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High level of compliance with Beijing’s smoking ban

| November 26, 2015

During the first five months of Beijing’s public-places tobacco-smoking ban, only 0.01 percent of the city’s smokers were fined for non-compliance.

This extremely low level of recorded non-compliance occurred despite the authorities having set up a hotline for reporting smokers and despite the fact that almost all law enforcement personnel in Beijing were charged with enforcing the ban during its first three months.

But this need not come as a surprise. Although attempts have been made in many parts of the world to denormalize smokers and to push them to the edges of society; they have consistently proved to be very law abiding – much more so than are, for instance, drivers.

And so it has proved in Beijing. During the first five months of the ban, only 217 organizations and 598 individuals were fined for non-compliance, according to a Xinhua News Agency story citing information provided by local authorities.

The ban, which has been in effect since June 1, prohibits tobacco smoking in all indoor public places, including workplaces and public transport facilities.

Individuals caught smoking tobacco where the ban is in force are liable to be fined up to Yuan200 (about US$31), while businesses are liable to be fined up to Yuan10,000 (about US$1,567) if they fail to discourage smoking on their premises.

The fines imposed during the five months to the end of October had added up to about Yuan570,000 (US$89,262), said Wang Benjin, deputy head of Beijing’s health inspection institute.

From June 1 to October 31 an anti-tobacco-smoking hotline had received 9,291 complaints, with government buildings and officials’ offices the focus of public attention, Wang said. Schools, hotels and hospitals were the most strict in enforcing the ban, while restaurants were the most lax.

Meanwhile, Zhang Jianshu, head of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association, said almost all law enforcement personnel in Beijing had been mobilized to enforce the tobacco smoking ban during the first three months after it took effect.

However, local residents were expected to take up more responsibility in the long run. “More than 10,000 volunteers have joined the force,” said Zhang. “They carry out secret inspections, dissuade smokers and report problematic organizations to health inspection departments.”

Asking for a stroke gets you a pack of cigarettes

| November 26, 2015

The South Korean government’s latest anti-smoking video is drawing strong opposition from smokers because it equates buying tobacco products with buying lung cancer, according to a story in The Korea Times.

The nation’s largest smokers’ group, ‘I love Smoking,’ which has about 100,000 members, said yesterday that the Ministry of Health and Welfare ‘has violated smokers’ human rights by branding smoking, which is a personal preference, as a sin’.

‘The ministry’s video has clearly crossed the line,’ the group said in a press release.

It said that the video showed every smoker as suffering from a disease. If smoking was a disease, it added, drinking alcohol was a disease because it caused liver problems, eating fast food was a disease because it led to obesity, and riding in cars was more than a disease – it was a disaster.

The group said that what was being portrayed amounted to ‘a jump of logic,’ and it discriminated against smokers.

The ministry released its first anti-smoking video entitled ‘Smoking is a Disease’ on August 17, and the second has been aired since November 16.

In the latest video, customers ask a convenience store clerk to, Give me 1 milligram of laryngeal cancer, Give me lung cancer, or Give me a stroke [this one presumably sounds more threatening in Korean], and then they receive a pack of cigarettes.

“Every adult can buy and smoke tobacco freely,” said group leader Lee Yeon-ik. “It’s a legitimate right to pursue happiness guaranteed by the Constitution. The footage describes smokers as disgusting people, infringing on their basic human rights and humiliating them.”

Lee pointed out that the government collected a huge amount of tax through tobacco sales, especially since the beginning of this year when it hiked the price of a pack of cigarettes to WON4,500 (US$4.30) from WON2,500.

The tax hike was aimed at reducing Korea’s smoking rate, which, at 36.2 percent among men as of 2013, was the third highest rate among the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But The Times said that recent research had indicated the smoking rate had not been reduced by much since the price hike.

The group was due to stage a rally in front of the ministry building in Sejong today and it has said it will submit to the ministry and the Korea Communications Standards Commission a written opinion calling on the government to stop broadcasting the video.

Flue-cured tobacco prices increased in Karnataka

| November 25, 2015

The average price paid for flue-cured tobacco during the first 35 days of auctions in Karnataka, India, at Rs138.00 per kg, was about 17 percent higher than the average price paid during the corresponding period of last year, Rs117.85 per kg, according to a story in the latest issue of the BBM Bommidala Group’s newsletter.

Bright grade leaf sold for an average of Rs.160.00 per kg during the first 35 days of this season’s auctions, while the highest price paid during this period was Rs165.00 per kg.

The higher prices will have been caused in part by the short crop in Karnataka that, in turn, was caused by adverse weather conditions in the tobacco-growing areas of Mysuru district.

The Tobacco Board had fixed the 2015 crop at 102 million kg, but it slumped to about 84 million kg.

Last year the state produced 103 million kg.

The increase in prices might be due also to the unhelpful weather in Brazil that has reduced the crop there, and to the reduction in tobacco-grower registrations in Zimbabwe for the 2015/16 crop.

How do you like your rat droppings – smoked or not?

| November 25, 2015

The US Food and Drug Administration allows up to 13 ‘fragments’ of rodent excreta in a 24-ounce container of cornmeal, according to a Yahoo! Health story quoting the FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook.

It allows also a maximum of nine rodent hairs in a 16-ounce container of pasta.

But while these contaminants might sound distasteful, the limits set by the handbook mean that they are not harmful to human health.

And these are the maximum allowable levels: responsible manufacturers aim not to have any contaminants in their products.

However, this story is interesting from a tobacco-industry point of view. From time to time attempts are made to scare smokers into avoiding illicit cigarettes on the grounds that their manufacture is not regulated and it is therefore not known what they contain. Specifically, it has been said that they might contain rodent droppings, though it is never stated whether inhaling the fumes from burning rodent droppings is any more risky than is inhaling the fumes from the tobacco that the droppings replace.

The Yahoo! story doesn’t answer that question, but it does indicate that the ingestion of tiny fragments of rodent droppings is not harmful, and it perhaps suggests that the inhalation of the by-products of small amounts of burning rodent droppings also would not be harmful.

The handbook is interesting, too, because it says that spices can contain traces of foreign matter, which the FDA defines as including, among other things, cigarette butts.

Labor aiming to hurt the poor – for their own good

| November 24, 2015

Australia’s shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has said that the Labor party is ‘keenly aware’ that its proposal to push the price of cigarettes to $40 a pack by 2020 would hurt the poor, according to a story by Eliza Borrello for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The government has been increasing its cigarette tax take regularly under a policy that saw the penultimate increase of 12.5 percent imposed on September 1. A pack of 25 cigarettes currently retails for $25-30.

But the Labor Party has said that if it came to power in elections due next year it would continue the policy of increasing taxes.

Bowen was quoted as saying that financially poor people smoked more than did the better off, and that these poor people died earlier, in part because of their smoking.

“That is offensive to us as the Labor Party,” he said. “This is a measure which will make a contribution to doing something about that.”

Increasing tobacco taxes by 12.5 per cent four more times until 2020 would reap $47.7 billion in revenue over 10 years, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office, and Labor claims that its policy would generate ‘savings’ of almost $50 billion over the medium term while almost doubling the rate at which people quit smoking.

Labor’s health spokeswoman Catherine King said that her party wanted to put the savings towards budget consolidation, but also “towards very important health initiatives”.

British American Tobacco Australia was quoted as saying that Labor’s proposed cigarette tax increases would drive the trade in illegal tobacco.

Company spokesman Scott McIntyre said the change would only push smokers into the black market, which accounted for 14 percent of all tobacco consumed in Australia.

Tobacco grower registrations down in Zimbabwe

| November 24, 2015

The number of Zimbabwean farmers who have registered so far this year to grow tobacco is down by more than 20 percent on the number who had signed up by the same point of last year’s registration period, according to a Newsdzesibabwe story.

In its latest bulletin, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) said 69,092 farmers had so far registered for the 2015-16 season, down from the 86,992 who had registered by the same point of last year.

New registrations were said to be down from 16,140 to 8,755.

About 15,421 ha have been put under tobacco so far this year, which is said to indicate that more growers are shifting to irrigation to mitigate the effects of uncertain rainfall.

Earlier this year, many flue-cured Virginia growers complained about what they saw as the poor prices being paid for their 2014-15 tobacco – prices that did not cover the cost of production.

Buyers on the other hand complained that the tobacco on offer generally was of low quality, in part due to the weather conditions.

It is almost certain, however, that a worldwide oversupply of flue-cured tobacco was a major factor in prices being down.

A reduced grower base in Zimbabwe will help bring about a better supply/demand balance, especially with growers in Brazil having suffered some unhelpful weather conditions.

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