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June 8th, 2015:

Legal analysis of the agreements between the European Union, Member States, and multinational tobacco companies

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Other cities must follow Beijing’s example on smoking bans

The smoking ban introduced in Beijing last Monday was never going to be an instant success. Far too many of the capital’s people smoke and too many businesses rely on their patronage. Two previous such measures made little headway, so expectations, even among municipal officials, was low. Yet no matter how limited the inspections or the number of fines handed out, the increased awareness of the dangers posed will advance efforts to force smokers to stub out the habit.

One in five of Beijing’s 20 million people smoke. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs have made them welcome with ashtrays and owners were unenthusiastic about the new rules. But although there has so far been little noticeable change in the amount of smoking on the city’s streets, the message is slowly sinking in through fines and calls to a special hotline, 12320. Success will be measured less by how many offenders are penalised than the number convinced to quit.

This is, after all, the toughest ban yet imposed. It extends from government offices to hotels, restaurants, recreational centres and public transport. Outdoor places near hospitals, schools and some tourist sites have also been designated smoke-free. Shops within 100 metres of kindergartens and primary schools will no longer be able to sell cigarettes.

The World Health Organisation estimates one million of China’s 300 million smokers die each year of ailments including cancer and heart disease, while second-hand smoke claims a further 100,000. A recent study by the Beijing Patriotic Health Campaign Committee found 90 per cent of patrons of bars and clubs and 65 per cent of diners were probably exposed to tobacco fumes. Any effort to limit the effects is welcome.

Advertising was last month banned in the mass media, on public transport and in outdoor public places and national taxes on cigarettes doubled. Gradually, an environment is being created that frowns upon smoking. Beijing’s ban has to be properly enforced and extended to other cities.

Smoking rate among New Yorkers at all-time low

Claire Hughe, Times Union POPULATION OF NEW YORK IN 2014 WAS 8.491 MILLION

Smoking rates are the lowest ever recorded among New Yorkers, state officials announced Monday.

In the last four years, the smoking rate among high school students has dropped 42 percent to 7.3 percent. The adult smoking rate has dropped to 14.5 percent, below the national average of 17.8 percent.

State officials attributed the decline to efforts including its Tobacco Control Program and the Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan.

A strong Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in restaurants and other workplaces, and high cigarette taxes have also contributed, said Harlan Juster, director of the state Health Department’s Bureau of Tobacco Control.

Those results were achieved despite declining funding for state-led tobacco control efforts. The state spent US$84 million on the program in 2008-09 (HK$ 655 MILLION) , but just US$39.3 million (HK$ 306.54 MILLION) in 2012-13, when funding leveled off.

“Our charge is to do the best with what we’re given,” Juster said, adding that the results show the state’s success in funding successful efforts.

Judy Rightmyer, director of the Capital District Tobacco Free Coalition, which receives some state funding, applauded health officials’ efforts.

Smoking rates remain stubbornly high among certain populations, including New Yorkers with mental illness, low incomes and lower levels of education, Juster and Rightmyer said. New York is one of only five states to receive $1 million in federal funding to work with medical practitioners to address smoking rates among patients who are poor or mentally ill, or have lower levels of education.

Going forward, state health officials also want to reduce cigarette marketing in low-income neighborhoods, Juster said. Efforts may include encouraging local policies to reduce the number of cigarette retailers in low-income neighborhoods, for instance.

The state has received a US$9.29 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund ongoing efforts to encourage smokers to quit.