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World of people just dying to indulge

Lifestyle-related diseases stemming from tobacco, alcohol and obesity, have taken over infectious diseases such as HIV and malaria to become the greatest killer of people worldwide.

Director-General of the World Health Organisation Margaret Chan yesterday released a report that showed non-communicable illnesses including cancer, diabetes and heart disease had contributed to 36.1 million deaths in 2008 – nearly two thirds of the 57 million deaths around the globe that year.

Speaking at a meeting in Moscow, Dr Chan said the rise of these diseases was an enormous challenge for affluent countries, but more so for low and middle-income countries that experienced 80 per cent of the 36.1 million deaths in 2008.

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”For some countries, it is no exaggeration to describe the situation as an impending disaster; a disaster for health, for society, and most of all for national economies,” she said.

”Chronic non-communicable diseases deliver a two-punch blow to development. They cause billions of dollars in losses of national income, and they push millions of people below the poverty line, each and every year.”

However, Dr Chan stressed that the diseases were largely preventable and could be treated and controlled with the right medical interventions. She said millions of lives could be spared if governments adopted stronger anti-tobacco controls while promoting healthier diets, physical activity and less harmful consumption of alcohol.

Without action, Dr Chan said the epidemic was projected to kill 52 million people annually by 2030.

In Australia, the report said about 63,400 men and 63,200 women died in 2008 because of non-communicable diseases. About 40 per cent of the population did not exercise enough with 64 per cent deemed overweight or obese.

It also noted that 17 per cent of Australians smoked daily, 36 per cent had high blood pressure and 9 per cent had high blood glucose levels. And in 2008, every Australian consumed about 10 litres of alcohol.

Professor Rob Moodie from the Nossal Institute for Global Health at Melbourne University said Australia had a high burden of non-communicable diseases and needed to ramp up its efforts to reduce the incidence.

He said although the Australian government had done well on anti-tobacco policies, it needed to limit the widespread availability of alcohol and increase pressure on the food industry to reduce the salt content of foods and advertising of unhealthy products to children.

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Smoking on restaurant patios now illegal in SF

Last updated: November 4, 2010

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

Smokers in San Francisco can no longer light up in a restaurant’s outdoor seating area.

The law—approved by the city’s Board of Supervisors in March—went into effect this week.

Restaurants must not post signs advising customers they can only smoke at the curb or in a spot that is at least 15 feet from exits, entrances, windows and vents.

Failure to comply could cost restaurants a $500 fine.

Golden Gate Restaurant Association director Kevin Westlye tells the San Francisco Chronicle the group supported the legislation once a requirement that restaurant owners police people smoking in front of their establishments was removed.

Westlye says restaurant owners want to protect their employees and customers from second hand smoke.

Blog: Is Hong Kong eco-trendy or eco-serious?


Miranda Leitsinger, CNN

HONG KONG, China (CNN) — A plastic bag levy, a total indoor smoking ban and skyscrapers shutting the lights off? There has been a flurry of environmentally-friendly activity in Hong Kong over the past few weeks.

Piles of plastic bags are a common sight on street corners in Hong Kong.

Tuesday marked the beginning of the environmental levy on plastic bags. For every plastic bag a customer takes at certain retail outlets, they will be charged 50 Hong Kong cents (US$0.06). Green signs have sprouted up at these outlets to inform shoppers of the new fee.

The previous week, a full ban on indoor smoking in public places came into effect. Bars, nightclubs, massage businesses and mahjong-tin kau (Chinese dominoes) premises that had earlier received an extended deferment of the ban are now forced to implement it.

Piles of plastic bags are a common sight on street corners in Hong Kong.

And in late June, more than 3,500 buildings and groups in the southern Chinese enclave turned out the lights on a skyline known around the world for its nighttime illumination.

What is going on here? Is Hong Kong, a city that is often shrouded in smog, getting eco-serious or eco-trendy? What do you think? Sound Off below

In a city where piles of plastic bags on street corners are not uncommon — even being accosted by them while frolicking in the sea here is not unusual — and smoking goes hand in hand with a beer or Cosmopolitan martini, I was pleasantly surprised by the moves.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Yok Chow said earlier this year that tobacco “remains the major attributable factor to the top five leading causes of death in Hong Kong” and claims some 6,900 lives here yearly.

A stroll on Monday through one of the city’s popular nighttime and commercial neighborhoods not only revealed the usual plastic bag mess, but also smokers puffing away in bars.

At some bars, management set up ashtrays the size of kitchen garbage cans on the sidewalks for their customers to smoke one step outside the venue.

When I spoke with staff at three different places, one said she was unsure about the requirements of the new law, another said smoking just outside the venue was fine (as long as it didn’t bother anyone else) and a third told me I could actually smoke inside the bar by open windows.

I spoke with the head of the Tobacco Control Office, which has 85 officers on the team who perform unannounced inspections and look into complaints. He told me that venues were not fined for violations — but violators could be hit with fines of up to $5,000 HK dollars ($645).

“The venue managers themselves do not have any accountability or punishment that will be imposed on them, even if they do not enforce the law. In a way, it’s a bit different from overseas legislation,” Lam said. “What we are working on is a kind of a collaboration — on one hand we try to engage the venue managers to support us, on the other hand we want to emphasize the role of education and publicity.”

The efforts are promising, but I fear old habits die hard and wonder about Hong Kong’s commitment to improving the environment for its residents.

As for me, I will carry a cloth bag for groceries and the Tobacco Control hotline number in my mobile phone to do my part to help make this city eco-serious.

50% Tobacco Tax Increase

The Financial Secretary today announced that the excise duty on tobacco products will be immediately increased by 50% to HK$ 24 per pack above the current levels of just over HK$ 16 per pack.

Whilst we have sought a 100% tax increase, Clear the Air estimates that the new increased tax will hopefully:

– Reduce current adult smoking significantly

– Reduce current youth smoking by a significant amount and prevent our non smoking youth starting their addiction due to peer pressure

The Hong Kong Administration must now capitalize on this tax increase and move towards making Hong Kong the world’s leading non smoking territory.

Read the full Media Release here:




– 令成年烟民的數目明顯減少

– 令青少年烟民的數目明顯減少,從而防止青少年因受朋輩壓力去開始吸烟



Should The Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Recent Talkback articles posted in the SCMP related to Air Pollution and Tobacco smoke have strayed off course to also include PM2.5 and PM10 emissions from diesel vehicles in Hong Kong. See these artciles in our Tobacco blog under Smoking Ban.

Buses Create ‘Repulsive’ Bay

Updated on Jan 19, 2009 – SCMP

If anyone has any doubts that idling engines cause terrible pollution, then they need only go to Repulse Bay beach on any day of the week.

Lines of parked tourist coaches can be seen there for hours each day, each empty (save for the driver) and each spewing clouds of filth from their idling engines.

They should be obliged to turn their engines off while their tourists stroll to the beachside temple.

It is most unfortunate that so many of these tourists choose to break the law by smoking on that beach, but nothing is done about that either.

As one of Hong Kong’s prime tourist destinations, this level of pollution gives a poor impression of our lack of control of idling engines.

What is more, the seemingly permanent unsightly construction site between the road and the beach gives the whole area a shabby appearance and that mess has been there for years.

We really need to do more to present our best tourist spots in a much better way. Otherwise, what will the groups of mainland visitors say about us?

Mary Pang, Kwai Chung

Lung Cancer Is The No1 Killer Disease On The Mainland

Lung cancer is the No1 killer disease on the mainland. In 2005 about 500,000 people were found to have lung cancer and the number is growing by 26.9 per cent annually. Medical experts attribute the high rate of lung cancer primarily to air pollution and widespread smoking (two out of three Chinese men smoke). Unchecked, the number of lung cancer patients on the mainland is projected to hit 1 million by 2025.