Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

May 13th, 2016:

Cigarette boxes will be required to carry health warning images on top half of the packets.

Starting in December, the top half of cigarette packs will be required to carry health warning images.

The decision was reached on Friday by the Regulatory Reform Committee, based on a request made by the Ministry of Health which claimed displaying graphic warnings on packs would reduce smoking rates and improve the well being of society.

Prior to the decision, there had been much debate between the two governmental bodies on whether tabacco companies should have the freedom to decide where warning pictures should be placed.

CTA says Forbid Smoking and Make the Licensee Answerable for Same

Liquor Licensing Board
Chairman and Members

Dear Sir,

I refer to our letter to the Liquor Licensing Board , already 5 years ago now, attached.
Almost 7,000 people died per year in Hong Kong from smoking related illnesses.
21% of them were from passive smoking, no doubt including workplace staff.

If people cannot go out to bars and smoke, they will stop.
I would urge you to enact the amendment to the licence conditions to specifically forbid smoking and make the licensee answerable for same.

As an example I go to a restaurant near my home, Sawasdee Thai in Yuen Long.
Despite numerous complaint reports and warnings they actually place ash trays on tables, as do many licensed premises throughout HKG as the licensees are basically bullet proof – only the smoker gets targeted and the Tobacco Control Office has been allocated less than 50 staff per shift to cover HKI, Kowloon, NT, Islands, Marine and Planet HKG, so the chances of being caught in flagrante delicto are negligible, as the massively underfunded TCO only can respond days later to such complaints.

The fact that the seeming friend of Big T tax revenues, Financial Secretary, received $6.3 billion in tobacco excise tax (aka the white elephant concrete pouring fund) and allocates only $160 million to tobacco related control measures is despicable, as is the Health Bureau and HK Government abject lack of political will to do anything about this mess.

If you will not make a simple amendment to all licenses, then blood is on your hands and remains there for your previous non action.

The licensees currently encourage smoking with no onus on them otherwise, through flawed legislation.
Only Macau and Hong Kong do not place the onus on the licensee to enforce the law.

You can change that without even going to Legco.
Get moving.

Yours faithfully,

James Middleton

Download (PDF, 1.97MB)

Tobacco industry delaying tactics criticised as new tobacco laws come into force

As standardised “plain” packaging and other tobacco regulations come into force (20 May), health campaigning charity ASH Scotland has released a new report, Dodgy Cigs, detailing the way the tobacco industry has raised ill-founded concerns about illicit tobacco to oppose public health measures.

Big Tobacco has claimed in the past that new public health laws will cause rises in the market for illicit tobacco, such as smuggled tobacco and counterfeit cigarettes. This has been particularly prominent in Australia, the first country to introduce plain packaging. The tobacco industry claimed that the policy would cause rises in illicit tobacco use, but official figures in the years since implementation have not agreed.

In the UK, the illicit tobacco market has declined since the year 2000, despite new laws protecting people from tobacco and increases in the price of a pack of twenty cigarettes.


Figure 1 – HMRC’s estimate of the size of the illicit tobacco market in the UK, plotted alongside to the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes (in 2014 GBP). The illicit market has consistently fallen at a time when tobacco prices have increased.

Commenting on the release of Dodgy Cigs, ASH Scotland Chief Executive Sheila Duffy said:

“The tobacco industry has often predicted that public health measures will cause rises in illicit tobacco. But this stance looks increasingly bizarre as illicit continues to reduce while regulation and price increase.

“We need to be wise to these tactics, and support proven public health measures. Standardised packaging will help put tobacco out of sight, out of mind and out of fashion for the next generation, making smoking less attractive for our children. Although it will take many years to see the full effects of this policy, the evidence from Australia, where plain packs have been used since 2012, shows that they can help to protect children from starting smoking and could help adults to quit.

“These new laws won’t single-handedly solve the problem of tobacco addiction. But they are another step on the journey to a tobacco-free Scotland by 2034.”


Notes –

Dodgy Cigs isavailable from A two-page key points report is available at /media/547507/dodgy-cigs-key-points-nt.pdf.

For further information please contact ASH Scotland on 0131 225 4725 or Out of hours mobile 07776 142 299

Standardised “plain” packaging

From 20 May, plain packs of cigarettes will start to appear in the shops. These packs (above) feature drab colours and graphic health warnings to show the real impact of smoking tobacco. By 20 May 2017, all tobacco sold in the UK will have to be in plain packs.

Plain packs have led to a significant drop in the smoking rate in Australia, and are a key component in putting tobacco out of sight, out of mind and out of fashion to meet the Scottish Government’s target of a smoke-free Scotland by 2034.

Plain packs are not blank, white packs,but instead feature drab colours and graphic health warnings about the dangers of smoking (see picture above). Print quality images are available – please contact

EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)

The TPD will make certain changes to all tobacco products sold in every country in the EU:

All products in the EU must have 65% of the front and back of their packaging covered by health warnings
No cigarettes will be able to use misleading descriptions like “light” or “natural”, which promote the false idea that some cigarettes are less harmful
Cigarette packs will contain a minimum of 20 sticks, with hand-rolling tobacco pouches containing at least 30g of tobacco
There will be new regulations on the sales of e-cigarettes containing nicotine, including:

Television and other “cross-border” advertising will no longer be permitted
Mandatory warning labels about the addictive nature of nicotine
All products must be registered with the UK Government by 20 May 2017

Trade voices fears on tobacco licences

Independents fear a tobacco licensing system could eventually lead to a reduction in the number of retailers allowed to sell cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco.

A survey published this week by the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA) shows 88% of 2,500 retailers polled believe their stores might close if they were to lose the right to sell tobacco.

The findings of the survey will be used by the TRA as part of its response to a public consultation by HM Revenue & Customs on the possibility of introducing tobacco licensing across the UK. The deadline for replies is 20 May.

The government has said it is not necessarily in favour of a tobacco licensing system and it was using the consultation to gauge support or opposition.

The TRA said it was concerned at the open-ended nature of the consultation, as it was unclear how far-reaching a tobacco licensing system could turn out to be if it was introduced. In some US states, licensing has been used to cut down on the number of outlets permitted to trade in tobacco.

“It would be unfair. It cannot be right,” said Blackburn retailer Suleman Khonat, who is the TRA’s national spokesman. The survey, he said, revealed that tobacco sales accounted for more than 40% of revenue for almost one-third (31%) of the retailers polled.

“I have said all along, there is enough government legislation. There’s no need to bring in another [piece of legislation].”

There are also fears tobacco licensing would benefit the illegal trade, rather than help to stamp it out. About 80% of retailers believed stiffer penalties and stronger enforcement action would be more effective than tobacco licensing in cracking down on the illicit tobacco market.

World Health Organization Tobacco Tax Increase in China Reduced Smoking Slightly

In the year since China’s Ministry of Finance announced an increase in tobacco taxes, tobacco prices throughout the country are up and consumption is down, albeit slightly, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.

“Following the tax increase announced on May 8 last year and a series of other tobacco control policy developments, WHO estimates that the total number of cigarettes sold in China fell by 3.3 percent between April 2015-March 2016, compared to the same period (April 2014-March 2015) the previous year,” said Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, WHO Representative in China.

This decrease in consumption included a 5.5 percent reduction in total sales of the cheapest class of cigarettes, indicating that the tax has impacted those with lowest incomes most. This is good news, Schwartländer said, as the lowest-income groups in China are most profoundly affected by the health and economic burdens as a result of smoking.

A further increase in tobacco tax is what will further decrease smoking in China, he suggested.

“We must build on last year’s reform to take more steps towards reducing tobacco consumption through further tax increases – because the higher the price, the more lives that will be saved,” Dr Schwartländer said.

We’re all for this, especially if it means that Beijing’s office toilet cubicles and lifts will finally stop being smoking areas for all.

Malaysia’s Top Pension Fund Plans Tobacco Stake Exit, CEO Says

Malaysia’s $170 billion pension fund plans to sell its stake in British American Tobacco Malaysia Bhd. as it focuses on investing in assets deemed socially and environmentally responsible, Chief Executive Officer Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said.

The Employees Provident Fund has a 6.9 percent stake worth about 942 million ringgit ($234 million) in the Malaysia-listed company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. EPF doesn’t have a specific timeline to sell its holdings, Shahril said.

“We are conscious that we don’t invest in gambling, alcohol or alcohol-related business,” Shahril said. “Historically, we have this stake in the tobacco company and that we will gradually over time look at disposing.”

The fund also won’t make any new investments in tobacco, he said.

A divestment would coincide with a broader global shift among money managers to increase exposure to investments considered socially responsible. Worldwide so-called sustainable assets under management grew 61 percent to $21.4 trillion from 2012 to 2014, according to a report by the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance. Yet Asia accounted for only $53 billion of the total — compared to Europe’s $13.6 trillion.

Malaysia’s stock exchange launched the FTSE4Good Bursa Malaysia Index in December 2014, comprising companies with “recognized corporate responsibility practices,” according to its website. The index, which includes Malayan Banking Bhd. and Petronas Chemicals Bhd., is down about 8.9 percent over the past 12 months, Bloomberg data show.

Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd. is considering paring 2 percent of its holdings in Tenaga Nasional Bhd., IHH Healthcare Bhd. and Axiata Group Bhd., people familiar with the matter said earlier this week. EPF owns shares in all three companies, and Shahril said the pension fund may look at increasing its stake should Khazanah sell.

“We don’t rule out the possibility,” Shahril said. “It all depends on whether the price makes it worthwhile for us to look at, from a risk-return point of view.”

The Kuala Lumpur-based fund recorded 44.2 billion ringgit of gross income from investments last year, 13 percent more than it earned in 2014, according its latest annual report. EPF had 684.3 billion ringgit in assets at the end of last year, with 51 percent invested in fixed income and 43.8 percent in equities, the report said.

Nationwide push to raise legal age to buy tobacco to 21

A new nationwide push to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to teens has made it into federal legislation. The Tobacco to 21 Act would raise the minimum age that a person can buy tobacco products to 21.

Sponsored by Senator Schatz of Hawaii and Congresswoman DeGette of Colorado, (H.R. 3656/S. 2100,) the legislation is designed to reduce tobacco use among high school aged youth.

While a similar effort was recently rejected by the 2016 Utah Legislature, supporters of the initiative are hoping that passage by other states will pave the way for other states.

Washington County’s Youth Coalition is among those pushing for the change. “Our youth groups will continue to work with legislation and let them know what their thoughts are and educate them on how this helps the youth,” said Health Educator Kaysha Price who supports the Youth

How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Created the Tea Party

One of today’s biggest political forces was born in a business conference room.

U.S. News & World Report contributor Jeff Nesbit was there when representatives of the world’s largest private oil company and the planet’s largest public tobacco company joined forces to create a new national political grassroots movement – an “Allied Forces” of sorts to seize control of one of the United States’ two major political parties. “I understood what I was witnessing because I’ve worked in senior public-affairs positions at two federal science agencies and a GOP White House,” Nesbit explains. The goal of the alliance, he adds, “has been relentlessly carried out step by step ever since, largely unnoticed by the American public.”

The following was adapted from Nesbit’s latest book, “Poison Tea: How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Invented the Tea Party and Captured the GOP.”

One of my first assignments as a consultant in early 1993—as President Bill Clinton planned his first budget submission to Congress— was to join the Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) leadership on a New York fund-raising trip to meet with a huge corporate partner with vast experience in building real political muscle who could help CSE reach beyond Koch oil money for their new grassroots efforts. We visited Philip Morris.

As we walked into the tobacco giant’s imposing headquarters in New York, I considered whether I should tell CSE about my relentless efforts over the past three years to convince the FDA to declare jurisdiction over the tobacco industry. Philip Morris knew what I’d been up to with Commissioner David Kessler (my former boss) at the FDA. Philip Morris’s senior government affairs officials knew we’d come quite close to getting the leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services— including Secretary Louis Sullivan— interested.

But there wasn’t time. We headed to one of their main conference rooms. We were met by several of Philip Morris’s state-based government affairs experts, all of whom had significant experience in building coalitions with an eye toward blocking regulations they didn’t like at the state level. The concept that CSE put on the conference table, which was quickly taken up by the Philip Morris staff, was a bit shocking to me. They proposed an unholy alliance— Philip Morris money commingled with Koch money to create anti-tax front groups in a handful of states that would battle any tax that moved. It would make no difference what kind of tax— the front groups could battle cigarette excise taxes in the Northeast and refined-oil fees at the coasts. Any tax, for any purpose, was bad— and these front groups would tackle them all, with Philip Morris and the Kochs behind them.

It made good business sense— and good political sense as well. You could relabel just about anything as a tax, and heaven knows the American public hates taxes. This, at its core, was the beginning of the American Tea Party revolt against the power of the government to pay for its programs.

They could recruit average citizens from a variety of ideological groups to their cause. They would work side by side with corporate-directed workers and employees, providing real boots on the ground when enough activists weren’t readily available. And no one would be the wiser—or even care— that these “grassroots” anti-tax groups would be jointly created and funded by the largest private oil company and the largest cigarette company in the world.

What didn’t become public until nearly twenty years later was that these themes of a Tea Party anti-tax, anti-regulation, and anti-government revolt were then developed almost simultaneously by two of the largest tobacco companies— Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds— under the guise of political and business coalitions to fight excise taxes of all sorts, including cigarette taxes.

In successive phases in the 1990s, with the Kochs’ CSE as its core mobilization network partner, Philip Morris and RJR helped create state- based anti-tax and anti-regulation propaganda campaigns such as Get Government Off Our Back, Enough is Enough, and the Coalition Against Regressive Taxation. Before that first deal in early 1993 was wrapped up, however, more senior Philip Morris officials joined the meeting. One of them knew me and my efforts to convince the FDA to regulate the tobacco industry. He stopped the meeting and ushered us out of the room. I was never invited back into these discussions, and I knew that it was only a matter of time before my consulting contract with CSE would end.

But I still had time to watch one more episode in the beginning of the transformation of CSE from an unknown hybrid advocacy think tank carrying out Charles Koch’s wishes in Washington to, years later, the much more well-known Americans for Prosperity.

When President Clinton’s first budget was submitted to Congress, it contained a novel idea to tax carbon emissions— a BTU tax that Vice President Al Gore and others had been proposing as a method to start combating global climate change.

When Clinton’s budget arrived in Congress, Rich Fink walked into the American Petroleum Institute with a check in hand for several million dollars. That funding, he told API’s leadership, was available if they’d match it and allow CSE to take on just the BTU issue in Clinton’s budget. API said yes, and the single- minded campaign to target the BTU tax began in earnest.

CSE created the content of the relentless attack ads in media in key states, all with an eye toward demonizing the BTU tax. In the end, they only had to flip a single senator— Democratic moderate David Boren, who represented the swing vote on the Senate Finance Committee. CSE took out one full- page ad after another in Oklahoma’s daily newspapers to hang the BTU tax around Boren’s neck. It worked. Boren capitulated quickly, the BTU tax was pulled from Clinton’s first bud get, and CSE and the Kochs had their first significant victory on the new political playing fi ld they had created for themselves with help and guidance from Philip Morris and the American Petroleum Institute.

Today, the “BTU tax” legend has grown to near-epic proportions among Democratic political operatives and leaders, who have essentially forgotten what actually happened (or never truly knew in the first place).

The truth here is simple. Rich Fink and Charles Koch detested the concept of a BTU tax and donated considerable sums to make it toxic for anyone who came near it. In so doing, they forged a partnership and created the framework for successful action in a political realm for the first time in their lives.

But the other truth— unknown for many years—is that their alliance with the tobacco industry is what truly made the emerging Koch political empire a force to be reckoned with and firmly planted the seeds of what has become the modern Tea Party movement, which will select the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

Adapted from “Poison Tea: How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Invented the Tea Party and Captured the GOP,” copyright © 2016 by Jeff Nesbit. First hardcover edition published April 5, 2016, by St. Martin’s Press. All rights reserved.

E-cigs vapor clouded with health concerns

Even though the use of e-cigarettes among college students are exponentially on the rise, according to a study in the Journal of American College Health, a cloud of vapor is rarely seen anywhere near Loyola’s campus.

While incriminating statistics, for example a new carcinogen found in vapor clouds, have yet to be discovered, cessation experts and health care professionals are hesitant to suggest them to their clients in order to help them quit.

Loyola’s Human Resources website said the uncertainty around e-cigs is why they are included in the campus-wide ban on smoking and tobacco products that is nearly a year into effect.

“E-cigarettes have not been fully studied, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so consumers currently don’t know the potential risks of them when used as intended, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being used, or whether there are any benefits associated with using these products,” it reads.

Gil Lerma, Loyola staff counselor, said he is unsure that the rise of electronic cigarette use has positive implications.

“I do not recommend electronic cigarettes to anyone who is looking to quit tobacco use or who is looking for a tobacco alternative. I hear the word “safer” being used a lot when advertisers are referring to electronic cigarettes,” Lerma said. “The fact of the matter is that electronic cigarettes have not been around long enough so that researchers can conduct clinical trials to determine the long-term effects of the use of electronic cigarettes.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, regardless of delivery, nicotine is highly addictive. CDC estimated that 40 million adults currently smoke cigarettes daily, and their prevalence has led them to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year.

This could be why the 2.7 billion e-cigarette industries’ sales pitch of nicotine without the the consequences can be so attractive.

Beyond a lack of long-term evidence against vaping, health professionals are concerned that electronic cigarette use from adolescents introduces a fixation on nicotine that could lead to analog cigarettes if their presence was more available and cravings needed to be slaked.

Andrew Landry, history junior, agreed and said that in his experience, not using e-cigs for cessation purposes made him more inclined to start smoking cigarettes.

“I used disposable e-cigs for a while, and enjoyed the vapor they produced, but when they would inevitably run out, I started bumming cigarettes from friends and eventually started buying packs,” Landry said.

Joseph Gehringer, English junior, that negative stigma around e-cigs and the universities need to ban them could cause unforeseen consequences.

“I think the rise of satirical memes mocking vaping on social media has led to a negative stigma around the practice that is at odds with the image of a liberal arts smoking culture,” Gehringer said. “If these students are going to intake nicotine, and all methods are banned, then they’re going to do it traditionally.”

Woman fined £365 for dropping cigarette

A St Helens woman ended up paying £365 after she was caught dropping a cigarette butt in the town centre.

Charlene Lyon was caught by council officials littering in Church Street on October 15 last year.

The 27-year-old of Gillars Green Drive appeared before magistrates earlier this month.

She was found guilty in her absence and ordered to pay a £150 fine, and a £20 victim surcharge.