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October 28th, 2012:

Questions raised over smoke alarms on ferries blocked by smokers

Submitted by admin on Oct 28th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


John Carney

Passengers lighting up in toilets are putting others at risk by blocking life-saving smoke detecters with paper on vessels to outer islands

A new safety scare has hit ferries to outlying islands: passengers are covering up smoke alarms in toilets on board so they can have a sneaky smoke.

Less than a month after 39 people lost their lives in a ferry disaster off Lamma Island, the operator of New World First Ferry Services admitted that it had found cases of passengers lighting up after blocking potentially life-saving smoke detectors.

The company was conducting more checks but had also called in the Tobacco Control Office because, it said, it did not have the staff to ensure proper patrols.

It could only try to limit the damage, a customer service spokeswoman for First Ferry said.

“As our crew members have various duties to perform on board, it is not feasible for them to [keep conducting] spot checks during the entire sailing to identify offenders,” she said.

“We will continue to press the Tobacco Control Office to perform frequent enforcement action on board the vessels.”

The operator plies the routes from Central to Cheung Chau and Mui Wo, and from North Point to Hung Hom and Kowloon City.

It also runs the inter-island service serving Peng Chau, Mui Wo, Chi Ma Wan and Cheung Chau.

It issued the statement in response to a complaint from an eagle-eyed Cheung Chau resident who spotted during his daily journeys to Central and back that smoke alarms in the ferry toilets were regularly covered.

Hans Wergin, who works on Hong Kong Island as a chef for a chain of coffee shops, noticed passengers would come out of the toilets holding a lit cigarette but that the alarm inside the cubicle had not gone off.

On closer inspection, he found the detectors had been covered with paper to prevent the smoke from setting it off.

He reported his finding to First Ferry’s customer service division – and was told that it was an ongoing problem.

“It took First Ferry 17 days to get back to me on such a basic but important safety enquiry,” Wergin said.

The spokeswoman said First Ferry could only remind their crew members to carry out more frequent inspections and to ensure all smoke detectors were not obstructed when possible.


Maritime Safety


Smoke detector

New World First Ferry

Source URL (retrieved on Oct 29th 2012, 8:38pm):

Women who quit smoking before 30 cut risk of tobacco-related death by 97 per cent

Updated 09:57 AM Oct 28, 2012

LONDON – Women who smoke into middle-age have three times the death rate of non-smokers and risk dying at least 10 years early, according to a definitive study of the effects of tobacco in more than a million women in the UK.

The good news, according to the study by a team of Oxford University researchers led by Sir Richard Peto, is that giving up cigarettes before the age of 40 reduces a woman’s risk of smoking-related death by 90%. Quitting by 30 reduces it by 97 per cent .

The study, published by the Lancet a day before the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir Richard Doll, who first established the link between smoking and lung cancer, shows conclusively for the first time that the disastrous effects of smoking for men are no different for women.

Because men historically began to smoke in large numbers earlier than women – most of the first generation of women with a lifelong smoking habit were born in the 1940s – the life-shortening impact of cigarettes on them has not until recently been fully measurable.

“If women smoke like men, they die like men,” said Peto. “But whether they are men or women, smokers who stop before reaching middle-age will on average gain about an extra 10 years of life.”

The data comes from the Million Women Study, which recruited 1.3 million women between 1996 and 2001 when they went for breast cancer screening, aged between 50 and 65. The study, unique because of its size, has compiled a vast amount of information on women’s health and led, among other things, to important findings on risk factors for breast cancer.

The women filled in questionnaires on their lifestyle, medical history and social background at the time of recruitment and again three years later. They have been followed up for an average of 12 years. At the start of the study, 20 per cent were smokers and 28 per cent former smokers.

Persistent smokers were nearly three times as likely to die over the study period as non-smokers. The results show that two-thirds of all deaths of smokers in their 50s, 60s and 70s are caused by smoking – not only through cancer but also other smoking-related illnesses such as heart disease and stroke.

The more women in the study smoked, the greater their risk of premature death. Even those who considered themselves social smokers, having between one and nine cigarettes a day, had double the death rate of non-smokers. The increased risks remained, even after adjusting for the fact that smokers were more likely to live in deprived areas, drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week and avoid strenuous exercise.

The age at which women started smoking was important. Picking up the habit at a young age increased the length of time for which they smoked and their risk of an early death. Although fewer women were now starting to smoke, those who are could be doing greater damage to their health. “In those days smokers were starting in late teens and now it is in their early teens,” said Peto.

Although stopping well before the age of 40 will substantially reduce women’s risk of dying early, “this does not mean … that it is safe to smoke until age 40 years and then stop, for women who do so have throughout the next few decades a mortality rate 1.2 times that of never-smokers,” says the paper. “This is a substantial excess risk, causing one in six of the deaths among these ex-smokers.”

Peto said the Million Women Study had allowed unprecedented insights into women’s health prospects and could only have been carried out in the UK.

“It is completely brilliant because the NHS health records are so brilliant. You couldn’t do it in any other country in Europe. We can send details of the women to the NHS central register and we get told what everybody died of. Every time they go to hospital, we know about it.” GUARDIAN


Copyright 2012 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Smoking will ‘kill up to a billion people worldwide this century’

Governments must do far more to control the global tobacco industry, say cancer experts

Steve Connor

Sunday, 28 October 2012

It is described as the biggest public health disaster in the history of the world, with its perpetrators linked to terrorists. Smoking will kill up to a billion people worldwide this century, unless governments across the world stamp down on the half-trillion-dollar tobacco industry.

These are the words of John Seffrin, chief executive of the American Cancer Society, who was speaking this weekend at a high-level forum of the world’s 100 leading cancer experts gathered in the Swiss resort of Lugano, who issued a stark warning to governments worldwide. They said governments must do far more than they have done to control the global tobacco industry, either by raising cigarette prices dramatically, outlawing tobacco marketing or by taxing the multinational profits of the big cigarette firms.

Smoking kills more than half of all smokers, mostly from cancer, and yet despite it being the single biggest avoidable risk of premature death, there are about 30 million new smokers a year, scientists have calculated.

If current trends continue, with cigarette companies targeting the non-smoking populations of the developing world, then hundreds of millions of people will be dying of cancer in the second half of this century, they said.

Some of the experts attending the World Oncology Forum went further by calling for an outright ban on cigarettes and for the tobacco industry to be treated as a terrorist movement for the way it targets new markets with a product that it knows to be deadly when used as intended.

“We have a major global industry producing a product that is lethal to at least half the people who use it. It will kill, if current trends continue, a billion people this century,” said Dr Seffrin, who leads the US national society dedicated to eliminating cancer.

“It killed 100 million in the last century and we thought that was outrageous, but this will be the biggest public health disaster in the history of the world, bar none. It all could be avoided if we could prevent the terroristic tactics of the tobacco industry in marketing its products to children,” Dr Seffrin told The Independent.

“There is a purposeful intent to market a product that they know full well will harm their customers and over time will kill more than half of them. The industry needs to be reined in and regulated,” he said.

The science showing that tobacco is the single biggest cause of cancer is now well established, following the publication of the earliest evidence in the 1950s by the late Sir Richard Doll, the Oxford epidemiologist who was born 100 years ago yesterday.

Worldwide, tobacco causes about 22 per cent of cancer deaths each year, killing some 1.7 million people, with almost 1 million of them dying from lung cancer. Yet the numbers of new smokers among the young is rising faster than the numbers giving up.

The latest study into the health effects of smoking, published last Saturday in The Lancet, involved 1.3 million women. It showed tobacco is even more dangerous than previously supposed, but the benefits of giving up smoking are greater than expected.

Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University, a co-author of the Million Women study who worked closely with Sir Richard Doll, is also the scientist who first calculated how many people this century will die from tobacco-induced cancers. “We have about 30 million new smokers a year in the world. On present patterns, most of them are not going to stop, and if they don’t stop, and if half of them die from it, then that means more than 10 million a year will die – that’s 100 million a decade in the second half of the century,” said Professor Peto.

“So this century we’re going to see something like a billion deaths from smoking if we carry on as we are. In Europe we have about 1.3 million premature deaths per year now, of which about 0.3 million are deaths by tobacco. There’s nothing else as big as that,” he added. “If you put all causes together, you wouldn’t get a total that’s half of that caused by tobacco, and tobacco kills more people by cancer than other diseases. Smoking is still the most important cause of cancer… If you smoke a few cigarettes a day, it will be the most dangerous thing you do.”

European countries need to raise cigarette prices significantly because this is the one proven method of reducing consumption, Sir Richard said. They should adopt a “triple-half-double” strategy, which was tried in France in the 1990s, when cigarette prices were tripled, consumption halved and the tobacco tax revenues to the French government doubled.

“The governments of Europe desperately need to be able to raise taxes and to do so in politically acceptable ways. Doing it for health reasons, by tripling the price of cigarettes and halving the consumption, is a way of doing both,” Professor Peto said.

“If we are talking of prevention in Europe then a quarter of all cancer deaths are due to tobacco. In many countries, the numbers of women dying of tobacco are rising.”

Asked whether a policy of tripling cigarette prices would hit poor smokers harder than the rich, Sir Richard said: “They are hit hardest already. Almost half of the social inequality in death is tobacco deaths. If you can help them to stop, then you are doing them and their families a favour.”

The World Oncology Forum, organised by the European School of Oncology, agreed governments must do more to combat tobacco marketing, especially when directed at younger non-smokers. One suggestion was that the profits of multinationals should be taxed globally so they cannot exploit national differences in revenue collection. There was agreement among the experts that more legislation and controls were needed to stop the “global scandal” of tobacco marketing.

Professor Paolo Vineis of Imperial College London said the developing world will see an explosion in cancer in the coming decades as the disease suffers from “globalisation” caused in a large part by smoking.

“It is a scandal that tobacco is the biggest risk factor for cancer, and that more people will be smoking next year. And yet we know that some things will make a really big difference at very little cost,” Professor Vineis said.

Stubbing out: France

The French government implemented a series of sharp price rises for cigarettes in 2003 and 2004 in a bid to slash the numbers of smokers. The rises pushed up the price of smoking by 40 per cent and led to nearly 2 million quitting smoking in France. The Government also introduced legislation to prevent the sale of cigarettes to children aged under 16. This month, François Hollande’s government is further hiking the price of tobacco by 6 per cent, following similar rises in the past two years. Other measures planned include a €200 million tax on tobacco companies, extending no-smoking zones, introducing blank packets and more health campaigns.

Smoke gets in BAT’s eyes

Published on Sunday, 28 October 2012 18:39

Written by J.A. de la Cruz / Coast-to-Coast

IN 2000 an official of the Action on Smuggling and Health (ASH), the United Kingdom-based health charity, appeared before the House of Commons Health Select Committee to reveal fresh evidence on the alleged promotion of smuggling by British American Tobacco (BAT), the biggest international tobacco company.

In his testimony, ASH Director Clive Bates provided a summary of BAT’s alleged smuggling operations based on six months of research independently undertaken by his organization and done in parallel with, among others, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. BAT, which “abandoned” its operations in the Philippines in the 1990s over what it said was “uneven playing field” in the industry, is now deeply involved in pushing through Congress what many sectors consider as an inequitable, unachievable and deleterious “sin” tax bill.

In addition to reportedly drawing up with senior finance officials the contentious P60-billion incremental sin-tax measure now being deliberated in the Senate, BAT has titillated Malacañang and the public with a promised $200-million investment in a cigarette manufacturing plant as and when its preferred measure is passed.

That advisory, of course, has drawn howls and a laugh for how can administration officials agree to work that out when they continue to insist that their bill is a “health,” not a “revenue,” measure? Evidently, there appear to be duplicity and schizophrenia there and we are not surprised.

We are excerpting parts of ASH’s documented testimony to provide one and all, especially the public, President Aquino and our legislators a clear idea of BAT’s record of governance worldwide. It is alleged to have a record of duplicity and active participation in the illicit trade in tobacco products—smuggling. This illegal operation, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Ralph Recto, resigned chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, warned, will surely ensue if the Department of Finance (DOF)-sponsored bill passes muster in Congress. Excerpts from the ASH report:

BAT’s control over smuggling

“Correspondence between BAT executives shows the company was heavily involved in orchestrating, managing and controlling cigarette smuggling in Asia and Latin America in the early 1990s. BAT exercised control on illegal distribution channels through intermediaries, notably Romar in Aruba and SUTL [SingapuraUnited Tobacco Ltd] in Singapore. The form of control was:

a) Adopting an approach to business planning and sales-target-setting that treats the various routes for smuggling as near-normal distribution channels, which are under the same sort of control as legitimate channels;

b) Deliberately establishing business relations with intermediaries that directly or indirectly supply smugglers and directing these companies to gain a share in the illegal markets;

c) Controlling the price and availability of products through these channels and so influencing end-market conditions;

d) Building warehouses and stationing marketing personnel close to borders with poor Customs controls;

e) Using a small legal or duty-free market to justify advertising campaigns, which have the real purpose of stimulating demand for cigarettes on sale in the illegal market (these are known as “umbrella operations”);

f) Organizing complicated movements of cigarettes through several jurisdictions or multiple levels within an elaborate distribution chain–leading to difficulties in tracing the products;

g) Identifying and/or developing transit routes where official controls are weak or corrupt; and

h) Colluding with other international tobacco companies over pricing and smuggling strategy.

BAT executives knew

BAT executives knew the nature of their business and sought to conceal it.

Allegedly involved are senior personnel and the memos released feature current BAT board members, including the managing director (Ulrich Herter), finance director (Keith Dunt) and marketing director (Paul Adams). No documents have been found, to date, which refer to the current chairman or deputy chairman.

BAT assertion that it only acts legally is false. While there is little evidence of BAT smuggling tobacco itself, there is compelling evidence to suggest that BAT is a significant part of a conspiracy that causes smuggling. At least one BAT executive has been convicted of smuggling-related offenses in Hong Kong and other legal actions are possible. While conspiracy action in the UK is unlikely for technical reasons, conspiracy-equivalent actions in the jurisdictions where the smuggling has taken place are plausible. US-based investigations have been launched against the tobacco industry for alleged violations of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act.

The prevalence of tobacco smuggling in Colombia and the Golden Triangle points to a wider picture, which almost certainly involves the laundering of “narco-dollars,” proceeds of cocaine and heroin trafficking. There is no suggestion in the documents that BAT staff are directly involved in this process, but it is very likely that contraband distribution in these areas is carried out by established organized crime networks, and for these organizations tobacco smuggling would provide effective money laundering with advantages to all parties. By failing to take responsibility for the markets that its product enters, BAT is facilitating the spread of illegal drugs as well as that of tobacco.

Recently, smuggling reached serious proportions in the UK and Europe, and from what we know, it appears that distribution management is similar in pattern to those documented from Latin America and Asia. This is particularly true of tobacco company relationships with intermediary groups in specific distribution nodes which supply smugglers. For a time, Andorra was used by British manufacturers, Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco, in a manner similar to BAT’s operations in Aruba detailed below. As a result of this distribution network, UK tobacco exports to Andorra rose from 13 million cigarettes in 1993 to 1,520 million in 1997, vastly more than the Andorran population of 63,000 could conceivably consume.

It is important that BAT’s own business practices are subjected to internal checks and balances and that the company is properly supervised by its non-executive directors, led by the deputy chairman, Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke QC MP. Mr. Clarke should now launch an internal inquiry to report to the AGM on April 27, 2000. BAT should also make a clear statement to shareholders regarding its exposure to smuggling-related legal action.

Smuggling is not victimless crime

Smuggling is not a victimless crime. Current projections suggest 1 billion people will die of tobacco-related disease in the 21st century—10 times as many as those in the 20th century and overwhelmingly in developing countries. Taxation is one measure to counter this dreadful toll and smuggling undermines it by lowering prices and reducing the political feasibility of a high tobacco tax policy. To this extent, tobacco companies benefit from the impact of smuggling in their markets—and health of society suffers.

The responsibility for tackling smuggling ultimately lies with governments. A new World Health Organization convention, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, has a proposed protocol on smuggling. This could form the basis of a global response to tobacco smuggling by creating a secure distribution system, introducing anti-fraud markings, tracking and tracing the movement of tobacco products and holding each person responsible for ensuring that they sell only to legitimate businesses.”