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June 14th, 2011:

Tobacco funding: time to quit – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Clear the Air says : Hong Kong SAR (sub China)  is a ratified party to the FCTC Treaty.

The FCTC Treaty  Article 5.3  Section 4.11 states ”Taking into account national law and constitutional principles, Parties should have effective measures to prohibit contributions from the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests to political parties, candidates or campaigns, or to require full disclosure of such contributions.”  Hong Kong remains in contravention of this International  Treaty section and has no law to prohibit such contributions nor to force political parties or front organisations to disclose their sources of contribution funding.       This needs to change.

14 June 2011

Abbott can’t shake the stink of the tobacco lobby

Michael Danby

As every smoker knows, one of the worst things about the tobacco habit is the smell – it clings to you no matter what you do. That’s the problem the Liberal Party now has. They’ve been in the pocket of the tobacco lobby for so long that they can’t shake off the stink, no matter how hard they try.

The Liberal Party’s last-minute turnaround on plain packaging of cigarettes, after much huffing and puffing, won’t help them escape from the clutches of the tobacco companies who fill their party coffers. The question for Mr Abbott is: when will he kick the habit of taking money from the tobacco companies?

The Labor Party announced in 2004 that it would not on principle take money from Big Tobacco. Since then the tobacco companies have lavished more than $1.5 million on the Coalition parties. This does not include donations to individual electorate campaigns who are under the disclosable limit of 10,000.

According to the AEC data, since 1998 the Liberal Party has received $1,618,353 from British American Tobacco (BAT) and $1,440,595 from Phillip Morris. During last year’s election the Liberal Party received $145,035 from British American Tobacco and $147,035 from Phillip Morris.

Source: Assembled from Donor Returns published in the website of the Australian Electoral Commission (Prepared: 31 May 2011)

As Health Minister Nicola Roxon stated in parliament last week, BAT makes political donations to political parties in only three countries in the world, and Australia accounts for nearly all that spending – 97% of BAT’s donations go to the Liberal Party and the National Party.

During last year’s election, the tobacco companies funded a $5.5 million anti-Labor ad blitz with the help of Liberal strategists, headed by Jason Aldsworth of the Civic Group – a former Liberal parliamentary candidate – and including former Howard government adviser Mark Domitrak (now head of corporate affairs at BAT) and former Howard adviser Chris Argent (now corporate affairs director at Phillip Morris).

Phillip Morris International and BAT spent $2.2 million each, and Imperial Tobacco Australia spent $1.1 million.

This funded campaign was coordinated under the sham organisation, The Alliance of Australian retailers, who are controlled by tobacco companies under the guise of representing retailers. It was brought into existence solely as a medium for tobacco companies to influence public opinion, and was payed $200,000 a month retainer. In emails to and from the parties involved, entitled “Your Commission”, Jason Aldsworth of the Civic Group was asked  whether he would like the commission to be transferred “to your bank, or hold it for drinks in Barbados?” Mr. Aldsworth responded “…Maybe the bank for this one – we’ll use the next one for the drinks tab in Barbados” and provided the account details for the Civic Group.

Nothing illustrates the persistent stink of tobacco that haunts the Liberal Party than the unanswered questions about the Member for Indi, Sophie Mirabella, and the secret donation that BAT made to her in 2007 via a group called “Friends of Indi.”

The Friends of Indi failed to lodge a return for two financial years (2005-07), keeping its receipts and donations a secret. It wasn’t until BAT lodged its return form that the Friends of Indi cover was blown. Two receipts were received by the AEC for 2005-06 from British Tobacco Australia Ltd to the value of $7,500 each that was donated to the Friends of Indi.

Ms Mirabella – a member of Mr Abbott’s shadow ministry – was a direct beneficiary of donations made to the Friends of Indi, including the $15,000 donation from BAT. She refused to answer questions at the time on this secret donation. This wasn’t the first time BAT donated to Ms Mirabella. In 2004-05, Friends of Indi received $5,000 from BAT. Only last year, Friends of Indi received $35,000 dollars although the AEC notes no individual receipts were declared by this associated entity.

Mr Abbott is increasingly isolated on this issue. Even the state Liberal parties are coming around to banning donations from the tobacco industry. In 2008 research published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health shows that approximately 61.6% of smokers and 78.4% of non-smokers were against political parties accepting donations from the tobacco industry. WA Liberal Premier Colin Barnett has stated his opposition to tobacco donations.

It’s time that Mr Abbott and the Liberal party gave up their river of gold from the tobacco companies. About 20% of Australians are currently addicted to cigarettes. Of the total cost of drug abuse in 2004-05 of $55 billion, tobacco accounted for $31.5 billion. The cost of tobacco addiction is a “great big tax” on all Australians, one which Mr Abbott doesn’t seem to care about.

But it seems that Mr Abbott won’t be parting company with big tobacco any time soon. Last April he was asked directly whether he would stop taking donations from the tobacco industry. He said: “It is legal to smoke, it is not the mafia. I don’t see why if they want to make a donation we shouldn’t accept.”

So long as he takes this line, the stink of the tobacco lobby will cling to the Liberal Party.
Michael Danby is the Federal Labor member for Melbourne Ports.

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10 May 2010

Tobacco funding: time to quit

Mike Daube

Tobacco companies are not philanthropic institutions. As long ago as 1967 the late Senator Robert Kennedy said, “the cigarette industry is peddling a deadly weapon. It is dealing in people’s lives for financial gain”.

The Australian tobacco industry is dominated by three big companies (or in modern political parlance, three “great big” companies), British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco – all overseas-owned, with decisions made not in Sydney or Melbourne but in London and New York.

These are tough and ruthless multinational corporations, promoting and selling a product that kills one in two of its regular users. They have known for sixty years that their product is lethal. During this time almost one million Australians have died because they smoked – while the tobacco companies have denied and downplayed the evidence, doing their utmost to oppose and delay any action that might be effective in reducing smoking. Around the world their products cause five million deaths a year – a figure which will only increase as their drive into developing countries bears lethal fruit.

The new Chief Executive of Imperial Tobacco, Alison Cooper, was recently reported in the UK media as still refusing to accept that smoking causes cancer. Small wonder that only last week a survey of the reputations of the UK’s largest 150 companies had Imperial Tobacco at 147 and British American Tobacco at a rock bottom 150.

There is massive evidence from once-confidential industry documents now available following litigation in the US that for decades tobacco companies have acted more cynically than even tobacco campaigners might have thought – summarised by a quote from an industry executive – “We don’t smoke this shit, we just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and the stupid.”

And as if all this were not enough, the industry has been found guilty of racketeering in the US.

Tobacco companies have only one aim, in London, New York or Canberra. In line with their responsibility to their shareholders, they spend money with the sole purpose of benefiting their interests.

So why would anybody want to take money from this pariah industry?

The Australian Electoral Commission website reports that in recent years both the Philip Morris company and British American Tobacco have been generous donors to the Liberal Party and the National Party. During the year 2008/9 Philip Morris contributed $158,000 to the Liberal and National parties around Australia.

No doubt in addition to direct contributions there is also much indirect funding from groups supporting and representing tobacco companies, but this is much harder to pin down.

The only reason for these contributions is to further the interests of tobacco companies. The website of the British American Tobacco company is quite explicit about political donations: “Such payments can only be made for the purpose of influencing the debate on issues affecting the company or Group…”

A review of tobacco industry political donations in the US, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, concluded that, “tobacco industry monetary contributions are closely related to the way a legislator votes on tobacco issues”, and “The more campaign contributions received by a Congress member, the more likely he/she votes pro-tobacco on tobacco-related bills”.

Political donations are not simply about an intention to buy direct support: they are also about much less tangible benefits gained through indirect support, influence, contacts, access and credibility.

The Greens and Democrats took the lead in refusing tobacco industry funding, followed by the ALP. The other major parties understand the dangers of smoking; they know exactly why tobacco companies want to give them money; it is hard to imagine that they would knowingly take money from drug dealers – and yet they seem content to accept contributions from an industry whose products cause more than 80 per cent of Australia’s drug deaths. Surely there is something awry with the moral radar of anyone who accepts this kind of blood money.

The argument we sometimes hear that this is a “legitimate industry” is old and tired. If cigarettes were a new product they would not be allowed on the market. Our parliaments have decreed that the product is so harmful that it should not be sold to children and adolescents, should not be advertised, and that its sales should be subject to ever-increasing controls. This is no ordinary product, no ordinary industry.

The Australian government now leads the world in action to reduce smoking, complementing strong action in most jurisdictions (other than the Northern Territory, whose lack of interest in tobacco remains a mystery).

It is time for all political parties to refuse tobacco funding, or for legislation that forbids such contributions from companies that still seek to oppose the work and recommendations of governments and health authorities, and whose products cause 15,000 Australian deaths each year when used precisely as intended. Then we can be assured that all parties are making policy on this vital public health issue free of the taint of association with tobacco companies, and free of any suspicion that their policies might be influenced by these disreputable, lethal donors.

Mike Daube is Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University.

Butt Out: New York Bans Smoking In Cars When Kids Are Present

14 June 2011

Secondhand smoke kills – so it should come as no surprise that lawmakers would introduce a bill to ban smoking in cars where children are present.

In fact, a New York lawmaker, Assemblyman David Weprin, has done just that. In the proposed New York legislation, the smoking ban would apply to adults with children under the age of 14 in the car. It also applies even when the windows are rolled down. Reportedly, the bill’s current language calls for a fine of up to $100 for violators.

Other areas in New York have passed (Rockland County) or are considering (Nassau County) bills banning smoking in cars with any passengers under the age of 18.

Four other states already have a similar law on the books: Arkansas, California, Louisiana and Maine. In Arkansas, which already had a 2006 law banning smoking in the car if a child in a car seat is a passenger, “tweaked” the law in April of this year to prohibit smoking in the vehicle with children under 14 present.

Louisiana prohibits smoking in vehicles with children aged 12 and under – and it’s considered a moving violation. The law went into effect in Aug. 2006 and violators are assessed a minimum of 24 hours of community service and maximum fines up to $150.

California’s law went into effect Jan. 1, 2008 and was prompted, in part, by a 2006 Harvard School of Public Health report that said that secondhand smoke in cars can be up to 10 times more of a health risk than secondhand smoke in homes. In California’s law, smoking in a car with children under 18 is a secondary offense, meaning the motorist cannot be stopped by police just for violating the law. He or she could only be charged if stopped for some other moving violation. The fine for the smoking violation is up to $100.

Maine’s law went into effect in Sept. 2008 and bans smoking in any car when children under 16 are present. A driver may not be pulled over just for smoking but if caught in a moving violation can face a fine of $50.

Smoking in front of children can make them addicted to nicotine

14 June 2011

Most smokers are very aware of the damage they are doing to their own health – and know that others can also suffer though passive smoking.

But a worrying new study reveals that smoking infront of children not only passes on the harmful effects of the smoke in the air – it can also get them hooked on cigarettes.

A Concordia and University of Montreal study published in the Oxford journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, found that tweens who repeatedly observe a parent, sibling, friend or neighbur consuming cigarettes are more likely to start smoking themselves.

Worrying: A new study reveals that smoking infront of children not only passes on the harmful effects of the smoke in the air - it can also get them hooked on cigarettes

Worrying: A new study reveals that smoking infront of children not only passes on the harmful effects of the smoke in the air – it can also get them hooked on cigarettes

‘Kids who see others smoking are more likely to take up the habit because they don’t perceive cigarettes as unhealthy,’ says lead study author Simon Racicot, of Concordia University’s Department of Psychology.

‘We found that kids who’d never smoked who were exposed to tobacco use were more likely to hold positive beliefs about the killer habit. These are the kids who are more likely to start smoking as teenagers.’

This new investigation builds on previous studies examining the negative effects of being surrounded by smokers.

Senior author Jennifer J. McGrath, a professor in the Concordia University Department of Psychology said around 60 per cent of children are exposed to secondhand smoke across North America.

‘Greater exposure to smokers is largely associated with greater exposure to nicotine,’ she said.

‘Children exposed to the same amounts of secondhand smoke as adults absorb higher doses of nicotine.

‘Early findings suggest that secondhand smoke exposure could possibly trigger addiction in the brain – before kids actually start smoking themselves.’

Earning: Early findings suggest that secondhand smoke exposure could possibly trigger addiction in the brain - before kids actually start smoking themselves

Earning: Early findings suggest that secondhand smoke exposure could possibly trigger addiction in the brain – before kids actually start smoking themselves

For the study, 327 11-13 year olds enrolled in French-language public schools were questioned about their smoking habits, the number of smokers in their entourage and the situations where they observed smoking.

‘Preteens who were surrounded by more smokers believed that there are greater advantages to smoking,’ says Racicot.

‘Therefore, smoking by parents, siblings, and friends increases risk factors for later smoking.’

The researchers argue that new prevention efforts must be tailored to children who are highly exposed to secondhand smoke – ensuring they are aware of the risks.

The general public also needs to be informed about how smoking around youth normalizes the dangerous habit.

‘When it comes to smoking around kids, the best thing a parent can do is to avoid exposing their kids to cigarettes and to secondhand smoke,’ says Racicot.

‘A parent should step outside of their home or car to smoke. And the addictive habit should remain out of sight, out of breath and out of mind.’

Tobacco tax rise poised to pass

South China Morning Post — 14 June 2011

Health officials say they are cautiously optimistic the legislature will pass duty increase tomorrow, and at least 30 lawmakers are poised to approve it

Health officials are cautiously optimistic a 41 per cent rise in tobacco tax will be passed by the Legislative Council tomorrow, despite strong lobbying by the tobacco industry and pressure groups.

As the government and smokers’ groups made last-ditch efforts to lobby lawmakers, a count by the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583announcementsnews)shows the measure has secured at least 30 votes, out of the maximum 59. For the bill to pass, it needs a simple majority; Legco president Tsang Yok-sing does not vote.

In the budget on February 23, the government raised tobacco duty by 50 HK cents a cigarette, with the retail price of a packet of cigarettes increasing, on average, to HK$50 from HK$39.

Senior health officials said yesterday they were confident the bill would be passed. “We understand the tobacco industry and interest groups are lobbying intensely, but we are cautiously optimistic,” one official said.

Anti-smoking activists and academics have warned that Hong Kong will suffer a serious blow to its public health efforts if the bill is voted down. But opposing groups say the sharp rise in the tax is pushing smokers to illegal cigarettes, and seriously affecting the livelihood of newspaper stall vendors.

A group representing prisoners’ rights will meet lawmakers today to complain that prisoners’ wages cannot catch up with the rise for cigarettes provided at correctional institutions.

Among those supporting the bill are 19 pan-democrats, political groups Economic Synergy and Professional Forum, independent lawmakers Chan Kin-por and Samson Tam Wai-ho, and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker Lau Kong-wah, due to his Executive Council membership. But his eight fellow lawmakers from the government-friendly DAB are among the 14 abstaining, along with the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions. DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said the rise was too drastic for low-income people.

Ten lawmakers have confirmed they will oppose the increase, including traditional government ally the Liberal Party. Lawmakers said they had been lobbied by both camps. Pan-democrat Frederick Fung Kin-kee said he was approached by smokers’ groups despite his clearly stated support for the government proposal.

Medical-sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau was still undecided.

He said the government had pocketed a lot of money from the tobacco tax but had not spent enough on services to help people quit. “Why doesn’t the government provide free cessation services?” Leung asked.

New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who will vote against the bill, said the government had lobbied for her support.

The Votes Against Tax Hikes Alliance, formed by smokers and newspaper stand owners, yesterday started a sit-in outside the Legco building that will last until the vote.



Yes to the tobacco duty increase (30)

Pan-democrats (19), Professional Forum (4), Economic Synergy (4), Chan Kin-por, Samson Tam Wai-ho, Lau Kong-wah

No to the increase (10)

Liberal Party (3), People Power (2), Paul Tse Wai-chun, Li Fung-ying, Leung Kwok-hung, Regina Ip Lau Sukyee, Leung Yiu-chung

Abstain (14)

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (8), Federation of Trade Unions (4), Chim Pui-chung, Lam Tai-fai

Unknown (5)

David Li Kwok-po, Timothy Fok Tsunting, Paul Chan Mo-po, Leung Ka-lau, Philip Wong Yu-hong

The Votes Against Tax Hikes Alliance starts its protest outside the Legco building yesterday.

The Votes Against Tax Hikes Alliance starts its protest outside the Legco building yesterday.

Illegal-smokes trade flourishing

From: James Middleton []
Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 06:45‘; ‘Ng Yuk Hang’
Cc: Quinton YK Chan; ‘‘;; ‘‘; ‘Lai Vienna’
Subject: CustomsData2007-2010.xlsx

Dear Sir

I refer to your article below.

The article needs clarification as regards what quantity of contraband was intended for local sales.

In 2010, 29 million cigarettes were seized by Customs in HK port in transhipment to another country and not intended for sale here.

This shows a significant drop in local seizures of contraband. The salient fact remains that in the past two years 60-65% of local contraband were GENUINE products meaning the tobacco companies are the source of the problem.

This transhipment data reduces the number of local seizures significantly

Please correct and clarify your story as it is misleading to the public.

See attached self explanatory breakdown from the Customs Department.

Kind regards,

James Middleton