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Problem of radon becoming more widespread in US

| January 5, 2015

Radon gas, which is considered to be a carcinogen and the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the US, is said to be becoming a more widespread problem in the country.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared January to be National Radon Action Month and part of the publicity surrounding the campaign says that one in 15 homes are affected by elevated radon levels.

Unlike tobacco smoke, radon cannot be seen, has no scent and is colorless. It invades homes and buildings through foundation cracks and openings, and even directly through concrete. Radon gas is considered a carcinogen that comes from decayed radium and uranium in the soil.

It is said to be the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and causes people that do smoke greater risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer.

The EPA suggests levels of four picocuries (pCi/L) and above should be addressed. A level of four picocuries is said to be the equivalent of eight cigarettes a day or 250 chest x-rays a year.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says that 3-14 percent of lung cancer cases are caused by radon, and suggests that people take action against levels higher than 2.7 picocuries.

Manufacturers, retailers, smokers hit hard in Korea

| January 2, 2015

South Korea’s tobacco manufacturers, retailers and consumers woke up to a number of headaches yesterday, according to stories in The Korea Herald and The Korea Times.

Cigarette prices were increased sharply yesterday while public-places tobacco smoking bans were expanded and fines for those caught ignoring the bans were raised.

Largely because of a WON2,000 (about US$1.80) tax increase, the price of the average pack of cigarettes rose overnight by about 80 percent to WON4,500 (about $4.10) a pack.

Public places tobacco smoking bans, which previously had applied to about 150,000 facilities that were 100 square meters in size or bigger, now apply to about 600,000 smaller facilities nationwide.

However, smoking will still be allowed in those facilities with smoking areas separated completely from where food and drinks are served.

If anyone is caught smoking in a prohibited place, she will be liable to a fine of WON100,000 (about $90), while the owner of the facility in which the offence took place will face the prospect of a bigger fine, which was variously said to be WON1.7 million (about $1,550) or WON5.0 million (about $4,550).

Some observers were pessimistic about the outlook during 2015 for small retailers, some of whom earn 60 percent of their revenue from the sale of cigarettes. They point out that while retailers will earn more from each cigarette sale, the volume downturn will more than cancel out this advantage.

Others believed that while there would be a significant downturn in cigarette sales at the start of the year, business would probably pick up later.

Meanwhile, the Herald pointed out what it described as some price discrepancies in the early part of January.

Products from British American Tobacco Korea and Japan Tobacco International Korea were set to maintain their old prices until January 5. These two companies had registered their new prices with the Finance Ministry only on Monday, and new prices took effect six days after such registration.

Critics reportedly accused BAT Korea and JTI Korea of unfairly dodging the new regulations by delaying their registrations.

But BAT Korea and JTI Korea reportedly said they were playing a losing game because, while the prices of their products remained the same until January 5, they were subject to the higher taxes from January 1.

Smoking ‘big problem’ in Ireland despite downturn

| January 2, 2015
Smoking ‘big problem’ in Ireland despite downturn

Ireland’s Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD, has indicated that the incidence of smoking in Ireland might have dropped below 20 percent, according to a story by Michael Staines for the Evening Herald.

Varadkar was said to have ‘hailed figures showing that the number of smokers in Ireland may have fallen below 20 percent for the first time’, but there was no indication of the source of the figures.

However, Varadkar was speaking at an event to launch a new phase of the Health Service Executive’s QUIT campaign, which is said to have encouraged 500,000 quit attempts since it was started in 2011.

Varadkar said that smokers who used the free QUIT services were twice as likely to quit as were those who didn’t use the services.

Dr. Stephanie O’Keefe, National Director for Health and Wellbeing, who admitted that Ireland still had a “big problem” with smoking, said the QUIT team offered constant support throughout the initial quitting period with smokers generally speaking to the same advisor every time they called.

“Really the campaign is about providing any kind of support that might get people through the really rough patch at the start of the quitting period,” she said.

Sri Lanka debut for cigarette graphic health warnings

| January 2, 2015

Sri Lanka started yesterday on the last phase of its imposition of graphic health warnings on cigarette packs, according to a story in The Island, Colombo.

Manufacturers were prohibited from producing after December 31 packs without the warning while traders and distributors have to clear their stocks of non-compliant products by the end of this month. From February 1, action can be taken against those who sell cigarettes without the proper warning.

The first in a series of seven graphic warnings, which have to cover 60 percent of the front and back pack surfaces, depicts a patient with heart disease lying on a bed in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. The caption says, in three languages: ‘Smoking Causes Heart Disease’.

This warning will be used for six months, after which it will be replaced.

Meanwhile, anti-tobacco lobbyists have expressed concern that the graphic messages will not be seen by the average smoker, who buys loose sticks rather packs.

Dubai clamps down on driving while smoking shisha

| December 31, 2014

Police in Dubai have launched a crackdown on motorists smoking shisha while driving, even though it is not illegal to do so, according to a story on ArabianBusiness.com.

At the same time, officials are considering changing the law in a bid to stop the practice.

General Mohammad Saif Al Zafeen, head of the Federal Traffic Council, said in comments published by the Dubai daily, 7Days, that officers had stopped motorists and issued fines after catching them smoking shisha while behind the wheel.

There is no specific offence under UAE [United Arab Emirates] law of smoking shisha in a vehicle but police officers have been told to fine motorists under careless driving regulations until ‘a solution can be found’.

“I’m surprised at this new habit of smoking shisha in cars; it’s clearly dangerous,” Al Zafeen was quoted as saying. “Such acts make the chances of traffic accidents more likely.”

The daily said some firms were marketing devices to aid the smoking of shisha in cars and Al Zafeen said he would bring this issue to the attention of the traffic council and push for a change in the law.

In the meantime, the police intend to target websites that advertise car shisha kits.

South Korea fears tax hike might trigger profiteering

| December 31, 2014

The government of South Korea said yesterday that it will clamp down on any cigarette manufacturers that might have hoarded cigarettes ahead of tomorrow’s huge, mainly tax-induced price rises, according to a story in The Korea Herald.

The finance ministry reportedly said that police and officials from the tax and customs department planned to check the inventories and sales records of all manufacturers to make certain they were not holding for sale in 2015 products they had claimed to have shipped out during 2014.

If a company were to operate in this way, it would be able to pocket at least part of the difference between the amount of tax due in 2014 and that due in 2015 – a considerable amount.

The government announced earlier this year that cigarette taxes would increase by an average of WON2,000 a pack, a massive rise given that, pre-increase, some cigarettes were selling for WON2,000 a pack.

The hike is due to the imposition of a special excise tax and other indirect taxes on cigarettes.

Meanwhile, the government says that it plans to keep tabs on cigarettes sold through the Internet.

The Herald reported ‘official sources’ as saying that some individuals had bought cigarettes in 2014 so as to hoard them before selling them for a profit in 2015.

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