Smoking rampant among pregnant women in Alberta..

December 27, 2008 - A new report that shows a startling number of women in Alberta smoke while pregnant provides a clear warning sign the province's approach is falling short, a University of Calgary researcher says. A recently-released 2005 Alberta Health and Wellness study examined 28,484 samples from pregnant women randomly selected from 50,599 serum samples used for a province wide bio-monitoring test from January to December 2005. The concentrations of cotinine measured here indicate that many pregnant Albertan women were smokers at the time of their blood sample collection, particularly in the youngest women examined and in northern Alberta.

According to the study, between 25 to 32 percent of former and current smokers lit up regularly during their most recent pregnancy. The national average is 19 to 22 per cent. This, despite a provincial government strategy to reduce 2000-01 smoking rates in pregnant women from 32 per cent to 12 per cent in 2010-11.

It found that the levels of cotinine--a nicotine metabolite and marker of cigarette smoke exposure-- were unusually high among expecting Alberta women, particularly those in northern Alberta and younger than 25-years-old. The findings in northern Alberta, including formerly-separate Aspen, Peace Country and Northern Light health regions, were especially alarming, according to the report.

Dr. Shabih Hasan, a professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Calgary faculty of medicine who researches the effects of tobacco exposure during pregnancy. "There is an enormous price to pay for this. We have not made a dent." The risks of maternal smoking during pregnancy are well-established, Hasan said. Lighting up while pregnant has been found to harm the fetus and is linked to increased risks of stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, premature delivery and higher rates of sudden infant death.

Reference: Smoking rampant among pregnant women in Alberta by Jamie Komarnicki, Calgary Herald, 12/26/2008.

Related news briefs: Tobacco a threat to pregnant women and children in developing world..;

Hong Kong - public smoking ban - smoking rooms??

December 27, 2008 - The Hong Kong (population 6.9 million) smoking ban in public places came into effect on January 1, 2007. The ban covers most public areas, including restaurants, offices and karaoke lounges. It also extends to outside areas with swimming pools, beaches and the larger parts of public parks now designated as smoke-free. Anyone caught lighting up in a banned zone faces a maximum fine of HK$5000 (£326, USD645).

The ban does not yet include nightclubs, bars open to those aged 18 or above, mahjong parlors, bathhouses and massage establishments, such venues have until July 1, 2009, to implement the law. With a little more than six months before the smoking ban is to be enforced the government is entering the final phase of a study of smoking rooms that may offer bar owners a way around the curbs. A number of Asian and European countries have placed restrictions on smoking but still permit smoking rooms to operate.

Officials are examining a 40,000-US-dollar smoking room partly funded by British American Tobacco at a Hong Kong bar to see if exemptions should be granted to bars with hi-tech facilities. The tobacco company claims the room removes and recycles smoke fumes safely and argues that it could save bars with high percentages of smoking customers from going bust.

However, the city's leading anti-smoking campaigner Anthony Hedley told Monday's (12/22/2008) South China Morning Post that allowing smoking rooms would be 'nothing short of a scandal.' The Hong Kong government will make recommendations to legislators on whether or not to allow the smoking rooms in a report early in 2009,

Reference: Hong Kong smoking ban, 1/2/2007; Smoke-free Hong Kong may allow hi-tech smoking rooms in bars,, 12/22/2008.

Taiwan lawmakers fail to raise tobacco tax..

December 26, 2008 - The Legislative Yuan (the Parliament) Monday, December 22, 2008 failed to pass any hikes in tobacco taxes, despite a wide range of proposals.

Lawmakers filed varying proposals to raise the current NT$10 (0.303USD) tax per packet of 20 cigarettes to NT$15, NT$20 or NT$40 (1.212USD) to discourage smoking, but because they failed to reach a consensus, the topic of higher cigarette taxes was referred to further negotiation. Ruling Kuomintang legislator Chang Shuo-wen proposed a hike to NT$40 while rejecting allegations he was trying to sabotage any rises. He said smaller increases would not work if the aim was to discourage smoking altogether.

Some lawmakers pointed out a contradiction in the government’s plans for the hike. “The country sells tobacco, but also bans tobacco,” said KMT legislator Lee Hung-chun, calling on the government to sell the

Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation - state-owned manufacturer and distributor of cigarettes and alcohol in Taiwan.

Lawmakers did agree on tougher measures against cigarette smuggling and on forcing the Department of Health to spend at least 6 percent of revenue from the tobacco tax on cancer prevention work.

The discussion about hiking tobacco taxation is coming amid preparations for the launch of a newly amended Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act on January 11. Under the new rules, smoking will be banned in all indoor workplaces staffed by at least three employees. Smoking will also be illegal in public indoor areas such as passenger waiting rooms and entertainment areas such as tea rooms, KTV parlors, and bowling alleys. The ban also covers some outdoor public areas such as train station platforms, swimming pools, school campuses and sports stadiums. The new act stipulates fines ranging from NT$2,000 (60.59USD) to NT$10,000 (302.95USD) for offenders.

Anti-smoking campaigners say the habit and its related diseases cost the National Health Insurance Bureau NT$30 billion in extra expenses a year. A 2005 study found from the public health and financial perspectives, the increase in this excise tax on tobacco to the Taiwan government will have significant effect in reducing cigarette consumption; it would also generate additional tax revenues - ABSTRACT.

Reference: Taiwan Legislature fails to raise tobacco taxTaiwan News, Staff Writer, 12/22/2008.

Euromonitor International: Tobacco in Taiwan. There are currently more than 4.5 million smokers in Taiwan, and that about 20,000 people die from smoking related illnesses every year. A pack of cigarettes can cost as little as NT$40 (US$1.3). (DOH (Department of Health) to push for NT$10 cigarette tax price increaseThe China Post, 10/22/2008)


Young adolescents exposure to tobacco ads and cigarette smoking..

December 25, 2008 - Researchers have found that children and young adolescents remain vulnerable to cigarette advertisements. The research team noted that "initial exposures to cigarette advertising (and the positive portrayals of smoking contained therein) should increase youths' willingness to experiment with cigarette smoking."

Under pressure to curtail marketing to children, tobacco companies have claimed they've refocused their marketing tactics to simply persuade adult smokers to change brands.

Team analyzed the psychological effects of cigarette advertisements and how such commercialization impacts children and young adolescents. The study showed that the youngest kids did not typically focus on brand meanings for any of the ads – tobacco or otherwise. For cigarette ads, this was still true for the vast majority of kids in fifth grade," Merrie Brucks, one of the co-authors said. But when a child was able to pick up on the brand name in a cigarette advertisement, the likelihood of being susceptible to smoking grew by 182 percent.

Based on their findings, the team supports "the policy of preventing children from exposure to any form of cigarette advertising," said Brucks. Citing concerns for children around the globe, the World Health Organization this year called for a ban on the advertisement and promotion of tobacco products.

PAPER: Freeman D, Brucks M, Wallendorf M, Boland W., Youths' understandings of cigarette advertisements, Addict Behav. 2009 Jan;34(1):36-42, ABSTRACT.

Reference: UA Research: Cigarette Ads Still Affect Children by La Monica Everett-Haynes, Arizona University Communications, 121/23/2008.

Some related news briefs: Youth exposed to smokeless tobacco ads despite settlement…; More evidence - tobacco displays increase the risk of teens smoking..; Cigarette retail marketing practices increase the likelihood of youth smoking..

STOP the Release of Dissolvable Tobacco Products..

December 25, 2008 - In January 2009 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco will start test marketing in 3-cities the first dissolvable tobacco products by a major company. Each product in convenient user-friendly dosage form containing amounts of the nicotine to render the user a slave to this addictive substance for many years to come. Public Health Professional are concerned.

The Camel Dissolvables Products: Sticks (twisted) can be placed in the mouth like a toothpick or broken into a pieces that are placed between the upper lip and gum, where they dissolve after 10 minutes; Orbs, which is a pellet (like placing a candy in your mouth) that lasts about 15 minutes and film Strips for the tongue, which dissolve after about 3 minutes. Flavors - Strips will come in fresh mint flavor and Sticks in Mellow; Orbs will be available in both flavors.

David Sutton, spokesman of Altria Group "We've been very pleased with the consumer response" to Marlboro Snus, says, which owns Philip Morris USA. This is NOT true - snus sales in the U.S. are around one percent of smokeless tobacco sales. Reynolds with Camel SNUS continues to flood the market with free cans of Camel snus. One of many examples: Have a Free can of Camel Snus. Sutton says smokeless is a "growing category" with sales rising 6%-8% annually. He says cigarette sales are falling 2%-3% each year.

Sara Troy Machir, spokeswoman of Star Scientific says, Teens like risk-taking behavior and a tablet, unlike a cigarette, won't lure them. If the tablet doesn't lure them how about the other dosage forms: the toothpick with flavor to mask the taste of the tobacco or the film strip it's just like a Listerine strip to enhance your breath.

Reference: Tobacco 'orbs' melt in mouth by Wendy Koch, USA Today, 12/24/2008.

A few related news briefs:We must stop the launch of dissolvable tobacco products..; Reynolds America moving ahead with dissolvable tobacco products..; STOP - the Proliferation of Flavored Tobacco Products..; R.J. Reynolds Dissolvables - it looks like candy.. and Snus News & Other Tobacco Products: STOP - the Proliferation of Flavored Tobacco Products..

Victoria, Australia 5-YR Tobacco Control Strategy..

December 23, 2008 - State Government hopes the new laws, announced today December 22, 2008, will help cut smoking rates in Victoria by 20 percent by 2013.

The ban on smoking in cars with children under the age of 18 will not come into effect until January 1, 2010. Victoria will become the fifth Australian state to ban smoking in cars with children. (Others that have already introduced such a ban: South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland.( Why the delay?? Vehicles Have Been Found to be the Most Dangerous Space for Second-Hand Smoke Levels. - even Philip Morris agrees. The prevalence of asthma in Australia is among the highest in the world: between 14% and 16% of children and between 10% and 12% of adults have asthma. (Asthma Statistics, Health InSite) Children who are regularly exposed to tobacco smoke in their parents’ cars are significantly more likely to experience asthma symptoms than those who travel in smoke-free cars, an Australian study shows. (Smoking in cars linked to asthma in children, Patient Health International, 3/2007)Victoria is Australia's second smallest state, the most densely populated and most urbanized.)

The ban on point-of-sale displays of cigarettes will be mandatory from January 2011.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews said other measures in the Victorian Tobacco Control Strategy 2008 - 2013 includes $22 million in funding for anti-smoking ads, making public school grounds smoke-free by July 1, 2009 and a boost to services to high-risk groups quit smoking.

"Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of illness and death in Victoria, claiming around 4000 lives, causing 80 per cent of lung cancer cases and costing Victoria around $5 billion every year."

Health groups welcomed the new five-year plan and said the measures would save thousands of lives.

Member of Parliament Damien Drum, says the State Government's new smoking laws do not do enough to stop young people lighting their first cigarette. Member of Parliament Damien Drum.

Reference: State Government bans smoking in cars with kids from 2010, Sarah Wotherspoon, heraldsun, 12/22/2008; Victoria bans smoking in cars with kids, The Australian, 12/22/2008.

Related news brief: Deadline for Comments on Victoria Goverment Tobacco Control Strategy..

The biggest losers when a parent smokes are the CHILDREN.

Adelaide, Australia - Imperial Tobacco stops marketing promotion..

December 22, 2008 - Cigarette giant Imperial Tobacco has dramatically pulled its tobacco products from Adelaide, Australia fashion stores after the brazen tactic to ensnare young smokers was exposed. Last week we reported that Imperial Tobacco had been providing cash incentives for high-end clothing stores and hair salons to stock Peter Stuyvesant brand cigarettes in specially designed cigarette dispensers.

Imperial Tobacco announced it would have all cigarettes out of boutiques by January 31, 2009. The tobacco company's legal and corporate affairs director, Pardeep Grewal, revealed the change in a letter to South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, who attacked the company over its promotion in trendy stores. "(The company) has recently reviewed this situation and has decided to withdraw our dispensers from these particular types of outlets," Mr Grewal and corporate affairs director, Pardeep Grewal, revealed the change withdraw our dispensers from these particular types of outlets," Mr Grewal said.

Senator Xenophon and Associate Professor of Business Law at the University of NSW, Frank Zumbo, said the company should be investigated for several potential breaches of the Trade Practices Act in its marketing campaign.

Reference: Cigarette push stubbed out, SAM KELTON. Adelaide Now, 12/21/2008.

Philip Morris money influence on Virginia lawmakers..

December 21, 2008 - Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's call for increasing the state tax on cigarettes from 30 cents a pack to 60 cents was long overdue. The proposal to increase the cigarette tax as part of a larger plan to address the state's expected $2.9 billion budget shortfall. Virginians have to pay another $233 million a year in taxes just to support Medicaid costs related to smoking. Kaine believes that the taxes on smoking should pay for the budget costs incurred because of smoking.

The Virginia Speaker of the House Willam J. Howell, Virginia's top Republican lawmaker (28th District District includes County of Stafford (part); City of Fredericksburg), has pronounced Kaine's proposal dead on arrival. Why??

The Altria Group, the parent of Philip Morris, contributes more money to political campaigns than any other tobacco company. On its Web site, Altria identifies the recipients of the nearly $7 million doled out by its political action committee in 2008. (That figure does not include contributions by individual corporate officials.)

In Virginia Altria, contributed cash to 28 of Virginia's 40 senators and 85 of its 100 House of Delegates. Tobacco contributions helped elect the chairman and vice-chairman of powerful committees such as the House Appropriations Committee, the House Finance Committee and the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee.

As we know, tobacco products are the only products that if used as directed will kill you. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the U.S. resulting in more than 438,00 deaths each year. Philip Morris has over a 50% share in the domestic cigarette market.

Polls done by anti-smoking groups have consistently shown that voters support increased sales taxes on cigarettes, perhaps because most voters don't smoke. The people must step up and stop the process of buying influence.

If a higher cigarette tax is supported by residents and would help protect children, save lives and generate needed funds to pay for vital state services, then voting for it would appear to be a no-brainer -- except, it seems, to the 113 Virginia politicians whose hands are stuck deep in tobacco's pockets. At present, politics at every level has been tainted by the corrosive influence of money. This has to stop.

Reference: Tobacco's Money Trail in Virginiaby Pete Earley
The Washington Post, 12/21/2008; Page B07.

Related news brief: States Need Quick Influx of Revenue – Think Tobacco Tax..


San Francisco - Judge threw out a Walgreens attempt to stop the ban of tobacco sales in pharmacies..

December 21, 2008 - San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch, who in late September also refused to allow a preliminary injunction to stop the city's ordinance banning tobacco sales by pharmacies dismissed the Walgreen Co. lawsuit Friday, December 19, 2008 that challenged the ban altogether, according to Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the city attorney's office.

Attorneys for the Deerfield, Ill.-based pharmacy chain had argued San Francisco's ordinance violated equal protection laws because the ban exempts supermarkets like Safeway and "big box" retail stores like Costco, which also contain pharmacies and sell cigarettes. Pharmacies such as Walgreens, which operates more than 50 stores in San Francisco, and Rite Aid, are included in the ban, as well as smaller independently owned pharmacies.

Dorsey said the decision Friday also renders Walgreens' appeal of Busch's preliminary injunction decision, currently before a state appeals court, moot. The company would now have to file a new appeal in order to continue to challenge the ordinance, he said.

San Francisco's effort appears to have attracted attention on the opposite coast. On Dec. 1, the Boston Public Health Commission approved a similar law, banning tobacco sales in pharmacies and drug stores, as well as hospitals and colleges. The law is set to take effect in February 2009. (Boston bans cigarette sales in drug stores..)

Reference: S.F. Judge Throws Out Walgreen's Cigarette Lawsuit,, 12/19/2008.

Related news briefs: Philip Morris appeals tobacco ban at San Francisco pharmacies; Federal Judge Denies Bid To Stop San Francisco Pharmacy Tobacco Ban..; Philip Morris USA request stop in San Francisco's ban on tobacco sales by pharmacies..; San Francisco - cigarette sales rise sharply in c-stores..; San Francisco files brief to oppose bid by PM USA to block the banning of tobacco sales in pharmacies..; Philip Morris challenges San Francisco pharmacy tobacco ban..; Walgreen: San Francisco’s Tobacco Ban Is Unfair..; San Francisco - All Tobacco Products Banned in All Pharmacies..; San Francisco critical vote - bar tobacco sales pharmacies.. and SAN FRANCISCO Ban on tobacco at drug stores sought...