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April 11th, 2010:

Comprehensive smoke-free legislation and displacement of smoking into the homes of young children in Hong Kong

ibchildhealthLast updated: April 10, 2010


Objective To investigate the effect of comprehensive smoke-free legislation in 2007 on the exposure of children to secondhand smoke (SHS) in Hong Kong.

Methods Two cross-sectional questionnaire surveys were conducted, before (2006) and after (2008) the implementation of smoke-free legislation, among primary 2–4 students (equivalent to US grades 2–4) from 19 and 24 randomly selected schools, respectively. Adjusted ORs for SHS exposure at home and outside home post-legislation compared with pre-legislation were calculated. The strength of the association between SHS exposure and respiratory symptoms in each survey was used as an indirect indicator of the intensity of exposure.

Results Among 3243 and 4965 never smoking students in the 2006 and 2008 surveys, the prevalence of SHS exposure in the past 7 days increased both at home (from 10.2% to 14.1%) and outside home (from 19.8% to 27.2%). Post-legislation, students were 56% more likely (p<0.01) to report SHS exposure at home coupled with an insignificantly stronger association between SHS exposure and respiratory symptoms. Similarly, students were 60% more likely (p<0.001) to report SHS exposure outside home in 2008, but the association between SHS exposure and respiratory symptoms became insignificantly weaker. Parental smoking rates were similar before and after legislation.

Conclusions The prevalence of exposure to SHS at home and outside home have both increased among primary school students in Hong Kong post-legislation. Comprehensive smoke-free legislation without strong support for smoking cessation might have displaced smoking into the homes of young children.

Malaysia: Days of puffing away definitely numbered

taknakLast updated: April 9, 2010

Source: New Straits Times

If there is a strong indication that cigarette smoking in Malaysia is steadily being transformed into a strict taboo, just like pre- or extra-marital sex, drug abuse and public boozing, take a look at pictures of people holding a cigarette or cigar in imported magazines like Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, GQ, Esquire and Vanity Fair.

Notice how the offensive lighted object has been blackened out by censors the same way women showing generous cleavage is annoyingly marker-penned, though mercifully better than the impertinent page being ignominiously torn off.

Cigarette smoking is among a few final but legal vices available without fear of police intervention, unless you are the wholesaler smuggling in a boatload of duty-free cartons and retailing them at premium prices.

For cigarette smokers nationwide, your days of congenital puffing are breathtakingly numbered, first by being chased out of restaurants, air-conditioned shopping malls and government buildings, followed by stiffer imposition of sales tax and duties, and now the ban on the ubiquitous 14-pack, announced on Monday by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai in the Dewan Rakyat.

Ironically, Liow’s declaration of the ban is generations too late. Whatever the health authority or the anti-smoking lobby had sternly pronounced, smoking is still an act of cool savagery, at least to the impressionable taken in by pop culture icons lighting a fag in stylish whiffs.

But tell that to teenagers who picked up the habit as easily as their pop culture icons. Then see their eyes rolled and their lips debouching a boorish “whatever” when you caution them on the fatal ill-effects smoking can cause.

Or tell that to the unrepentant chain smoker who will posit this tenuous allegory: put non-smokers in a pub full of smokers and the worst that will happen is mild suffocation or headache. But put an automobile belching carbon monoxide in the same pub, everyone dies. So, why don’t the authorities ban automobiles?

Let’s make this absolutely clear: smoking will eventually kill or incapacitate, depending on how strong your lungs are. If not now, then much later when your addiction to caffeine (or pig haemoglobin if one report is to be believed) is beyond redemption.

The authorities must be prepared for the ban’s seedy side-effect — illicitly secured cigarettes would be the prime activity, the same way drugs are trafficked. Might a regular health issue escalate into criminalisation?

Nonetheless, teenagers, targets of this push for a healthy lifestyle and eradication of social ills agenda, will learn to adapt, notwithstanding the exorbitant 20-pack prices now.

To pay for their smokes, they will cut down on other exorbitant costs — luxury apparel and cellphone texting and yakking.

They will budget themselves because it is in the youngsters social DNA to smoke, at least in public.

The only hope is that they will quit the killer habit before they hit middle age and hope they survive smoking’s debilitating symptoms.

But know this: smoking is also playing Russian roulette. If you are fortunate, you’ll be puffing away until you roll into your octogenarian years, your lungs intact but your other body parts diseased.

Or you could be coughing blood one day in your forties, fifties or sixties, lung cancer the inevitable diagnosis, followed by the dreary treatment of radio therapy and chemotherapy before you waste away and die.

Written by Asmi Anshar

Genetic test may detect smokers at high risk of developing lung cancer

chestcn9697Last updated: April 9, 2010

Source: Associated Press in Washington via South China Morning Post

Scientists may have found a way to tell which smokers are at greatest risk of developing lung cancer: measuring a telltale genetic change inside their windpipes.

A test based on the research now is being developed, in hopes of detecting the deadly cancer earlier, when it is more treatable.

If the work pans out, the next big question is: might it even be possible to reverse this genetic chain reaction before it ends in full-blown cancer? The researchers found a tantalising early hint among a handful of people given an experimental drug.

“They’re heading towards lung cancer, and we can identify them with this genomic test,” said Dr Avrum Spira of Boston University School of Medicine, who led the research published on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

Lung cancer is the world’s leading cancer killer, and cigarette smoke is its main cause. Yet, not all smokers develop lung cancer; Spira cites estimates that 10 to 20 per cent will.

The risk depends in part on how much people smoke, for how long and how long ago they quit, but there is no way to predict who will escape it and who will not. Nor is there a good way to detect early-stage tumours. Consequently, most people are diagnosed too late for today’s treatments to do much good.

Rather than focusing on the lung itself, Spira’s team hunted for the earliest signs of impending lung cancer upstream, in how different genes are turned on and off inside the upper airway as the body tries to defend itself and those defences weaken over time.

Every year at least 100,000 smokers or former smokers have tubes snaked down their throats to look for signs of cancer if an X-ray or other tests detect something suspicious, Spira explained. A bronchoscopy can be used for a look into the lung, but Spira was interested instead in cells that line the windpipe, collected during the same procedure.

Sure enough, he found a genomic signature – a pattern of gene activity – in otherwise normal windpipes that distinguished some current or former smokers who had lung cancer from those who did not.

Spira cannot estimate how much lung cancer might be due to this genetic pathway. Nor does the work mean it is all right for people without this marker to keep puffing. Other lung cancer pathways could be at work, and smoking also causes heart attacks, other lung diseases and other cancers.

But a company Spira helped found, Allegro Diagnostics, is beginning a study of up to 800 current and former smokers to see how well a test based on the research performs.

Moreover, there are some experimental drugs being designed to fight the genetic activity in question. One compound already had been tested in nine smokers with precancerous lesions, six of whom had their lesions improve.

Lighting up for the sake of the economy

is_cigarettes_money_070830_msLast updated: April 10, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

One of the main battlegrounds between China’s giant State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA) and the public health advocates who campaign against it is implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Beijing ratified in 2005.

Under the rule on labelling of cigarette packages, which took effect in January last year, warnings are supposed to cover 50 per cent of the package’s display area. But mainland regulations cover only 30 per cent of the package and the warnings are in tiny characters.

“The STMA has hampered the best way for the public to learn about the harm caused by tobacco,” anti-smoking lobbyist Yang Gonghuan said. “We lobbied hard for the separation of government and the tobacco industry, the use of pictorial warnings on packaging, tax increases and legislation to control secondary smoking. But the tobacco forces remain all-powerful. They once accused us of acting against the national interest by threatening economic growth.”

Another dispute is over advertising. Mainland law bans tobacco advertising but the firms get around this by advertising their brands, with no reference to cigarettes. Most readers know the product; companies are not punished.

In May 2008, for example, the Shanghai Hong Shuang Xi (Red Double Happiness) launched a campaign in the passenger terminals of 11 airports with the slogan “Shanghai Red Double Happiness, Always Bringing You Good Fortune”. The companies also give money to schools, which are named after them.

In December 2008, the Ministry of Civil Affairs was to award six tobacco companies with National Charity awards, because of their donations to schools; in some cases, the names were printed on the school uniforms. Anti-tobacco campaigners persuaded the ministry to drop the firms from the list. The Shanghai government also declined an offer of 200 million yuan (HK$227.34 million) in sponsorship from the city’s tobacco company for the World Expo.

In 2008, the tobacco industry accounted for 7 per cent of national revenue. Such is the power of the industry that the battle against it is difficult and long-term.

The risks of tobacco to health are rarely discussed in the mainstream media and millions of people have no idea that it is harmful. No consumer would ever win a lawsuit against a state tobacco company.

“It is wasteful to spend money on tobacco control,” said Wang Hong, a Zhuhai schoolteacher. “Smoking is too ingrained in the culture and daily life of Chinese. It is a cheap source of pleasure for the poor. The number of smokers who die and fall ill is only a small percentage. They should spend the same money on improving the health system. Spending on new hospitals and higher wages for nurses will be better than spending on anti-cigarette advertisements.”

Written by Mark O’Niell

Devious Ways: Baidu Stature Rises on PMI Board Pick

229637377_0aa65809b0Source: The Street

Philip Morris International(PM) (PMI) has chosen Baidu’s(BIDU) chief financial officer Jennifer Li to join its board as an independent director — making Li the first woman ever from China to join an S&P 500 company as a director, according to the Financial Times.

This also makes Li the fourth Chinese executive to be picked for a director role at an S&P 500 firm. Li told the FT, “I hope to learn new perspectives and best practices that I can apply and contribute to Baidu’s long-term growth and to the Chinese business community.”

Philip Morris’s decision to bring Li on board likely reflects its hope of gaining a greater foothold China — currently it has a relatively small presence in the country — which comprises 40% of the global tobacco market, excluding the US, the FT reported.

Li joined Baidu in 2008 as chief financial officer after serving as the controller of GMAC’s North American operations, where she led a staff of 200 in the U.S. and Canada. Li has held several other finance positions at General Motors in China, Singapore, the U.S. and Canada in a 13-year period.

Baidu’s prominence as an Internet search provider came to fore recently as its main competitor in China, Google(GOOG), decided to exit the country following an ongoing censorship dispute with China.

Many, including TheStreet readers, felt it was a bad decision for Google to leave a land of 400 million Internet users, but good for Baidu’s business. Shortly after Google’s departure, Baidu’s price target was raised by Goldman Sachs. Google has attempted to redirect its mainland China traffic to its Hong Kong-based search engine, but has been experiencing technical glitches as a result that are hurting its attempts to redirect the traffic.

Many suspect that the Chinese government is behind this and other problems that foreign journalists have reportedly been having with their Yahoo!(YHOO) accounts in China.

A recent poll by TheStreet comparing Google and Baidu in the former’s fray with the Chinese government indicates that a great majority of our readers believes that Baidu will emerge as the winner of that fray.

— Reported by Andrea Tse in New York

Smoking cessation using traditional Chinese medicine

2yinyangillSmokers will have the opportunity to kick the habit with the assistance of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) under a one-year pilot smoking cessation programme to be launched tomorrow (April 1).

The community–based smoking cessation programme using traditional Chinese medicine, jointly organised by the Department of Health and Pok Oi Hospital (POH), covers a comprehensive range of activities and services including smoking cessation service, education for the public and research projects.

Free smoking cessation service including counselling and acupuncture will be provided by POH Chinese medicine practitioners in 10 mobile clinics which serve 48 locations at different districts.

A Chinese Medicine Community Health Care Centre will be established to support these mobile clinics.

Smokers who wish to quit using TCM can make appointments via POH’s dedicated hotline, 26071222. They can also visit the mobile Chinese medicine treatment centres for appointments or making enquiries in person. The locations and service hours of the centres are available at the POH website,





吸煙人士如有意使用該項戒煙服務,可致電博愛醫院的熱線電話2607 1222,他們亦可親身前往流動醫療車預約或查詢。市民可登入博愛醫院網址,查詢流動醫療車的服務時間和地點。