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April, 2010:

Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) World No Tobacco Day 2010:

who-mag-coverLast updated: April 30, 2010

Source: World Health Organization

Theme: Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women

The World Health Organization (WHO) selects “Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women” as the theme for the next World No Tobacco Day, which will take place on 31 May 2010.

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A Letter to the HK Customs and Excise Department – Anti Tobacco Smuggling Division

writing1Last updated: April 30, 2010

Dear Mr Hui,

Since 70% of Hong Kong seizures last year were genuine cigarette products (40% above the world norm)  it is high time Hong Kong like the EU has punitive fines placed on the manufacturers whose products are seized in Hong Kong – this will immediately deter smuggling by the tobacco companies. Alongside this move tobacco company directors should be charged with conspiracy to commit this smuggling crime, conspiracy to defraud, and for local excise tax evasion.

It is ridiculous for Customs Department to continue to allocate more manpower chasing the smugglers when the fear of going to jail will immediately stop these top end tobacco people from propagating the smuggling.

Kind regards.

James Middleton

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd lost face with core supporters by giving in to opponents of climate-change legislation. He has won some of it back by taking on Big Tobacco in an unprecedented anti-smoking initiative that will end up in the courts. Australia is to become the first country to ban logos and branding on cigarettes, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines. From 2012 they will have to be sold in plain, standardised packets carrying large, graphic warnings against smoking, with the brand name in small print.

An emissions trading scheme is now off the agenda until 2012 at least. Instead Rudd will campaign for re-election this year on badly needed health reforms. A fight with Big Tobacco fits that strategy. After all, smoking-related diseases kill 15,000 Australians each year and cost more than A$30 billion (HK$215 billion) in health care and lost productivity. To underline that point, the government also raised cigarette taxes from today by 25 per cent, or about A$2 a packet, to directly fund health care.

The tobacco industry vowed a legal challenge to the proposed legislation to defend intellectual property rights. Retailers said the tax rise would hit profits, penalise people who had made legitimate lifestyle choices and encourage a black market in cigarettes.

The latter argument has a familiar ring about it. It prevailed when our government decided not to raise the tobacco tax in the last budget – admittedly after having raised it by a punitive 50 per cent the year before. But health experts and anti-smoking activists still say that, short of banning smoking as a hazardous addictive habit, progressively raising taxes is the most effective deterrent. That is just common sense, whatever the findings of a survey by the Food and Health Bureau on the effect on smoking rates of last year’s tax rise.

Cigarettes remain relatively cheap in Hong Kong. The government is bound to continue raising the tax in the long run as a responsible public health measure. But concerns about smuggling and its effects on retailers’ profits are no excuse for dragging its feet. They are a reason for effective measures against smuggling.

Australia seeks to remove logos from cigarette packs

backyLast updated: April 30, 2010

Source: Associated Press in Sydney via South China Morning Post

Canberra has announced a pioneering plan to force tobacco firms to sell cigarettes in generic packaging devoid of company logos.

The legislation, introduced yesterday, would take effect on July 1, 2012. It must be approved by both houses of Parliament.

Instead of logos, promotional text or colourful images on cigarette packets, graphic government health warnings would be prominently displayed instead. The brand name would be relegated to tiny, uniform type at the bottom.

“The new branding for cigarettes will be the most hardline regime in the world, and cigarette companies will hate it,” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said.

The government also announced an increase in cigarette tax of 25 per cent, driving up the price of a pack of 30 cigarettes by about A$2.16 (HK$15.46) to around A$16.70. The tax comes into effect today.

“The big tobacco companies are going to go out there and whinge, whine, complain, consider every kind of legal action known to man – that’s par for the course,” Rudd said. “We, the government, will not be intimidated by any big tobacco company.”

As predicted, tobacco companies immediately blasted the packaging crackdown and vowed to fight it in court.

“Introducing plain packaging just takes away the ability of a consumer to identify our brand from another brand, and that’s of value to us,” Imperial Tobacco Australia spokeswoman Cathie Keogh told ABC radio.

The company planned to take legal action, she said.

Retailers said the tax increase would hurt their businesses and bolster the black market for cigarettes.

“It’s a lazy policy response being pushed by some health advocates,” Mick Daly, national chairman of Australian supermarket chain IGA, said. “That amounts to a direct attack on approximately 16 per cent of Australians who have made legal and legitimate lifestyle choices.”

Tim Wilson, director of intellectual property and free trade at Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs, said taxpayers could end up paying around A$3 billion a year in compensation to tobacco companies.

“Under Australia’s constitution, if the government basically takes someone’s property rights – including intellectual property such as trademarks – or devalues them to a significant extent, they have to provide compensation,” Wilson said.

“I’d be shocked if [tobacco companies] didn’t [pursue compensation], because if it happens here, it’ll happen all over the world,” he said.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott dismissed the tax increase as a cash grab, and said he wanted evidence that changing the packaging would reduce smoking. “I’m not in the business of defending smoking, I want to make that absolutely clear. But I also want to make absolutely clear that this is not a health policy – this is a tax grab,” Abbott said.

Australia has banned tobacco ads from print, television and radio for years. The new proposal would also restrict internet advertising.

Stripping packets of their logos would effectively stamp out tobacco companies’ marketing campaigns, said Professor Rob Moodie, chairman of the government’s National Preventative Health Task Force, which recommended the legislation.

“The thing that tobacco companies fear second after price increases is plain packaging because it takes away their last real avenue for branding their cigarettes,” Moodie said. “It also takes away their in-store presence.”

The number of Australians who smoke has more than halved in the past 20 years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a report in December. About 16.6 per cent of Australians smoke daily, the third-lowest rate in the developed world behind Sweden and the US, according to the report.

New cases of lung cancer fell to 60.6 per 100,000 men in 2006 from 80.6 per 100,000 two decades earlier, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in Canberra. But the incidence in women jumped 46 per cent to 30.3 per 100,000.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

$17 a packet: Parliament socks smokers

smoking_220x14729925Last updated: April 29, 2010

Source: New Zealand Herald

A huge increase in the price of cigarettes and tobacco was bulldozed through Parliament last night by Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia in a move designed to cut the 5000 smoking-related deaths each year.

All MPs except four of the five Act members supported the surprise move under extraordinary urgency.

It was announced just before 5pm and passed all its stages 118 votes to 4.

The law sets in place three sets of increases in excise of 10 per cent each time, at midnight last night; January 1, 2011; and January 1, 2012.

By then, a typical pack of 25 cigarettes will cost $17.

Loose tobacco for roll-your-own cigarettes was hit with a 24 per cent increase last night, to put it on an equal footing with tailor-mades. It will also be subject to 10 per cent rises next year and the year after.

Mrs Turia, who is Associate Health Minister, said about a third of tobacco use in NZ was of loose tobacco. Users were predominantly young, poor and Maori and Pacific Islanders, and would be most sensitive to price rises.

She described the legislation as “an investment in our future”.

Exposure to smoking in the home and tobacco use itself resulted in 5000 deaths a year, Mrs Turia said.

She said it would be irresponsible to dismiss smoking as a recreational past-time, “to minimise the impact of harm caused by justifying tobacco use as a private pleasure that one should be free to indulge in the privacy of one’s home and not acknowledge the addictive nature of this tobacco use”.

The last time tobacco excise was increased was under Labour in 2000, when it went up by 14 per cent.

Quitline was last night bracing to be swamped by callers wanting to quit today because of the price rise.

The rise in 2000, which totalled 20 per cent once tax and industry increases were also applied, led to calls to the state-funded service nearly tripling to 16,000 a month.

Public health groups welcomed the tax increase, but some said it should have been much bigger.

Tobacco expert Dr Murray Laugesen said 80,000 people who quit after the 2000 price rise started smoking again within four months.

But this time it would be different because nicotine replacement therapy was now subsidised, and the Government had gone some way towards taxing roll-your-owns, which are thinner, the same amount as factory-mades.

Smokefree Coalition chairman Professor Robert Beaglehole said the potential first-round price increase on a packet of 25 cigarettes, which he put at 5 per cent – the Government anticipates 8 per cent – “is simply not enough to deal with this problem”.

“We are calling for annual 20 per cent increases in the product price for the next five years.”

He and Action on Smoking on Health director Ben Youdan feared the tobacco industry might cut margins to offset the effect of the tax rise.

Mrs Turia said she smoked for a short time when she was aged about 16 and left home to go nursing. “I started going out with [husband] George at the same time and he refused to take me out. He was a real smoking Nazi.”

* Australia will force tobacco companies to adopt plain packaging, removing all colour and branding logos within two years, Government sources said late last night.

The law will be in force by January 2012.

By Audrey Young and Martin Johnston

Cigarettes up, and plain packaging compulsory to help stub out smoking

679px-cigarettes_health_warning_australiaLast updated: April 29, 2010

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

THE Rudd Government will launch a twin assault on smoking today by announcing steep increases in tobacco excise and laws requiring cigarettes and other tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging from 2012.

The excise increase, which will help fund the government’s health reforms, will be short of that required to lift the price of a packet of cigarettes to A$20, as recommended by the government’s Preventative Health Taskforce.

There was speculation last night that the excise increase would add at least $2-$3 to a pack of 25.

How the generic pack of cigarettes will look.

In what the Rudd government is hailing as a world first, it will also announce legislation to mandate standard packaging for all tobacco products, a move likely to incense the $9-billion tobacco industry. From January 1, 2012, all brands of cigarettes will be sold in plain boxes. The boxes will be the same colour and carry large, graphic health warnings. The brand of the cigarette will appear in a small font. The font style and size, as well as the position of the brand will be uniform.

The laws will ban the use of any colours, logos, brand imagery or promotional text that would in any way distinguish one brand of cigarettes from the other.

The government is trying to shift the policy emphasis to health after its decision to shelve its emissions trading scheme until at least 2013 has been roundly condemned by all sides.

The changes to tobacco packaging are based on research which found packaging is a subtle form of advertising that significantly influences smoking rates and habits. The government will test various packages before settling on a final design.

Labor is anticipating a nasty fight with the industry. The party does not accept donations from the tobacco industry, whereas the Liberal Party does.

Smoking kills 15,000 Australians a year despite the proportion of the population aged over 14 which still smokes having dropped from 30.5 per cent in 1988 to 16.6 per cent in 2007.

The government wants to reduce the rate of smokers to 10 per cent by 2018.

Tobacco Product Placement: Films Just Can’t Quit Smoking!

There’s nothing better than a good cigarette!  At least that’s what’s portrayed in many of the films these days, many of which are rated acceptable for children and teens.  Yes, I said these days.  Is this surprising, considering all of the recent anti-smoking hype that’s circulating?

Pulp Fiction

Yesterday, Science Daily published a report that identified some pretty interesting trends.  While the depiction of smoking has declined over the past 20 years, tobacco product placement and imagery has not.   The analysis identified brand appearances and smoking paraphernalia for brands, such as Marlboro and Silk Cut, were found for five-minute intervals in more than 15 films, which accounted for more than 50% of each year’s box office success.

According to the article, “Two thirds of films classified for under 18s and over half (61%) classified for under 15s featured tobacco intervals. Between 2004 and 2008, of the films containing tobacco intervals, 92% were rated as suitable for those under 18.”

A study done by UCSF states there is a direct correlation between youngsters that watch smoking in movies and those that start smoking.

Tobacco companies pay big bucks to movie studios to have their products placed in films.  The films created by these studios account for more than 90% of children’s on-screen tobacco exposure.  Ouch!  That’s why several groups are petitioning to have an automatic “R” rating placed on all films that have tobacco products in them.

I’m not here to harp on smokers.  I smoked years ago, and I can’t say that I would have never tried a cigarette if I hadn’t seen them in movies.  But I do know that most teens are influenced by the people they look up to, and there are hundreds of tough, sexy, glamorous, cigarette-toting characters in the blockbuster movies we watch today.  Is it really necessary

Tobacco Imagery Still Common in Films Rated Suitable for Kids and Young Teens

ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2010) — Tobacco imagery is still relatively common in films rated suitable for kids and young teens, despite significant declines in the cinematic depiction of smoking over the past 20 years, indicates research published in Thorax.

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Health & Medicine

Based on their findings, active product placement may still be taking place, particularly in UK films, say the authors.

They analysed the occurrence of depictions of tobacco use, including brand appearances and smoking paraphernalia, for periods of at least five minutes (tobacco intervals) in the 15 most commercially successful films screened in the UK between 1989 and 2008.

Commercial success was defined as accounting for around 50% or more of each year’s gross box office takings, while smoking paraphernalia included ashtrays, lighters, etc.

Between 1989 and 2008, the average occurrence of five minute tobacco intervals plummeted from 3.5 per hour to 0.6 for all films, a fall of 80%.

But imagery persisted in all age categories of films given a certificate by the British Board of Film Classification. This included those deemed suitable for children and young teens.

Two thirds of films classified for under 18s and over half (61%) classified for under 15s featured tobacco intervals. Between 2004 and 2008, of the films containing tobacco intervals, 92% were rated as suitable for those under 18.

Among the 15 most popular films, tobacco intervals occurred in seven out of 10 films, over half of which (56%) were classified as suitable for those under 15 and 92% for those under 18.

The film with the highest number of brand appearances was Pulp Fiction, which was classified for adults (18).

But brand appearances were nearly twice as likely to occur in films with UK involvement. UK producers were involved in one out of five films and were solely responsible for 3% between 1989 and 2008.

Twelve different brands appeared in Bridget Jones’s Diary (certificate 15) — the highest for any film. In About a Boy (certificate 12), the main character smoked Silk Cut regularly throughout the film, yet in the book on which the film was based, the lead character smoked infrequently and no particular brand was mentioned.

Marlboro and Silk Cut were the two brands most likely to be featured. While Marlboro has more than 42% of market share in the US, Silk Cut has just 5% of UK market share, prompting the authors to suggest that its appearance was “disproportionate.”

“The specific repeated occurrence of some brands of cigarette in some films raises the possibility that product placement by tobacco companies is still occurring,” they suggest.

Smoking in films is a potent driver of youth and adult smoking, say the authors, who suggest that film certification should take smoking into account for films targeted to young people.

.” is apparent that children and young people watching films in the UK are still exposed to frequent and at times specifically branded tobacco imagery, particularly in films originating from the UK,” they conclude.

Second hand smoke: Assessing the burden of disease at national and local levels

second-hand-smokeLast updated: April 27, 2010

Source: World Health Organization

Second-hand smoke (SHS) is one of the most important and most widespread exposures in the indoor environment. The link between SHS and several health outcomes, such as respiratory infections, ischaemic heart disease, lung cancer and asthma have long been established. Nevertheless, 93% of the world population is still living in countries not covered by 100% smoke-free public health regulations, and exposure to SHS in the home is still common.

This guide describes how to estimate the burden of disease caused by exposure to SHS on a national or local level. It summarizes the evidence linking SHS exposure to health, and the methods for estimating health impacts on a population basis. This is done in a practical step-by-step approach that can be adapted to local circumstances. The generated information can raise awareness and support decision-making on measures to protect the population from SHS.

This method has also been applied to estimate the global burden of disease from SHS and results will soon be available.

This guide is one in a series that describes how to estimate the burden of disease caused by environmental and occupational risk factors. An introductory volume to the series outlines the general method; subsequent volumes address methods for specific risk factors, such as outdoor air pollution, occupational noise or exposure to mercury.

A calculation tool accompanying the guide can be obtained from:

Download the full document

Second hand smoke: Assessing the burden of disease at national and local levels [pdf 2.12Mb]


obama-signingLast updated: April 1, 2010

Source: Tradingmarkets

Today U.S. Senator Herb Kohl’s bill, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The PACT Act cracks down on black market tobacco selling by closing loopholes in current tobacco trafficking laws, enhancing penalties for violations, and providing law enforcement with new tools to combat the innovative methods being used by cigarette traffickers to distribute their products. In 1998, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) had six active tobacco smuggling investigations. Today there are more than 400 open cases.

“The cost of tobacco smuggling to Americans is not merely financial. Internet tobacco sales have been used by terrorist and organized crime groups to raise millions of dollars to support their illicit activities. This new law will help us ensure that we no longer continue to enable terrorist organizations to exploit the weaknesses in our tobacco laws to their advantage, allow states lose tax revenue, and provide children with easy access to tobacco products sold over the Internet,” Kohl said.

Hezbollah, al Qaeda and Hamas have all generated significant revenue from the sale of counterfeit cigarettes. Hezbollah is estimated to have earned $1.5 million between 1996 and 2000 through tobacco smuggling. That money is often raised right here in the United States, and then funneled back to these international terrorist groups.

Kohl noted that cigarette trafficking, including the illegal sale of tobacco products over the Internet, costs states billions of dollars in lost tax revenue each year. It is estimated $5 billion of tax revenue is lost, at the federal and state level, each year. As lost tobacco tax revenue lines the pockets of criminals and terrorist groups, states are being forced to increase college tuition and restrict access to other programs because of these lost revenues.

The Internet represents a new obstacle to enforcement. Illegal tobacco vendors around the world evade detection by conducting transactions over the Internet, and then shipping their illegal products around the country to consumers. Just a few years ago, there were less than 100 vendors selling cigarettes online. Today, approximately 500 vendors sell illegal tobacco products over the Internet.

The PACT Act will:

* Strengthen the reporting requirements for interstate cigarette sellers.

* Increase the criminal penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony and create a substantial civil penalty for violations, including violations of the reporting requirements and state tobacco tax laws.

* Grant federal and state law enforcement officials more powers to investigate and prosecute violators.

* Prohibit the United States Postal Service from delivering tobacco products

The PACT Act (S. 1147) was passed under unanimous consent by the Senate on March 11, 2010. On March 17, the House of Representatives passed identical legislation (H.R. 1676) by an overwhelming majority, 387 to 25.

Smokers may pay A$20 a pack

1311Last updated: April 14, 2010

Source: Nine MSN News

Smokers could pay up to $6.50 more for a packet of cigarettes under a new tobacco tax being considered by the federal government.

The proposed tax hike would see the price for a packet of 30 cigarettes rise from an average $13.50 to $20 within a three-year period, News Limited newspapers report.

The plan is being considered as a way to fund the federal government’s landmark $18 billion health reforms and could be included in next month’s budget.

The government believes the tax could provide almost two-thirds of the $3 billion in extra revenue it needs to help convince the states to support the reforms.

The government’s National Preventative Health Taskforce believes a $6.50 rise for the average pack of cigarettes could reduce the number of smokers by one million within 10 years.

Australia currently has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the developed world, at 68 percent.

The proposed changes would bring the nation in line with the 75-80 percent benchmark in place in most other countries.

Polls have shown the public is overwhelmingly in favour of a rise in the tobacco tax so long as the revenue is spent on health.