Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

February 18th, 2009:

NEW REPORT: Deadly in Pink – Big Tobacco Lures Women and Girls

Provided by Clarissa Driban, Home Front Communications, America

“Purse Packs” Depict Smoking as Feminine and Fashionable

A new report sheds light on the most aggressive efforts by the tobacco industry to target women and girls in over a decade and reveals what Big Tobacco doesn’t want consumers to know. The tobacco industry has a long history of developing cigarette brands and marketing campaigns aimed at women and girls, with devastating consequences for women’s health. Recently, Philip Morris gave a makeover to its Virginia Slims brand with its new “purse packs” and R.J. Reynolds launched a new version of its Camel cigarette, called Camel No. 9—packaged in a shiny black box with hot pink and teal borders. These new marketing campaigns depict cigarette smoking as feminine and fashionable to lure a new generation of girls into a lifetime of smoking.

The new marketing campaigns and the long-term impact of smoking on women’s health are detailed in a new report “Deadly in Pink – Big Tobacco Lures Women and Girls”. The report was released today by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and some of the nation’s most prominent health advocates, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

View and Share this Widget

With more than 21.5 million women and girls smoking in the United States, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death among women. Cigarette smoking kills more than 170,000 women in the U.S. each year, and while lung cancer death rates are decreasing for men, rates have yet to decline among women. Pending legislation before Congress has the potential, however, to protect women and girls by cracking down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids, prohibiting misleading cigarette descriptions such as “light, “low-tar” and “mild”, and requiring tobacco companies to disclose previously secret information about their products.

For more local (America) and national statistics please visit or for a copy of the report visit:

For more information or to request the full Bites and B-roll, contact Home Front Communications by responding to this email or by calling 877-544-8400.

Tougher Controls Sought On Smoking Activists Seek Graphic Images On Packets

Raymond Li, SCMP – Feb 18, 2009

Health activists have taken the anti-smoking fight to big tobacco companies with the launch of a campaign to force the firms to print graphic warnings on cigarette packets sold on the mainland.

The Ministry of Health’s National Tobacco Control Office launched an online campaign on Monday to solicit public support for tougher tobacco controls ahead of the annual gatherings of the nation’s legislators and top political advisers.

China signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a World Health Organisation treaty, in 2003 but only began implementing it last month after a grace period. Under the treaty, tobacco manufacturers and importers must state clearly and prominently on cigarette packets sold on the mainland the damage caused by smoking. The text and preferably graphic warnings should take up at least 30 per cent of the pack.

China was given an ash tray as an award at a WHO conference in South Africa last year, an apparent dressing down for the government’s inability to enforce smoking restrictions.

The mainland tobacco industry agreed to redesign packets from the beginning of this year under a new industry regulation introduced in April, but ignored WHO suggestions to include pictures in the warnings, an approach widely adopted by developed countries.

Xinhua quoted tobacco office director Yang Gonghuan as saying that of the 8.4 million people who died on the mainland each year, 12 per cent, or 1 million, died of tobacco-related illnesses such as lung and throat cancer, heart disease and, among newborns, sudden infant death syndrome.

“Smokers are becoming younger so this proportion will soar to one-third by 2050. That means about half of all male smokers will die of smoking-related diseases,” Dr Yang said.

Anti-smoking campaigners including Wu Yiqun, executive vice-director of the Research Centre for Health Development, said the shock value of graphic images – ranging from a skull and crossbones to a picture of yellowed teeth – made them an effective warning.

Professor Wu accused tobacco companies of double standards because some used different packaging for overseas markets. Packs of Shanghai Tobacco’s upmarket Zhonghua brand sold overseas carry a picture of a smoker’s ulcerated foot, he said.

Professor Wu said pushing the industry to minimise the harm of its products was like “demanding a tiger give up its pelt”. She was dismayed by the lack of commitment by the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration.

She was also concerned about its dual role as both regulator and representative of the powerful tobacco companies – firms that often contributed large chunks of revenues to regional governments.

Writing in the Beijing-based Mirror newspaper, Capital University of Economics and Business associate professor Zhang Zhixin said the country had the incentive and financial capacity to cut the government’s financial dependence on the tobacco industry, but added: “The public has good reason to question the sincerity of the government towards tobacco control because the results of such efforts are so poor.”

Call For Doubling Of Tobacco Tax To Stop Young Lighting Up

Daniel Sin, SCMP – Feb 18, 2009

The tax on tobacco should be doubled to curb youth smoking, a community group says.

A study by Chinese University’s Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies released yesterday found that nine out of 10 parents thought urgent action was needed to curb youth Smoking, and almost 85 per cent of the parents said the problem was “serious” or “very serious”.

The Committee on Youth Smoking Prevention, a community group that commissioned the study, recommended the tobacco tax be increased by 100 per cent – from HK$804 per 1,000 sticks to HK$1,608.

Part of the revenue from the tax should be used to finance NGOs, schools and parent groups so they can organise activities to prevent young people from smoking.

Tik Chi-yuen, the committee’s chairman and vice-chairman of the Democratic Party, said that more and more young people had been seen smoking in public places, even outside school premises.

He said that doubling the tax on cigarettes had curbed youth smoking in many countries, and was recommended by the World Health Organisation and the World Bank.

The Council on Smoking and Health, a statutory organisation, carries out public education on the adverse health effects of smoking, but Mr Tik said its resources were already stretched thin on its anti-smoking campaign.

One per cent of the revenue from the increased tobacco tax could provide HK$30 million a year for mobilising the community to combat the problem, he said.

Kenny Tsui Kar-keung, a board member of the Federation of Parent Teacher Associations in the Kwun Tong District, said it was too easy for young people to buy cigarettes. He said the penalty for selling cigarettes to
young people should be raised.

The survey was carried out in November, and feedback from 1,003 parents was collected.

British American Tobacco was not available for comment.

Time To Raise Tobacco Taxes – And Save Lives

SCMP – Feb 18, 2009

Stocks in companies offering products such as tobacco and alcohol are much loved by investors because they are believed to be recession-proof. Taxmen feel the same way. Tobacco tax is for all seasons; it is one of the few categories of public revenue that can reasonably be raised regardless of the economic cycle. In this downturn, the government is under pressure to bring relief to businesses in its budget next week as industries of all types clamour for tax breaks. The tobacco industry, still with deep pockets, might be the exception.

To deter people from smoking, the government should increase tobacco duty. The Committee on Youth Smoking Prevention yesterday recommended doubling the tax. This is certainly feasible. There is a strong case for a significant increase. Duty on cigarettes has not been raised since 2002. As a result, our city has some of the cheapest cigarettes in the developed world.

Because of the potentially deadly nature of the products it sells, the tobacco industry can expect little opposition from the public to a rise in the tax. Unlike many consumer industries, it finds it much easier to pass on costs to smokers because of their addiction. But high prices would discourage young people from taking up the habit. Smoking can cause addiction and all kinds of chronic diseases. It is imperative youngsters be deterred from taking up the habit.

The ban on smoking in public, introduced at the start of 2007, has proved a success. Businesses, such as restaurants, which initially opposed it have come around. Many find that, though they have lost customers who smoke, non-smokers who previously avoided the establishments have taken their place. Many bars were exempted from complying with the ban until this summer. They are now lobbying for the exemption to continue because of the economic downturn. But they were against the ban even when times were good. The government must make the ban universal, as planned. We cannot completely stop smoking, but raising taxes and extending the smoking ban to all enclosed public spaces will deter enough people from
smoking to save many more lives.

Altria Must Pay $8 Million in Florida Smoker’s Death

Altria Must Pay $8 Million in Florida Smoker’s Death (Update3)

By Jef Feeley and Mort Lucoff

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) — Altria Group Inc., the biggest U.S. cigarette maker, must pay $8 million to the family of a smoker who died of lung cancer, a Florida jury ruled in the first of 8,000 individual cases to go to trial in the state.

A state court jury in Fort Lauderdale ruled today Altria’s Philip Morris USA unit is liable for $3 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages over Stuart Hess’s 1997 death. The family’s lawyer told jurors during trial that Hess, 55, “choked his life away” smoking the company’s cigarettes from age 15. Altria makes Marlboro and Virginia Slims cigarettes.

The verdict is the first in thousands of lawsuits filed after the Florida Supreme Court refused to reinstate a $145 billion punitive-damages verdict awarded by a Miami jury to a statewide class of smokers in 2006.

Florida’s high court, which ruled the smokers can’t sue as a group, extended the time for individual smokers to sue and allowed them to rely in their individual cases on factual findings by the Miami jury, including that cigarettes are addictive and cause cancer.

The decision comes nearly ten years after the first verdict in the overall case, where a Miami jury found in 1999 that cigarette makers were responsible for the death and health problems of hundreds of thousands of Florida smokers. That ruling set the stage for the record $145 billion damage award.

“We’re going to file an appeal” of today’s award, said Kenneth Reilly, Altria’s attorney. “We’ll defend it vigorously like we have in all other cases.”

Possible Reduction

Altria fell 4 cents to $15.53 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading today. The company’s shares have risen 3.1 percent this year.

Altria’s lawyers contend Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld is likely to reduce the award because jurors found that Hess didn’t rely on the company’s statements about the safety of cigarettes after May 1982. His family can’t claim damages for that period because he was fully aware of the risks associated with smoking, the lawyers said.

Reilly said that the judge may throw out the punitive damage award and cut the compensatory award down to about $1.2 million, a reduction of 58 percent. That’s the number that jurors assigned to Hess for his share of responsibility for acquiring lung cancer from smoking.

Alex Alvarez, one of the Hess family’s lawyers, countered that “the full $8 million verdict will stand” because jurors found the company intentionally acted in a way that harmed Hess.

‘Gave Us Justice’

“The jury spoke and gave us justice,” he added.

Hess’s wife, Elaine, stood in a courthouse hallway wiping away tears after jurors handed down their decision. She said she hoped the verdict would send a message to tobacco companies.

“I just hope that all the thousands of other suffering families will also obtain similar justice,” she said.

During the two-week trial, Reilly told jurors the Hess family was seeking “an enormous amount” in the case and said he was relying on their “sound judgment” on the issue of whether the company should pay damages.

The family’s lawyers urged the Broward County Circuit Court jury in closing arguments in the damages phase of the case yesterday to award Hess’s wife and son about $132 million in total damages over his death.

“An award of only $5 million to $10 million would not mean that much to them,” Gary Paige, a lawyer for the family, told the panel.

The 8,000 cases pending in the state are split up among cigarette makers including Altria, Reynolds American Inc. and Vector Group Ltd. The cases are slated to be tried in courthouses across the state in coming months and years.

The manufacturers complain that the practice of allowing Florida smokers to rely on factual findings produced by the original 1999 case doesn’t pass constitutional muster.

‘Blame The Smoker’

“Today’s verdict was the result of an unconstitutional and profoundly flawed trial procedure,” Murray Garnick, an Altria spokesman, said in an e-mailed release. “Fundamental fairness requires the plaintiff to establish basic liability before a jury can award damages.”

Anti-smoking activists hailed the verdict as a first step in winning adequate compensation for consumers injured by the companies’ products.

“We’re delighted that the jury saw through Philip Morris’s attempts to blame the smoker” for his injuries, said Ed Sweda, a senior attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. “We’ll certainly be looking forward to the 8,000 other trials.”

The next case is slated to begin tomorrow in state court in Ft. Lauderdale before Streitfeld.

The case is Elaine Hess v. Philip Morris, CA 07-11513, Broward County Circuit Court (Fort Lauderdale).

To contact the reporters on this story: Jef Feeley in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at; Mort Lucoff in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at

Last Updated: February 18, 2009 17:57 EST