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Protect The Health of Our Citizens

SCMP – 20/01/2008

The SAR administration’s persistent failure to protect the health of our citizens is shown by the steady rise in cigarette consumption.

Increased consumption of any product is obviously associated with a lower relative price and low tariff.

The financial secretary must be aware of this reality but has chosen to disregard it. In effect, he is giving foreign tobacco hawkers a windfall profit each year. If our non-elected bureaucrats are really concerned about the health of the citizens of Hong Kong, they have to move quickly in the following directions:

  • Much higher duties must be imposed on cigarette imports in the next budget and smugglers of tobacco should receive more severe penalties when they appear in court.
  • A cap on imports must now be imposed with an annual reduction of 4 per cent. This would mean phasing out all imports of carcinogenic products in 25 years.

This will allow time for hapless tobacco addicts to die out or to hopefully give up their addiction to tobacco.

  • Public hospitals must charge victims of tobacco-related diseases higher medical fees.

Why should wise taxpayers be forced to subsidise foolish smokers or enrich foreign tobacco barons?

  • Foreign tobacco executives should be banned from working in Hong Kong and a higher profits tax should be imposed on their companies.
  • Legislation should designate the sale and promotion of tobacco as commercial genocide since it kills millions of people who were duped into believing that it was harmless.

The above measures may seem harsh, even draconian to some. However, this is only because they have become numb to the suffering and death caused by foreign tobacco imports – a toll of more than 4,000 deaths in Hong Kong per year.

Isn’t it time to stop? Or do SAR government officials prefer to enrich foreign tobacco executives rather than help our young people to avoid addiction?

J. Garner, Sham Shui Po

Chinese Tobacco Economy

Effects of cigarette tax on cigarette consumption and the Chinese economy.

Hu TW, Mao Z. – University of California at Berkeley, California 94720, USA.

OBJECTIVES: To analyse a policy dilemma in China on public health versus the tobacco economy through additional cigarette tax.

METHODS: Using published statistics from 1980 through 1997 to estimate the impact of tobacco production and consumption on government revenue and the entire economy. These estimates relied on the results of estimated price elasticities of the demand for cigarettes in China.

RESULTS: Given the estimated price elasticities (-0.54), by introducing an additional 10% increase in cigarette tax per pack (from the current 40% to 50% tax rate), the central government tax revenue would twice exceed total losses in industry revenue, tobacco farmers’ income, and local tax revenue. In addition, between 1.44 and 2.16 million lives would be saved by this tax increase.

CONCLUSIONS: Additional taxation on cigarettes in China would be a desirable public policy for the Chinese government to consider.

New Study Confirms Smoking Dangers For Elderly Chinese

Lina Lim – Updated on Jan 09, 2008 SCMP

Smoking among ethnic Chinese carries an increased risk of death in old age, a new study by the University of Hong Kong released on Wednesday has confirmed.

The study found that if elderly Chinese gave up the habit this would significantly reduce their risk of getting smoking-related diseases.

The study was carried out to ascertain the effects of smoking in old age among Chinese people. A university spokesman said although the dangers of smoking were well known, it was still unclear how smoking affected Chinese people in old age.

He explained that some studies had shown lower mortality rates for certain diseases in the elderly smokers compared with people who had never smoked. These studies had also shown that people who gave up smoking had higher mortality rates than those continuing to smoke.

“Hence, some mistakenly believe that smoking in the elderly is not that harmful and quitting may even cause harm,” the spokesman added.

The study was carried out by medical experts from the university and the Elderly Health Service of the Department of Health. It examined 56,000 elderly adults, aged 65 years or above, between July 1998 to December 2000.

Results from the study were later compared with the mortality statistics of non-smokers. In the study, people who gave up smoking had significantly lower risks of death than smokers, who had a 75 per cent risk of getting smoking-related diseases.

Among smoking-related diseases, smokers were more susceptible to lung cancer (58 per cent risk), strokes (67 per cent risk) and cardiovascular diseases (79 per cent risk).

People who gave up, however, had a reduced risk of 16 per cent to lung cancer, 31 per cent for strokes and 21 per cent for all cardiovascular diseases.

Current and former smokers were more likely to die from lung cancer or other cancers into very old age (85 years of age and up). Women smokers had a consistently higher risk of mortality from all causes and respiratory diseases than women who had never smoked.

The university spokesman said: “With a shorter history of smoking and longer survival in women, the harmful effects of smoking were clearly evident even in the oldest group of elderly people.”

He said the study showed a much higher risk of death from all causes “cancer, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases” for current smokers and former smokers in both older men and older women.

“Smoking increased mortality risks even in the oldest-old, but quitting reduced these risks,” the spokesman said. He urged people to stop smoking even in old age. Giving up should be an urgent priority, not only in Hong Kong but in other developing countries.

According to government statistics, smoking is the cause, on average, of 5,700 deaths annually in Hong Kong. As of 2006, there were slightly more than 793,200 smokers in the territory, 14 per cent of which are aged 15 or under.

Smoking in Cars Hazardous

Smoking in cars more hazardous than previously thought 2008-01-04 05:56:55

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) — Smoking inside a vehicle is more dangerous to health than previously thought, health experts said on Thursday.

Smoking inside vehicles makes the air 10 times more toxic than the federal government says is hazardous for breathing, said Kimberly Belshe, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency.

She was making the remarks in downtown Los Angeles while launching a campaign to ban smoking inside cars.

The city of Los Angeles enacted a newly enacted state law unveiled on Thursday, which bans drivers from lighting up in the presence of children.

“Our efforts to address the dangers of secondhand smoke in California began over a decade ago,” said Belshe.

“Today, our state continues to be a leader by ensuring that children and youth traveling in cars are not exposed to secondhand smoke,” she said.

Under the “Smoke-free Cars with Minors” law, a violation is punishable by a 100-dollar fine.

Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a greater risk of asthma attacks, ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia, according to state health officials.

Long-term exposure has been linked to heart disease and lung cancer in adults.

“Infants and children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke,” said Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health.

“Smoking in a car, or any confined space, increases the level of pollution inhaled by children and adults, thereby increasing the likelihood of suffering from the negative health effects of secondhand smoke.”

In 1994, smoking was banned in California workplaces. Four years later, smoking was banned in bars.

Editor: Yan Liang

It’s Time To Build On Smoking Ban’s Success

LEADER Jan 02, 2008 SCMP

The year-old public smoking ban has, without doubt, saved lives by reducing people’s exposure to second-hand smoke. But as a society, we have not made much headway in encouraging smokers to quit or discouraging others from taking up the deadly habit. The ban, therefore, has only been a partial victory for public health in Hong Kong.

As we report today, tobacco imports for local consumption rose slightly last year compared with the 12 months before the ban was introduced in January last year. Customs seizures of smuggled cigarettes also shot up. Much work lies ahead if we are to reduce the number of smokers in the city and the cost to public health services. Still, what the anti-smoking ban has already achieved deserves recognition and celebration. It has overcome the resistance and scepticism of the food services industry. Many restaurateurs who originally complained about a drop in business from smoking customers now acknowledge that business has returned to normal; many say their establishments now attract non-smoking customers who tended to avoid them in the past. Their experience will, it is hoped, convince operators of massage and mahjong parlours, nightclubs and bars to comply with the law when their exemption from the ban expires on June 30 next year.

But the ban’s most important result is no doubt the number of lives that have been saved from diseases caused by the inhalation of other people’s smoke. Though the ban is only a year old, that number should be significant.

According to the US surgeon general, there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, which increases the risk of a heart attack by 30 per cent for non-smokers. This is on top of other smoke-related diseases they may develop from exposure.

Two new authoritative overseas studies, cited by the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health, find that the number of heart attack admissions to hospitals dropped considerably just one year after a public smoking ban was imposed. Nine hospitals in Scotland experienced a 17 per cent drop in heart attack admissions a year after a ban was introduced in March 2006. New York State hospitals had, in general, an 8 per cent decline in admissions in 2004 after an anti-smoking law was introduced the year before. There is no reason to doubt something comparable has been achieved in Hong Kong with our own smoking ban.

But we need to do more. Food and Health Bureau officials should move quickly to streamline the ban’s enforcement by replacing the current summons system with a fixed penalty. This has widespread support among lawmakers, and its prompt passage by the Legislative Council is virtually guaranteed. What’s more, it will save the courts time and resources in having to handle summonses for smoking violations.

An unfortunate side effect of the indoor smoking ban is that it has pushed more smokers to light up in the streets. This has caused many people to complain frequently about having noxious fumes blown in their faces. In many overseas cities, people are banned from smoking outside main entrances to buildings and other public facilities. A similar ban should be considered in Hong Kong. Some established office buildings have already set aside smoking corners to stop smokers from causing a nuisance at entrances.

As a liberal society, we cannot outlaw smoking, but we should certainly do our best to ban the noxious practice where we can and frown upon it when we can’t.

Hong Kong Smoking Ban

How do you feel about the smoking ban after a year?

Updated on Dec 20, 2007 SCMP

The “smoking ban” is a farce that panders to the business whims of the Liberal Party.

Any licensed premises wishing to get an exemption can do so until July 1, 2009, by simply filling out a form and applying to our “health department”.

This ludicrous exemption is not only unjust under any sensible, fair competition law, it obviates the total idea of the anti-smoking legislation, which is to protect the health of catering workers forced to breathe the equivalent of a packet of cigarettes a day.

Meanwhile, their employers remain liable under existing workplace health and safety laws for not keeping the workplace safe from dangers to the health of the workers.

The slow-burning side-stream smoke from the tip of a cigarette is four to six times more toxic than the smoke inhaled by the smokers, and this comprises 85 per cent of the cigarette smoke in a room at any one time.

A University of Hong Kong study shows passive smoking kills an average of 1,324 innocent people a year of the 6,000-plus tobacco deaths in Hong Kong.

James Middleton, Clear the Air Hong Kong

Slowly, China tries to break tobacco habit

Slowly, China tries to break tobacco habit

That won’t be easy where even many doctors still smoke.

By Tim Johnson

McClatchy Newspapers

BEIJING – Smoking has no place at the Olympic Games. But Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan is a reluctant antismoking crusader. After all, he’s a smoker.

He has company at the Olympic Village, where the chief of the Games’ organizing committee also can sometimes be seen through a haze of cigarette smoke.

An astonishing number of China’s cabinet members and sports officials are among the 350 million Chinese whose cigarette habits support a state industry that is generating more taxes in China than any other industry.

Smoking is common even at the Health Ministry. Deputy Minister Gao Qiang smokes heavily, and surveys show that more than 50 percent of China’s male doctors and health workers smoke.

“They are under high pressure, stress, so they smoke to get relief,” said Zhi Xiuyi, the nonsmoking chief of the lung cancer center at Capital Medical University hospital.

Under growing criticism from the World Health Organization and other international bodies, China is slowly combating tobacco usage.

It has agreed to put warning labels on cigarette packs by 2009 and prohibit tobacco-related advertising and promotion by 2011. Last month, Beijing banned smoking in the city’s 66,000 taxis.

But the state tobacco monopoly keeps increasing production. It’s on course to crank out more than two trillion cigarettes this year. Smokers snap up packs of White Sand, Red Pagoda, Yellow Mountain, and 400 other national brands, adding to state coffers. The tobacco industry contributes $31 billion a year in taxes.

In March, the deputy chief of the state tobacco monopoly warned antismoking campaigners not to press too hard.

“We take very seriously the health dangers of smoking, but not having cigarettes also impacts stability,” Zhang Baozen, deputy chief of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, told state television.

Cigarette taxes provide Beijing with steady revenue. According to the World Bank, 8 percent of China’s central revenues come from taxes on cigarettes, compared with 3 percent in Britain, 1.8 percent in India, and 0.4 percent in the United States.

Yet there are signs that the central government is embracing limited antismoking efforts, wary of being out of step with much of the rest of the world.

Last year, Beijing ratified a World Health Organisation antismoking convention that commits it to curb smoking in public places, such as schools and buses, and further limit cigarette advertising.

Global health advocates are urging China to reexamine the economic burden of health issues tied to smoking.

The WHO says that one million Chinese die every year from diseases related to smoking and that the toll will climb to 2.2 million fatalities a year by 2020 if current rates continue. It says China faces $5 billion a year in smoking-related health-care costs, part of what it calls a “massive tobacco burden.”

Perhaps even more surprising, the World Health Organisation says that one-third of all Chinese men below the age of 30 today eventually will die of smoking-related disorders.

Part of the reason is that Chinese are smoking at a younger age and smoking more per day. In 1984, the average age when people began to smoke was 22.4 years. By 2006, it was 19.7.

As incomes rise, Chinese smoke more often. Average daily consumption has risen from four cigarettes in 1972 to 10 cigarettes in 1992 and to about 15 today.

Smoking is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture – male culture, that is.

In China, 63 percent of men smoke, while only 3 percent of women do. At weddings, the bride normally circles the reception hall, offering cigarettes to each man, a rite said to augur well for her eventual childbearing. Cigarettes are also handed out at funerals. Between courses at banquets, male diners frequently pause for a smoke.

China’s soaring economy is precisely why some antismoking activists see light ahead. They say the state-owned cigarette companies are becoming a smaller portion of total tax revenue for the government, making measures to contain smoking more feasible.

In a move that pleased antismoking activists, China last year ratified the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires it to stiffen bans on advertising and promotion. As a result, Beijing told the television industry to cut down on unnecessary smoking scenes and pledged that the 2008 Beijing Summer Games would be smoke-free.

Secondhand Smoke Causes Disease in Non-Smokers

This admission that secondhand smoke causes disease is published on the Philip Morris USA website here:

Smoking & Health Issues

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke or ETS, is a combination of the smoke coming from the lit end of a cigarette plus the smoke exhaled by a person smoking.

Public health officials have concluded that secondhand smoke from cigarettes causes disease, including lung cancer and heart disease, in non-smoking adults, as well as causes conditions in children such as asthma, respiratory infections, cough, wheeze, otitis media (middle ear infection) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In addition, public health officials have concluded that secondhand smoke can exacerbate adult asthma and cause eye, throat and nasal irritation.

PM (Philip Morris) USA believes that the public should be guided by the conclusions of public health officials regarding the health effects of secondhand smoke in deciding whether to be in places where secondhand smoke is present, or if they are smokers, when and where to smoke around others. Particular care should be exercised where children are concerned, and adults should avoid smoking around them.

We also believe that the conclusions of public health officials concerning environmental tobacco smoke are sufficient to warrant measures that regulate smoking in public places. We also believe that where smoking is permitted, the government should require the posting of warning notices that communicate public health officials’ conclusions that secondhand smoke causes disease in non-smokers.

Pregnancy Health Risks Caused by Smoking

This admission of pregnancy issues related to cigarette smoking is published on the Philip Morris USA website here:

Smoking & Health Issues

Smoking and Pregnancy

Women who quit smoking before or during pregnancy reduce the risk of adverse reproductive outcomes.

Women who smoke have more difficulty becoming pregnant and have a higher risk of never becoming pregnant. Women’s smoking during pregnancy increases the risks for pregnancy complications, premature birth, spontaneous abortion and stillbirth.

Babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy on average have lower birth weights. Low birth weight babies are at greater risk for childhood and adult illnesses and even death. Women who quit smoking before the third trimester (the last 3 months) of their pregnancy are more likely to have babies who are close to normal weight.

Smoking by pregnant women can cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). According to the 2004 US Surgeon General’s Report, infants whose mothers smoked before and after birth are at three to four times greater risk for SIDS, and babies exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are at twice the risk.

When mothers smoke during pregnancy, it hurts their babies’ lungs. Infants of mothers who smoked during pregnancy have reduced lung function and may have increased frequency of lower respiratory tract illness. They may also have increased risk for impaired lung function in childhood and adulthood. For pregnant women, smoking could also put their babies at increased risk of asthma and respiratory infections.

Philip Morris says There is No Safe Cigarette

This admission of the fact that there is no safe cigarette based on brand descriptors is published on the Philip Morris USA website here:

Smoking & Health Issues

Low Tar Cigarettes

Philip Morris USA’s Use of Brand Descriptors

Philip Morris USA does not imply in our marketing, and smokers should not assume, that lower-yielding brands are safe or safer than full-flavor brands.

There is no safe cigarette. “Medium,” “mild,” “light” and “ultra light” cigarettes are no exception.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stated that “smoking ‘low tar’ or ‘light’ cigarettes does not eliminate the health risks of smoking. If you’re concerned about the health risks of smoking, stop smoking … There’s no such thing as a safe smoke.”

As of today, there is no cigarette on the market which public health organizations endorse as offering “reduced risk.” If smokers are concerned about the risks of smoking, quitting is by far their best alternative for reducing those risks.