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February 11th, 2008:

Prevent Smoking or Face Catastrophe

from the February 11, 2008 edition – The Christian Science Monitor

Tobacco: An Inconvenient Weed

WHO cites a 21st -century ‘catastrophe’ if nations don’t act to prevent smoking.

A call for world action last week sounded as familiar as, say, that against global warming. But while a UN report did warn of a “catastrophe” in the 21st century, the topic wasn’t the usual greenhouse gases. It was tobacco smoking.

In terms of global priorities to save lives, the math alone argues for as much attention to be paid to tobacco addiction as to climate change – maybe even more.

In the 20th century, more people died prematurely from smoking (100 million) than those who perished under the ruthless regimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Today, tobacco is seen as responsible for more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, according to the World Health Organization in its 300-plus-page report, “Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008.”

And with escalating numbers of people taking up the habit in poorer countries, WHO predicts another 1 billion people will die prematurely in the 21st century – unless more governments and people act to prevent smoking.

At its root, of course, smoking is more than a public health problem.

Like choosing to operate cars or appliances that cause carbon dioxide emissions, it is an individual moral choice that creates a harmful dependency but which can be reversed by an appeal to a person’s higher nature and concern for the future. Fear of dying in a horrible way may compel many smokers to quit – 1 in 10 deaths is reportedly related to tobacco – but many ex-addicts say it is their love of life that saved them.

In fact, the theme of WHO’s new antitobacco campaign is “fresh and alive.” Its report is the first of yearly ones to come that will track each nation to see if it is following the UN agency’s six recommendations, which are to:

•Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies.

•Protect people from tobacco smoke.

•Offer help to quit tobacco use.

•Warn about tobacco’s dangers.

•Enforce bans on tobacco ads, promotion, and sponsorship.

•Raise taxes on tobacco.

As with global warming, only a few places have set the pace, such as Uruguay, California, and New Zealand. More than 150 countries have ratified the 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires nations to take antismoking steps – although few have. Only 5 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with smoke-free public spaces, prominent warning labels on cigarette packs, cessation support, and a ban on tobacco marketing.

Hiking tobacco taxes has helped reduce tobacco usage, but another way would be for filmmakers to avoid smoking scenes in movies. Walt Disney Co. plans to do so and the Motion Picture Association of America started last year to consider smoking in its film ratings, along with sex, violence, and language.

Another sign of change: Nigeria is the first developing country to sue international tobacco firms. It alleges that three firms have targeted children in their marketing.

Too many governments rely on tobacco taxes for use as general revenues – about $200 billion globally. Less than 1 percent is spent on tobacco control. All that tax money should be invested – yes, invested – to end smoking.

Ever since King James I in 1604 called it a “vile and stinking” custom, tobacco use has been destined for the ashtray of history.

Strict Smoking Bans In Thailand

Strict Smoking Bans In Force

All bars, pubs, discos, clubs and markets


A total ban on smoking in pubs and clubs throughout the country takes effect today, to the delight of non-smokers and the chagrin of smokers. The ban covers all air-conditioned bars, pubs, discos and clubs.

In addition, the owners of outdoor restaurants and markets are required to designate smoking and non-smoking zones.

”They will have to cross the street to smoke over there,” said Than Leebamrung, the 36-year-old owner of the Sapha Kafe (Coffee Council) bar, when asked what arrangements he had made to help his customers.

Other bars and clubs may simply ask customers to smoke outside in the doorways, but Mr Than was not sure if the same could be applied to his bar, which is in the Din Daeng area.

This is because it is situated in a commercial building, where smoking is not allowed.

Like Mr Than, most bar owners see the law as impinging on people’s civil liberties.

”People going to these entertainment places find it acceptable to be exposed to cigarette smoke. I have never received any complaints from non-smokers,” he said.

The owner of a bar on Khao San road, who asked not to be named, frowned on the ban, saying it would certainly affect his business.

”Lawmakers should instead allow operators to set up both smoking and non-smoking areas to be fair,” he said.

The law previously exempted nightclubs and bars from a smoking ban which was introduced in 2002.

The original ban covered indoor public places, including air-conditioned restaurants.

The ban’s extension is being hailed by health advocates who say it is another milestone for tobacco control.

”By banning smoking in pubs and nightclubs, Thailand has once again shown its leadership in tobacco control in the international community, following the examples of Ireland, Uruguay, the UK, France and others,” said Bungon Ritthiphakdee, director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.

”Hopefully, in the near future, all open-air restaurants in Thailand will be 100% smoke free,” she added.

Health advocates said the new law would protect both patrons and workers in bars and clubs from the effects of second-hand smoke, which studies have shown can cause asthma, strokes and even heart attacks.

They said it would also help smokers quit the habit more easily.

Chonticha Putharak, a 21-year-old non-smoker who used to work in a bar, said she developed breathing difficulties and her eyes would also hurt when she was there.

”The law sounds good to me because I have an allergy,” she said.

Chai Jeam-mornrat, a 33-year-old fashion designer who smokes almost a packet of cigarettes a night when visiting his favourite bars at weekends, said the new law is good as it would discourage him from smoking.

”I like to smoke when drinking alcohol. Being forced to go out of a club just to smoke outside could make me choose to not smoke to avoid the inconvenience,” he said.

However, many are still doubtful about whether the law will be effectively enforced.

One bar worker said that bar owners may ignore the law and bribe police into turning a blind eye so that things could continue as before.

Karn Yaempetch, 33, who once co-owned the Original Sin club in the Chatuchak area agreed that it could be a problem.

”Now it all depends on how effective the law enforcement will be,” he said.

”Law enforcement in this countryrarely works.

”I think a voluntary measure with proper education on tobacco’s impact on health would be more effective than the smoking ban.”

The health ministry said bar and restaurant owners can relax, at least for now, because authorities won’t begin fining the law breakers until June.

”Although the ban takes effect on Feb 11, we will focus more on educating people and issuing warnings rather than fining wrongdoers until May 31,” said Seri Hongyok, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Office.

The ministry is prepared to advise businesses on how to comply with the new rules, and will distribute copies of the regulations by the end of February, Mr Seri said.

”If there is any breach of the law, our authorities will consider them on a case-by-case basis to ensure fair treatment,” he said

Organized Crime Has Major Role

Illegal tobacco sales is a highly complex problem that will take an army of politicians, tobacco industry types and police enforcement to resolve.

The tobacco industry says the illegal cigarette trade is mushrooming.

Karen Bodirsky, spokesman for Rothmans Benson & Hedges Inc., a member of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, said contraband tobacco is a huge issue for the tobacco industry, making up 22% of all cigarettes smoked in Canada in 2007.

That’s up from 16.5% of all cigarettes smoked in Canada in 2006.

It costs Canada $1.6 billion in lost tax revenues each year. Illegal smokes are bought primarily through third parties and delivered to the consumer.

“Of that $1.6 billion across Canada, Ontario alone loses $565 million in taxes each year, which will grow to a billion in the next three years. The government agencies, revenue, cross-border taxation, and police enforcement all have to come together to resolve this issue because it’s growing out of control,” said Dave Bryans, president of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association.

The number of cigarettes legally produced in Canada in 2007 was 17,771,802,000, compared to 2006 when 25,146,208,000 cigarettes were produced.

In 1997, the number of cigarettes produced legally in Canada was 48,084,000,000, compared to 50,186,000,000 in 1996.

Bodirsky said the majority of illegal cigarette volume is concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, with one in three cigarettes sold being illegal. In Ontario, 31.5% of cigarettes bought are illegal, and in Quebec it’s pegged at 30.5%.

“It’s scary because it’s responsible for a significant infiltration of the society by organized crime. You can buy 200 contraband cigarettes for $10, which is incredibly cheap compared to $55 you pay in stores,” Bodirsky said, adding the bulk of contraband cigarettes is coming from New York State.

“Law enforcement is trying to make a dent in the illicit cigarette trade, but they’re not able to stop it,” said Andre Benoit, spokesman for JTI Macdonald Corp., a member of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council.

“Millions of dollars have been spent by governments on tobacco control … however, I am dismayed and angry when the good intentions of these programs are being thwarted by an out-of-control illegal cigarette trade,” Norman Inkster, former RCMP commissioner, said in a speech to a forum on the illegal sale of tobacco.

Inkster said the sale and trafficking of illegal tobacco products is not exclusive to Canada and is estimated to account for almost 7% of global tobacco consumption.

Inkster said if one converted the 7% into individual cigarettes, it represent 390 billion cigarettes per year. If you were to lay cigarettes end to end, the 390 billion cigarettes would circle the globe almost 730 times or make it to the moon and back 38 times.

Inkster said the illegal tobacco trade is not carried out by small renegade operators running “amateur” outfits.

“The reality is that highly sophisticated international criminal operators are increasingly dominating the picture,” Inkster said.

“According to INTERPOL, the organizations involved in the drug trade, people trafficking and arms smuggling are often also the ones behind the trade in illicit cigarettes and alcohol.”

Inkster said the proliferation of illegal tobacco is manufactured by a criminal element using a large, innocent and victimized population in Ontario, Quebec, and New York State First Nation reserves as safe havens for their criminal activity.

Chinese Smokes Burning Issue


BOWMANVILLE — Ship containers packed with illegal cigarettes smuggled into Canada from China are fuelling the growing, lucrative trade in underground smokes, Sun Media has learned.

Such cargoes — including one with 10,320,000 counterfeit cigarettes recently shipped through Vancouver’s port and seized in Toronto — not only cut deep into tax coffers.

Some illegal cigarettes from the People’s Republic are made “in underground operations . . . caves and old warehouses,” and could have unknown, dangerous or unhealthy contents, RCMP Const. Guy Martin said.

“Every country has different quality controls,” he said. Smokes from China “don’t likely meet our standards.”

The packaging may also contain benzene, a flammable, cancer-linked toxic hydrocarbon solvent, Martin said.

In the Greater Toronto Area Customs and Excise Section lockup here, some seized cigarette cartons bore only Chinese characters. Others had some English text.

They were far more legitimate-looking than clear plastic-wrapped bags of smokes recently seized from a Central Ontario man. They bore labels with a smoking warning from the “Surgeon General.” Canada does not have such an official, Martin said.

“These cigarettes were smuggled in from the U.S.,” he added.

The 51,600 made-in-China cartons intercepted last month by his unit, which works with Canada Border Services Agency investigators, contained fake U.S.-branded Marlboro cigarettes.

Estimated to be worth at least $3.6 million if sold, the RCMP estimates the 10.3 million cigarettes would have resulted in lost duties and taxes worth $1.135 million.

Ming Kai Cheng, 44, and Yiu Lam Li, 55, of Scarborough, and Zhehao Song of Markham, are charged under the Excise Act with unlawfully possessing tobacco products.

Some buyers love beating tax collectors out of their 74-per-cut cut from each smoke, others want to save up to $60 a carton, Martin said. Regardless of the motive, sales of bootleg or bogus smokes “all comes back to the almighty dollar.”

Health issues are important, but his unit focuses on contraband for lost revenue, Martin said. Governments survive on taxes “and if they don’t get them from one thing, they’ll increase taxes elsewhere, such as on fuel.”

Smuggling costs federal and provincial taxpayers $1.6 billion in lost taxes, the tobacco industry says.

Ontario revenue ministry spokesperson Scott Blodgett said $1.236 billion in cigarette taxes were collected in the year ending March 2007. That’s 12.35 cents each, or $24.70 per carton of 200.

Calling 31.5 per cent of the province’s cigarette sales illegal, the Ontario Convenience Store Association asked Premier Dalton McGuinty last month to consider the negative impact of tobacco taxes.

After several fierce gun battles between police and organized crime smugglers in the Cornwall area, Canada cut tobacco taxes in February 1994, resulting in a drop in federal and provincial revenue of more than $1.2 billion in fiscal 1994-1995.

Ontario lost $450 million.

Pressured by lobbyists demanding higher taxes to force smokers to butt out, and seeing a way to regain funds for its general tax coffers, the Liberal government boosted provincial tobacco taxes three times from 2003 to 2005.

Last Monday, the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco appealed to federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to implement measures in his next budget to control the “crisis” of cigarette smuggling. “Cigarette smuggling has negative ramifications in terms of youth smoking, public health, government revenue loss, border security and crime prevention,” the group’s chairperson, Aaron Levo, said. “Unless urgent action is taken, things will get even worse.”

The group also insisted Ottawa get Washington to shut down illegal cigarette-makers at a large New York reservation. The main sources of contraband smokes in Ontario are smuggled from the U.S. sector of the Akwesasne reservation in New York, made on reserves here, and illegal overseas imports, Blodgett said.

Reserve cigarettes usually reach the GTA in clear plastic bags, bought by smokers or underground wholesalers from outlets where natives can legally buy untaxed tobacco.

Some are sold in U.S. brand packages by merchants who get them at a discount.

Usually priced at $10-to-$15 per 200 instead of a retail price averaging $70, Martin said some contain tobacco scooped off floors. Cut-rate workers also chop up stalks and sometimes leave in lumps due to blunt cutters.

“It’s just human nature for people to save a dollar,” the 10-year investigator said. “But it’s not good in the long run.”

The risks of cancer and emphysema could end up as an added expense for the health-care system, he said.

One Toronto business owner who buys reserve-made cigarettes said, “This way the government gets cheated out of the taxes. They’ve been cheating me all my life.”

A companion who joined him outside a coffee shop to puff cigarettes they transferred to a recycled brand-name package from freezer bags, said “they taste similar” to a name brand, “but you can tell the difference.”

In some cases the filter tips “don’t go on quite right.”

The first man, a 40-year smoker, said if governments “were serious about stopping smoking, they’d go after the big tobacco companies.

“They say this raises money for hospitals? Right!”

To combat contraband tobacco, Ontario has boosted penalties several times since 2004, Blodgett said. And with the recent hiring of more Revenue Ministry investigators and inspectors, last year’s monthly retailer inspection rates are expected to increase by 300 to about 800 a month.

Some cases are before the courts, so totals were unavailable. But convictions under Ontario’s Tobacco Tax Act doubled from 2005 to 2007, he said, adding in the two years ending March 13, officials seized 14 million smuggled cigarettes, 112,000 untaxed cigars and an undisclosed amount of fine-cut tobacco.

Fines can hit $10,000 at the provincial level, “plus three times the tax owing, and imprisonment for up to two years,” Blodgett said. Buyers also face similar fines, with $500-to-$1,000 minimums.

Federal penalties include civil court fines of $22 per smuggled carton of smokes to cover lost taxes, plus a criminal conviction fines of 16.5-to-24.5 cents per smoke.

Martin said seized contraband cigarettes are eventually destroyed. But instead of burning them, which poses a risk to the environment, they’re crushed and buried.

WHO Opens Talks to Ban Illicit Tobacco Trade

WHO Opens Talks to Ban Illicit Tobacco Trade

By Lisa Schlein – Geneva – 11 February 2008

Representatives from more than 150 countries have opened negotiations on an international treaty to combat illicit trade in tobacco products. The World Health Organization warns the smuggling of cheap cigarettes worsens the health hazard from smoking that kills 5.4 million people a year. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The president of the negotiating panel, Hatai Chitanondh, unveils the so-called death clock before a group of health experts and anti-tobacco campaigners.

“As I speak before you now, one tobacco user will die every 6.5 seconds and by the time this first session of the intergovernmental negotiated body ends this Saturday, more than 60,000 people will perish,” said Hatai Chitanondh.

The death clock has counted more than 36 million deaths since it was started on October 25, 1999. That was when the World Health Organization began its first meeting aimed at achieving a Tobacco Control Treaty.

The World Health Organization says if current trends continue, eight million people a year will lose their lives to tobacco by 2030. And, this number will increase to one billion by the end of the century. Eighty percent of these deaths will occur in the developing world.

Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, Douglas Bettcher, tells VOA the illicit trade in tobacco products undermines efforts to reduce tobacco use and save lives. He says smuggled tobacco products help fund organized crime and terrorist organizations, and costs governments billions in revenue.

“What happens is hundreds of billions of smuggled cigarettes are dumped onto markets, particularly developing country markets without taxes paid,” said Douglas Bettcher. “So, it means cheaper, brand name tobacco products are dumped at cheap prices in developing countries, which means that poorer groups which are more price sensitive will consume more of this deadly cocktail, this highly addictive drug and more will die.”

Bettcher says smuggled cigarettes are particularly threatening to young people because they are cheap and affordable.

Experts estimate in 2006, illicit trade accounted for nearly 11 percent of global cigarette sales, or about 600 billion cigarettes. They say this lethal trade is worth about US$60 billion a year.

Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton Hotels Go Smoke-Free

Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton Hotels Go Smoke-Free

More Than 300 Hotels in the U.S., Canada and Caribbean to Implement 100% Smoke-Free Policy

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Feb. 11, 2008–Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) announced today that its Sheraton(R) and Four Points(R) by Sheraton hotel brands will implement a smoke-free policy at more than 300 hotels and resorts throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Canada. Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton have begun converting all smoking guestrooms to non-smoking in preparation for the new policy. In addition, all public areas will also be 100% smoke-free*.

Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton hotels decision to go smoke-free reflects both brands’ commitment to providing guests with a clean, comfortable and healthy stay. The new policy also follows in the footsteps of their sister brand, Westin, who became the first hotel chain to go smoke-free in January 2006 when the brand introduced the policy across all hotels in the U.S., Canada and Caribbean. Due to the overwhelming feedback from guests Westin hotels in Australia, Fiji, and Scotland have also gone smoke-free.

To prepare for the new policy approximately 8,000 smoking rooms will undergo an extensive cleaning process. This includes deep cleaning all soft goods, and treating all hard surfaces, walls and carpets to eliminate allergens, replacing air filters and deep cleaning all air conditioning units.

“We are committed to the health and quality of life of our guests and associates and that includes providing a clean, smoke-free environment,” said Hoyt Harper II, Senior Vice President for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and Four Points by Sheraton. “Our core customers are road warriors who we know endure a rigorous travel schedule. At Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton we want to provide a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere that is healthy.”

All Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton hotels and resorts in the U.S., Caribbean and Canada will offer a designated outdoor area for guests who smoke.

There are currently 70 Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton hotels in the U.S., Canada & Caribbean that are currently smoke-free. Both hotel brands expect to be completely smoke-free in the U.S. and Canada by December 31, 2008.

About Sheraton Hotels & Resorts

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts is the largest brand of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, and has more than 400 hotels in 75 countries.

One of the world’s most global hotel brands, Sheraton is a favorite among business and leisure travelers who expect warmth from the moment they walk through the door. The welcoming ambience, friendly staff, upscale amenities and timeless style create a setting where travelers are comfortable being themselves.

About Four Points by Sheraton

Four Points by Sheraton, with more than 130 properties in 22 countries, is offers the self-sufficient traveler a new kind of style and comfort combined with a spirited “can-do” service — all at an honest value. Four Points by Sheraton hotels are located in easy-to-reach areas – close to major airports, suburban centers, urban hot spots and resort and vacation destinations. Four Points Simple Pleasures(SM) program offers little indulgences such as tasty pie, a great cup of coffee and premium craft beers from around the world. It’s those little extras that score big points with Four Points by Sheraton customers.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with approximately 900 properties in more than 100 countries and 155,000 employees at its owned and managed properties. Starwood Hotels is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels and resorts with the following internationally renowned brands:

St. Regis(R), The Luxury Collection(R), Sheraton(R), Westin(R), Four Points(R) by Sheraton, W(R), Le Meridien(R) and the recently announced Aloft(SM) and Element(SM) Hotels. Starwood Hotels also owns Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., one of the premier developers and operators of high quality vacation interval ownership resorts. For more information, please visit

*Smoking may be permitted in areas not owned or operated by Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and Four Points by Sheraton and in designated outdoor smoking areas.

CONTACT: Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Nadeen Ayala, 914-640-8259

SOURCE: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.