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December 8th, 2012:

Warning: images may harm your smoking pleasure

Published: December 8, 2012 – 3:00AM

Alex Town’s first box of plain-packaged cigarettes did not faze him.

Gone was the familiar trademark of his favourite brand, Benson & Hedges, to be replaced by an innocuous image of a cigarette being stubbed out in an ashtray. He had won his first round of health-warning roulette.

The drab olive packages which became mandatory this month feature a variety of new, graphic warning labels designed to confront consumers with the consequences of smoking-related disease.

Some of the images are more confronting than others: there is the eyeball being surgically opened (“smoking causes blindness”), the decaying lung, the cancerous tongue and the stained, rotting teeth.

But the two warning labels giving smokers the most discomfort are the gangrenous foot and the infamous “Bryan”, who is pictured brutally emaciated and almost dead from lung cancer. And it is these larger, more shocking graphics – rather than the lack of branding – which are challenging users to reconsider their habits.

“The colour doesn’t put me off, it actually looks quite smart to me,” says Town, a 26-year old public servant who has decided to quit as his New Year’s resolution.

“For me it’s definitely more to do with the bigger health warning than the plain packaging itself.”

The tobacco companies spent millions of dollars unsuccessfully fighting the government’s legislation in the High Court, claiming a breach of their intellectual property rights. They fear plain packaging might be adopted by other, bigger jurisdictions: India and the European Union have already signalled they are considering the model.

But early experience suggests it is not the loss of logos and trademarks which is making cigarettes less attractive: it’s the pictures.

“It struck me when I got the gangrenous-foot plain packaging,” says Town, who has smoked a pack a day for 10 years. “That’s pretty vile. Even my flatmate said he needed to hide my packet of cigarettes because he couldn’t bear to look at it.”

It is a common sentiment. One young smoker said a friend had started covering his cigarette packets in duct tape to avoid seeing the warnings. Having become desensitised to the old images, the prominence and graphic nature of the new ones had shocked him.

The manager of Sol Levy tobacconist in Sydney’s Chinatown, Evelyn Platus, does not believe the new packages will have a lasting impact. She says customers have been using stickers to cover up health warnings since they were first introduced in the 1980s.

“They work out a way to hide it from themselves,” she says. ”The end consumer is not at all interested in what’s on the packet. It makes no difference to them at all.”

Many speculated that plain packaging would simply encourage smokers to buy personal cigarette cases, but Platus has seen little interest in them.

“I didn’t buy up in preparation, and they’re not flying out the door either. People don’t care. They’re so past it.”

What is irking customers is a perceived change in the taste of their cigarettes. The tobacco companies have denied making any alterations to the products themselves, and the Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, suggested this perception was due to the “psychological effect of marketing”.

Still, Platus insists her regular customers have been complaining of a change in flavour. “Some customers are cutting them open and checking them out, and the tobacco’s totally different.”

Others say they have noticed a change in the taste of their cigarette’s filter.

Whether that is perceived or real, it reflects the real resentment and anger that smokers and particularly retailers are exhibiting in the wake of the introduction of plain packaging. For small vendors such as Sol Levy, that’s in part because they feel they have been given second-class treatment by the tobacco industry, which in Australia is dominated by three players: British American, Philip Morris and Imperial.

“The cigarette companies loaded up the supermarkets [with plain-packaged products] first,” Platus says. The big chains were allowed to swap out unsold coloured stock for new, plain-packaged stock, something that has been harder for small retailers. While Platus has come to an arrangement with British American and Imperial, she has had no response from Philip Morris.

“We haven’t heard that they’re prepared to refund or exchange, nothing. They have not contacted us, we’ve tried to contact them and they have not returned a call.”

She estimates the transitional period will cost her business $20,000 on top of the $5000 of Philip Morris stock which is now unsaleable.

A spokesman for Philip Morris, Chris Argent, acknowledged that “smaller retailers are particularly likely to suffer these types of costs”, but when asked if that was a direct result of his company’s actions, would only say that “Philip Morris has been working with the federal government and retailers to ensure a smooth transition to plain packaging”.

On the eve of the mandatory rollout, Plibersek drew attention to the problem. “We’ve written to Philip Morris and insisted that they should take back non-compliant stock because we don’t want small shopkeepers, mum-and-dad shopkeepers, to be the ones who suffer here,” she said.

But a week later, that intervention appears to have yielded little return.

Such concerns were of little concern at the Lloyds IGA supermarket on King Street, Newtown. Store manager Kakha Tchatchanidze says there have been “no issues” with receiving credit for old stock or changing it over for the compliant versions.

Nonetheless he believes the whole exercise is “pointless”, and staff seem to agree. The only change they have noticed is increasing customer frustration at the amount of time it takes staff to find a particular brand amid the plethora of identical boxes.

On the street, a 23-year old occasional smoker who did not wish to be identified said the new packages would not directly change his behaviour, but were adding to the social pressure on light users to give up altogether.

“It’s going to be unappealing for the people on the fringe, it’s going to make them uncomfortable,” he said of the graphic warning labels.

“Everybody’s shouting at you to stop doing it.”

This story was found at:

WHO: 80% of China Deaths from Non-Communicable Diseases – China Real Time Report – WSJ

  • December 7, 2012, 8:27 PM HKT

WHO: 80% of China Deaths from Non-Communicable Diseases

World Health Organization officials are urging China to reduce the country’s high rates of non-communicable diseases, warning that medical costs and productivity losses stemming from those diseases will amount to significant economic losses for the world’s second-largest economy.

Heart disease, strokes, diabetes and chronic lung disease are mounting in China, accounting for 80% of deaths and more than 70% of the country’s health expenditures, said Michael O’Leary, the WHO representative to China, in a press briefing Friday. By 2015, a decade of costs tied to health care and losses of productivity from diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are expected to reach as high as $550 billion, Mr. O’Leary said.

Associated Press

WHO officials urged China to fund programs teaching Chinese to reduce bad habits, such as high salt consumption and smoking, that contribute to chronic diseases. “China has had huge success in raising families from poverty and we hope not to see a backslide,” said Mr. O’Leary,

The world’s most populous country is facing a health crisis as of late, tied in part to a massive ongoing migration. Every year, millions of Chinese citizens move from rural regions to cities, where they tend to induge more in salty and fatty foods, cigarettes, alcohol and sedentary habits that lend to illness.
Chronic disease death rates in China are higher than world averages. By comparison, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the death rate is 70 per 100 in the U.S., while the World Health Organization says they represent 63% of deaths world-wide

Tobacco cessation is one of the most tangible ways in which China could reduce the disease burden, Mr. O’Leary said, urging leaders to cut smoking rates to nearly 20% by 2025. Currently 28% of people older than 15 — 301 million people — are smokers in China and smoking related sickness kills more than one million Chinese citizens each year, he said.

While the government has talked about the need to reduce smoking in recent years, leaders actually benefit from Chinese cigarette consumption due to their ties to country’s tobacco companies, said James Middleton, chair of Hong-Kong based air quality organization Clear The Air.

China is not only the world’s largest tobacco consumer, but also the largest producer. Its main tobacco companies are state-owned and feed revenue into state coffers, which conflict with the country’s efforts to address smoking’s harmful effects, Mr. Middleton said.

Activists have also noted that the price of cigarettes in China remains low and bans on public smoking are not enforced.

But smoking isn’t the only threat. Citizens could also benefit from nutrition education, helping them to understand the amount of salt they are consuming, which is nearly triple the allowed limit of 5 grams per day, Mr. O’Leary said. Chinese are adding soy sauce to their food in addition to table salt, contributing to high blood pressure and heart disease, he said.

The WHO recommends that China boost funding for educational programs and tobacco controls, adding 1.3 yuan per person to existing health care funding to save an estimated 4.6 million lives over a decade.

– Laurie Burkitt. Follow her on Twitter @lburkitt

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WHO demands urgent smoking controls to curb number of deaths

Submitted by admin on Dec 8th 2012, 12:00am




Smoking kills an estimated 1.2 million mainlanders each year. Photo: Reuters

Zhuang Pinghui

One million deaths a year are blamed on non-communicable diseases related to tobacco use, with warnings of grave economic consequences

The World Health Organisation has called for the urgent introduction of tobacco controls on the mainland to curb non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the biggest cause of deaths in China.

NCDs – chronic problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and lung disease – account for 83 per cent of deaths on the mainland and smoking is a major risk factor.

The WHO says tobacco is responsible for one million deaths on the mainland every year and a quarter of the men who die from tobacco-related NCDs are younger than 60.

“This has major economic implications for an ageing society such as China,” Michael O’Leary, WHO’s representative in China, said yesterday. “But unfortunately the tobacco epidemic is getting worse, not better and that deserves urgent attention now.”

Dr Robert Beaglehole, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said: “The important issue here is with the ageing population there will be a lot of people with NCDs, so the cost of treatment is a big burden. It can drag the family into poverty.

“Another challenge is people are often living with not one but multiple NCDs.”

Last month, the WHO released nine global voluntary targets for the prevention and control of NCDs, such as combating premature mortality from NCDs, alcohol and tobacco use.

The target of a 30 per cent reduction in tobacco use translates into a decrease in the mainland’s adult smoking rate to 19.6 per cent – 235 million smokers – from 28 per cent by 2025.

The WHO says that such a reduction is a realistic possibility given the right policies.

China ratified the WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control in 2005 but missed the 2009 deadline to implement a complete ban on smoking in public places.

Dr Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, said there had been progress, such as a partial advertising ban but problems remained.

He said: “The price and taxing of tobacco are very low, the advertising ban is not complete and the smoking ban in the plan is good, but the operational side is not very clear.”

Activists have long criticised the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, which runs China National Tobacco Corporation, the world’s biggest cigarette producer, for allowing the industry to use the government’s authority to promote production of tobacco and hinder control policies and laws.

But Bettcher said the mainland could implement effective tobacco controls as long as it had a firewall between the production and regulatory sides.



World Health Organisation



Non-Communicable Disease

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