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October, 2009:

Even snake itself cannot resist snake venom!

Second hand smoking do much harm to smokers than non-smokers.

Second hand smoking do much harm to smokers than non-smokers.

There is a fallacy that people who smoke himself will not be affected by second-hand smoking. However it is not the case. Hong Kong University had just published a research result on the journal Pediatrics, stating that passive smoking not only influence the health of non-smoker, but also smokers. Researchers from the university’s school of public health said the study was the first to show that exposure to second-hand smoke was associated with increased risk of persistent respiratory symptoms among adolescent smokers.

The research targets were teenagers who smoked. Smoking is a kind of “social life” among teenagers, while we can see groups of youths gathering together in the playground and parks at night and smoke together. All the gathered teenagers become second-hand smokers, as they are all exposed to their peers’ smoke.

Not even teenagers are affected. There is a voice in the society that we should exclude the smoking ban on the restaurants with all the waiters smoke. But the research stated that even smokers themselves cannot resist the impact of second-hand smoke. This exclusion is meaningless as it will still put the waiters and customers in risk.

Here are some of the research results:

  • Current smokers who were exposed to second-hand smoke at home for five to seven days a week were 77 per cent more likely to suffer from respiratory symptoms than those who were not exposed
  • If teenagers often encountered passive smoking, the risk of suffering from persistent respiratory symptoms increased 12 per cent and 25.9 per cent respectively for non-smokers and current smokers.

Can you see how second-hand smoke ruined our lives? Therefore the smoking ban in town is good for our quality of life. From the information of Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, smokers in Hong Kong are decreasing. However, data shown that there is only slightly decline in youth and female smokers. So please support the action which encouraging the youth and female smokers to give up smoking hobby.

Source: Oct 21, 2009 SCMP , by Ng Yuk-hang


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Some articles of interest









TFI EMRO spot films now on YouTube

TFI/EMRO, from the Middle East

TFI EMRO is thrilled to announce that their tobacco control spot films are currently being uploaded onto YouTube. This is a follow up step to the one taken by HQ earlier this year (during WNTD 2009).

Please visit their website by clicking here: TFI EMRO. There, you will find a YouTube icon, just click on it and the films are yours to view!

As they are just in the preliminary uploading stages, please note that there will be more films coming your way soon so keep checking!

Until then, enjoy what’s there and spread the word for maximum viewership.

National games to return tobacco sponsorship money

Agence France-Presse in Beijing, SCMP

Organisers of China’s national games have pledged to return 20 million yuan (HK$22.75) in sponsorship fees from tobacco companies after an official complaint, state press said on Thursday.

The pledge came after the tobacco control office of China’s Centre for Disease Control issued an open letter saying the fees violated regulations on accepting sponsorship money from tobacco companies, the Beijing Times said.

As a member of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), China is committed to a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship at domestic and international events, it said.

China’s four-yearly national games, the country’s own mini-Olympics, formally open on Friday in Jinan city, in eastern Shandong province.

The 20 million yuan in sponsorship revenue had been pledged by nine tobacco companies linked to the state-run Shandong Tobacco Wholesale Company, the report said.

Besides returning the money, games organisers have also pledged not to accept any sponsorships from tobacco companies in future, it added.

Officials with the organising committee of the national games refused to comment on the issue when contacted by reporters.

China, the world’s largest tobacco producer and consumer, signed the FCTC in 2003, committing itself to banning all tobacco advertising nationwide by 2011, according to the WHO.

China has the world’s largest population of smokers, with about 350 million people taking up the habit, and the nation consumes up to one-third of the tobacco products sold annually worldwide, state media have reported.

More than one million mainlanders die of tobacco-related diseases every year and that figure is expected to double within the next 20 years, according to health experts.

In July, organisers of the next year World Expo in Shanghai were forced to turn down a 200-million-yuan (US$29 million) sponsorship deal from a tobacco company following similar complaints that it was violating the FCTC.

Smoke penalties spark avalanche of quit inquiries – Doctors want tax rise in policy address to cut smoking further

Ng Yuk-hang, SCMP

The number of people trying to quit smoking has more than doubled this year after the government stepped up anti-tobacco measures.

But doctors have urged Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to step up efforts further by increasing the tobacco tax in his coming policy address.

In the first nine months of the year 10,923 people called the Department of Health’s quit-smoking hotline, up from 4,335 in all of last year.

In that time the department’s clinics handled 432 new cases, up from 329 in the whole of last year.

The jump in August, a month before introduction of a HK$1,500 fixed penalty for smoking breaches, was especially dramatic. A total of 922 people called the hotline, compared to just 301 in the same month last year, a 300 per cent increase.

A department spokesman said the callers were mostly aged 30 to 49. Of those who visited the clinics, about 40 per cent successfully quit the habit within a year, on a par with the world’s average.

About 10 cessation clinics, operated by the department, Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and the Hospital Authority, offer a 12-week counselling programme for quitters. Callers to the quit hotline, 1833 183, are attended by a registered nurse trained in counselling quitters.

Smokers can also get information from the department’s website, which was launched in February. The number of visitors peaked in March at 4,326, right after the tobacco tax rose by 50 per cent.

University of Hong Kong School of Public Health director Professor Lam Tai-hing said that although the statistics were “encouraging”, the trend could slow if the government did not impose further measures.

The chief executive should increase tobacco tax by another 10 to 20 per cent in his policy address on Wednesday to set a stronger deterrent, Lam said. “Not everyone can succeed on their first attempt at quitting. If there are no further measures, these people will be drawn back to the habit,” he said.

It was important to let people know that the government was determined to combat tobacco, he said. “Even increasing the tax 1 per cent is better than nothing.”

Meanwhile, more resources should be allocated for services to help smokers quit, he said.

“There cannot be any waiting list in cessation clinics. People will become impatient and forget about the idea altogether,” Lam said.

The city’s smoking rate of 11 per cent was already lower than most developed countries, but the government should not be complacent, the professor said.

“Of these 700,000 smokers, half will eventually die due to smoking. The remaining half will also suffer from different chronic illnesses, burdening the health care system.”

He said a tax increase was the most effective way to encourage quitting, as overseas studies showed each increase could bring the smoking rate down by 4 per cent.

The government should also step up promotion with more advertisements, so that quitters would know where to go, he said.

Smoke Terminators’ Society chairwoman Dr Betty Kwan Ka-mei, who is also a private family doctor, said more of her young patients were trying to quit smoking after the tax increase and the extension of the smoking ban.

“Some cannot afford the price tag and others find it too inconvenient to smoke,” she said.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok flew to Beijing yesterday for an antitobacco conference. He will return tomorrow



Please click the following link from WHO for the action plan for the Tobacco Free Initiative in the Western Pacific:

WHO’s Western Pacific region agrees tobacco-control plan

Margaret Harris Cheng, The Lancet

Member states of WHO’s Western Pacific region have unanimously agreed on a new action plan to tackle the huge burden of tobacco-related illness in the region. Margaret Harris Cheng reports.

To the surprise and delight of tobacco-control campaigners, a plan to operationalise the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was passed with barely a murmur of dissent at the WHO’s Western Pacific regional meeting held in Hong Kong last month.
Although representatives of three of the world’s biggest tobacco producers—China, the USA, and Japan—were present when the plan came up for discussion, only China voiced any misgivings about the plan. “The action plan should offer guidance—it should not be a mandatory requirement for member states”, China’s representative told the meeting.

The ease with which the plan was accepted was a surprise because it is considered a radical departure from its predecessors (this is the fifth such plan for the WHO’s Western Pacific region). For the first time, the plan sets out objectives for member states and a timeframe (2010—14) in which those objectives should ideally be reached. All member states are expected to attend a progress review in 2012, and be ready and willing to explain what stage they are at with tobacco control and why they have, or have not, achieved their objectives.
It was this, the setting of very specific objectives, that made China somewhat uncomfortable. But the USA (which attends such meetings on behalf of its Pacific territories and protectorates) and Japan fully endorsed the plan. “Japan has been strengthening tobacco control based on the national health promotion policy…but the male rate is still higher in Japan compared to other countries”, said Japan’s representative.

The Americans simply stated support for tobacco control without commenting on specific problems in their Pacific territories. Their representative Mark Abdoo said, “the US is committed to tracking morbidity and mortality associated with tobacco use. We also remain dedicated to preventing death and disease from tobacco use. The tobacco surveillance system is evidence of our commitment”.
Although the ease with which the plan was accepted surprised observers, all agreed that the region has been ahead of the rest of the world in terms of accepting the need for controlling tobacco use. The Western Pacific region was the first, and so far, only WHO region to get all member states to ratify the FCTC—something achieved in 2006.

“WPRO [the Western Pacific region] has been ahead of the race for a very long time but this [plan] is a step further because it has all sorts of measurables, deliverables. We’ve really pushed the envelope out—it’s very, very specific. And by 2014 those things will be evaluated”, said Judith Longstaff Mackay, senior adviser to the World Lung Foundation and a member of the Hong Kong delegation to the meeting. “Recognising that this [the FCTC] is on wheels now, this is what all the neighbours are doing. It’s united us all, really stiffened the backbone of many countries”, said Mackay.

What the plan does not do, though, is offer any sanctions for states that pay little more than lip service to tobacco control.
While agreeing that the plan was “more carrot than stick”, Susan Mercado, Western Pacific regional adviser for the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, pointed out that the significance of the plan was that it was the first to introduce ways to measure real progress in tobacco control. “This is the first time the region has come up with regional targets and indicators…we are moving forward in terms of accountability, measuring progress, and identifying gaps in capability…Some people won’t be comfortable with it, but if people are comfortable with tobacco control, it’s not working.”

The plan is ambitious, setting targets like achievement of clear guidance on how to avoid conflicts of interest with the tobacco industry in 100% of countries. These targets are likely to be difficult to meet for a member state like China where the trade and agriculture ministries are responsible for tobacco growth and production and there is strong political pressure to maintain the status quo to avoid loss of livelihoods and social chaos.

However, Douglas Bettcher, director of the Tobacco Free Initiative, said Thailand, which also has a state tobacco monopoly, had achieved this very thing by “creating a firewall between the policy makers for tobacco control and the state tobacco monopoly…it really represents the gold standard, how best to operate. Thailand’s a government we’d like to see other governments following.”

Getty Images Some nations in WHO's Western Pacific region have already banned indoor smoking (Lancet)

Getty Images China has the world's largest state-owned tobacco industry and number of smokers (Lancet)

A package of policies developed by the WHO in 2008 and given the acronym MPOWER (Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies; Protect people from tobacco smoke; Offer help to stop tobacco use; Warn about the dangers of tobacco; Enforce bans on tobacco advertising; Raise taxes on tobacco) is underpinning the new action plan.

Member states are expected to develop legislation and policy for protection from second-hand smoke that “are compliant with the definition of 100% indoor smoke-free settings (eg, workplaces, public transport, indoor public places)”, regulate tobacco product labelling in compliance with the FCTC (using pictorial warnings), and put comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising in place.
By 2014, all countries in the WPRO region are expected to “have developed action plans, or equivalents, and established or strengthened national coordinating mechanisms, as appropriate”, ratified all FCTC protocols, and gathered reliable data about tobacco use in adults and young people.

Some Western Pacific nations are already leading the way in terms of data gathering. Member states with advanced economies and health systems like Hong Kong and Singapore have been tracking their smoking prevalence rates for decades and both can now point to substantial reductions in prevalence.

Hong Kong, which has implemented most of the policies outlined in the MPOWER package already, can point to an impressive drop in prevalence since the early 1990s. In 1992, Hong Kong had a 23% prevalence of tobacco use but by 2005 this had dropped to 14% and has fallen further to 12% in 2008. During that time, Hong Kong progressively banned tobacco advertising, sports sponsorship by cigarette companies (in the late 1990s), smoking in the workplace, then in public spaces like shopping malls and parks and, most recently, in clubs and bars. Some bars and parts of clubs still have permits for smoking areas but indoor tobacco smoke has all but disappeared in Hong Kong. “This shows that tobacco control is not the prerogative of western countries and that Asian countries can implement effective tobacco control… We now know what works”, said Mackay.

Although Hong Kong has been part of China since 1997 when it was handed over by Britain, the territory has very different tobacco laws and practices from the rest of China. China has the largest state-owned tobacco industry and also the greatest number of smokers—an estimated 350 million—in the world. Each year, about 1 million people from mainland China die of tobacco-related illness.

The vast number of Chinese smokers makes the Western Pacific, despite its early ratification of the FCTC, the region with the world’s heaviest burden of tobacco-related illness. One in three of the world’s smokers lives in the Western Pacific region. It has the greatest number of smokers, the highest rates of male smoking prevalence, and the fastest increase in tobacco use by women and young people compared with the other five WHO regions.

Although China is the main contributor to the absolute numbers, some of the world’s highest rates are found in the tiny Pacific islands where tobacco use has become culturally ingrained. Chewing tobacco with the areca nut is common in the Pacific and is linked to a high incidence of, and excessively high mortality rates from, oral cancer. Worldwide, oral cancer has a 50% mortality rate, but some countries in the Western Pacific region have oral cancer mortality rates that are between 67% and 80%.

Revite Kerition, acting director of public health for Kiribati, a tiny coral island state more often associated with the struggle to survive the effects of global warming, told the meeting “tobacco is a major problem for us. 75% of men who responded to a survey were current smokers and 50% of women responders were current smokers.

“Tobacco use has gained great significance in our society. If any of you visit a village you are expected to bring a gift of tobacco to the old men of the village—also as a gift to the gods.

“The Government of Kiribati has been very careful about how it approaches the tobacco bill. Our minister of health is fighting a battle against our local gods and the highly influential old men. I’m sure you’ll agree, fighting the gods is not an easy battle.”
Tuvalu has a serious problem as well. A recent survey done there showed that tobacco is used widely, with 33% of young people saying that they use tobacco regularly.

Political change has blocked tobacco control in other nations. “The tobacco control bill has been finalised—it wasn’t passed in 2007 because I was voted out”, the Solomon Islands’ health minister, Clay Forau Soalaoi told the meeting.

Price tobacco out of reach


World Health Organisation and World Bank data shows that a 10 per cent increase in tobacco tax reduces overall smoking by 4 per cent and youth smoking by up to 7 per cent.

Hong Kong must regularly increase its tobacco tax on the grounds of health care, to a level at least 80 per cent of the retail price.

This would be the nemesis of the tobacco industry; price-conscious youths are the most affected by tobacco taxation.

Front organisations paid for with tobacco industry money must not be granted charity status and must be banned from approaching schools and youths with the intention of stimulating a rebellious interest in tobacco rather than steering young people away from it.

Youths must see that tobacco control laws are meant to be obeyed and the enforcement staff of the Tobacco Control Office must be increased to achieve this.

Brand-stretching promotions should be banned and smoking in vehicles with children present outlawed.

Young people need to be made aware that smoking will take 15 to 20 years off their lifetime and that it is not cool to be a nicotine addict when nicotine is a pesticide.

James Middleton, chairman, anti-tobacco committee, Clear the Air