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Banning tobacco business seen as ‘ultimate solution’

| May 12, 2015

South Korea’s top court has ruled that the country’s tobacco business legislation is constitutional, saying that there is no proof that smoking always causes lung cancer, according to a story in The Korea Herald.

The ruling came amid a heated public debate over whether tobacco smoking should be seen as a serious public health threat or as a question of individual rights.

In a seven-to-two decision, the Constitutional Court ruled against nine petitioners, saying that the legislation did not infringe on an individual’s right to health because there was no definite link between habitual smoking and lung cancer.

Even though there was a correlation between smoking and lung cancer, it was not such as to force the government to ban the tobacco business. Lung cancer stemmed from diverse factors.

The court added that the government had paid due attention to public health, noting that it had been closely watching the tobacco industry and had made it mandatory that companies put cautionary images or warnings on cigarette packs.

In 2012, the petitioners, including lung-cancer patients and medical experts, filed a lawsuit against the nation arguing that the legislation was unconstitutional because it enabled the government to allow the sale of tobacco products that undermined public health.

Park Jae-Gahb, one of the petitioners and a professor at the National Cancer Center, expressed his frustration over the ruling. “Smoking is closely related to diseases like lung-cancer and it is a medically proven fact,” he said. “Banning the tobacco business is the ultimate solution.”

Class actions possible in cases of smoke exposure

| May 12, 2015

Israel’s Supreme Court has upheld an appeal of a lower-court ruling and made it possible for people exposed to tobacco smoke in public places to file class-action suits, according to a story in the Jerusalem Post.

The Post reckoned that claims against the owners of premises that do not enforce the no-smoking law could total millions of shekels in each case because each individual in the suit would be entitled to a NIS1,000 ‘fine’ against violators.

The Israel Cancer Association (ICA), represented by attorney Amos Hausner, appeared as a friend of the court in the suit, Efrati vs Espresso Bar Ltd.

The district court had reasoned that because an individual can sue businesses, entertainment venues, or banquet halls over tobacco-smoke exposure, it ruled out class-action suits.

But according to the Supreme Court, anyone complaining about second-hand tobacco smoke exposure can make a claim on behalf of other sufferers.

The ICA welcomed the ruling. ‘The association had encouraged private claims and encouraged law students to assist individuals to file such claims,’ it said in a statement. ‘When private lawsuits’ success was only partial, class actions have become an important component in the enforcement of the law prohibiting smoking in public places, which is unfortunately ignored by many business owners…’

Tobacco growing raises food-security concerns

| May 12, 2015

Food security, public health and the environment are under threat in parts of Bangladesh because of a rise in tobacco cultivation, according to a story in The Financial Express.

Khiating Soye, chairman of Rajbila’s Union Parishad (local council) at Sadar Upazila, Bandarban district, is said to have alleged that tobacco companies have been offering cash incentives to local farmers in an attempt to get them to grow tobacco.

The chairman was speaking at Jamchhari village with 22 visiting journalists, who were said to have found ‘massive tobacco farming’ at Jamchhari, Ruma, Lama, Alikadam, Thanchi, Nikhyangchhari, Rowangchhari and Sadar Upazila. Tobacco is said to be produced, also, at Kaptai, Barkal, Rajasthali, Baghaichhari, Jurachhari, Longudu and Bilaichhari in the Rangamati district, and at Dighinala, Mainee valley, Panchhari and Ramgarh in the Khagrachhari district.

Soye said that according to environmentalists at least 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes of firewood were being burnt in 2,000 tobacco processing barns every year, causing the depletion of forests and threatening the environment and ecology of the hills.

Meanwhile, Nazrul Islam Titu, a correspondent for an electronic media organisation, reported that most of the farmers in the hilly districts were losing interest in cultivating indigenous crops such as paddy, banana, maize, sesame, cotton, potato and pumpkin as they became defaulters of the loans provided by the tobacco companies.

E-cigarette companies band together to fight ban

| May 12, 2015

Five electronic cigarette companies operating in Hong Kong have formed the Asian Vape Association to oppose the government’s plan to ban electronic-cigarette sales, according to a story in the South China Morning Post relayed by the TMA.

Nav Lalji, one of the founders of the association, was quoted as saying the government should regulate rather than ban these products if it is concerned about product ingredients.

He questioned why the government was not banning combustible tobacco products firstly if it was worried about public health.

Lalji, who is the founder and manufacturer of the electronic cigarette brand Mist, said the association included major players in the electronic cigarette industry that accounted for about 70 percent of the local market.

He rejected claims made by some health officials that the companies were targeting young people and selling the devices as ‘trendy products’.

Electronic cigarettes were sold to adults at hotels, restaurants and bars, he said; and while the devices contained nicotine, they complied with the international safety standards set by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Currently, there are no age restrictions on the sale in Hong Kong of electronic cigarettes that don’t contain nicotine.

Electronic cigarettes with more than 0.1 percent of nicotine need to be registered as a pharmacy product with the health department.

The undersecretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, said many vaporizers contained substances that were “addictive and hazardous to health.”

But Chan said the association could negotiate with the government over the proposed city-wide ban on electronic cigarette sales, which is expected to be presented to the Legislative Council later this year.

Social acceptability disguises shisha health threat

| May 11, 2015

Health experts are warning that Shisha smoking is so socially acceptable in Bahrain that its dangers are being ignored, according to a Gulf Daily News story.

The News said that the dangers of using traditional tobacco pipes were highlighted last week when a 20-year-old woman was taken to hospital in Sydney, Australia, reportedly suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning after smoking shisha for an hour every day.

Dr. Babu Ramachandran, head of anti-smoking at the American Mission Hospital (AMH), was quoted as saying that what had happened in Sydney was probably an isolated incident. The woman in question probably had other underlying conditions that caused her to suffer carbon monoxide poisoning; so there was no need to panic.

“But it is true that smoking shisha for an hour is as harmful as smoking 100 cigarettes and there are genuine heath concerns that may arise from habitual smoking, but these are commonly overlooked,” he said.

“In many ways shisha smoking is more dangerous than cigarettes because it is more appealing as it comes in different flavours.

“There is also the misconception that when the smoke goes through water most of the bad chemicals are filtered out, which is simply not true.”

Ramachandran is concerned that local mores make it difficult to counter shisha smoking. Shisha was so ingrained in the culture that visiting a café would sometimes be considered a family outing. “In fact no one has ever come into the AMH anti-smoking centre saying they were addicted to shisha and needed help to quit,” he said.

The reason why shisha smoking hadn’t caused a huge number of health issues, Ramachandran suggested, was because shisha smoking was not as easy or as widespread as cigarette smoking, and because most people had to go to a place and spend time consuming shisha.

“If it became easier to smoke it on the run I am sure we would see a lot more shisha-related illnesses,” he said.

Smoke-free products deliver benefits of quitting

| May 11, 2015

In a commentary in the Signal Tribune, California, a health expert has hit out against US tobacco policy that insists on smokers quitting tobacco and nicotine altogether.

Dr. Brad Rodu is a professor of medicine and holds an endowed chair in tobacco harm reduction research at the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

Rodu argues that switching to snus or electronic cigarettes yields almost all of the health benefits of quitting smoking altogether.

His piece is at:

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