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June 19th, 2011:

Princess, Carnival and Holland America to ban smoking in cabins

Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America all announced major changes to their smoking policies. Smokers will soon be banned from lighting up in cabins on all the ships of all three lines.

The Princess smoking ban, which also applies to cabin balconies, will become effective on all sailings departing after Jan. 15.

Carnival said its ban on smoking in all cabins would take effect Dec. 1. The line will still allow both cigarette and cigar smoking on cabin balconies.

Holland America said its ban on smoking in cabins, but not on balconies, would take effect on Jan. 15.

Also effective today, Carnival said it was limiting smoking on its ships to dance clubs, designated areas within the casino and casino bar and certain sections on the open decks.

ALSO ONLINE: Carnival to cruise year-round from New York

All three lines said they were notifying those passengers already booked on cruises of their new policies.

Officials said the moves reflect changing customer preferences.

Carnival said it modified its policy as a result of recent guest surveys and onboard testing. Holland America said its new policy is “in keeping with the majority of guest preferences today.”

As for Princess, “Our consumer studies now show that smokers are a small minority of our passengers, and that the large majority of passengers value having their primary living space onboard smoke-free,” said Jan Swartz, the line’s executive vice president.
Princess spokeswoman Karen Candy says balconies were included in that line’s new policy “to enhance the onboard experience for the majority of passengers who don’t smoke.”

A fire that blackened 85 cabins on the Star Princess in the Caribbean in 2006 was blamed on a lit cigarette flung off a cabin balcony. The incident led to warnings about the need to carefully dispose of cigarettes.

Swartz said Princess would continue to welcome passengers who smoke on its ships, with smoking allowed in the Churchill’s cigar lounges, a section of the discos and casinos, and a portion of the open decks.
In a statement, Holland America likewise said guests who wish to smoke could continue to do so in designated areas both inside and on outside decks.

After the new cabin bans take effect, passengers caught breaking the rules on any of the three lines will be charged a $250 cleaning fee, officials said.

Princess, Carnival and Holland America are all owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp.

Other lines that ban smoking in cabins and on balconies include Celebrity, Azamara, Regent Seven Seas and Oceania. Crystal bans smoking on stateroom balconies. Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line ban smoking in cabins, but allow smoking on balconies.

Cantonese app to help smokers kick habit

South China Morning Post – 19 June 2011

Smokers who want to quit will soon have a handy comrade in their battle against tobacco – the iPhone.

A free Cantonese software application – the first of its kind – will be available for download in the coming months. It will feature celebrities like Khalil Fong, Sammi Cheng and Kay Tse issuing regular reminders of the hazards of tobacco and urging smokers to resist temptation.

Apps to help smokers kick the habit are already widely available, but this will be the first with an interface in traditional Chinese and audio in Cantonese, said Dr Anne Chee, acting senior medical officer of the Tobacco Control Office, which developed the app. It targets young people, who are big smartphone users, she said. “We will start with the iPhone as it has the largest market share. If it works well, we will expand it to Android and other platforms,” she said.

The app features a colourful layout in five sections. In one, singers, actors and footballers offer positive video messages to cheer on quitters. Users can set the app to play the videos at random intervals.

In another section, users can calculate how much money they have saved by not smoking and set a saving goal.

It also includes health information such as notes and videos on the hazards of tobacco and ways to cope with withdrawal symptoms like coughing and dizziness. The app can also assess and provide advice on the nicotine-dependence of users.

“Users will be regularly reminded of why they want to kick the habit, be it for the family or for money,” Chee said, adding that design details are being finalised with Apple. The office expects the app to go online “before the end of the year”.

It is also planning a quit programme for new immigrants and ethnic minorities. And a series of television commercials will be launched in the coming months to remind people of the risks of smoking.

Self-defence for tobacco officers

South China Morning Post – 19 June 2011

Inspectors will be offered training to fend off angry smokers who lash out when they’re issued with fines

An increasing number of tobacco control inspectors are being attacked by smokers caught puffing in banned areas, prompting the Department of Health to introduce self-defence training for the law enforcers.

The smokers, including women, have been jailed for up to three months for the assaults. The department’s Tobacco Control Office said the number of inspectors assaulted rose from five in 2008 and four in 2009 to 10 last year. There were five cases in the first four months of this year.

The head of the office, Dr Raymond Ho Lei-ming, said inspectors had faced increasing violence since the introduction of fixed penalties.

Since September 2009, inspectors have been issuing HK$1,500 fixed- penalty tickets to people caught smoking in banned areas, including restaurants, amusement centres, karaoke parlours and bus terminuses.

Ho said the attacks were probably the result of smokers reacting on the spot to the “immediate pain” of heavy fines. In the past they would have been summoned to court and fined just a few hundred dollars.

“In some cases, the attackers are not the smokers but their friends or families. Our team always assesses the potential risk of an operation. Sometimes they conduct a joint operation with the police.”

Last week lawmakers ratified the 41.5 per cent rise in tobacco tax – a move that will further anger smokers who feel they are being persecuted.

Ho said self-defence classes would start shortly for any staff members interested. Apart from regular inspections, the 99 tobacco control inspectors also visit no-smoking areas after receiving public complaints. The number of complaints of illegal smoking received by the office rose from 15,321 in 2008 to 17,089 in 2010. The number of inspections rose from 13,302 to 23,623.

Bars are the worst places for violent attacks; smokers at amusement centres and mahjong parlours are more co-operative. The inspectors who were attacked usually suffered bruises or abrasions, but none of the injuries were serious enough to require hospital treatment. Fines for those convicted ranged from HK$1,000 to HK$2,500. The more serious offenders were sentenced to between one and three months’ jail.

Smoking was banned in all indoor areas in 2007 and in entertainment premises in 2009. The government will later consider if venue operators should also be prosecuted. At present, only smokers are fined.

Now tobacco can save us from mobsters, whores, terrorists…

19 June , 2011

Gangsters claim the packs are ‘easier for us to copy’, state they will ‘use persuasion’ to protect profits, say their other drug sales are ‘unbranded’, suggest they could bomb critics and finally murder a rival over their ‘cut’.

A SHORT film that appears to be based on a John le Carre spy novel – think people smugglers, prostitutes, terrorists – is the latest salvo in the tobacco industry’s battle against federal government plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

According to the seven-minute film by British American Tobacco, the proposal will cause organised crime gangs to flourish, encouraging the syndicates to use their networks to flood Australia with smuggled drugs, weapons and cigarettes.

Replete with scenes of menacing Russian mobsters, exploding cars, street prostitutes and drug-addled teens, the film is part of a global campaign to block Australian anti-smoking health reforms that could set a commercially damaging precedent for the international tobacco industry.

The short film was panned as ”Z-grade fiction” by Quit Victoria, who reckon the film would be unlikely to earn a nomination at a Tropfest festival.

”I have no doubt people will see this for the big tobacco propaganda it is,” said the group’s executive director, Fiona Sharkie.

While the film seems to stretch credulity, a voice-over claims: ”Law enforcers say some gangs [that distribute counterfeit cigarettes] are also behind people, weapons and drug trafficking. Some have terrorist links.”

Australian law enforcement agencies, however, were reluctant to speculate on whether the introduction of plain packets would threaten national security or leave the nation awash with guns and drugs.

”It would not be appropriate for ASIO to comment on advertising,” said an ASIO spokeswoman.

Spokespeople for the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police also declined to comment on the film, which has been released on YouTube and the company’s international website.

British American Tobacco Australia spokeswoman Louise Warburton refused to comment on the film when contacted by The Sunday Age.

She said the content was not ”Australia specific” and referred inquiries to the company’s London head office, where the film was produced.

”The links between cigarette smuggling and other forms of organised crime have been well documented and reported in recent years,” the company’s global spokeswoman, Catherine Armstrong, said.

”You may find this report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists [based in Washington] useful, as it contains a number of direct quotes from people in law enforcement, as well as details of the links between the forms of crime.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is already investigating the industry over claims in recent advertisements that plain cigarette packets would lead to a surge in children smoking counterfeit tobacco.

British American Tobacco Australia chief executive David Crow warned last month that plain cigarette packets would provide a ”field day” for organised criminals, who had profited from a 150 per cent increase in illegal tobacco sales in Australia in the past three years.

Last week, ABC’s Media Watch admonished Channel Nine’s A Current Affair over a story it did in conjunction with British American Tobacco Australia. The story featured a Malaysian triad member, who claimed he had smuggled people in shipping containers into Australian cities. The man, who had been provided to ACA by British American Tobacco investigators, said the organisation’s tobacco and drug trafficking operations had provided the template for their people-smuggling business.

Customs and Border Protection said there was no evidence to support the claim.

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PRINCESS CRUISES have banned smoking in staterooms and, weirdly, on balconies from next January.

Jan Swartz, from Princess, said: “The new policy reflects changing customer preferences and the move around the globe – from North America to Europe – to further restrict areas where smoking is allowed, according to the line.”

She added that balconies are included in the new policy because they are a hallmark feature of Princess ships and the line believes it’s important to keep that peaceful space clear of smoke.

While smoking is still allowed in some areas on deck and in the casino, it is clear that the writing is on the wall for us smokers… even though we pay the same price as the non-smokers!

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