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March 26th, 2015:

Hollywood and Tobacco: New Spotlight on Smoking At The Movies

Launch of Revamped UCSF Website Ranks Actors, Directors, Top 10 Movies by Their Use of Tobacco

UC San Francisco is launching a revamped Smokefree Movies website that offers the public unusual insight into Hollywood’s role in the global tobacco epidemic, projected to kill one billion people this century.

Updated every week, the site ranks film producers, directors, writers and actors by their on-screen tobacco footprint based on a database of more than 2,000 films released since 2002.

The site currently lists the five “smokiest” actors, directors, and producers since 2002 as:


Additionally, the website’s “Now Showing” feature reveals the tobacco content of the top ten movies in theaters and on DVD each week. It also provides information about film companies. For example in the last three years, Time Warner accounted for 22% of all the tobacco impressions in top grossing films. That was the same amount for independent producer-distributors (22%), followed by Sony (17%), Fox (14%), Viacom (Paramount) (11%), Comcast (Universal) (8%), and Disney (6%).</p> <p>Smoking in movies, encouraged for decades by tobacco company cross-promotions and product placements, leads to thousands of new young smokers every year, according to federal health officials.

“The major media companies and the Hollywood studios they own have known since at least 2002 that smoking in movies causes kids to smoke and eventually die from a long list of tobacco diseases,” says Stanton Glantz, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, which created the movie website. “By looking at top-grossing movies and putting all the key health information in one place, the website gives everyone from parents and public officials to film critics and Wall Street analysts an inside look at the tobacco choices Hollywood producers are making now.”

The website:

Traces the history of commercial collaboration by U.S. tobacco and film industries;

Summarizes scientific research in a dozen countries supporting the U.S. Surgeon General’s conclusion that exposure to on-screen smoking causes kids to smoke;

Offers evidence-based policy solutions based by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other leading health authorities;

Monitors in real time the progress or failure of specific media companies and their movie studio subsidiaries to safeguard young audiences worldwide by reserving smoking for their R-rated films.

U.S public health officials for years have warned that exposure to on-screen smoking causes young people to start smoking. The CDC has decried the movie industry’s failure to protect impressionable young viewers, and in 2012 the Surgeon General reported that because of the onscreen exposure, “6.4 million children alive today will become smokers, and 2 million of these children will die prematurely from diseases caused by smoking.”

A significant number of the movies depicting smoking were rated PG-13, the Surgeon General reported.

“The CDC reports that R-ratings on movies with smoking can prevent a million future tobacco deaths among American kids alone,” Glantz says. “The media company chiefs could easily direct their trade group, the Motion Picture Association of America, to add smoking to the voluntary R-rating standard, alongside the non-lethal content it already rates R. The longer they delay, the more kids worldwide will be addicted to cigarettes by the smoking in the movies Hollywood makes and exports.”

The Smokefree Movies website uses data collected by UCSF partner Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!, an ongoing project of Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails. Since 1995, more than a thousand volunteers between the ages of 14 and 22 have been trained to analyze tobacco content in all films grossing more than $1 million in the domestic market.

Historical resources for the Smokefree Movies website include the 82 million-page Legacy Tobacco Documents Library housed at UCSF. Other information is gathered from film industry sources. UCSF’s Smoke Free Movies receives foundation support for its policy research and education projects.

UCSF is the nation’s leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.

Indonesia Is Facing a Childhood Cigarette Addiction Crisis

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If you’re worried about your 6-year-old’s mac-and-cheese or Minecraft addiction, take heart in the fact that he’s not fixated on cigarettes. According to Business Insider, nicotine addiction is a growing problem in Indonesia, where cigarettes are cheap (about $1 a pack) and advertising is prevalent, leading children — as young as 2 — to turn to cigarettes when their peers around the world are seeking out pacifiers.

The site tells the tale of 6-year-old Dihan, who now smokes five cigarettes a day. If that sounds crazy, how about the fact that he was going through two packs a day, but when he started coughing a lot, the child’s doctor ordered him to quit? Dihan’s father is a tobacco farmer who keeps a year’s worth of tobacco under their front porch, but that’s not where the tot got his first cigarettes. While his parents thought he was buying candy with his pocket money, he was actually buying tobacco.

“If I grabbed the cigarette from him, he would just start crying,” his dad said.

Now, Dihan and his father often roll their cigarettes and smoke together. And if he wants another one, Dihan visits his local newsstand, where he can purchase an individual cigarette for about 5 cents. While activists are calling for more government involvement in the awareness of tobacco addiction, their work is falling on deaf ears. It was five years ago that video of a smoking toddler in Sumatra (pictured above) went viral, and very little has changed.

In fact, the number of children ages 5 to 9 who smoke has tripled over the past 20 years.

It makes your child’s sugar addiction sound downright healthy, doesn’t it?

Good News from the Global War on Tobacco Use

Last week, I participated in the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) in Abu Dhabi–a scientific event where the latest developments in tobacco control were presented.

While there was general agreement that the World Health Organization 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)–the first global treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization–is an effective tool for tobacco control, there was concern that implementation at the national level has fallen short of objectives.

I prefer, however, to see the glass half full rather than half empty. Let me explain why.

It should be clear to all of us that the WHO FCTC is a global framework that commits countries that have ratified it to move forward on tobacco control. This is in itself a tremendous achievement. To help make this a reality, WHO introduced MPOWER, a package of effective policies and interventions to assist countries in reducing the demand for tobacco. The MPOWER package includes: Monitor for tobacco use; Protect people from tobacco smoke; Offer help to quit tobacco use; Warn about the dangers of tobacco; Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and Raise taxes on tobacco products.

As shown at the conference, MPOWER is increasingly being implemented worldwide. WHO estimates that 2.3 billion people in 92 countries – one-third of the world’s population – are now covered by at least one MPOWER measure, up from 1.3 billion people in 48 countries in 2007.

More specifically, the 2012 WHO data show that:

2.8 billion people in 54 countries (40% of the world’s population) are covered by effective tobacco use surveillance;
1.1 billion people in 43 countries (16% of the world’s population) are covered by complete smoke-free legislation;
1 billion people in 21 countries (15% of the world’s population) are offered appropriate cessation support;
1 billion people in 30 countries (14% of the world’s population) are exposed to strong graphic health warnings;
694 million people in 24 countries (10% of the world’s population) live in countries with complete tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans; and
530 million people in 32 countries (8% of the world’s population) live in countries with sufficiently high taxes on tobacco products.

More importantly, according to WHO 2014 estimates, the implementation of the WHO FCTC over 2005-2015 has contributed to reduce smoking prevalence among males and females aged 15 years and older, from 40% to 35% , and from 9% to 6%, respectively. And, as documented in a recent study, evidence from 41 countries show that the effective implementation of MPOWER measures can help avert 7.4 million premature deaths by 2050.

Substantial and regular increases in tobacco excise taxes that raise prices and make tobacco less affordable have been shown to be the most cost-effective measure, since prince increases are estimated to lead to a reduction of 7 million smokers and to 3.5 million smoking-attributable deaths averted.

To highlight the tangible progress being made in tobacco control in low- and middle-income countries, the winners of the 2015 Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards for Global Tobacco Control announced at the conference reflect good practices and results achieved in each of the MPOWER categories:

• Monitoring: Brazil Ministry of Health and National Institute of Statistics implemented the Global Adult Tobacco Survey in 2008, the first country to do so in the Americas, and the subsequent introduction of MPOWER measures into their existing national survey, creating strong technical capacity to monitor tobacco control.
• Protecting: Regional Advocacy Life Center (“LIFE”) of Ukraine led and coordinated support for the 2012 countrywide smoke-free law and comprehensive anti-tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship bill.
• Offering help to quit: Uruguay’s Ministry of Health has been a leader in global tobacco control for nearly a decade. In 2008, the new Tobacco Control law mandated that all health care providers offer cessation support.
• Warning: Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population passed a comprehensive law comprised of large, graphic health warnings, bans on tobacco advertising and sponsorships, and a smoke-free law, all while facing immense pressure from the tobacco industry.
• Enforcing: KONFOP, a Russian NGO, was a leader in the passage of 2013 tobacco control legislation in Russia, which is among the strongest comprehensive tobacco control legislation in the world.
• Raising tobacco taxes: The Philippines Department of Finance and Department of Health played a critical role in passing the Sin Tax Law in 2012, which made it more efficient to raise the tobacco tax by simplifying the country’s tax structure and channeling the revenue to help expand universal healthcare across the country.

Also at last week’s conference, Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates launched a US$4 Million Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund to help governments that pass tough anti-smoking laws defend against international trade suits and increase public awareness of legal threats from the tobacco industry. And one of the most inspiring sessions addressed Australia’s move to mandate plain or standardized packaging for tobacco products in 2012, in spite of strong opposition from the tobacco industry. There were also a lot of discussion on how to best support agricultural diversification and end tobacco crop dependence.

While tobacco control remains a difficult challenge in a large number of countries (about 1 billion people are current smokers), I left the conference convinced that significant inroads have been made in the first 10 years of the WHO FCTC toward the 2013 World Health Assembly target of reducing tobacco use prevalence globally by 30% by 2025. But, as I noted in my presentations at the conference, reaching that target will require that we continue working on tobacco control across the world as a moral and development imperative. If we do that, we will also be able to honor the legacy of loved ones who have suffered and died prematurely due to lung cancer or other tobacco-related diseases.

UK Department of Health awarded American Cancer Society “Exemplary Leadership” award for tobacco policy achievements

March 19 2015

In the week that the standardised tobacco packaging regulations passed into law, the UK Department of Health has been recognised as an International Tobacco Control Leader by the American Cancer Society.

During the 2015 Luther L. Terry Awards ceremony at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health taking place in Abu Dhabi, the Department of Health will receive the award for Exemplary Leadership in Tobacco Control.

The Luther L. Terry Award recognises outstanding global achievement in the field of tobacco control in six categories: outstanding individual leadership, outstanding organization, outstanding research contribution, exemplary leadership by a government ministry, distinguished career, and outstanding community service.

This prestigious triennial award by the American Cancer Society honours the UK as a world leader in tobacco control, alongside previous award winners such as Australia, Uruguay, South Africa and the Republic of Ireland. It is the commitment shown by successive UK governments, supported by Parliamentarians, which provides the foundation for this award.

Over the past decade, the Department of Health has steered through important tobacco control legislation including smokefree public places, stopping smoking in cars with children, ending tobacco displays in shops and standardised packaging of tobacco products.

Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy for ASH said:

“The steady decline in smoking in England is a tribute to the commitment of the Department of Health to tackle the biggest preventable cause of disease and premature death.  The UK is now acknowledged as one of the world leaders of tobacco control.  We hope this well-deserved award will inspire the next Government to commit to a new, and even more ambitious, tobacco control strategy.”

John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society said:

“Tobacco-related diseases are the most preventable cause of death worldwide, responsible for the deaths of approximately half of all long-term tobacco users. We are pleased to recognize these exemplary individuals and organizations who carry on the noble and incredibly important work of ending the deadly spread of tobacco around the globe.”

Clear the Air says :

When can we expect the Hong Kong Government to catch up with the rest of the world on tobacco control and follow the guidelines of the FCTC  and Mpower?

When can we expect tobacco excise tax increase to be annual, regular and in excess of inflation , which is currently running at 4.1% per year ?

China needs an all-out fight to curb tobacco consumption

25 March, 2015

Kamilia Lahrichi

China, the planet’s largest tobacco consumer and producer, is the only nation where tobacco consumption does not fall when the government imposes higher taxes on these products, as incomes are rising faster than the tax hikes. This is creating a serious public health issue.

In general, health pundits consider that taxing tobacco products is one of the most effective measures to control consumption. In high-income countries, if the state raises taxes on such products by 10 per cent, there is usually a 4 per cent drop in consumption, according to experts at the recent 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi, where health professionals and government officials called for tobacco controls.

Worryingly, wages in China are expected to rise further, thereby giving more purchasing power to the 300 million Chinese smokers. In addition, packets of cigarettes are much more affordable in China than in many other places. Some Chinese brands cost as little as HK$3.70, compared with HK$17 in South Korea, HK$41 in Japan and HK$75 in Singapore last year.

Although China has ratified the international treaty on tobacco control, imposing high taxes on cigarettes alone does not make sense, given that the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration and the China National Tobacco Corporation – the largest cigarette producer on the planet – monopolise cigarette production in China.

From the state’s standpoint, decreasing the number of smokers would hit economic growth: state-owned businesses employ hundreds of thousands of Chinese and generate state revenue.

Not surprisingly, Euromonitor International has forecast that the number of cigarettes sold in China will rise at about 14 per cent per year.

As a result, tobacco consumption rates and related diseases are skyrocketing in China. An estimated one million Chinese die every year from tobacco-related diseases; the highest number in the world and one-sixth of the annual global toll.

“It is important that China takes appropriate action to reduce tobacco consumption,” said World Health Organisation director general Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun in Abu Dhabi. In fact, it is vital, given that the number of smokers has ebbed across the globe.

On the bright side, the Beijing authorities passed a law last year to ban smoking in public places in the capital. It will take effect in June. China is also considering regulations to prohibit indoor smoking, limit it in outdoor public places and curtail the advertising of tobacco products across the country.

The government also needs to implement other policies, such as including graphic warnings of the health risks on cigarette packs, in order to enhance Chinese people’s knowledge of tobacco-related diseases.

A 2009 WHO study found that only 38 per cent of smokers in China knew that smoking can lead to coronary heart disease, while just 27 per cent knew that it can cause a stroke.

Thus, it’s vital for the Chinese government to enforce these policies outside its large cities in order to curb smoking habits.

Kamilia Lahrichi is a foreign correspondent and the recipient of the 2014 United Nations Foundation’s “Global Issues” Journalism Fellowship.

CTA says: someone tell our tobacco company friendly Food and ?Health Minister !

It seems he and his ‘Policy Bureau’ do not get the message.

The way past excise tax increase does not even match inflation and tobacco remains affordable to children.

We deem that Misconduct in Public Office as no preventative health measures are being effectively used to stop children

becoming nicotine addicts.

Onus on licensed premises’ owners to stop smoking indoors?

Plain packaging to remove the glitzy pack colors?

Track and Trace Tax stamps on packets?

Ban the import and use of shisha products?

Fines and jail sentences for tobacco executives who fail to control their supply chain and Duty Free products ?

Licensing of tobacco retailers?

Mandatory prison sentences for buying duty-not-paid products?

Increased Tobacco Control Office staffing so they can actually patrol ?

Control on nicotine and tar content and ban flavorings ?

Ban the sale of flavored tobacco such as ‘Peel’ made by HK Tobacco Company Ltd whose owner remains the Protector of the Bauhinia Research Foundation, an arm of Govt ?

Mandate any structure with a roof as a no-smoking area such as parasols in OSA areas, exit of  airport arrivals areas? –  Smoking is banned

on escalators which have a roof but are not 50% enclosed – what’s the difference ?

Use excise revenue to fund anti tobacco measures instead of pouring more concrete ?

Fire your ‘Policy Bureau’

Do something!

People are freaking out about the Trans Pacific Partnership’s investor dispute settlement system. Why should you care?

Union members and community activists protest outside the Miami Dade College, where the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the college were hosting a moderated conversation with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on March 20, 2015. The protesters are against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation pact. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Union members and community activists protest outside the Miami Dade College, where the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the college were hosting a moderated conversation with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on March 20, 2015. The protesters are against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation pact. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The recent leak of a secret chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS) is getting many people on both the left and the right upset. Left-wingers don’t like a system in which corporations can push back against government regulations. Right-wingers don’t like a system where U.N.-affiliated tribunals can overturn U.S. law. I asked Rachel Wellhausen, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin who works on investor treaties, to explain the basics of ISDS.

HF — What is ISDS?

RW — ISDS, or Investor-State Dispute Settlement, is the international system whereby multinational corporations (MNCs) can sue the governments of countries in which they invest for violating their property rights.

International treaties give MNCs access to ISDS, under which ad hoc international tribunals decide whether or not an MNC deserves compensation. There is no appeals system in place.

For example, an MNC just won $455 million in compensation from Venezuela, because in 2010 Venezuela nationalized and seized the MNC’s two bottling plants in the country. Another MNC is suing India over a retrospective tax bill, which the MNC says unlawfully devalued its property by reducing its share prices. An MNC recently lost a case against Uganda, where the tribunal found that Uganda’s regulation of transactions in the oil and gas industry was legitimate.

HF — How many ISDS arrangements are there, and how many times have governments been sued?

RW — Currently, about 3000 international treaties give MNCs the ability to sue governments. Some 2700 of these are Bilateral Investment Treaties. The rest are trade treaties, including NAFTA. These treaties have spread rapidly around the world since the 1990s.

From 1990 through the present, over 100 different countries have been sued over 550 times. Most of these are developing countries. The U.S. and Canada have been sued under NAFTA, but Western European countries have been sued only a handful of times (and Japan never). Sometimes these cases are brought at the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Sometimes they are brought under special U.N. rules (UNCITRAL). Because these cases can sometimes be private, we don’t know the full number of cases.

For my research, I have compiled a database of 360 cases in which we know what happened as of 2012. Of these, the state won 34 percent of the time. The MNC won 31 percent of the time. The case settled before reaching a final judgment 34 percent of the time (which lawyers think of as a win for the MNC). In all but a handful of cases, governments appear to have been compliant with the awards rendered.

HF — What is the leaked TPP document, and what does it tell us about ISDS in TPP?

RW — ISDS is already on the table — and under fire — in a different important trade deal: the U.S.-E.U. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is also being negotiated right now. The leaked draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement investment chapter spells out what it might look like among signatory countries in the Pacific region.

The TPP draft chapter includes some notable elements. There are clear transparency rules, requiring that all cases brought under the TPP must be public. Governments cannot be sued simply for defaulting on debt, and governments retain some rights to control the flow of capital across their borders. MNCs can sue for “pre-establishment” violations — if they feel their property rights were violated even before investing in the country — but Chile, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand had already included exceptions to this in the draft. And, Australia has said no — in the draft, it is exempted from the whole system. (Australia also refused to agree to ISDS in the recent U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement.)

HF — Why do many people in Europe and the U.S. worry about the consequences of ISDS?

RW — The TPP draft chapter says that the point of investment protection has long been “to encourage and promote the flow of investment…as a means to promote economic growth.” At the same time, the TPP draft chapter specifically highlights “the inherent right to regulate…to protect legitimate public welfare objectives, such as public health, safety, the environment, the conservation of living or non-living exhaustible natural resources, and public morals.”

The question is, can the ISDS system properly adjudicate between these economic and social goals? One person’s violation of MNC property rights might be another person’s legitimate government regulation. The European Union is wrestling with this: Hungary and Romania, for example, have been sued by MNCs for actions that they say were necessary for E.U. harmonization. There is broad outcry over Philip Morris’s actions against Uruguay and Australia, in which Philip Morris claims that regulations that make it hard to market cigarettes violate its intellectual property rights. Many countries are reconsidering treaties that arguably get the balance wrong.

The other potentially scary thing about ISDS is that MNCs themselves bring cases against sovereign governments. In the World Trade Organization, firms have to lobby their home governments to bring government-to-government cases over trade violations. But in ISDS, MNCs can use the treaty without their home government ever knowing. Many in the legal community have seen this as a good thing — “depoliticizing” investment disputes. In my research, however, I find that home governments regularly get pulled into disputes anyway.

HF — Are these fears justified, given the history and prospects of ISDS?

RW — The best justification for investment protection and ISDS would be evidence that it helps increase investment flows. The problem is, that evidence that it helps investment is decidedly mixed. We do know that countries that get sued lose out on foreign investment. Because of this, some scholars have recently come out against ISDS in the E.U.-U.S. TTIP negotiations. In a recent paper, I identify a benefit of ISDS — a government that generates revenue through expropriation gets cheaper access to debt, even if an MNC sues it. But this would matter more to a developing country than the U.S. While many oppose today’s ISDS, but most want it repaired, not abolished.

They think that the need for the protection of property rights is too central to the integrated global economy.

Rachel Wellhausen is an assistant professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. Her recent book, The Shield of Nationality: When Governments Break Contracts with Foreign Firms, deals with issues around ISDS.