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February 22nd, 2008:

50pc Tax Hike Sought In Bid To Help Smokers Quit

Damon Pang – The Standard – Friday, February 22, 2008

An increase in tobacco tax of up to 50 percent in the upcoming budget speech on Wednesday will help smokers quit the habit, Council on Smoking and Health chairman Homer Tso Wei-kwok said yesterday.

Tso also criticized the government for “seriously lacking” in efforts to help youths aged 15 to 19 – when most smokers pick up the habit – quit.

The tax increment would mean 75 percent of the price for a packet of cigarettes – about HK$30 depending on brands – would be taxed, compared with about half the price now.

The World Health Organization recommends a standard tax of two- thirds of the price.

“Increasing the tax must also go along with increased provision of services to smokers to quit smoking, as it is also necessary to show that the government is not in it for the money, but for the protection of public health,” Tso said.

“Increasing the tax is only one method to control smoking, but most importantly [government policy] needs to be consistent.

“There are about 15,700 young smokers locally, yet we only have one youth quitline at Hong Kong University capable of helping 400 people.”

He said the service should be readily accessible, through community help channels, not hospitals. Quitting needed to become a popular trend like slimming.

In response, a Department of Health spokeswoman said the government had successfully decreased the smoking rate.

She said the percentage of smokers had fallen from 23 percent in 1982 to 14 percent in 2005 through “gradual and multiple means,” including legislation, tobacco taxation, public education and quit-smoking services.

Hong Kong University, meanwhile, surveyed 304 young smokers who phoned its quitline between August 2005 and last September.

Sophia Chan Sin-chee, head of the university’s nursing studies department, said young smokers aged between 15 and 19 went through fewer cigarettes per day after smoking was banned in public indoor places in January last year – from 12.2 before the ban to 10.1 after it took effect.

She said the ban marked a change in the general environment “where more important people around [the smokers] urge them to quit smoking, as more smokers themselves urge others to quit also.”

Chan said the survey also showed more smokers believed others want them to quit smoking after the start of the ban because 51.9 percent of those interviewed had greater motivation to quit.

Nearly two in five smokers said they received more encouragement to quit from key people around them after the ban, while 42.7 percent said they had less exposure to secondhand smoke.

Chan also said that, since the implementation of the ban, 214 smokers, up 20 percent from before the ban, called the youth quitline.

She added 19.2 percent of smokers said they wanted to quit because of pressure from family and friends.

Young Smokers Looking To Quit ‘Need More Help’

Young Smokers Looking To Quit ‘Need More Help’

Scarlett Chiang – SCMP
Updated on Feb 22, 2008

The smoking ban has been effective in encouraging young smokers to quit, a survey has found, but there were not enough avenues for them to seek help. A University of Hong Kong survey found that more people called its hotline enquiring about quitting after a ban came into force in most public indoor areas on January 1 last year.

The university’s Youth Quitline for people aged 12 to 25 said it recorded a 60 per cent increase in calls from smokers after the ban.

In the first nine months of 2006 there were 179 calls, compared with 214 in the same period last year.

Calls from non-smoking parents seeking advice on how they could help their teenagers quit increased 45 per cent from 69 in the first nine months of 2006 to 100 in the same period last year.

Among the calls received since January 1 last year, 50 per cent of callers said they had more motivation to quit since the ban came into force, and 40 per cent said they received more encouragement to quit from their friends and family.

Sophia Chan Siu-chee, head of the university’s nursing studies department, said the figures showed there had been a sharp increase in the number of young smokers seeking to quit in the first few months after the legislation was introduced, and the government should do more to encourage people to quit.

She said young smokers needed professional support to help them quit and the university’s hotline was the only one available for teenagers.

“The government should help smokers,” Professor Chan said. “If there is a smoking ban for the public to protect them from second-hand smoke, there should also be some ways to help smokers quit.”

She said the government had provided a one-off HK$300,000 subsidy in 2005 from the Health Care Promotion Fund. The hotline needs funding to continue its services.

“If we want to continue to help teenage smokers, we need more help, especially from the government,” she said. The university said there were 15,700 daily smokers aged 15 to 19 in the city.

An anti-smoking organisation also urged the government to raise the tobacco tax every year by about 15 per cent to encourage people to quit.

Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health chairman Homer Tso Wei-kwok said he hoped the government could either raise the tobacco tax every year or make a one-off increase of 40 per cent to 50 per cent in the budget on Wednesday.

“The tobacco tax should be about two-thirds more than the retail price of a packet of cigarettes to deter people from smoking,” Dr Tso said.

He also complained that the government had no measures to encourage young people to quit.

A Health Department spokeswoman said the government had encouraged smokers to quit through legislation, education and tobacco tax. She added that the department had set up a clinic and a hotline for people who wanted to quit.

Toronto Judge Reinstates Charges Against Cigarette Executives

Judge reinstates charges against cigarette executives – The Gazette
February 22, 2008

Peter Brieger

A Toronto judge has put Canada’s biggest cigarette-smuggling case back into play by ordering that fraud and conspiracy charges be reinstated against six former executives of tobacco giant JTI-Macdonald Corp.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer this week quashed a decision last year to throw out the case against the six men for lack of evidence, saying a preliminary hearing judge made legal errors in his ruling.

Crown lawyers appealed that ruling.

“Put simply, the conduct of JTI and its employees is conduct that a reasonable person could see as dishonest,” Nordheimer wrote in his Feb. 19 decision. “The decisions to discharge these six individuals cannot stand.”

The 37-page ruling also denied a bid by Ed Lang, JTI’s former chief executive, to void seven counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud against him.

The other JTI employees are: former vice-president of operations Pierre Brunelle, former vice-president of finance Paul Neumann, director of finance Roland Kostantos and managers Dale Sisel, Jaap Uittenbogaard and Peter MacGregor.

The seven are accused of defrauding federal and provincial governments out of more than $1 billion in tax revenue during early 1990s by operating a smuggling ring through the United States and First Nations reserves.

JTI and its former employees were charged in 2003 after a four-year police probe. None of the allegations has been proven.

Evidence at the 19-month preliminary hearing is subject to a publication ban.

But Nordheimer, who overturned former Bay Street investment banker Andrew Rankin’s insider-tipping conviction last year, said he disagreed there isn’t enough evidence to put the former tobacco executives on trial.

“Presumably, each of these employees believed, in acting as they did, that they were just doing their jobs,” Nordheimer wrote. “However, if the manner by which they chose to undertake their responsibilities was criminal in nature, the fact that they also acted within the scope of their employment will not absolve them from criminal liability.”

Bangladesh Govt Urged To Increase Taxes On Tobacco Products

Govt urged to increase taxes on tobacco products

The Financial Express – February 22, 2008

Bangladesh Anti-tobacco Alliance urged the government to increase taxes on tobacco products in the coming budget for controlling the massive use of tobacco in the country, reports UNB.

“Taxes on all tobacco products including dried tobacco leaves, `gul’ and `zarda’ have to be increased for effectively controlling the use of tobacco,” general secretary of Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Kazi Faruk told a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club Wednesday.

He said an increase in prices of tobacco products would have the greatest effect on the important target groups like poor and youths. “Some 10 per cent increase in price reduces consumption by 4 per cent in developed countries and 8 per cent in countries like Bangladesh.”

Referring to the report of a survey conducted jointly by `Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB)’ and ‘Mental and Health Bridge’, Kazi Faruq said most people in the country supported the increase of taxes and prices on tobacco and tobacco products.

“Some 73.2 per cent respondents opined in favour of increasing taxes on tobacco while some 60.1 per cent agreed to cut down on the use of tobacco with high price of tobacco products.”

Barnsley Council in Britain to Ban Smoking Outside Pubs

Council Sparks Fury as it Becomes First in Britain to Ban Smoking Outside Pubs

Last updated at 10:34am on 22nd February 2008

Barnsley Council want to ban people smoking in the street outside pubs and cafes

The first town in Britain looks set to ban smoking outside pubs and cafes but furious landlords have vowed to fight the extreme council plans. Bar and cafe owners have said they are prepared to go to court if the local authority’s decision to ban smoking on pavements outside their businesses goes ahead.

By April, smokers in Barnsley, South Yorkshire may find there are few places where they can light up.

Under the new regulations smoking will only be allowed outside in private beer gardens.

The move has caused uproar among the town’s licensees who have seen trade dwindle since the indoor smoking ban came into force. Publican Paul McNicholas, chairman of the town centre Pubwatch scheme said: “I feel so strongly about this I would be prepared to go to court. “There is no other place in the country even contemplating it. It would be difficult to enforce.” Mr McNicholas has spent £9,000 on awnings, tables and heaters so customers can sit outside his Irish pub and enjoy a pint and a cigarette. He said: “Having the outside area has compensated me and evened things out since the smoking ban.

These new guidelines could be the difference between bars surviving and not.” Walkabout bar manager Greg Harding said: “I think it is ridiculous.” He has a street drinking area in front of the town-centre premises and was offered the lease of the land by Barnsley Council. He said: “It gets people out front and brings a bit of colour to the town. This rule would make it untenable for us to continue taking this space from the council.”

Barnsley Council’s environment department came up with the scheme in a document entitled “Guidelines for street cafes” in Barnsley town centre. The new rule states: “As of April 1 the licensed cafe area will be a no-smoking area.

“It will be the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that customers are reminded of this. “If it is noted that on three separate occasions customers are witnessed to be smoking, then the licence will be revoked.”

Councillor Roy Miller, Barnsley’s environment committee head said consultations were still taking place and input would be welcomed from licensees. He said: “We are awaiting the responses and I am having a meeting with several landlords.”

The move has been attacked by the pro-smoking organisation FOREST which says the scheme is “dubious, difficult to enforce and a potential death knell for businesses without space for a beer garden.” Director Simon Clarke said: “It is the first time we have heard of such a plan anywhere in the country. “If the council wants smokers off the streets it would be more productive to use resources for smoking rooms. “If this is brought in I will come to Barnsley myself and light up even though I don’t smoke.”