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May 3rd, 2010:

Government Launches Crackdown on Smokers in Kashmir

2013853978_889485f52fLast updated: May 3, 2010

Source: News Blaze

Srinagar, May 3: The government in Indian administered Kashmir has a launched a drive against smokers to enforce a ban on smoking in public places.

A top civil official, Mehraj Ahmad Kakoo, led a team of inspectors which inspected various offices and hospitals in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, on Monday.

During the inspection, the team interacted with smokers and apprised them about the bad effects of smoking and warned them against smoking.

Meanwhile, cigarettes were confiscated from a shopkeeper, who was selling the cigarettes within 100 yards of Presentation Convent School Rajbagh. Approximately Rs 2000 was compounded as a fine and Cigarettes and Tobaccoo products worth thousands were seized and later put to flames.

The official team also registered challenges against 10 smokers and charged them with fines worth Rs. 2000.

“The squad is active against smoking in the public places and anybody found violating the norms will be dealt with by law,” a senior official said.

Two lawyers have filed a Public Interest Litigation against smoking in public places. The petitioners are seeking strict measures to prevent puffing at the public locations in accordance with the guidelines issued by the government and the Supreme Court of India.

Under Section-4 of the “Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement & Regulation of Trade & Commerce, Production, Supply & Distribution) Act 2003 (better known as COTPA), smoking in public places is prohibited and any violation of this Act is punishable with a fine up to Rs 200.

Written by Fayaz Wani

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New laws can curb smoking

cigarette_butt_tight_cropLast updated: May 3, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

Our neighbours Down Under took a bold step forward regarding tobacco control last week.

The Australian government announced that starting on July 1, 2012, all tobacco companies will be forced to use plain packaging.

At the same time, the tax on cigarettes rose another 25 per cent from midnight, April 29.

This new legislation is an impressive step forward in helping to cut tobacco consumption and curb tobacco-related deaths.

The Australian government believes that the changes will cut the country’s tobacco consumption by 6 per cent. Here in Hong Kong, we appeal to the SAR government to follow suit. Lung cancer directly attributable to smoking still ranks as the leading form of cancer in Hong Kong, with more than 3,600 related deaths recorded every year. As increasing criticism surrounds Hong Kong concerning rising air pollution, this is a window of opportunity to do something positive in safeguarding the health of Hong Kong people.

By taking more drastic measures like the ones announced in Australia last week, we can work towards reducing tobacco deaths and further minimise the burden of cancer in our community.

Sally Lo, founder and chief executive, Hong Kong Cancer Fund

Damaging indecision: Public health expert Anthony Hedley has relocated to cleaner air. Yet that’s not an option for most Hongkongers, he writes, and the government is failing in its duty to protect them from pollution

luggageLast updated: May 3, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

I arrived in Hong Kong to begin working in community medicine and public health on July 11, 1988, at 2.30pm. Like one of my 19th-century predecessors from Aberdeen University medical school, Sir James Cantlie, I was captivated by the beauty of the seascapes and landscapes of the Hong Kong archipelago.

My camera and tripod were a permanent fixture on the balcony looking over the western harbour towards Lamma, Cheung Chau and Lantau. Although several districts of Hong Kong had significant pollution problems, I recall the biting clarity of the views on many days. Since then, average daily visibility has progressively declined to only 12 kilometres, landscapes are filtered through a grey blanket and the tripod has been packed away. Each kilometre decline in visibility is a signal of our state of health, and is causally related to daily illness episodes and deaths.

In 1988, my involvement in environmental health was initiated by Lee Wing-tat, then chairman of Kwai Tsing District Council.

His members were deeply concerned about the effects of high sulphur dioxide levels on children, and asked if we could provide support for pollution abatement on health grounds.

We demonstrated that children in Southern district enjoyed better respiratory health and less need for health care than those in Kwai Tsing. On July 1, 1990, a new ordinance modestly restricted fuel sulphur content. There was an immediate, large-scale beneficial impact on air quality, child health improved and differences between districts declined. But much remained to be done and our efforts since have simply not matched the size of the problem.

Hong Kong’s prosperity (SEHK: 0803, announcements, news) has long provided a protective envelope for population health. This is now being seriously eroded by the intense pollution exposures, which damage lungs and blood vessels, and potentially harm everyone. It is ironic that, in a region where two decades ago the government took a decisive step to reduce urban pollution, we are now unable to make essential decisions to protect child health. Hong Kong’s air pollution is fostering an epidemic of health problems that will extend through the rest of this century.

Because of its vast resources, Hong Kong has the best opportunity in Asia to protect younger generations against the inevitable health hazards, predominantly environmental and lifestyle in origin, of the emergent megalopolis of southern China. This will need a decisively new approach to public health protection. Resources to combat infectious disease have been provided, but those needed for other environmental health priorities in Asia’s “world city” are sadly lacking.

The world’s league tables for prosperity are scaled according to trade figures and gross domestic product per capita. I used to teach that these were the principal determinants of health and life expectancy, but today in Hong Kong that is a recipe for complacency.

Arrogance and hubris stemming from our economic success could lead to the neglect of essential public health measures. We are failing to ensure, in our high-performing economy, that inequalities in health are matched by avoidance of inequity in health protection. While a proper sense of duty to provide care should drive health protection legislation, it is now clear that vested interests and government inaction are a direct threat to the health of those most vulnerable. Hong Kong needs a new model for public health advocacy, risk communication and mandatory protection measures to address the explosive changes in urban living.

Rigorous science is vitally important to support the evidence base, but public health is not anyone’s exclusive intellectual property. It must become a truly multi-sectoral effort both within and outside of government. I have learned that broadly based community action is critically important to fill the gaps in health protection created by bureaucratic inertia and obstruction in the Legislative Council. We had skilled champions in Legco to steer tobacco control through the 1997 bills committee; we now need champions to embrace even wider concerns for environmental health. The forum on air quality created by the coalition between universities and NGOs, led by Civic Exchange, is a promising starting point for a stronger, community-based movement for environmental protection. It may even give the government the confidence it lacks to take radical action to protect our health.

Stories about so many important health threats have very short half-lives in the media. Tobacco and air pollution have been unusually robust in that respect, but the resolution of our air pollution problems will take decades unless there is a radical change of policy. The flag-bearers for future evidence-based environmental protection must obviously come from today’s school population. We must focus on developing sustainability in both environmental science and advocacy; it cannot depend on the few.

I have enjoyed and benefited from the opportunities to contribute to health care in Hong Kong. It made an enormous difference to my professional and personal quality of life, and I never wanted to be anywhere else. However, unexpected medical problems and advancing years have made me more vulnerable to the biological stress of poor air quality.

I have received frequent calls to my office over many years seeking advice, from both locals and expatriates on four continents about pollution effects on family health. Many choose not to come or stay; others discount the hazard and come. They all have a choice, in contrast to the majority who depend on government to provide environmental security. They are paying dearly to breathe dirty air, but successive environment ministers say they must pay even more for clean air.

I am fortunate to be able to relocate to cleaner air, but our real concern should be to put in place measures ensuring that every child in Hong Kong is guaranteed their right to clean food, clean water and clean air, now and in the future.

Anthony Hedley is honorary professor at the School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong, and is now breathing the pristine air of the Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea

Tommy Cheung joins the call for HK$24 minimum

minimum_wage-increaseLast updated: April 21, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

Clear the Air says:

this is from the Liberal Party – can you believe they are interested in the rights of the people , or their rich bosses whom they represent ? The Liberal Party delayed Hong Kong’s anti smoking legislation for 6 long years – how many Hong Kong people died because of that ?

Liberal Party warns of ripple effect of rise in wage level on businesses

Catering industry lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan – who got into hot water last month for suggesting a minimum wage of HK$20 an hour – has joined Liberal Party colleagues in proposing a rate of HK$24.

Cheung and party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said that even at this level business would be severely affected by a “ripple effect” that would push up wages of workers already earning more than the minimum.

The suggestion was put to the Provisional Minimum Wage Commission yesterday along with one from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions suggesting HK$33.

The Liberal Party estimates that in addition to the 138,200 workers earning less than its suggested minimum, at least 400,000 earning up to HK$33 would also get a pay rise.

“A ripple effect is present anywhere when a minimum wage is introduced,” Lau said, citing the United States and Britain as examples.

“If the wage of a dish washer earning HK$20 per hour is increased to HK$24 per hour, a company also has to increase the wage of a pantry helper who earns HK$23 an hour as well as other workers who earn more than HK$24,” she said after meeting commission members.

“We believe the Provisional Minimum Wage Commission should also assess the impact of the minimum wage on enterprises.”

Liberal Party executive committee member Michael Tien Puk-sun said the wages of various workers would also have to be increased to offer incentives and to distinguish differences in job nature.

The party said its proposed minimum wage was consistent with international levels in terms of the number of workers benefiting and the ratio between the median wage and minimum.

Cheung said that as labour accounted for 30 per cent of costs in the catering industry, it would feel the greatest impact of all industries.

Citing a survey of 49 companies owning 1,867 restaurants with 75,000 workers, he said more than half the city’s restaurants were operating at a loss and pay increases would be a huge burden.

“Setting the rate at no more than HK$24 can forestall the loss of non-technical jobs and a spate of restaurant closures,” he said,

“At the end of the day, we do not want to see businesses shut down and low-skilled workers thrown into the street.”

Cheung dismissed talk that he had bowed to pressure in proposing HK$24 after the outcry that greeted suggestions the wage should be no more than HK$20. A man wearing a pig mask threw a HK$20 note at his feet after he said at a City Forum gathering than any amounts more than that would have a severe impact on Hong Kong’s employment, competitiveness and long-term investment.

After party and business allies distanced themselves from his idea, Cheung apologised on March 24. “I hope to let bygones be bygones,” he said yesterday, adding that the catering industry’s suggestion was made with serious consideration for business operations.

“Is HK$24 per hour enough or not? It is not our concern. What we look at is the influence on restaurants and how to protect the low-skilled workers from losing their jobs,” he said.

The Confederation of Trade Unions also met the Provisional Minimum Wage Commission yesterday and said the statutory minimum wage should be set at no less than HK$33 an hour.

The unions said the impact of such a rate was not as big as many people imagined.

“According to Census and Statistics Department figures, the total labour cost would only be increased by 1.6 per cent and the profit of all enterprises would only be decreased by 0.2 per cent when the minimum wage is set at HK$33 an hour,” the unions said in their proposal submitted to the commission.

“Even for enterprises depending largely on low-income workers, the total labour cost will only be increased by 8.4 per cent.

“We believe enterprises can still shoulder the increase.”

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the Provisional Minimum Wage Commission was still collecting the views of various parties before announcing the minimum wage in July.

“The commission will consider a number of factors including the minimum wage’s impact on the labour market and business environment, Hong Kong’s competitiveness and living standards,” Cheung said.

Record £225M fine for supermarkets and tobacco giants over price fix scanal

cigarette-436103154Last updated: April 17, 2010

Source: The Mirror

Supermarkets and tobacco giants have been fined a record £225million for price fixing.

The Office of Fair Trading ruled Imperial Tobacco, Gallaher and 10 store chains unlawfully linked rival cigarette and tobacco product prices.

A seven-year probe found they struck secret deals between 2001-03 to raise or lower costs to shoppers.

Imperial, which makes Lambert & Butler, must pay £112.3million and Benson and Hedges owner Gallaher was given a £50.3million penalty.

Supermarket Morrisons has been fined £8.6million but is also liable for £11million imposed on Safeway following its takeover of the group.

The Co-op was fined £14million to which will be added Somerfield’s £4million, again after a takeover.

Asda’s fine is just over £14million while whistleblower Sainsbury’s was let off the hook for lifting the lid.

The OFT ruled there was “insufficient evidence” to probe Tesco but Shell was fined £3.3million and TM Retail, which owns Martins and McColls, faces a £2.6million hit.

First Quench and One Stop Stores were also fined. The Co-op and Morrisons plan to appeal.

So does Imperial, which said: “Discounts given to retailers were passed on to consumers in prices.”

Gallaher accepted the ruling.

Eight million smuggled cigarettes seized in Hong Kong

8million_400_400x300Last updated: April 13, 2010

Source: Earth Times

Hong Kong – More than 8 million illicit cigarettes worth 2 million US dollars bound for Britain have been seized in Hong Kong, customs officials said Tuesday.

The haul of 852 cartons of branded cigarettes was sent by river from Guangzhou in southern China to Hong Kong and was on a cargo container due to be shipped to Britain.

The shipping container was marked as containing ovens, a customs spokesman said. The cigarettes it contained would be liable to around 1.3 million US dollars in tax.

No one was arrested after the cigarettes were detected by X-ray at Hong Kong’s container terminal Monday and investigations into the case were continuing, the spokesman said.