose state portfolio includes the JT stake, last month expressed doubts over the harmful effects of smoking, referring to “various people” who question the link between smoking and lung cancer. Such views are echoed by Japan’s tobacco lobby, which has the support of an estimated 100 parliamentary members of the ruling Liberal Democratic party.

Other groups aligned against the health ministry on its indoor smoking ban plans include a bar and restaurant industry fearful that business would be devastated. JT approaches the debate from a stated position that it does not believe the case has been proved that second-hand smoking is a cause of diseases such as lung cancer. The World Health Organization has meanwhile awarded Japan’s existing efforts to prevent passive smoking the lowest rating available and the Japanese government’s own research suggests that as much as 40 per cent of people eating or drinking out are exposed to passive smoking. On the subject of imposing an indoor smoking ban to clean up Japan’s image ahead of the Olympics, JT said the event should instead be used to publicise the success of the country’s “smoke segregation” policies that divide smoking and non-smoking zones inside buildings.

Cigarettes and plain packaging – new dataset says it works

It seems our carrying in good faith last week the data-selective assertions of Canadian journalist and development officer of ‘Students for Liberty,’ Yael Ossowski, that plain cigarette packaging does not work as a harm reduction tool, is way short of the full story. So short as to be untrue, says Yussuf Saloojee, Executive Director of SA’s National Council Against Smoking in his response below. He claims Ossowski is just plain wrong – and provides a wider data-set, making a strong case for plain packaging. Saloojee picks out a more convincing Australian data-set than the one Ossowski used. It’s one of those fields where trillions of dollars are at stake and smoke and mirrors are the order of the day. As I found out when once I tried to sift through the mountains of opposing data submitted by the protagonists in the e-cigarettes debate where the latest arena of battle is harm-reduction. Some international scientific heavyweights stack up on the side of e-cigarettes, like SA-born pioneering long distance swimmer and executive director of the Vitality Institute, Dr Derek Yach. Harm-reduction and preventative wellness medicine and exercise lie at the core of Discovery Health’s business model, hence the choice of former WHO executive Yach to head up their Institute. Yach was behind much of the ANC’s globally-admired, progressive smoking policies and evolving legislation. But he parts company with Saloojee on e-cigarettes and harm reduction, saying it’s the smoke that kills, not the nicotine (which e-cigs deliver, without the more harmful smoke). Here are the results of Saloojee’s foray into the scientific wizardry of Oz where this dataset seems to blow away some of the red outback dust that Ossowski stirred up. – Chris Bateman

http://www.biznews.com/health/2017/03/06/cigarettes-plain-packaging/

By Yussuf Saloojee*

In Australia, the attractive colours and logos that increase the appeal of the cigarette pack, especially to children, have been replaced by honest, truthful information on the dangers of smoking. Cigarettes are now sold in plain packaging – that is, in dark brown packets with pictures of sick smokers on it.

And plain packaging works. Smoking rates have dropped to record lows since its introduction in late 2012.

The latest data from the Australian Secondary Student’s Alcohol and Drug survey show that between 2011 and 2014 the number of 12 to 17 year-old students who have never smoked increased from 77.4% to 80.5%. Adult smoking rates have also fallen. Among Australians aged 14 or older the number of people who smoke daily fell from 15.1% to 12.8% between 2010-13.

There are now 200,000 fewer smokers in this age group.

The tobacco industry knows that plain packaging lowers profits, so the industry and its cronies have resorted to falsely claiming that plain packaging is ineffective.

Further, the major cigarette companies are rapidly expanding into the e-cigarette business and would obviously benefit from growth in this market. So, to kill two birds with one stone, the industry proposes that plain packaging laws should be dropped and that e-cigarettes (or ‘vaping’) be promoted to reduce smoking. A win-win for the industry, as a measure that reduces sales would be replaced with one that increases profits.

The problem with this suggestion is that the majority of e-cigarette users still continue to smoke regular cigarettes and there is no health benefit if people both vapor and smoke. While the industry would profit from addiction by selling e-cigarettes alongside regular cigarettes, there would be no public health gain.

The decision to implement plain packaging in Australia was based upon extensive scientific evidence and the law has been upheld by the courts. Numerous other countries, including Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Hungary, New Zealand, Norway, Chile and Singapore, are persuaded by this evidence and have now adopted or are considering adopting similar measures.

South Africa would be well advised to also do so, as plain packaging will help reduce the over 40,000 deaths caused by cigarettes each year.

Yussuf Saloojee, Exco Director of the SA National Council Against Smoking