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January 29th, 2016:

Hong Kong Customs detects suspected case of smuggling illicit cigarettes using cross-boundary private car

Hong Kong Customs detected a suspected case of using a cross-boundary private car to smuggle illicit cigarettes yesterday (January 28). About 130 000 sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes were seized.

Customs earlier identified a syndicate using a cross-boundary private car to smuggle illicit cigarettes and distribute them to peddlers speedily. Customs officers took enforcement action last night and intercepted the cross-boundary private car in Sheung Shui.

About 130 000 sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes were found in the vehicle. The market value of the cigarettes was about $350,000 with a duty potential of about $240,000. A 40-year-old male driver was arrested and the cross-boundary private car used in the suspected smuggling of illicit cigarettes was detained for further investigation.

This is the fourth such case detected by Customs in the past three months.

Hong Kong Customs will closely monitor illicit cigarette smuggling activities using cross-boundary private cars and continue to carry out stringent enforcement action against illicit cigarette activities.

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, smuggling is a serious offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.

Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in dealing with, possession of, selling or buying illicit cigarettes commits an offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $1 million and imprisonment for two years.

Members of the public are urged to report any suspected illicit cigarette activities to the Customs hotline at 2545 6182

Tobacco companies targeting our generation through e-cigarette advertising

Before I began college, I couldn’t have identified an e-cigarette if I saw one. During my first semester at San Jose State University, however, I sat next to a student in my community health class who was, to my surprise, openly vaping.

While smoking a traditional cigarette in a classroom, much less a health class, is unthinkable, e-cigarettes have emerged as a strangely acceptable practice, especially among youth.

Although I’ve always known cigarettes can kill, the “truth” campaign helped me learn just how much the tobacco companies were willing to do to keep people addicted to nicotine. These days it seems that health organizations are fighting the same battles as they did years ago, but this time against e-cigarettes.

I’m taking notice because now it’s personal. Tobacco companies are targeting my generation — the teenagers and young adults who will write the next chapter of California’s history.

Have you seen e-cigarette ads? Do they seem to be speaking specifically to you? That’s because e-cigarettes are heavily advertised on television and radio and targeted at youth and young adults. Now think about the last time you saw a traditional cigarette ad. Having trouble? That’s because traditional cigarette ads were banned from TV and radio more than 40 years ago.

You can even find e-cigarette samples at concerts, bars and festivals now, while sampling of traditional cigarettes is banned. I’ve also learned that of the nearly $119 million spent on e-cigarette advertising in 2014, 89 percent came from tobacco companies. In fact, some of the most well-known e-cigarette brands are owned by tobacco companies. For example, tobacco giant RJ Reynolds owns Vuse, the nation’s top-selling electronic cigarette brand.

Recent research shows teens and young adults, who otherwise would never have started smoking traditional cigarettes, are significantly more likely to start if they have vaped. The tobacco companies are paying attention. In three years, the amount of money spent on advertising e-cigarettes increased more than 1,200 percent. It seems clear to me that the tobacco industry is investing in this new market to recruit the next generation of smokers.

And there’s a lot they’re not telling us about what’s actually in these products. E-cigarette companies are not currently required to disclose the ingredients — and toxins — in their products, and there are no safety or health standards associated with e-cigarettes.

Take a look at the some facts:

· Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a neurotoxin as addictive as heroin and cocaine.
· E-cigarette use among young adults, ages 18-24, increased from 2.4 percent in 2012 to 8.3 percent in 2013. Young adults are three times more likely to use e-cigarettes than those 30 and older.
· E-cigarettes appeal to a younger audience with fruit, candy and alcohol-flavored e-juice.
· It’s not harmless water vapor. E-cigarettes emit an aerosol, which contains harmful chemicals that not only pose health risks to those who use them, but to the people around them as well.

What really scares me though is that all of the e-cigarette marketing, and rapidly increasing usage, is making the act of smoking seem normal again, and it keeps our generation addicted to nicotine. This directly undermines all of the progress California has made to reduce smoking rates, save lives and cut healthcare costs.

This year, the California Department of Public Health released its first campaign to educate Californians about the health risks of e-cigarettes and the aggressive marketing practices used to recruit the next generation of smokers. As students, we are taught to question everything, so I encourage you to question vaping and educate yourself on the health impacts. Just because e-cigarettes may be less harmful than cigarettes in the short term does not mean they are safe. Together we can protect the health of all Californians and especially make sure that youth do not fall victim to the tobacco industry’s marketing.

Isra Ahmad is the Youth Liaison for the Board of Directors at Truth Initiative (formerly known as American Legacy Foundation) and is a current UC Berkeley student where she will receive her Master in Public Health (M.P.H.) in May 2016.

Go to to learn more.

Ignore tobacco industry’s ‘ridiculous’ arguments, campaigner Rob Cunningham tells Bangladesh government

Bangladesh that falls behind the international trend must ignore the “ridiculous” argument of the tobacco industries and implement pictorial health warnings in time to reduce smoking, a global tobacco control advocate says.

At least 80 countries have so far implemented pictorial health warnings in the world including neighbouring India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Bangladesh only recently set the deadline of Mar 19 this year for mandatory display covering top 50 percent of the front and back sides of the packets.

But has evidence suggesting that tobacco industry is lobbying hard to delay the printing of graphical warnings on different pretexts.

“Picture warnings are very effective strategy to leave smoking and that’s why tobacco companies oppose them. If they would not work, tobacco companies would not fight so hard,” Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst of the Canadian Cancer Society, told on Friday.

Canada was the first country in the world that introduced pictorial health warnings in 2001. Cunningham, a lawyer by training, was involved in the process.

He said before the Canadian parliament made it mandatory, the tobacco companies were arguing that it was “technically impossible to print colour pictures in cigarette packages”.

“But when the parliament made it final, the impossible became possible. It was a ridiculous argument, and they made such kind of arguments in every country,” he said .

Cunningham is in Dhaka to speak at the two-day South Asian Speaker’s Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDCs). The summit will begin on Saturday with a special focus on tobacco control campaign.

Tobacco control is one of the 169 targets of the SDGs to prevent non-communicable diseases such as cancer and heart diseases.

He said the conference was “crucial” as parliaments have “important role” in tobacco control.

“They have the opportunity and responsibility to ensure that we have very good measures in tobacco control.”

Cunningham said pictorial health warning was an “inexpensive way” of controlling tobacco use and spreading health education to the people in low-middle income countries like Bangladesh.

“The beauty is that they reach every smoker and every day. They also have an impact on people who cannot read,” he said.

Citing examples of countries that have implemented pictorial warnings, he said: “Even a very small and poor country in Eastern Africa, Djibouti implemented picture warnings in 2009.”

“If all the countries can do it, Bangladesh can do it,” he said.

A new European Union directive will require all 28 member countries to implement picture warnings covering the top 65 percent of the packages, front and back, from May 20 this year.

“This is the same company (in Bangladesh), so they can do it,” he said, suggesting the government to ignore industry’s arguments.

The tobacco companies in Bangladesh, in violation of WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), have written to the health ministry to make changes in the provision.

A copy of the letter is available with

The law requires the companies to print the images on the upper part of the pack, which even tax stamp cannot cover.

But tobacco companies want to print the warning pictures in the lower part of the pack where they attract less attention.

They made their argument through their lawyer Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud that the tax stamp would cover the warning if it was printed on the upper part.

But Cunningham said in many countries where pictorial warning was printed on the upper part, the tax stamp was put on the side.

”It’s a simple solution. If you put it (tax stamp) on the sides, it’ll still break when you open the pack.”

He said Bangladesh had given companies more than a year to prepare for this image printing. “Now it’s time to implement. It’s very important that images come at the top so that they become very visible.”

He said Bangladesh had fallen behind the international trend, and “new 50 percent pictorial warning would be a great advance and would have tremendous impact”.

Singapore introduced pictorial warnings on tobacco products in 2004, and in a survey a few months later, they found that consumption had reduced by 28 percent.

Estimates suggest that 57,000 people die of tobacco-related illnesses every year, and that nearly 300,000 suffer from related disabilities in Bangladesh – a country where nearly 45 percent of the population aged 15 and above consume tobacco in some form.

Chemical That Can Irritate Lungs Found in Flavored E-Cigarettes

Highest levels seen in cherry versions, but levels still far below federal safety standards

People using flavored e-cigarettes, particularly ones that taste like cherry, are likely inhaling a chemical that can irritate their airways, a new study suggests.

“It might be the case that if the user of an electronic cigarette experiences some side effects, like coughing, it might be attributed to the flavorings,” since the chemical benzaldehyde was detected in 108 of the 145 flavored cigarettes tested in the study, said senior author Maciej Goniewicz. He is an assistant professor of oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.

Benzaldehyde is a widely used flavoring agent found in foods as well as medicines, such as cough syrup, Goniewicz said. It can taste like cherries or almonds.

“It’s safe when we eat it, or when we apply it to our skin, but inhalation is a completely different mode of exposure,” Goniewicz explained.

Benzaldehyde can irritate the airways when inhaled, and vapor from the chemical also can irritate the eyes, he said.

However, the researchers also noted that the estimated daily inhaled dose of benzaldehyde from even cherry flavored e-cigarettes was more than 1,000 times lower than the maximum workplace exposure level set by federal regulators.

And the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, an e-cigarette industry group, said in a statement that these findings prove e-cigs are a better alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes.

“Let’s not lose sight that vaping presents substantially less risk than combustion cigarettes, which expose smokers to over 7,000 chemicals including more than 60 known or suspected carcinogens,” the statement said. “This research shows that even with cherry e-cigs, it would take three years of vaping to reach the 8-hour work shift permissible occupational exposure limit.”

But Dr. Norman Edelman, senior scientific advisor for the American Lung Association, said the study really shows the need for proper regulation of e-cigarettes.

“To me, it’s another piece of evidence that we don’t know what’s in those things,” Edelman said. “It’s terribly important that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration use its power to regulate them. The first thing they can do is find out what is in them.”

E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid solution to its boiling point, creating a vapor that users inhale. The liquid often contains nicotine, and sometimes also contains other flavorings.

Goniewicz and his colleagues measured the benzaldehyde contained in 30 puffs taken from 145 different e-cigarette liquids. In this study, they used an automatic smoke inhaler to measure the chemicals in the e-cigarettes.

The findings are published online Jan. 28 in the journal Thorax.

The researchers found benzaldehyde in three out of four e-liquid vapors tested. But the highest levels were in cherry-flavored products — likely a sign that those liquids use the cherry-tasting chemical more heavily, Goniewicz said.

Goniewicz said “vapers” should know about this and switch if a flavored e-cigarette starts causing them to cough.

“If someone is using electronic cigarettes right now and experiences some of these side effects, this study suggests that they should try a different flavoring that might be less irritating to the users,” he said.

But Goniewicz stopped short of calling on e-cigarette users to quit the devices, particularly if they are likely to take up tobacco cigarettes as an alternative.

“The evidence is really strong that the electronic cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes,” he said.

But Edelman noted that there’s no solid scientific evidence showing that e-cigarettes help smokers quit, and that the devices instead help them maintain their nicotine addiction.

“People shouldn’t vape,” Edelman said. “If they’re trying to stop smoking, there are FDA-approved nicotine-replacement products. If e-cigs are effective at smoking cessation — and there’s no evidence of that yet — then they’re no more effective than FDA-approved products already on the market.”

Edelman added that flavorings are a way to entice young people to try e-cigarettes, which is one reason why the FDA has banned the use of flavorings other than menthol in tobacco cigarettes.

“There is a way to deal with this, and that’s for the FDA to issue regulations,” he said. “They said they were going to a year ago, and they haven’t done it yet.”

More information

For more on e-cigarettes, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

SOURCES: Maciej Goniewicz, Ph.D., PharmD, assistant professor, oncology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, N.Y.; Norman Edelman, M.D., senior scientific advisor, American Lung Association; Jan. 26, 2016, statement, Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association; Jan. 28, 2016, Thorax, online

Vaping Industry Leaders Form New Association

Vapor Technology Association to serve as advocate for emerging technologies

As President Obama signs e-liquid packaging safety legislation into law, manufacturers, wholesalers, small-business owners and entrepreneurs in the vapor technology industry across the country have joined together to launch the Vapor Technology Association (VTA).

Bringing a fresh perspective to the industry and the policies that impact it, VTA said it will serve as the advocate for leaders in the vapor community who not only continue to develop new technologies for the benefit of public health, but also promote small businesses and job growth, responsible public policies and regulations and a high standard of safety within the industry.

VTA’s board will include Ron Tully of Next Generation Labs, Brittani Cushman of Intrepid Brands, Sanjiv Desai of VMR Products, Patricia Kovacevic of Nicopure Labs, Arnaud Dumas de Rauly of FIVAPE and George Cassels-Smith of Tobacco Technology Inc.

“The growth of the vapor technology industry provides an opportunity for new jobs in communities across the country while promoting a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products,” said Tony Abboud, Washington-based VTA’s national legislative director. “Through our advocacy efforts, VTA and its members will pursue strong industry standards and responsible regulations that protect children and ensure the safety of consumers while aggressively VTA’s members have worked diligently with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle in support of safeguards for children, including child-resistant packaging and laws preventing sales to minors. And while the U.S. federal government is falling behind the rest of the world in the development of product standards, VTA and its members are ahead of the curve, promoting responsible regulations and strict safety standards here in the United States.

Researchers developing new methods to better analyze effects of e-cig flavorings

Faculty and student researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID) are developing methods to better analyze the effects of flavorings used in electronic cigarettes (e-cigs).

In partnership with RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering and the University of Rochester Medical Center, RIT/NTID, the world’s first and largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, is part of the team that has received a $329,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the safety of e-cigs with flavorings.

E-cigs are increasing in popularity with both youth and adults, and a variety of flavorings often are present in these products. The presence of these flavorings may create health concerns to users and those around them due to lack of knowledge about their chemical make-up as they are being ingested and exhaled.

Todd Pagano, associate professor and associate dean for Teaching and Scholarship Excellence, leads the NTID portion of the project along with a team of deaf and hard-of-hearing student researchers. Risa Robinson, professor and department head in Mechanical Engineering and director of the Respiratory Technologies Laboratory in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering, is the principal investigator on the RIT portion of the grant. The study is part of a larger project led by principal investigator Irfan Rahman of the University of Rochester Medical Center, whose aim is to examine the DNA damage and inflammatory responses of cells exposed to e-cigs.

“E-cigs, with their flavorings, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and there is a deficiency in information on their possible impact on public health,” Pagano said. “Analyzing the potential toxicants produced by these flavorings will help increase the understanding of possible harmful effects of e-cig emissions.”

The project, “Emission aerosol constituents and comparative toxicology of electronic cigarettes with flavorings,” will determine the chemicals present in e-cigs emissions through the use of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry or GC-MS, a type of instrumentation present in many laboratory settings.

“The GC-MS provides analysis of the chemicals present in the e-cig liquid, and we are able to then measure the realistic exposure from produced constituents as they become emissions after vaping,” Pagano said. “We’re looking to determine what compounds are present before and after vaping, and which might be potentially harmful.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette use has tripled among middle and high school students in just one year and has surpassed current use of every other tobacco product overall, including conventional cigarettes, yet there are as yet no established production methods or protocols to help ensure their safety. The aim of this project is to establish and rank e-cig flavorings by chemicals and hazard, and to inform the Food and Drug Administration of the long-term adverse effects of existing and newer flavorings.

“This project is particularly relevant to our student researchers, since they see their friends and others using e-cigs at a growing rate,” Pagano said. “They are passionate about bringing about a better understanding of how these devices are impacting the health of those they know and care about.”

E-Cig Vapor Increases Inflammation, Bacteria

More evidence has been released this week about the possible harmful effects of smoking e-cigarettes, with a study published on Monday suggesting that e-cigarette vapor could be toxic to humans, increasing inflammation and boosting harmful bacteria in the body.

The results were found by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, who together looked at the effect of e-cigarette smoking, also known as ‘vaping,’ on mice.

In the study the mice inhaled vapors from e-cigarettes over a four-week period, inhaling the vapors for one hour a day, five days a week. The team used e-cigarette vapor from seven different manufacturers to look at a variety of formulas and brands.

At the end of the four weeks the mice who had been exposed to the vapors showed 10 percent more signs of inflammation in their blood and airways than mice who hadn’t been exposed, with the results consistent across the seven different vapors.

Senior author Laura E. Crotty Alexander commented on the findings saying, “This study shows that e-cigarette vapor is not benign — at high doses it can directly kill lung cells, which is frightening. We already knew that inhaling heated chemicals, including the e-liquid ingredients nicotine and propylene glycol, couldn’t possibly be good for you. This work confirms that inhalation of e-cigarette vapor daily leads to changes in the inflammatory milieu inside the airways.”

Although the team do not currently know for certain what illnesses these inflammatory changes will lead to, but based on their findings and others they are confident that the toxins in e-cigarettes will ultimately lead to disease, with the team observing that “Some of the changes we have found in mice are also found in the airways and blood of conventional cigarette smokers, while others are found in humans with cancer or inflammatory lung diseases.”

In addition the team also found that harmful bacteria flourished in the mice who were exposed to vapor, with Staphylococcus aureus, the strain of bacteria that is responsible for the development of MRSA, better able to invade human airway cells and more resistant to the body’s defense mechanisms after exposure to e-cigarette vapor.

The study was published on Monday in the Journal of Molecular Medicine.

E-cig explodes in teen’s face

A 16-year-old boy from Alberta, Canada suffered serious burns to his face, when he says the electronic cigarette he was using exploded. reports that Ty Green also suffered broken teeth in the incident.

He says he was using it in his car and had it just inches from his face when it exploded.

His father told Canadian newspapers that if Ty hadn’t been wearing glasses at the time that he possibly could have lost his eyes.

He said his son was in so much pain that he wanted to die.

The e-cigarette in question was a Wotofo Phantom.

An e-cigarette trade group made a statement after the incident saying that e-cigarettes do not combust and that they should be regarded the same as any other rechargable, battery-powered device.

‘E-cig’ explosions become cause for concern

Some may consider electronic cigarettes a safer alternative to smoking, but local experts say they have the potential of being dangerous.

These “e-cigs” have made headlines recently for randomly exploding and catching fire. Earlier this month, a 15-year-old in California lost several teeth when his e-cig exploded while he was using it.

Ike Mullen, manager of Aqueous Vapor in St. Joseph, said the reason that this happens because of the “LiPo” (lithium polymer) batteries that many e-cigs require.

“They are hard to take care of, hard to maintain and … they’re not safe, in my opinion,” Mullen said.

Kyle Jackson, owner of Interstate All Battery Center, said lithium batteries are more prone to malfunctions because of how flammable lithium is.

But he said people shouldn’t be afraid to use lithium batteries, because most cases of explosions or fires happen because people buy poor-quality batteries.

“A lot of the problems we see are really due to the fact (that) they’re using a low quality ‘LiPo’ battery,” Jackson said.

Jackson also said there are “low drain and high drain” batteries. A product like an e-cigarette requires a high-drain battery in order to not overwork it. He also said people using a cheap charger or plugging into a device like a laptop instead of a wall outlet can cause the batteries to overheat.

According to a 2014 report released by the U.S. Fire Administration, 80 percent of e-cig malfunctions happened during charging and “non-approved power adapters appear(ed) to be responsible for most of the incidents involving e-cigarettes.”

Mullen said anyone selling e-cigarettes should be responsible for making sure their customer is well informed about the product they are buying.

“As a shop owner, or a shop manager, you should let the people know how to take care of them,” he said, “because if you don’t take care of them there could be a possibility that they could blow up.”