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May 30th, 2011:

Banning smoking in public venues proves difficult – tracking progress in MOH implementation

05/30/2011, (Xinhua News Agency), 61 media hits — May 31 is the 24th World No Tobacco Day. It also marks one month since the Ministry of Health’s Implementation Guidelines for Public Venue Health Management Policies – revised in accordance with the FCTC – went into effect. The China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 26 released the 2011 China Tobacco Control Report, which includes a frank admission of the many challenges and hurdles facing the ban on smoking. Over the past few days, Xinhua News Agency’s Xinhua Angle reporters have visited public venues in several cities, concluding that implementation has fallen short of expectations.

Shanghai government offices to come within range of tobacco control

05/30/2011, [Shanghai], 6 media hits — According to a report in Labour Daily, tomorrow is the 24th World No Tobacco Day. Shanghai’s version of the tobacco control regulations have been in effect for more than a year now. According to the latest statistics from the health administration, the standard for smoke-free medical facilities has been achieved at 99.4% of all public hospitals in Shanghai. Having said that, the city still has a ways to go before it reaches the smoke-free objective. This reporter learned yesterday that Shanghai is getting ready to add government offices to its tobacco control program; there will also be a gradual phasing out of smoking in some neighborhoods and business districts.

Sydney flooded with illegal cigarettes

May 30, 2011

Illegal cigarettes on sale in Sydney shops. Journalist Joe Hilderbrand buys chop smokes. Intershop illegally imported cigarettes sold from under the counter. Pic. Stephen Cooper Source: The Daily Telegraph

SYDNEY is flooded with blackmarket cigarettes selling for as little as half the price of a genuine pack, but peddlers are avoiding punishment because it is tobacco companies who catch them.

The Daily Telegraph was able to purchase Chinese-made counterfeit cigarettes from outlets at Kings Cross and Warwick Farm.

British American Tobacco (BAT) conducts about 1000 undercover purchases each year and has taken legal action against more than 100 retailers in the past three years, effectively suing them for copyright infringements.

The Daily Telegraph was told this coincided with a drop-off in the number of inspections and prosecutions by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which is putting resources into chasing high-profile millionaires through Project Wickenby.

Illegal retailers caught by the ATO would have to pay five times the excise they avoided, plus fines and possible jail time.

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In the year before Wickenby began, the ATO completed 53 tobacco prosecutions and had another 24 in progress. Last year it completed just seven.

Sources said it was left to tobacco companies to regulate the industry, serving notices on businesses for copyright infringement. Lawyers for BAT demand restitution for the estimated lost income and the retailers are told not to do it again.

In some cases counterfeit cigarettes are disguised to look like known brands – Winfield is a popular choice – and in others the brands are fabricated.

In just five visits to suspect shops, The Daily Telegraph was able to purchase an $80 carton of Winfield Blues from a Kings Cross tobacconist and three packets of tax-free cigarettes labelled “Intershop” from a Warwick Farm store for just $8 each.

The illegal import and sale of tobacco products led to $1.1 billion in lost tobacco excise and GST to the federal government

Chow stubs out hope of smokes tax U-turn

HK Standard — 30 May 2011

Health chief York Chow Yat-ngok says there will be no reversal of the tobacco tax despite protests by interest groups.

While Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun- wah has made some concessions over his budget proposals, Chow said a 41.5 percent tax on tobacco that took effect on February 23 will stay.

Instead, he said, he will try to get the support of lawmakers to enhance services aimed at helping smokers quit.

Chow was speaking after receiving a Director- General’s Special Recognition Award from Shin Young Soo, World Health Organization regional director for the Western Pacific.

The award honored the efforts of the secretary for food and health to curb smoking in the SAR and to mark World No Tobacco Day tomorrow.

“The local smoking population dropped to 12 percent last year, compared with 23 percent 20 years ago. Our recent study reveals over 60 percent of people back the tax hike and more than 20 percent say the tax is not high enough,” Chow said.

The tax hike aims to deter young people from smoking, he said.

“We hope to let them know the impact of smoking. Also, people may smoke less or even kick the habit. We have also strengthened our free smoking cessation services.”

The government raised expenditure on cessation services from about HK$10 million to more than HK$30 million this year, Chow said.

Meanwhile, pressure groups I Smoke Alliance, Momentum 107 and The Coalition of Hong Kong Newspaper and Magazine Merchants have called for the tax hike to be scrapped.

About 20 protesters carried slogans printed with “Taxpayers Remember, You Will Pay” outside The Mira, Tsim Sha Tsui, where the WHO award presentation was carried out, urging Chow to get an award for promoting contraband cigarettes.

Coalition chairman Liu Sair-ching said the sales revenue of newspaper vendors has fallen by 30 to 40 percent. “Some clients tell us they have to go for the contraband cigarettes since they can’t afford expensive ones with the tax hike,” Liu said.