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October 11th, 2012:

Tobacco packaging: Call to scrutinise lobby groups’ claims

The New Zealand Herald

By Kieran Campbell KieranCampbell Email Kieran

7:17 PM Thursday Oct 11, 2012

American lobby groups condemning the Government’s bid for plain packaging on cigarettes are attempting to muddy the debate and their arguments should be scrutinised, a marketing professor says.

At least two US lobby groups have backed claims by British American Tobacco (BAT) in a campaign costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that there is no evidence plain packaging will reduce smoking.

Today BAT stood by its comments that recent research by Otago University proved little about real smoker behaviour.

However Professor Janet Hoek, from the university’s department of marketing, said BAT’s claims were “illogical”, “unsupported” and ignored a “well-established evidence base”.

American lobby groups the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) and Chamber of Commerce have released statements saying plain packaging will not aid public health but rather pose risks for international trade.

Prof Hoek said any comments in the debate should be scrutinised closely.

“We know the tobacco industry has funded … groups in New Zealand [in the past]. That became very apparent during the whole debate over the removal of tobacco retail displays a couple of years ago,” Prof Hoek said.

“So we know that they have their tentacles reaching out and that they are trying to create groups to give them a veneer of public respectability.

“I think we’ve got to scrutinise those sorts of claims very carefully.”

IPI, which is funded by donations from businesses and individuals, released a paper voicing opposition to the Government’s proposed plain packaging legislation, including what it says are implications on trademarks and overseas trade.

The IPI would not disclose the individuals and organisations that contribute to its $1.5 million per year funding, but BAT said it did not donate money to the organisation.

The US Chamber of Commerce, which says it represents “the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions”, also stated its opposition to the legislation and said there were alternatives to deal with the public health problems of smoking.

Prof Hoek said the university’s research had revealed “pretty strong evidence that plain packaging is going to be good for health and that it will protect future generations of children from taking up smoking, which is, let’s face it, a deadly addiction”.

“I think what these organisations are trying to do is to muddy the waters because I think the waters are actually very clear and the research base is very strong,” she said.

“I think we can rely heavily on people’s common sense [to judge criticism of plain packaging]. I think they are trying to muddy the waters but I think they are being spectacularly unsuccessful in their attempts.”

By Kieran Campbell KieranCampbell Email Kieran


Copyright ©2012, APN Holdings NZ Limited

Tobacco smugglers face criminal charges

11 Oct 2012. Tobacco smugglers will face criminal charges and penalties up to 10 years imprisonment under changes to the customs law approved by the Senate, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported.
Attorney General Nicola Roxon issued a statement saying criminalization was necessary because current penalties for smuggling tobacco products are low and illegal tobacco poses significant health risks, the AAP reported. (pi)

Tough smoking ban on sidewalks marks 10 years in Chiyoda Ward

October 11, 2012


On a recent weekday afternoon in Akihabara, in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, a pair of ward patrol officers collared a foreign man violating a unique and strict ordinance that has been in effect for 10 years.

The duo, former police officers and donning yellow polo shirts, showed the culprit, a 30-year-old Spanish tourist, literature on the ward’s ban on smoking on the sidewalks, written in English as well. They told him he had to pay the fine, 2,000 yen ($25.60).

“When I traveled to Mexico, we could smoke in the street, not inside shops though,” the man said, although he paid the fine without much protest.

Chiyoda Ward, home to the Diet building, the prime minister’s office and many other central government ministries and agencies as well as a cluster of popular electronic shops in Akihabara, became the first local government in the nation to impose such a smoking ban in 2002.

Like the Spanish tourist, an average 81 percent of the violators each year pay their fine, according to the ward. The rest do not, even though they promise to send the fine in later.

Fines collected totaled 110 million yen over fiscal 2002-2011.

As a result of the ban, few smoke on the ward’s main streets. But Mieko Ishiguro, 57, one of the officers who nabbed the tourist, said some smokers try to sneak a cigarette at a spot that is out of public sight.

Areas around vending machines on the back streets are their favorite hideout, said Manabu Murasaki, 61, the other officer.

Even though the ward’s streets are not completely free off cigarette butts, they are significantly cleaner.

The number of butts left at four locations in the Akihabara district stood at 995 a month before the ban took effect, according to the ward. There were only five butts in the same district in April. Officials tallied the number on four occasions a month.

While smokers find themselves increasingly at a loss as to where to go to have a puff, the ban led to the opening in the ward in July by a private company of three high-tech smoking rooms, called “ippuku” (take a puff).

Smokers enter the room through a gate by presenting an electronic commuter pass that money can be added to. Admission costs 50 yen.

In one room, located on the first floor of a building in the Kanda area, a fresh aroma is sprayed as a customer enters. The air inside is not filled with smoke as thick as expected. Specially coated walls of the room are supposed to disperse odors. Although many smokers apparently don’t linger there, a 48-year-old man was taking time to have a private smoke, checking his cellphone and sipping coffee.

He said he stops by three times a day. The restaurant he is working for imposed a total ban on smoking three years ago.

“I don’t drink, and I have nothing else to enjoy other than smoking,” he said.

Akihiro Hineno, operator of the ippuku, hit upon an idea of setting up such places after he saw a band of smokers congregating around large ashtrays put up on the streets and nonsmokers avoiding them.

Hineno, 43, a smoker himself, became convinced that smokers needed somewhere to go where they will not cause nonsmokers problems.

A total of 1,100 people use his three rooms a day, according to Hineno.

Eighty percent are men, and smokers in their 20s through 40s account for 70 percent of his customers.

While the smoking ban in the streets has contributed to cleaning the ward’s air and streets, it created a new problem.

Smokers are taking refuge in the parks, where they are allowed to smoke under the ordinance.

But with a flurry of complaints from mothers worried about their children’s health and others, the ward began dividing some of its parks into smoking and no-smoking areas.

The Akihabara park in front of JR Akihabara Station now has a smoking section, started from spring.

The park, whose space is equivalent to three tennis courts, devotes 40 square meters on the side of the station to smoking behind an acrylic partition.

The smoking section appears too crowded on weekday afternoons to accommodate the crowd. Street sweepers are constantly picking up butts with steel tongs.

Ward officials acknowledge a need to address the problems in the park.

“The situation has improved significantly, but there are still many smokers who puff outside the smoking section in the parks,” an official said.

Ward officials has been examining the situation at each park since this summer.

The ward is expected to decide by the end of December what to do with about 60 parks it manages, whether to set up smoking areas in some parks or make others entirely no smoking.

According to the ward, more than 70 local governments have adopted an ordinance banning smoking on the streets with a fine for violators.

(This article was written by Minako Yoshimoto and Atsushi Takahashi.)


Smokers face new ban

SALLY GLAETZER | October 09, 2012 12.01am

THE Hobart City Council has rejected an industry push to relax its tough anti-smoking policy for outdoor dining areas and may take the rules a step further with a total ban on smoking on footpaths.

At last night’s council meeting aldermen voted to reject a call by the Tasmanian Hospitality Association to scale back its ban on smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas within the city. Ald Marti Zucco suggested the council ban smoking along footpaths completely.

He said that would stop people smoking along Salamanca Place altogether, whereas the ban currently applies only to alfresco seating areas along the popular restaurant and bar strip.

“At the moment people smoke outside the barrier of an outdoor dining area. I believe that’s worse than being inside the barrier,” Ald Zucco said.

His motion to investigate the Manly City Council’s extensive ban on smoking in outdoor areas was carried by the council, much to the dismay of Hospitality association general manager Steve Old.

Mr Old said Hobart eateries and bars were already struggling because of the existing regulations.

“So where are these people supposed to smoke?” he said.

“People have a right to choose what they want to do and smoking is not illegal.”

The association had been lobbying the council to bring its smoking rules in line with state legislation, which prevents smoking in outdoor dining areas during meal times only.

Mr Old said the Hobart-specific rules introduced last August had become a policing nightmare for bar staff and security guards, particularly in waterfront areas including Salamanca area, and were causing altercations among late night drinkers who wanted to smoke.

Ald Zucco told the Mercury that despite the motion he put forward at last night’s meeting, he was actually opposed to the council going it alone on smoking regulations. He agreed with Mr Old that the council’s role should be to lobby the State Government on the issue.


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