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April 3rd, 2009:

January Warning Over Strokes

Hong Kong  Stardard – 3 April 09

A highly fatal type of stroke appears to occur more frequently during the coldest months of winter and when atmospheric pressure rises, doctors have observed.

In an article published in the Hong Kong Medical Journal, researchers said such strokes, called aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage, peak in January.

”It is the most fatal type of brain hemorrhage, with a mortality rate of 50 percent,” said George Wong, associate professor at the Prince of Wales Hospital’s neurosurgery division.

Those who do not survive usually die on the day of the stroke.

Wong and his colleagues studied records of 135 patients who suffered this form of stroke from October 2002 to October 2006, and found that most of the strokes occurred in winter.

”The incidence is higher in winter, which correlates with changes in atmospheric pressure,” he said.

Wong’s team will try to find out the actual processes that changes in atmospheric pressure trigger in the human brain, but he said it may have to do with blood pressure change.

”It [such a stroke] is more common in patients with hypertension and smokers,” he said.

”The two messages we want to bring out are for people to be more aware of weather conditions and for people to control their blood pressure and, of course, quit smoking.”


‘No Sign’ Illicit Sales Up Since Smoke Duty Rise

Eva Wu, SCMP – Apr 03, 2009

There had been no sign of an increase in the sale of smuggled cigarettes since the tobacco duty was raised in this year’s budget, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung told the Legislative Council yesterday.

Professor Chan defended the government against criticism from lawmakers that it had failed to fight the sale of smuggled cigarettes effectively after increasing the tax on tobacco products by 50 per cent.

“The Customs and Excise Department has closely monitored the selling of smuggled cigarettes after the introduction of the tobacco-duty increase in the budget,” Professor Chan said.

“There is temporarily no sign of deteriorating sales of smuggled cigarettes in the market,” he said. “If necessary, the department will increase its manpower to fight against illegal activities.”

But lawmakers disagreed with the government and urged it to step up enforcement against the illegal cigarette trade, which they said had got worse since the duty increase.

Legislator Leung Yiu-chung, of the Neighbourhood and Workers’ Service Centre, said he had received complaints that residents of public-housing estates had recently received leaflets promoting the sale of smuggled cigarettes.

League of Social Democrats lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip said the illegal trade was “totally out of control”.

A motion to repeal the cigarette-tax increase, moved by Mr Chan, was voted down by the legislature yesterday.

In his second budget, unveiled in late February, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah increased the tobacco duty by 50 per cent with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, League chairman Wong Yuk-man yesterday blasted Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, the finance secretary and the government as “bu gai” – “you are wrong” in Putonghua.

The pronunciation of the words is similar to puk kai in Cantonese – meaning “drop dead in the street” – but puk kai was ruled by the Legco president on Wednesday to be unparliamentary language that could no longer be used in the chamber.

Mr Wong delivered his speech in Putonghua and argued that he did not use foul language, despite the similar pronunciation of the two expressions.