Hong Kong - as of November 1st no tobacco advertising at newsstands - now display boxes..

November 2, 2009 - Advertisements may have great influence on our next generation, especially the cigarette advertisements. According to the statistic from the American Cancer Society, since the cigarettes advertising ban began in 2001, the proportion of Hong Kong primary school pupils who could recognize different cigarette brands dropped from 95 per cent in 1990 to 20 per cent in 2001. So we can see how powerful advertisements can be.

Although tobacco advertisements have been banned in newspapers, magazines, radio, television and public spaces in the 1990s, we can still find them in some places, for instant the newspaper stands and hawkers. In Hong Kong there are 600 newspaper stands that were allowed to display cigarette banners and posters till November 1, 2009. This is the last phase of the cigarette advertising ban in Hong Kong.

However, newspaper stands using another method to replace the advertisement. They set up display boxes showing cigarette packets, and claims that “It is not an advertisement if there are no words”. Display boxes showing cigarette packets replaced banners and posters at newspaper stands yesterday, as tobacco advertisements disappeared across Hong Kong in the final phase of the cigarette advertising ban. If the packets were displayed in a way that “induces or suggests people to buy tobacco” then they are destroying the efforts put in protecting the next generations from the tobacco for years.

In Causeway Bay, large display boxes equipped with spotlights were observed at almost all newspaper stands. Packets of cigarettes were seen revolving inside the boxes. Ms Chim, a vendor, said tobacco companies helped her renovate the stand by adding the display boxes, and were still paying her about HK$3,000 a month in "advertising fees", even though her posters and banners had disappeared. But display boxes were not advertisements, she said. "It is not an advertisement if there are no words."

The government said the display boxes could be regarded as advertisements and it would consider prosecution.

If you want to read more about the harm of the tobacco, please hit the jump.
* Every year in Hong Kong, pollution from 3,800,000,000 cigarettes and cigars creates 6 tonnes of nicotine, 57 tonnes of respirable suspended particles & 295 tonnes of carbon monoxide.
* The Air Pollution Index in your local noodle shop goes up to 200 after just two cigarettes.
* The death toll from active and passive smoking in Hong Kong is equivalent to 20 aeroplanes each with 350 people crashing each year.
* Less than 15% of the population in Hong Kong smoke.
* Each pack of cigarettes a man smokes reduces the value of his life by $222. For women, the results are $94 per pack.
* In the Hong Kong population of 6.5 million in 1998. In that year, the annual value of direct medical costs, long term care and productivity loss was US$532 million for active smoking and US$156 million for passive smoking; passive smoking accounted for 23% of the total costs. Adding the value of attributable lives lost brought the annual cost to US$9.4 billion.

References: No exception on cigarettes advertisements, the same as newspaper stands by Ryan Chan, ClearTheAir.org.hk, 11/2/2009; Display boxes for cigarettes may be illegal, Ng Yuk-hang, South China Morning Post, 11/2/2009.

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