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Cut smoking for good of the economy: WHO chief tells Chinese leaders

| July 10, 2014

The head of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, has told Chinese leaders there is a “real risk” that China’s economic achievements of the past three decades could be canceled out by the huge burden of coping with diseases linked to smoking, according to a story by Zhuang Pinghui for the South China Morning Post.

Chan urged the Chinese government to strengthen tobacco control “to save huge numbers of lives and to ensure the country has a healthy workforce to continue its development.”

“Every year more than one million people die as a result of tobacco-related illness,” she said. “This is a terrible statistic.”

During a visit to the mainland, Chan met with leaders including Premier Li Keqiang, Health Minister Li Bin and the deputy chairman of the National People’s Congress Chen Zhu.

According to the Post, she said that she had told leaders that tobacco-related illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes would have a devastating impact on the mainland and its workforce.

“You can’t walk properly, you will be so short of breath that you won’t be able to work,” she said.

Cut smoking among U.K.’s mentally ill for good of the economy: researchers urge

| July 10, 2014

More must be done in the U.K. to help people with mental health issues stop tobacco smoking because a new study suggests that such people cost the economy more than £2 billion a year, according to a Press Association story.

The study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, was said to have estimated the cost to the economy based on the World Health Association’s “economics tobacco tool kit.”

Researchers found that during 2009–2010, the estimated cost to the U.K. of smoking among people with mental health issues was £719 million for treating diseases caused by smoking, £823 million for work-related absenteeism and £797 million associated with productivity loss through premature mortality—a total cost of £2.34 billion.

“Smoking in people with mental disorders in the U.K. imposes significant economic costs,” the researchers from the Universities of York and Nottingham were quoted as saying.

“The development and implementation of smoking cessation interventions in this group should therefore be a high economic and clinical priority.”

The incidence of smoking among mentally ill people is 50 percent higher than is the incidence of smoking in the general population, the study authors noted.

BAT linked with possible RAI acquisition and both linked with Lorillard deal

| July 10, 2014

British American Tobacco could be on the verge of acquiring Reynolds American Inc., according to a story by Geoff Foster for This is Money’s Market Report.

BAT’s shares, Foster noted, had fallen by 19.5 pence to 3555.5 pence amid growing speculation it was ready to splash out billions of pounds buying the 58 percent of RAI it doesn’t already own.

In making such an acquisition, he added, BAT would stub out any plans RAI might have had to buy Lorillard.

A standstill agreement between BAT and RAI expires at the end of this month, at which point BAT will be free to bid to raise its 42 percent share.

Foster said that RAI’s shares traded at about $61.40 in New York early on July 8 and that rumors were rife that BAT could be willing to pay more than $75 a share to gain full control.

Broker Citigroup has said it would be advantageous for BAT to buy RAI since the deal would boost BAT’s earnings per share by about 10–13 percent, give it ownership of one of the best e-cigarette platforms and access to Reynolds’ heat-not-burn technology.

However, Bonnie Herzog, managing director, beverage, tobacco and convenience store research at Wells Fargo Securities, while acknowledging the rumors linking BAT and RAI, said she believed a deal between RAI and Lorillard was more likely.

In any case, she said, even if a BAT/RAI deal did emerge, ultimately it was likely that Lorillard would be acquired by a combined BAT/RAI.

Australia cuts funding for quit-smoking initiatives among its indigenous people

| July 9, 2014

Cuts to Australia’s Tackling Indigenous Smoking program in this year’s budget will contribute to the early deaths of Aboriginal smokers, according to a story by Sarah Dingle for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoting warnings by a former race discrimination commissioner.

The program’s budget is $65 million a year, but Tom Calma said a decision had been made to cut funding by $130 million over five years—effectively more than a third of the program’s annual funding.

In the 1940s more than 70 percent of non-Indigenous Australian men were smokers, a figure that has been cut to 20 percent.

But Calma said indigenous Australia had been left behind. “In the indigenous population, it’s around about 42 percent of our people smoke, so it’s over double the smoking incidence of the general population,” he said.

“But in some of our remoter communities, we know that it’s as high as 70 percent.”

Such high smoking rates are said to have significant implications for the life expectancy of indigenous Australians.

A spokesperson for Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash said the government was committed to addressing tobacco-related illness in indigenous people.

The spokesperson said a review of the current program would ensure that funding was directed toward services that delivered results.

Ignore the violence, just ban the smoking

| July 9, 2014

Tobacco control campaigners in China on Monday protested against smoking scenes in the movie Transformers, according to a Xinhua Newswire story, which said that the film had broken the country’s box office record.

In a letter to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the campaigners complain that Hound, a major character in Transformers: Age of Extinction, is seen with a cigar in his mouth, something that has had a bad influence on audiences, especially teenagers.

Nongovernment organizations, including Think Tank, Nature University and the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control (CATC), were among those who raised the issue.

The campaigners asked the administration to “examine and limit” the number of smoking shots in the movie, and to require all cinemas to run anti-smoking advertisements before it starts.

In 2011, the administration released a circular on smoking in movies and television plays. Since then, the CATC has made Dirty Ashtray awards to the movies and television plays featuring the most smoking.

NRT to go on general sale in Ireland

| July 9, 2014

A nicotine replacement product is to be allowed to go on general sale in Ireland for the first time following a decision to relax the rule that has confined the availability of such products to pharmacies, according to a story by Paul Cullen for The Irish Times.

The initiative by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (formerly the Irish Medicines Board) is likely to drive down the cost of anti-smoking aids as they become available in supermarkets and other retailers.

The decision by the authority to switch Nicorette from “pharmacy only” status to “general sale” status followed an application from the manufacturer.

“This will be the first NRT [nicotine replacement therapy] product range available for general sale in Ireland, and will result in these products being more widely accessible by people wishing to seek assistance to reduce or quit smoking,” the authority said.

It is expected that such products will become available at retailers from late August.

The decision does not affect the sale of e-cigarettes.

The authority said that where e-cigarettes were promoted as an aid to giving up smoking, they were considered to be a medicine requiring marketing authorization. Where no medicinal claim was made, they fell outside the remit of the authority.

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