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January, 2008:

How Tobacco Ages

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Quit Smoking – Avoid Lung Cancer

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Most Retailers Ignore Ban, Survey Finds

Cigarettes easier for teenagers to buy

Colleen Lee – Jan 21, 2008 SCMP

Cigarettes appear to have become easier for teenagers to buy, with a survey finding under-18s could feed their habit from most retailers.

The Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre sent six teenagers aged 15 to 17 to buy cigarettes at 522 shops in 18 districts. Attempts were made to buy cigarettes at 29 shops in each district, including supermarkets, convenience store chains, small stores and newsstands, in August last year.

It was the third consecutive year that the group conducted the survey. The 2006 survey found 74 per cent of outlets sold to under-18s and last year’s figure was 86 per cent.

Newspaper vendors and small stores were among the worst offenders, with 97 per cent of newsstands and 96 per cent of stores selling cigarettes to the undercover teenagers.

The chairman of the Coalition of Hong Kong Newspaper and Magazine Merchants, Bacon Liu Sair-ching, said: “It is difficult to tell from a youngster’s appearance whether he is under 18 or not. Some look like adults and some do not. We do not want to lose customers to our competitors. Under-aged smokers can still buy cigarettes from convenience stores nearby even if we refused to do so.”

In a separate survey of newsstand vendors, 11 per cent said they sold cigarettes to under-18s because they needed the income.

The poll of 186 newsstand vendors was carried out by the centre at the end of last year.
About 53 per cent of respondents said the biggest difficulty in abiding by the law was that they could not judge whether the customer was an adult by their appearance.

About 32 per cent said the main problem was that they had no right to ask for identity documents.
Since last January, smoking has been banned in most public indoor areas, but 74 per cent of the vendors said their sales had increased in the past year despite the new rule.

Lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung, of the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre, said this might be because more people threw away their cigarettes before finishing them when they went indoors.

Another possible reason was that people smoked more as a rebellion against the regulations, he said.
Meanwhile, another poll by the centre found about 10 per cent of teenagers smoked regularly and 17 per cent of them said they first smoked when they were 10.

The survey recently interviewed 564 people under 18.
A total of 61 per cent of the teenage smokers said they usually bought cigarettes at newsstands or small stores, and 28 per cent said they smoked because of peer pressure.

One of the undercover teenagers, Chan Yuen-hei, 17, said: “I was scared at first, but I found it so easy after successfully buying about 50 packs of cigarettes from retailers. “Some even gave me a lighter for free.”

Mr Leung said under-aged smokers should be held liable if they bought cigarettes. He urged the Tobacco Control Office to send more staff to enforce the law. At present, the law only forbids retailers from selling cigarettes to people under 18, not teens from buying them.

No Smoking Not Slowing Business

By News 25 Staff

Fears the smoking ban would devastate the bar business is just a myth to one establishment. Some sports bar employees say the Smoke Free Illinois Act is not stopping their business from booming this football season.

It is just 20 days into the new smoking ban law and Buffalo Wild Wings employees in East Peoria say they are still getting their normal January crowds. Assistant manager Bridget Wiemer says smokers are still coming in but they are just taking their habit outdoors.

“Most of the people are actually glad it has happened because most of them are non-smokers. I really haven’t received many complaints. Business has still been good and most people are enjoying coming into a non-smoking restaurant,” Assistant Manager Bridget Wiemer says.

The East Peoria Buffalo Wild Wings plans to build a heated outdoor awning to accommodate smokers.

Protect The Health of Our Citizens

SCMP – 20/01/2008

The SAR administration’s persistent failure to protect the health of our citizens is shown by the steady rise in cigarette consumption.

Increased consumption of any product is obviously associated with a lower relative price and low tariff.

The financial secretary must be aware of this reality but has chosen to disregard it. In effect, he is giving foreign tobacco hawkers a windfall profit each year. If our non-elected bureaucrats are really concerned about the health of the citizens of Hong Kong, they have to move quickly in the following directions:

  • Much higher duties must be imposed on cigarette imports in the next budget and smugglers of tobacco should receive more severe penalties when they appear in court.
  • A cap on imports must now be imposed with an annual reduction of 4 per cent. This would mean phasing out all imports of carcinogenic products in 25 years.

This will allow time for hapless tobacco addicts to die out or to hopefully give up their addiction to tobacco.

  • Public hospitals must charge victims of tobacco-related diseases higher medical fees.

Why should wise taxpayers be forced to subsidise foolish smokers or enrich foreign tobacco barons?

  • Foreign tobacco executives should be banned from working in Hong Kong and a higher profits tax should be imposed on their companies.
  • Legislation should designate the sale and promotion of tobacco as commercial genocide since it kills millions of people who were duped into believing that it was harmless.

The above measures may seem harsh, even draconian to some. However, this is only because they have become numb to the suffering and death caused by foreign tobacco imports – a toll of more than 4,000 deaths in Hong Kong per year.

Isn’t it time to stop? Or do SAR government officials prefer to enrich foreign tobacco executives rather than help our young people to avoid addiction?

J. Garner, Sham Shui Po

Electronic Cigarettes Being Sold Illegally

Mary Ann Benitez – SCMP
Updated on Jan 20, 2008

Electronic cigarettes, widely advertised on the internet, are unregistered in Hong Kong and anyone selling them in the city would be breaking the law, the government said.

At least one leading brand has acknowledged that its e-cigarettes are on sale in Hong Kong. The latest fad in devices to help smokers quit, e-cigarettes deliver nicotine without the harmful effects of burning tobacco. They have caught the attention of Auckland University researchers, who will begin tests on them this month.

Anti-tobacco lobbyists in Hong Kong were at odds, however, about regulating the device. Hong Kong-based Ruyan Group Holdings said its e-cigarettes were sold in Hong Kong. “You can purchase e-cigarettes by phone,” a Ruyan representative told the Sunday Morning Post.

Its product information said Ruyan’s “unique product” has two targets: habitual smokers and those who want to quit. Habitual smokers would get regular nicotine from e-cigarettes, while those who wanted to quit would have an “effective nicotine replacement therapy, a more satisfying alternative to nicotine pills and patches”.

Ruyan e-cigarettes, patented in 40 countries, included e-cigars, e-cigarettes, e-pipes and cartridges with different flavours and levels of nicotine, the company said.

But the Department of Health said such devices were pharmaceutical products and must be registered before they could be sold.

“There is no e-cigarette registered as a pharmaceutical product in Hong Kong,” it said. Possession or sale of unregistered pharmaceutical products carries a maximum HK$100,000 fine and two years’ jail. The law covers products sold on the internet, the department said.

When asked whether the device should be regulated, Council on Smoking and Health chairman Homer Tso Wei-kwok said the watchdog had known about e-cigarettes for some time and had even been sent a sample. “It is a nicotine-delivery device. It atomises the nicotine so you can suck it in,” Dr Tso said.

The council did not plan to test the device but, he said: “It is probably more dangerous than cigarettes [as] you are delivering pure nicotine.”

However, Anthony Hedley, chair professor of the department of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong and a former council chairman, said: “I am kind of neutral at the moment. On the one hand, we have to continue looking at the issue of harm reduction.

“Nicotine is not totally innocuous but it is hugely less toxic than the by-products of combustion of tobacco or heavily chemically contaminated chewing tobacco.”

He said the device could be a “gateway” for young people to take up smoking but its prohibitive price – about HK$1,600 a unit – would be a deterrent.

Should Tobacco Companies Be Required to Reduce Their Number of Customers?

By Stephen D. Sugarman, Berkeley Law School – Independant Media Institute
Posted on January 18, 2008, Printed on January 18, 2008

If tobacco companies were required by law to sharply reduce their number of U.S. customers, we might finally rid our country of the scourge of smoking. It’s a bold idea that merits a closer look.

The traditional public health strategy is to order tobacco companies to do things like put warnings on their packages or stop advertising on billboards in the hope that this would reduce smoking rates.

But U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., has proposed a tobacco-control plan that cuts to the chase and simply orders companies to get fewer people to smoke. With roots in the regulation of power plant emissions and the educational reform act known as No Child Left Behind, Enzi’s idea is that government
would set performance goals for tobacco companies to meet. Instead of conventional “command and control” regulation — in which government regulators tell people what to do — under “outcome-based regulation,” government tells them what to achieve.

How would tobacco firms comply? They could raise prices, promote cessation aids, sell nontobacco competitive products or innovate in ways we can’t imagine. What to do and how to do it is their decision to make.

Under the senator’s plan, tobacco companies would be required to reduce their U.S. customer base by approximately 90 percent over two decades. At the end of that period, our country could be down to an incredibly low smoking rate of about 2 percent, an ambitious target. Companies that failed to meet performance goals would face whopping financial penalties, making it fiscally more attractive for them to lose smokers than to gain new ones.

As bold as it sounds, Enzi’s idea of imposing outcome-based regulation on cigarette companies is not entirely new. It surfaced as part of the never-enacted “Global Settlement” of tobacco litigation to prevent teen smoking in the late 1990s. It re-emerged in testimony presented by the Department of Justice in its racketeering case against the tobacco industry.

But once the Bush administration took control of the case, the idea of outcome-based regulation was dropped.

Certain tobacco-control measures have proven to be effective — increased cigarette taxes, bans on indoor smoking and harsh “counter-ads” that disparage the tobacco industry — all of which have been adopted in California. Yet even here the impact of such tactics may have peaked.

Social norms may continue to evolve against smoking without further governmental intervention. But leading anti-smoking advocates are not content to wait. Most support a bill that would give the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over tobacco products. But there has been grumbling within the tobacco-control community about this bipartisan effort lead by democrats — Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Dissenters consider the proposed bill flawed and inherently suspect, given its support by tobacco giant Philip Morris.

Other anti-smoking advocates call for increasing the federal tobacco tax, a strategy included in the congressional plan to expand the federal health insurance program for children in low- and middle-income families. But this law ran afoul of a presidential veto that supporters seem unable to override. And in California, voters recently nixed a sharp increase in cigarette taxes proposed in a ballot initiative.

Enzi’s idea deserves bipartisan support. It establishes a laudable public health goal and forces business to take responsibility for achieving it. It does not impose anything that can be called taxes (at least not if tobacco firms do their jobs right). If Congress does not move on the Enzi proposal, the idea could be adopted by California. Gov. Schwarzenegger and the legislature could team up to commit the tobacco industry to reduce the smoking rate in our state below 10 percent by 2012, a reduction of one percentage point per year.

Dramatically reducing smoking rates is one of the greatest public health steps we can take to prevent the more than 400,000 annual deaths caused by smoking.

Stephen D. Sugarman is the Roger J. Traynor Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, Law School and author of books on smoking policy and tobacco regulation.

Study Shows Fall in Heart Attacks After Italian Smoking Ban

The Italian Government banned smoking in all indoor public places on Jan. 10, 2005. A new study suggests that this has resulted in a fall of 11 percent in hospital heart-attack admissions in those under age 60.Hospital admissions for acute heart attack in people under age 60 fell by 11 per cent in the Piedmont region of Italy in the five months after the introduction of a ban on smoking in indoor public places, compared with admissions for the same period in the previous year, according to the study, which was published in the European Heart Journal.

Dr. Francesco Barone-Adesi, a cancer researcher at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Turin, says that smoking acts on the aggregation of platelets in the blood and was most likely to increase acutely the risk of acute myocardial infarction.

“It suggests that smoking regulations may have important short-term effects on health,” he says. “The long-term effects on respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer will have to be evaluated over the years to come.”

The researchers observed reduction in active smoking after the ban could account for only a 0.7% decrease in admissions and that about a 10% decrease is due to the sharp reduction of exposure to passive smoking.

See the full report here:

DTP Calls For Ban On E-Cigarettes

News National – Today’s Zaman

Democratic Society Party (DTP) Şırnak deputy Hasip Kaplan, meanwhile, called on Parliament to ban the usage of electronic cigarettes, asserting they are no less harmful than normal cigarettes as marketed.

An electronic cigarette, made from microelectronic and supercritical atomizing technologies, takes the form of a tiny rod which is slightly longer than a normal cigarette. The mouthpiece of the device contains a replaceable cartridge filled with liquid. The main substances contained in the liquid are nicotine and propylene glycol.

“Under the law, smoking is prohibited in schools and hospitals, but such a prohibition is not valid for electronic cigarettes. Imagine a person who walks along the corridors of a school with an e-cigarette in his hand. Why do we deceive ourselves? It is claimed that e-cigarettes increase the risk of addiction because of their high levels of nicotine. We need to ban the usage of such devices,” he noted.