Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

September, 2009:

Ontario files CAD 50 billion suit versus tobacco companies

The Canadian province of Ontario said Tuesday it has filed a lawsuit seeking CAD 50 billion (USD 45.9 billion) in damages from tobacco companies for healthcare costs incurred by taxpayers since 1955.

In doing so, Ontario became the third of Canada’s ten provinces to sue the country’s tobacco manufacturers, all of which are units of foreign tobacco makers, including Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco. The lawsuit by Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, was planned under legislation passed by its legislature earlier this year, and seeks damages for past and ongoing healthcare costs. Ontario says tobacco use costs the province CAD 1.6 billion a year for healthcare and causes about 13,000 deaths annually. It said smoking is the province’s number one cause of illness and premature death.

The legislation allows Ontario to directly sue tobacco companies for alleged wrongdoing and allocates liability among tobacco companies by market share. A spokesman for Imperial Tobacco Canada, Canada’s leading tobacco company and a wholly owned unit of British American Tobacco, said the Ontario lawsuit made no sense, given that the product is legal, regulated, and taxed by the government. (pi)

`Stinky’ taunts push students to kick smokes

Beatrice Siu, The Standard

The number of secondary school students who smoke has fallen dramatically, a study spanning 14 years has revealed.

The University of Hong Kong, which carried out five surveys between 1994 and last year, said the percentage of smoking students peaked in 1999 when it stood at 12.7 percent, falling to 6.9 percent last year.

The smoking rate was based on the number of Secondary One to Five students who had smoked in the 30 days prior to being surveyed. Hong Kong’s 53 percent fall compares favorably with 45 percent in a similar survey in the United States.

Also, the total number of students who had smoked a cigarette, including first-timers and quitters, fell from 28 percent in 1999 to 15.8 percent last year.

HKU department of community medicine assistant professor Daniel Ho Sai-yin said the drop was due to strengthened tobacco control measures introduced in 2007 and the ban on tobacco advertising in 1999.

HKU says the total number of Secondary One to Five smokers is 33,287. “Although the research results indicated that there is a substantial drop in the smoking rate among Secondary One to Five students over the past 10 years, it was still high at 6.9 percent last year,” Ho said.

“This implies the tobacco control policies should be further strengthened in order to reduce the harm which smoking can do to the younger generation.”

The surveys also showed another reason why students were prepared to give up smoking – they were described as “stinky” by classmates.

Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health chairwoman Lisa Lau Man-man suggested the government further increases tobacco taxes to deter youngsters.

HKU School of Public Health director Lam Tai-hing warned that active smoking kills 5,000 to 6,000 people each year and about 1,000 people die from secondhand smoke.

He also said that smoking bans are never enough.

“The government has strengthened the legislation on smoking bans but there are still loopholes,” Lam said.

For example, bar managers will not be prosecuted even if they allow customers to smoke in the premises.”

Gradual fall in number of teens smoking – Researchers credit smoking ban, rise in tax for cut in tobacco use

Ng Yuk-hang, SCMP

The number of teenage smokers has fallen in the past five years as the extension of the smoking ban and the rise in tobacco tax have made the habit more inconvenient and costly, university researchers said yesterday.

But 33,000 pupils – 6.9 per cent of those in Form One to Five – still smoke, the University of Hong Kong researchers estimated. The government should continue to push its anti-tobacco efforts because “they will never be enough”, they said.

In the most recent survey, the university interviewed 18,278 students last year randomly sampled from different secondary schools.

Of these, 6.9 per cent said they had smoked a cigarette in the previous 30 days, while 17.7 per cent said they had tried smoking at some time.

The proportion of current smokers was down from 9.6 per cent in 2003 and 9.5 per cent in 2006, school of public health assistant professor Dr Daniel Ho Sai-yin said. He believed the increase in tobacco tax and extension of the smoking ban had contributed. “Teenagers are especially sensitive to a tax increase. They might rather save the money for a trip with their family,” he said.

Smoking had become an “old-fashioned habit” among teenagers, and smokers were getting more and more unpopular, he said.

Among the young smokers, about half did not have an intention to quit, a slight improvement from 59 per cent in 2003. “If they do not quit now, half of them will die prematurely in middle age because of smoking,” Ho said. The government should start looking into the feasibility of banning smoking further – such as in vehicles whenever children were present.

“This is the practice in some American states,” he said. “Smoking in front of children is a form of physical abuse.”

School director Professor Lam Tai-hing said smoking controls could never be enough, citing as an example the loophole in the restaurant smoking ban that means owners are not punished for not stopping their customers from smoking.“By the time law enforcement officials arrive, the smokers are already gone,” he said.

The government should increase the tobacco tax every year to boost its deterrent effect, he said. Pictures on cigarette packets could show more clearly “the disgusting health consequence of smoking”.

The university has organised a video competition for secondary school pupils in which they can upload a one-minute anti-smoking video on YouTube, which would then be voted on.

Lam said the competition would not focus on preventing youth smoking, but rather the “denormalisation” of the habit.

“If we tell them teenagers should not smoke, we are implying that adults can,” he said. “Instead we should spread the message that smoking is no longer a trend. It does not imply independence.”

Smoking killed 6,000 people a year in the city and second-hand smoke another 1,000, he said.

Blitz operations against smoking offence in FEHD venues


Hong Kong (HKSAR) – The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Tobacco Control Office (TCO) of Department of Health jointly carried out a blitz operation at the Cooked Food Centre of (1)Shek Wu Hui Market tonight (September 28). Joint blitz operations were mounted at the Cooked Food Centres of (2)Lockhart Road Market and (3)Pei Ho Street Market and (4)Woosung Street Temporary Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar last week. A total of five Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issued during the operations.

Indoor areas of public markets and hawker bazaars under FEHD have been designated as no smoking areas and authorised public officers of FEHD, in addition to officers of the TCO, are empowered to issue FPNs to smoking offenders under the Fixed Penalty (Smoking Offences) Ordinance which took effect on September 1 this year. “Apart from monitoring the situation of no smoking areas in markets and hawker bazaars and taking enforcement action on a daily basis, we would also mount joint blitz operations with the TCO to enhance the deterrent effect as and when necessary,” a spokesman for the FEHD added.

Source: HKSAR Government – 


If 5 FPN smoking tickets issued in 4 different sites is a ‘Blitz’ then proper enforcement should be termed ‘Selective Enforcement by the Hypocritically sensory affected non willing trouble avoiders’




An email sent from Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive, ASH Scotland

To James Middleton, Clear The Air

I wanted to drop you an email to let you know how the Holyrood conference went and to thank you for your help with our background investigations.

It was a very polarised debate. Around 70 or 80 delegates, including a lot of Trading Standards Officers, a number of pharma reps, about 10 delegates from the retail trade and representative bodies, and big guns from Big Tobacco (TMA, Imperial, JTI, vending machine orgs Sinclair Collis & NACMO as well as FOREST and F2C Scotland).

We had a good showing in the morning and were backed by Scottish Youth Parliament representative in advocating the measures. Patrick Basham (the academic that was recommended by FOREST) played a canny game portraying tobacco use as a natural 4 stage process linked to growing wealth and social perceptions of risk-taking (aspire to smoke, get wealth and take it up, trade up to premium brands, perceive longer term health risks, reduced levels of smoking ending up at around 20-25%) and claiming tobacco control measures are brought in by govts after the natural decline occurs – that they are just putting a ribbon on something taking place anyway and that there’s no evidence to support their effectiveness of tobacco control measures. Scottish Conservatives argued there’s no evidence base for effectiveness of point of sale, so we shouldn’t do it – and if it is done retailers ought to be compensated. EamonnRossi from the Office of Tobacco Control in Ireland was ambushed by a flown-in contingent of Irish retailers (‘Retailers against Smuggling’) protesting against the cost of registration (50 euros) and saying the display ban had led to increased smuggling, but he fielded it well. Our Health Minister was strong on the measures in the bill including ending point of sale and banning self service vending machines, and as you will have seen our Parliament voted through the first stage general approval of the principles in the bill.

Kind regards


Sheila Duffy
Chief Executive
ASH Scotland
8 Frederick Street
Edinburgh, EH2 2HB

Tel: 0131 220 9487
Fax: 0131 225 4759

ASH Scotland is a registered Scottish charity (SC 010412) and a company limited by guarantee (Scottish company no 141711).

As a charity, we need your donations to continue working towardsa tobacco-free Scotland.  You can donate to us securely online at

Email your enquiries on tobacco and smoking to the ASH Scotland Information Service:
Visit Tobacco Information Scotland: your national gateway to tobacco control information:

Studies show smoking bans cut heart attacks – Findings support restrictions, say researchers

Reuters in Chicago

Smoking bans in public places can significantly reduce the number of heart attacks, two US research teams have reported.

One team found smoking bans in the United States, Canada and Europe had an immediate effect that increased over time, cutting heart attacks by 17 per cent after the first year and as much as 36 per cent after three years, they reported in the journal Circulation.

A second team found such bans reduced the annual heart attack rate by 26 per cent. Their report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology estimates a nationwide ban in the United States could prevent as many as 154,000 heart attacks each year.

Both research teams said the findings supported the adoption of widespread bans on smoking in enclosed public places to prevent heart attacks and improve public health.

“Public smoking bans seem to be tremendously effective in reducing heart attacks and, theoretically, might also help to prevent lung cancer and emphysema, diseases that develop much more slowly than heart attacks,” said Dr David Meyers, of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, who led the study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Even breathing in low doses of cigarette smoke can increase one’s risk of heart attack.”

Smoking bans have been enacted in countries all over the world. In the United States, 32 states ban smoking in public places and workplaces, as do many cities and other localities.

Meyers and colleagues analysed data from 10 studies on smoking bans in the US, Canada and Europe to compare rates of heart attacks before and after public smoking bans.

They found women and younger people were most likely to benefit, possibly because they often work in or frequent bars and restaurants where smoking is common.

Dr James Lightwood, of the University of California, San Francisco, who worked on the study in Circulation, said earlier studies had been inconsistent in their findings, but their analysis found that smoking bans had a compelling effect.

“This study adds to the already strong evidence that second-hand smoke causes heart attacks, and that passing 100 per cent smoke-free laws in all workplaces and public places is something we can do to protect the public,” Lightwood said.

A spokesman for the Michigan Restaurant Association, Andy Deloney, said he had not seen the latest studies but remained sceptical about research findings that showed immediate health benefits. He said tobacco smoke was just one of many factors that influenced heart disease.

Deloney said many Michigan restaurants were choosing to ban smoking and using that as a competitive edge. In Michigan, where there is no statewide smoking ban, about 5,700 restaurants are smoke-free, compared with 2,200 in 1998.

But he thinks the choice should be up to restaurants. “We couldn’t care less if all of the restaurants in Michigan went smoke-free – as long as it’s their choice,” he said. A spokesman for the National Restaurant Association said his organisation had not been involved in the issue.

Long-term exposure to second-hand smoke can raise heart disease rates in adult non-smokers by 25 per cent to 30 per cent, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Second-hand smoke kills an estimated 46,000 Americans every year from heart disease alone, the CDC and US Heart Association say. Smoking also causes several types of cancer, stroke and emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Cigarette firms feeling burned by rise in tax

Dan Kadison, SCMP

Several tobacco companies are feeling the burn from the government’s anti-smoking efforts, according to a member of an industry group.

Deanna Cheung, executive secretary of the Tobacco Association of Hong Kong, said some companies were estimating that sales of duty-paid cigarettes had dropped 20 to 40 per cent so far this year, in part because of February’s excise increase.

Those figures were “alarming”, she said, especially since the association believed the tax increase had done little to persuade Hongkongers to quit but had encouraged them to seek cheaper alternatives, such as purchasing duty-free cigarettes or buying smuggled or counterfeit packs.

“It doesn’t mean that people are consuming less,” Cheung said. “They can change to the illegal product, the cheaper product that’s defeating [the government’s] health objectives.”

In the first eight months of this year, duty had been paid on 1.96 billion cigarettes in Hong Kong, compared with 2.46 billion over the same time frame a year earlier, according to Cheung, citing data from the Customs and Excise Department.

The 20 per cent drop was in line with what Cheung’s employer, British American Tobacco, was experiencing, she said, although companies that handled smaller volumes were complaining of steeper declines.

The Tobacco Association – whose members include British American, Japan Tobacco, Pacific Cigar and smaller outfits – planned to schedule a meeting with government officials once it had “a detailed number on total consumption” and other research findings, Cheung said.

One alternative would be for the government to incrementally raise taxes when needed, rather than impose “a drastic tax increase”, which forced people to flee the duty-paid market, she added.

James Middleton, the chairman of Clear the Air’s anti-tobacco committee, said he was not surprised the number of cigarettes sold in Hong Kong was dwindling.

He credited the 50 per cent rise in the tobacco tax, which added HK$8 to a pack of cigarettes, with the decline.

The increase “has had a direct effect on duty-paid sales and that is shown through the figures”, Middleton said. “When taxation goes up, that’s the nemesis of the tobacco companies. That’s the worst thing that can happen to them.”

Middleton rejected the Tobacco Association’s claim that smokers were buying their cigarettes elsewhere, saying it was impossible for so many to be purchased from the duty-free or illicit markets.

There were restrictions on duty-free cigarettes, customs and excise officers were on the prowl looking for smuggled tobacco, and people were generally wary of buying counterfeit products, he said.

The Customs and Excise Department said it “has strengthened enforcement actions” as a result of the tax increase.

A Health Department spokesman said higher taxes turned people off smoking – not just in Hong Kong, but around the world.

“Cigarette pricing is well established as a key factor influencing tobacco consumption and smoking prevalence,” the spokesman said.

“According to the World Bank, on average a price rise of 10 per cent on a pack of cigarettes is expected to reduce demand by about 4 per cent in high-income countries and by about 8 per cent in low and middle-income countries, where lower incomes tend to make people more responsive to price changes.”

The spokesman said the effect of the tax increase “may be further reinforced by our extension of no-smoking areas, enhanced publicity and education, deterrent effects of the fixed-penalty system and so forth”.

He said there were 4,800 calls to the Health Department’s smoking cessation hotline within a month of the tax increase. That compared to 4,300 calls in the whole of last year.

Official must apologise for union slur, say smoking-ban enforcers

Ng Yuk-hang, SCMP

A group of unionists has demanded an apology from the director of food and environmental hygiene for questioning their legitimacy and “stepping on labour rights” in a speech about enforcing the smoking ban.

About 10 unionists protested yesterday at the department’s office in Admiralty against director Cheuk Wing-hing, who said this month that workers who failed to enforce the smoking ban could be disciplined.

Cheuk also urged the public “not to be misled by the requests of some unions that had unknown membership”.

FEHD Staff Rights Union chairwoman Li Mei-siu said it was disrespectful that Cheuk accused them of having an unknown number of members, apparently questioning how representative it was.

“We are a proper labour union and went through proper registration,” she said, adding that they had immediately sent protest letters but had not received a reply.

Li said Cheuk’s warning of disciplinary action was shattering unions’ effort to fight for more rights. “The government should be a role model for all employers, but now they set a bad example,” she said.

The row between unionists and the department began with the extension of smoking bans on September 1. Among the new provisions, 700 staff from the department, 2,200 from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and 430 from the Housing Department are responsible for issuing HK$1,500 fines to people caught smoking in places under their management.

But some workers are unwilling to enforce the ban, citing safety and workload concerns.

A department spokesman said it had not received any resignations or requests to change jobs but would continue to communicate with the unions.

He confirmed that on September 5, a worker was slightly injured by a smoker when enforcing the ban in a wet market.

As of yesterday, the department had made 108 verbal warnings and fined four people.

New York leads the charge in America’s anti-smoking laws


Once, America was in thrall to the Marlboro Man. The hard-smoking cowboy, staring moodily from his horse at a far-off horizon, symbolised a certain kind of freedom and – not coincidentally – helped sell millions of cigarettes.

But now America’s smokers are groaning – or maybe that should be wheezing – under a flood of new measures designed to make them give up. Or, at the very least, to drive their habits from public view to something furtively done in private.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced plans to try to ban smoking in the city’s public parks, adding to the 2002 ban on smoking in offices, restaurants and bars. That would see the Big Apple take on one of the most ambitious urban anti-smoking bans in the world, forbidding its citizens from lighting up in hundreds of city parks and 22 kilometres of beaches.

But the New York move is just the tip of an iceberg of anti-smoking policies spreading across the country in a variety of arenas, ranging from rental cars to the army and people’s homes.

From next month, Avis and Budget will be the first major American car rental companies to ban smokers from puffing away in their vehicles, charging cleaning fees of up to US$250 for those who flout the rules.

Chicago has already taken its ban outside by forbidding smoking on beaches and in playgrounds. In California, the small city of Belmont, just outside San Francisco, has even banned it in apartment buildings, marking the first real advance of anti-smoking laws into personal homes.

Perhaps the biggest recent shock has been a study commissioned by the Pentagon that said smoking should be banned in the military. Though few changes are expected soon in the army, the idea of stopping American soldiers lighting up in a combat zone after a firefight triggered a wave of headlines.

Yet it is still New York that is on the frontline of America’s anti-smoking wars. The city celebrates its global reputation for hard partying, tolerance of different lifestyles and rabid individualism, yet Bloomberg has successfully made the Big Apple’s smokers one of the few social groups it is considered acceptable to ostracise.

On Monday, Bloomberg – a former smoker himself – admitted that when he sees smokers hunkered together outside buildings he gives them “a not particularly nice look” as he walks past.

His comments appeared to be aimed at encouraging other New Yorkers to do likewise. “Social pressure really does work,” he said. It certainly seems to have made New York smokers into a fairly subdued bunch as they faced yet further constraints.

Hurrying across New York’s Madison Square park – one of the areas where a ban would come into place – Janaria Kelly shrugged off the news as he clutched a lighted cigarette.

“They have already banned it in so many other places, that it won’t make much difference,” said the 43-year-old salesman. Kelly added that he understood, and even sympathised with, the reasons for the ban. “Smoking is my choice, but I know it is bad for me, so I get why they are doing it,” he said.

That is music to the ears of the anti-smoking movement. Some reports have shown that smoking-related health care costs are almost US$100 billion a year, and this is against a background of rising health care costs for the government.

Bloomberg, and many others, have made it clear that they see smoking as expensive to wider society, not just as a private habit for the individual, and have not shied away from draconian measures that would be hard to impose on other products.

But smoking rights groups have made no secret of their horror at the latest moves, equating it with a loss of individual freedom being imposed on the public from above.

“The American public is not asking for this. It is coming from government and non-government groups, and it is attacking basic rights of freedom,” said Maryetta Ables, president of Forces International, a conservative group that campaigns on issues of personal freedom in smoking, eating and other consumer choices. But Ables admitted that the climate in the US seemed to indicate that her group was fighting a losing battle at the moment. “There is going to be more of this sort of thing to come,” she said.

That did not seem to bother Paul Collins, 39, another smoker lighting up in Madison Square park as he recovered from the stresses of his morning commute into the city.

“If they do it, they do it,” he said with an air of resignation. “The smoking ban in bars was actually good for me. I cut down a bit. So I don’t really mind.”

That is not the fighting spirit among smokers that the Marlboro Man was meant to encourage.

But then the Marlboro Man is perhaps not the best smoking symbol any more. Several of the cowboys used as models in the campaign contracted lung cancer and became anti-smoking campaigners.

New York banned smoking in most restaurants in 1995, followed by workplaces and indoor public places in 2003, three years before such bans in Scotland and four years before England and Wales.

However, the Department of Health in England said that it had no plans to extend smoke-free areas, saying such moves were up to local authorities.

In Australia, smoking was banned on Sydney’s Bondi beach in 2004, after similar prohibitions on dogs, ball games and frisbees. Soon after, the local council restricted alcohol consumption on the beach.

In Holland, Amsterdam’s coffee shops were not exempted from a ban on smoking in public places. There, pure cannabis or cannabis resin can be legally smoked – as long as it is not mixed with tobacco.

The Guardian

Study suggests smokers are still misled by labelling of cigarette packs Roger Dobson

Published 7 September 2009, doi:10.1136/bmj.b3623 Cite this as: BMJ

1 Abergavenny

New research among UK adults and children shows that the use of words such as “smooth” on cigarette packs and lighter coloured packaging misleads people into thinking cigarettes are less harmful than other brands, suggesting that current regulations may be inadequate.

More than half of adults and young people taking part in the study reported that cigarette brands labelled as “smooth” were less harmful to health than “regular” varieties, with, for example, 54% of children considering that the Mayfair Smooth brand of cigarettes was less harmful than Mayfair King Size (European Journal of Public Health, doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckp122).

Regulations requiring the use of plain packaging-including removing colours from cigarette packs-and preventing the use of words such as “smooth,” “gold,” and “silver” would greatly reduce these false beliefs, say the researchers, whose study was funded by a grant from the Department of Health.

“The truth is that all cigarettes are equally hazardous, regardless of what colour the pack is or what words appear on it. These tactics are giving consumers a false sense of reassurance that simply does not exist,” warns the lead author, Professor David Hammond, from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

The study, described as the first to examine consumer perceptions of cigarette brands on the UK market, involved 516 adult smokers and 806 children (aged 11-17 years) who completed a survey in which they were asked to compare pairs of cigarette packs on five measures-taste, tar delivery, health risk, attractiveness, and either ease of quitting (adult smokers) or
brands they would choose if trying smoking (children).

Results showed that 75% of adult smokers incorrectly believed that a difference in health risk existed for at least one of the eight brand comparisons shown, and more than 80% incorrectly believed there was a difference in tar delivery.

Brands labelled as “smooth,” “gold,” or “silver” were perceived as being substantially less harmful. Adult smokers were also more likely to believe that each of these brands delivered less tar and was more attractive and to incorrectly believe that these brands would make it easier to quit smoking.

The colour of packs was also associated with false beliefs about tar delivery and health risk. Compared with Marlboro packs with a red logo, Marlboro packs with a gold logo were rated as lower health risk by more than half of adult smokers; and a third believed that it would be easier to quit smoking if they smoked Marlboro brands with a gold logo. Cigarettes in a light grey package were also rated by four out of 10 smokers as less harmful than cigarettes in an otherwise identical red pack.

The authors point out that in 2003 the European Union (EU) banned the words “light,” “mild,” and “low tar” on cigarette packaging on the grounds that they may mislead consumers into the belief that cigarettes are less harmful.

“The current findings provide additional evidence that other descriptors, such as ‘smooth’, are perceived in the same way as these prohibited terms and appear to violate the principle of the EU directive, as well as guidelines of the World Health Organization treaty that prohibits information that creates the false impression that a particular product is less harmful,” they say.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health and one of the authors of the study, says: “This research shows that the only sure way of putting an end to this misleading marketing is to require all tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging. That would remove false beliefs about different brands and communicate the message that all cigarettes are

Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3623