Smoking Ban Drives the Bad Habit Underground

Smoking in secret is not news for many people, especially for patients with mental disorders. And attempts to ban smoking on psychiatric hospitals are simply driving the habit underground, a survey found.
The Mental Health Foundation found that only a minority of hospital sections in England have implemented the ban successfully.
The problem is that the new smoking ban rose the “secret smoking” and staves displeasure.
But the government’s mental health chief explained that he had visited many locals where a ban had been smoothly implemented.
Some 85% of 109 respondents to the survey said that the ban, which came into effect in July 2008, had not been implemented effectively.
Anti-smoking researchers observed that many patients had taken to smoking in secret, with staff feeling the need to turn a blind eye, particularly when patients were very sick.
Another problem featured by researchers was that many locals did not have safe outdoor space where patients could smoke.
Even where such a space is, respondents reported that the need to accompany patients outside to smoke was a drain on staff time and resources.
Many respondents also added that they were unpleasant with their enforcement role, especially where patients had no opportunity to smoke outside.
Some staves reported that they feel more like police than nurses, and others said that patients had respond aggressively when requested to stop smoking.
Many staves also increased the interest about the possible fire risks showed by secret smoking and the disposal of cigarette butts.
Researchers added: “Where access to an outside space is limited or unavailable, staff seems to be in the difficult position of either risking breaking the law by turning a blind eye, or denying a patient the right to smoke completely.”
The report found that widespread staff and patient meeting had been the key to success in those units who had implemented a ban effectively.
Also an important help for patients which smoke can be nicotine replacement therapy.
Vicki Nash, of the mental health charity Mind, said: “Forcing people to stop smoking suddenly on access to hospital when they are already likely to be distressed is inappropriate and could exaggerate anxiety”.
In general people with mental health problems are twice more likely to smoke than healthy people, so it’s urgent that hospital locals are furnished to deal with this and can either help patients to quit or resource the option to smoke outside.

Regulation was overdue for tobacco products

The effort to give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco has been about as difficult as a typical person’s battle to quit smoking.

But it was a major breakthrough when President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in a recent ceremony. The nation stands a chance now to see the scourge of tobacco curbed in one of the more meaningful ways to date. And it has been a battle that has lasted decades.
No sooner had Obama signed the bill than attention swelled over the fact that the president has acknowledged his own struggle in quitting smoking. The attention to the president’s habits probably has been overplayed. The law is not about Obama’s nicotine addiction. It’s about saving lives, especially through making sure efforts to attract young people to cigarettes are stopped.
But to the extent Obama’s smoking is subject to public speculation, it would be one of his best examples of leadership if one day he could announce his addiction has been licked. He could be a role model on such a personal problem. Millions of Americans can relate to that struggle.
The new law should prove to be a landmark step. Scientists began to recognize tobacco’s dangers in the 1950s. The surgeon general declared tobacco unhealthy in the 1960s. In 1971, the federal government banned tobacco ads from television and radio. The FDA tried on its own to regulate tobacco, but it was stymied by the Supreme Court. The tobacco industry — ever wily — was able to argue successfully that the FDA’s purpose was to oversee products meant to heal people and that tobacco certainly didn’t qualify for regulation on that count. The only avenue was through congressional action, which for decades proved difficult because of the lobbying efforts and the political realities of members from tobacco states. But earlier this month, Congress enacted significant regulation.
Under the new law, the FDA cannot ban tobacco products. Neither can it order nicotine out of those products. But it will do the following:
• Give the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco for the first time with a new office to cover the content, sale and marketing of the products.
• Require bigger warning labels, which will cover 50 percent of the front and back of the packages.
• Ban descriptions such as “light” and “low tar.” Tobacco is a lethal product in any form.
• Ban advertising tobacco within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.
• Halt tobacco sponsorships of sports and entertainment events.
• Bar flavoring in tobacco products that could appeal to children.
• Require a detailed listing of ingredients in the products, with the FDA authorized to require changes in the products.
The aggregate effect of those steps should help. Currently tobacco use is said to kill roughly 440,000 people each year through cancer, heart disease or other ailments. Since almost 20 percent of Americans are smokers, substantial reductions in smoking could have a significant impact on the nation’s health.
It would be nice to celebrate this breakthrough as the death knell for all the evil deeds of the tobacco companies. The manufacturers have been elusive, deceptive and uncaring about the effects of their products on unsuspecting customers. Sadly, the companies long ago began to see their viability in foreign markets. But at least it can be said that the United States has begun to see enough of this health hazard. Tobacco won’t be eliminated, but it will be heavily regulated. The tougher regulation was a long time coming. It’s a welcome sight.

FDA to regulate tobacco products

Nearly 3,500 young people will pick up their first cigarette today and smoke it. Just short of a third of them will develop a filthy lifetime habit likely to shorten their lives, condemning some of them to join the 400,000 annual smoking fatalities.
There is good reason today to hope that both those numbers soon will decline. Historic legislation it took Congress at least two decades to approve is designed to reduce tobacco use and protect especially the youths of this land, but adults as well, from being lured into thinking it’s cool to light up and deceived into believing that smoking is safe.
For 20 years the powerful tobacco lobby prevented the adoption of the kind of common sense measures found in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama — who admittedly continues to battle the nicotine addiction he developed as a teenager.
The difference this year? The country’s largest tobacco company, Philip Morris USA, after years of opposition, switched to support tough but fair regulation. The company’s competitors object that the new regulations will protect its share of the market. Be that as it may, Philip Morris’ support was vital in this health care reform.
Do not for a minute be fooled by what the opposition is saying about the Food and Drug Administration regulating what goes into tobacco. Despite alarmist claims that the FDA will ban tobacco use the law specifically prohibits that from happening. Despite misleading claims that the FDA will ban nicotine it is forbidden by law from doing that. And it can’t ban other tobacco products, either, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or cigars although premarket-market approval will be required. Many health organizations argue the FDA regulations should include all three.
What the FDA can do is bar cigarettes from being flavored like candy to mask the taste until young people are hooked. It can, and will, require larger, more effective warning labels. And it can ban the use of deceptive false claims that so-called “light,” “mild” or “low tar” brand cigarettes are less risky to their health.
Not long ago the tobacco company executives blatantly lied under oath to Congress that they did not add nicotine to tobacco products. The new law will require the companies to provide the FDA detailed lists of what they put into tobacco products. The FDA can require the reduction or elimination of harmful ingredients.
Where the regulations might be most vulnerable to legal challenge, they ban outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds, limit cigarette ads to black-and-white text, confine vending machines to adult-only establishments and halt remaining sponsorships of sports and entertainment events. These steps could be challenged on First Amendment free-speech grounds.
However, the government clearly has the responsibility to protect public health, including the outlawing of false messages that deceive the under aged and adults to risk their lives while running up more than $100 billion annually in health care costs.
It took way too long for Congress to stand up and be counted on this public health issue — 45 years since the U.S. surgeon general in 1964 first warned about the link between smoking and cancer. But let’s be thankful that it’s been done, and hold the FDA accountable for achieving all its new enforcement responsibilities.
And who is going to pay for this? The FDA will collect fees from tobacco producers which, of course, undoubtedly will be passed on to smokers — yet another deterrent to smoking.
The next goal for anti-smoking health organizations? Bans on smoking in public places in every state.
© Copyright: Thenewsenterprise

The smoke clears

The United States isn’t going to quit smoking cold turkey. But it is now going to make a credible effort to cut down, in a way that will save lives, save money and hold some real promise for seriously reducing the number of young people who will take up the deadly habit in future years.
The bill signed with great ceremony the other day by President Obama not only does not ban cigarettes or other tobacco products, it specifically tells the Food and Drug Administration that it may not ban them. But it does give the federal agency some valuable tools to reduce the harm nicotine addiction does to individuals and to society.
The new law is, to a large degree, a deal with the devils. It makes no attempt to put Altria, R. J. Reynolds or Lorillard out of business. It even, it has reasonably been argued, cements the tobacco giants’ position against any future upstarts that now will not be able to use aggressive advertising or marketing that targets children to crack the market.
The huge number of Americans who are already addicted to the coffin nails—one Barack Obama marginally among them—is a much more compelling reason than even the campaign contributions of tobacco companies why no reasonable government would seek to ban tobacco.
Nobody needs the failure of another Prohibition. Any such attempt would create a huge black market for nicotine delivery systems that would be both more profitable and more dangerous than anything now residing on the shelves of the ever-fewer supermarkets that still sell the stuff.
But the FDA now can and will ban youth-targeting tricks such as candy-flavored cigarettes and marketing aimed at children. This is crucial, as most people who smoke picked up the habit before they were 18 years old –that is, when they were breaking the law to do so.
The FDA will also be able to determine, and make public, just what is in the weed and the smoke that rises therefrom. It will now be able to detect, publicize and ban the trickery of the tobacco companies that once manipulated the natural make-up of tobacco leaf into ever-more-addictive products.
It will even be able to manipulate the companies into reverse- engineering cigarettes and varieties of chewing tobacco that are less addictive, and thus easier to renounce when one has, say, made a promise to one’s spouse or decided to run for president.
Such products should allow the government to wean itself from the revenue of tobacco taxes—revenue it will be more able to live without when fewer smokers are sucking the life out of Medicare and Medicaid funds.
It will still be a long time before we can look around this country and find no smokers. And the limits the bill puts on tobacco advertising may yet face serious First Amendment challenges.
But the new law is a serious step toward admitting that we have a problem, that many of our friends and neighbors —children among them—are powerless to save themselves and that each small but deliberate step toward the freedom from addiction is well worth the effort.

© Copyright: Buffalonews

Aiming Wide in City War on Smoking

Before too long, you may be forced to stare at a photo of blackened lungs, oozing decay, every time you go to the bodega for a quart of milk. We’re trying to figure out where under the heading of quality of life to file this bit of news.
The photo is the latest idea from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, part of its nonstop campaign to acquaint the citizenry with the wickedness of smoking. Show smokers right there at the checkout counter how much gunk coats their lungs and maybe they will reconsider plunking down that Hamilton for a pack of cigarettes. That’s the theory.
You might have thought that by now, even the most benighted smoker must know that the habit is destructive, no matter how satisfying in the short term. We’ve only had decades of government warnings on cigarette packs, not to mention recent television commercials showing two New Yorkers whose addiction led to the removal of a larynx and the amputation of fingers.
Well before the government first ordered those warnings, in 1964, cigarettes were routinely referred to as cancer sticks and coffin nails. Those were not intended as phrases of affection. Most people understood that, even those of us who smoked back then in a misguided belief that an unfiltered Gitane dangling from the lips in imitation of Jean-Paul Belmondo in “Breathless” was a way to counteract hard-wired nerdiness.
But the health department, led by its new commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, believes that more in-your-face tactics are required. Dr. Farley wants to require shops that sell cigarettes to post health warning signs prominently. After all, he said, the tobacco industry spends millions for advertisements at the “point of sale,” something perhaps better known to you as a cash register.
“They clearly work, or the industry wouldn’t do it,” he said. “It’s an addictive drug that’s killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. It seems to me that just providing a warning sign there is actually a reasonable and modest approach to try to counteract that.”
He added, “What we know is that counteradvertising in general works.”
The thing is, though, that despite his department’s estimate that a million New Yorkers continue to smoke, most of us don’t. Yet under the proposed new regulations, anyone who goes to the corner store will have to look at blackened lungs and possibly more. An assistant health commissioner, Sarah B. Perl, was quoted in The Daily News as saying that people are going to see what cancer of the mouth and the throat look like.
Really now, is it necessary to be subjected to such photos when all you want is a carton of orange juice?
It’s for the collective good, Dr. Farley replied. “The issue is that when people go to the store, they get advertisements encouraging them to smoke, encouraging them to pick up what is an addictive drug and is killing people,” he said. “So we need to balance that with some information that protects people.”
The Board of Health must approve any change. It plans a public hearing on July 30. Count on testimony being emotional — and predictable.
Antitobacco forces will insist, not without notes of piety, that the city must do whatever it takes to wipe out smoking. Libertarians will demand with equal fervor that the calorie-posting, trans-fat-banning mayor and his crew stop meddling in people’s lives. The tobacco industry will protest. Store owners will weep that City Hall is taking bread out of their children’s mouths.
You may count as well on the board’s endorsing the proposal. Its chairman happens to be Dr. Farley. Approval, he said, “is likely.”
IN that case, how about taking this approach even further? Why stop with cigarettes?
Why not require pictures of morbidly obese people at candy counters, to show what too many Snickers bars can do? Or photos of clogged arteries at fast-food restaurants, to discourage orders of double cheeseburgers? To promote safe sex, graphic examples of Kaposi’s sarcoma could be placed by condom racks. Displays of horribly diseased livers in liquor stores ought to deter people from drinking to excess.
“I’m not prepared to think about things like that now,” Dr. Farley said. First things first. “Tobacco,” he said, “is far and away the No. 1 underlying killer in America.”
Then we’d best conquer it ASAP. Maybe it’s just us, but we can’t wait to move on to those fatty livers and blocked arteries.
© Copyright: Nytimes

FDA oversight means public health victory on tobacco

As recently as a few years ago, some people still were saying it never could happen. But physicians and other public health champions knew better. And they knew that the lives of many of their most vulnerable patients were just too important to back down from the fight.
That battle was for the common-sense notion that the Food and Drug Administration — created explicitly to protect consumers from dangerous products — should have oversight over tobacco. Now, Congress and President Obama have acted after years of disappointment on Capitol Hill and in the courtroom. For the first time, the FDA will be able to regulate the manufacture, marketing, and sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products in a way that will save lives.
This historic victory, capped by the president’s June 22 signature on the tobacco regulation bill, was a long time coming.
Despite the progress that doctors and public health advocates have made in recent years, tobacco use is still the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the U.S.
Physicians struggle not only to keep patients from taking up smoking and getting them to quit if they have, but also to treat the cancer, emphysema, heart disease and other potentially life-threatening conditions caused by tobacco use. Sometimes it takes the expert hand and caring heart of a doctor who wants his or her patient to live a long, healthy and happy life. Sometimes even that is not enough.
In spite of physicians’ best efforts, tobacco use still kills more than 400,000 Americans, sickens many more and costs the health system roughly $96 billion every year. That makes it a problem for all of us, not just those who choose to smoke.
That’s why the federal government needed to step up and play a larger role in the battle. FDA regulation will not mean a ban on tobacco. But it will impose requirements on the industry that have the potential to convince many people that lighting up that cigarette or opening that tin of dip does not make for a healthy future.
The agency will have the authority to reduce the highly addictive nicotine content of tobacco products and require manufacturers to disclose exactly what substances go into them. It also will be able to stop the industry from using advertising with misleading claims such as “light,” “low-tar” or “mild.”
Most important, the government will be better able to help protect our nation’s children from falling victim to Big Tobacco. New bans on tobacco ads near schools and sponsorship of sporting events will go a long way toward intercepting the roughly 1,000 kids each day who light up for the first time and become regular smokers.
President Obama acknowledged the AMA’s longstanding commitment to this effort to safeguard children’s health in his June 15 address to delegates at the Annual Meeting. Hundreds of other organizations with a like-minded commitment to the most vulnerable patients also lent their voices in support of the legislation and helped defeat concerted attempts to derail it once more.
Doctors need to stay vigilant in the bigger battle against tobacco, but it appears that the tide is turning when it comes to the debate over whether nicotine is a harmful drug. When this legislation first emerged a decade ago, many dismissed it as a fantasy. But thanks to the persistence of the AMA and others committed to public health, it is now a reality.
© Copyright: Ama-assn

Let’s Emulate America on Tobacco

Recently the United States Senate in an almost unanimous vote passed a legislation that gives the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products as well as monitor its production, marketing and distribution.
In response to this historic feat, the President of the United States of America, barrack Obama said, “it will make history by giving the scientists and medial experts at the FDA the power to take sensible steps that will reduce tobacco’s harmful effects and prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children.” The bill which passed on a vote of 79-17 has the full backing of the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association which have been on the fight for such a legislation for the past 15 years. Eventually, all the efforts at reducing the nicotine level in tobacco products have paid off with the passage of this bill.
According to Gregg Haifley, a Senior Associate of Federal Relations at the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, “this is an historic piece of public health legislation that will rein in a rogue industry that has basically operated unfettered in its production and marketing of poisonous deadly products.” The bill also requires manufacturers of tobacco products to register with the FDA and provide the FDA with a comprehensive, detailed list of all their products.
What is strikingly startling is the fact that more than 400,000 Americans die from tobacco-related diseases annually. Although we may not have accurate statistics on how many people die from it in Nigeria, I know, the situation in Nigeria is no less disturbing than the situation in America hence the need and urgency to do without delay, what the American congress has done.
Nigeria does not have the capacity in terms of health facilities to tackle adequately the menace posed by tobacco consumption and must save her ignorant smoker-citizens the pain of untimely death and cancer this product causes. The whole word is moving on the fast lane of checking and curbing avoidable deaths and we must not be left behind. There must be a vigorous campaign to sensitize the public on the dangers of smoking and consumption of other tobacco products and it is high time the government intervened in regulating the nicotine level of tobacco products manufactured in Nigeria or imported into Nigeria.
Now that the American Congress has taken this bold stop, tobacco manufacturers will begin to shift their market targets to the Third World countries an the only way to check the infiltration of our country with unwholesome tobacco products rejected in America is to adopt a similar measure.
© Copyright: Thisdayonline

Terrorism and Tobacco. How Cigarette Finances Jihad

For centuries, blue-turbaned nomadic Tuareg tribesmen have led caravans of camels across the expanses of the Sahara. Laden with millet and cloth from Africa’s West Coast, the caravans traveled unmarked paths to trade for salt and dates in Timbuktu, across the sand plains of Niger, and into the mountain oasis of the Algerian south.
Smugglers take the same routes today — driving SUVs along paved roads or with guidance from the Tuareg and satellite phones — to move weapons, drugs, and, increasingly, humans — through the Sahara for transport across the Mediterranean Sea. The paths are no longer known as the Salt Roads of the Tuareg, but as the “Marlboro Connection,” named after the most lucrative contraband along this 2,000-mile corridor.
Among those who control this underground trade is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an Algeria-based terrorist organization widely believed to have been backed by Osama Bin Laden. Descended from the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (known by its French acronym, GSPC) the group has hundreds of members and is blamed for a bloody campaign of bombings, murders, and kidnappings across North Africa and Europe. The lead smuggler, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, 37, is blamed for the 2003 kidnappings of 32 European tourists and the 2006 murder of 13 Algerian customs officials. “They are a significant threat,” says Lorenzo Vidino, author of Al Qaeda in Europe. “Of all Islamic terrorist groups, they have the most extensive and sophisticated network in Europe… And among their activities, smuggling is particularly important.”
Military officials and scholars say cigarette smuggling, in fact, has provided the bulk of financing for AQIM. The money comes not directly from smuggling, but from charging protection fees to others moving the untaxed cigarettes through the Sahara. The most smuggled brand is Marlboro, followed by Gauloises and American Legend, as well as counterfeited Rym, a popular Algerian brand.
Al-Qaeda’s North Africa affiliate isn’t alone. After crackdowns on fundraising following the 9/11 attacks, terrorist groups worldwide have increasingly turned to criminal rackets, officials say. And smuggling cigarettes — either untaxed or counterfeit — has proved a particularly lucrative, low-risk way to fund operations.
Hezbollah, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda are involved in smuggling cigarettes; so are the Real Irish Republican Army (Real IRA) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Terrorist financing through cigarette smuggling is “huge,” says Louise Shelley, a transnational crime expert at George Mason University and an adviser to the World Economic Forum on illicit trade. “Worldwide — it’s no exaggeration… No one thinks cigarette smuggling is too serious, so law enforcement doesn’t spend resources to go after it.”
Cigarettes are easy to smuggle, easy to buy, and they have a pretty good return on the investment,” adds David Cid, a former FBI counterterrorism agent and deputy director of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City. “Drug dogs don’t alert on your car if it’s full of Camels.” And, he notes, “The other advantage is you don’t go to jail for 50 years.”
Traditional terrorist networks aren’t the only armed groups making money from the underground cigarette trade. Insurgents and paramilitary forces are also on the take. Many of the world’s longest-running civil wars are fueled by contraband, according to a 2002 study by Stanford University’s James Fearon, and tobacco is only one of the favored commodities. Cocaine smuggling has largely propelled the FARC’s 40-year insurgency in Colombia. Diamonds have funded civil wars in Sierra Leone and Angola. And opium has fueled drawn-out conflicts in Burma and Afghanistan.
The increasing use of smuggled tobacco by terrorist and insurgent groups parallels the rapid growth of a multibillion-dollar trade in cigarette smuggling around the world. Huge tobacco black markets have arisen from New York State to Paraguay to Eastern Europe, as smugglers move cheap and counterfeit cigarettes to sell in lucrative high-tax regions. The illicit trade is fueling addiction, say health experts, by making inexpensive cigarettes widely available, while robbing governments of sorely needed tax revenue. At the same time, officials warn, the booming black markets are fueling not only some terrorist groups but dozens of organized crime gangs, who find the big profits and low risk hard to resist.

In addition to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, at least a half-dozen terrorist groups and insurgencies have profited from the black market in tobacco. Among the others:
Both the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the militant splinter group Real IRA have used cigarette smuggling to finance their operations. While both groups seek the unification of the island of Ireland, the Provisional IRA announced in 2005 that it would henceforward use only peaceful means. The Real IRA continues to employ terrorist tactics including robbery, bombings, and assassinations, most recently shooting dead two British soldiers in Northern Ireland in March.
“Cigarette smuggling has definitely been a major source of funding for the Provisional IRA — not only the Real IRA — and other terrorist groups in Northern Ireland,” said Rogelio Alonso Pascual, an IRA expert teaching at Madrid’s Universidad Rey Juan Carlos.
The Real IRA has flooded Ireland with contraband cigarettes and imported counterfeit versions of popular brands. Authorities say the group is responsible for nearly all the smuggled tobacco seized in Northern Ireland, and they say cigarette smuggling has emerged as a top funding source for the organization. Combined, the IRA groups reaped an estimated $100 million in proceeds from cigarette smuggling over a five-year period, according to a 2004 report by William Billingslea, an analyst for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
In March, a Miami man was indicted in connection to a cigarette smuggling ring with ties to the Real IRA. The arrest comes after a seven-year investigation stretching from the Canary Islands to Panama, through the port of Miami and on to Ireland and the UK. U.S. and European officials declined to comment, saying the case is “complex” and ongoing.
The Taliban
In the restive tribal belt of Pakistan — where Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding — some of the most hunted Taliban militias collect money from cigarette smugglers in exchange for allowing Marlboro knock-offs and cheap local brands to flow into Afghanistan and China. Cigarettes have become an increasingly important source of financing for the groups, second only to the heroin trade, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.
As NATO forces battled Taliban in Afghanistan, the insurgents increasingly sought sanctuary along the ungoverned border regions of Pakistan where both the Taliban and the vast majority of Pakistanis are Sunni Muslim and ethnic Pashtuns. The Khyber Agency, a border province boasting the most-traveled trade route between the two countries, is also the hotbed of cigarette counterfeiting in Pakistan.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) long controlled the smuggling routes between Turkey and northern Iraq. Blamed for thousands of deaths since its inception in 1978, the leftist group comprised of Turkish Kurds has sought to establish a Marxist state in southeastern Turkey. The PKK has carried out bombings of Turkish governmental security forces and popular Turkish tourist sites.
The PKK funds itself through donations from sympathizers, trafficking in narcotics and arms smuggling, and by charging a fee for every container of cigarettes allowed to pass through its territory. Whereas the group controlled the flow of contraband cigarettes into Iraq during the 1990s, they now control the flood of counterfeit cigarettes streaming out of Iraq, according to Sharon Meltzer, an expert on cigarette smuggling and transnational crime at American University. “It’s still going on; it’s just changed direction,” she said. “Now counterfeit factories are operating openly in Iraq.”
Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militia and political organization, is also engaged in tobacco trafficking. The radical Shiite group receives a significant percent of its financial support from Iran, but also relies on proceeds from smuggling cigarettes and other goods.
In three connected U.S. cases since 2000, defendants tied to Hezbollah have pleaded guilty to smuggling low-tax cigarettes from North Carolina and untaxed cigarettes from New York Indian reservations to the high-tax state of Michigan. Nearly 50 defendants have faced federal charges ranging from cigarette smuggling and money laundering to material support for terrorists. Investigators say the operations made millions of dollars, some of it traced back to Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon. The network’s kingpin — Mohamad Hammoud — is serving time at a medium-security federal prison in Indiana. His projected release date: September 2135.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is investigating a number of cigarette smuggling cases that appear linked to terrorism, according to Associate Chief Counsel Jeffrey Cohen. “It’s not because terrorists like cigarettes particularly, but because it’s an easy way to finance things,” Cohen says. In most U.S. cases, groups send money through hawala, a parallel banking remittance system that relies on family, ethnic, and regional ties. Because there are few records, he adds, “it’s difficult to know how much of this is going to terrorists and how much is going to food and education.”
The use of hawala makes it exceedingly difficult to track money in such cases, agrees Phil Awe, acting chief of ATF’s alcohol and tobacco enforcement branch. “The information is anecdotal,” says Awe, who investigated the U.S. Hezbollah cases. “There are a lot of small villages [in the Middle East] where Hamas, Hezbollah, and others are ruling. If you’re sending money back to those small villages where extremist groups operate, there’s a good chance some of that money is ending up with them.”
FARC has evolved from the world’s largest, strongest, Marxist-based insurgency into what is widely seen today as a criminal outfit that is the world’s largest supplier of cocaine. The group began by charging taxes on coca-growers in FARC-controlled regions but has since developed into a self-sustaining cocaine trafficking organization.
To launder its money, FARC and other Colombian narcotraffickers use what is known as the black market peso exchange in which they smuggle drugs to the U.S. and sell the dollars to informal bankers called “peso brokers.” The peso broker in turn sells these dollars to Colombian exporters who buy U.S. goods with the laundered funds. Those export goods are then smuggled back into Colombia.
In Colombia, well established drug routes were easily converted into cigarette-smuggling routes,” Interpol’s Ralf Mutschke said in written testimony to the House Committee on the Judiciary in 2000. DEA’s Alvin James said U.S.-manufactured cigarettes, “especially Marlboros, Kents, and Lucky Strikes, made up a large portion of the trade goods that were smuggled into Colombia and financed by this process.”
Anyone trafficking drugs from Colombia to the United States is at least tangentially involved in smuggling cigarettes from the United States to Colombia, authorities say. Traditional drug cartels, left-wing guerrilla groups, and the equally brutal right-wing paramilitary groups jostle for market share. The players and brands have changed over the years, but investigators say the market remains the same.
The primary transit points for the cigarette black market run through Aruba and Panama. Panama customs authorities confirmed in April a seizure of cigarettes belonging to FARC, but could not provide details pending an ongoing investigation.
Seven thousand miles from the coca-rich plains of Colombia, in the dense jungles of eastern Congo, rebels allegedly profit from a millionaire tobacco tycoon who recently pleaded guilty to cigarette smuggling.
A U.N. Security Council investigative body called the Group of Experts reported in December that Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, a tobacco tycoon who pleaded guilty to cigarette tax evasion charges in South Africa, has been funneling money to a Congolese rebel group that has committed human rights violations including recruitment of child soldiers, mass rape, and murders.
More than five million people have died in the Congo since 1998, making it among the most lethal conflicts since World War II. The vast majority of fighting now occurs in the east between three opposing forces: the Congolese military, a Hutu-backed rebel group, and a Tutsi-backed rebel group called The Congres National Pour la Defense du Peuple (CNDP). Led by Laurent Nkunda, the CNDP has perpetuated serious human rights abuses that include mass murder, torture, rape, forced recruitment of children, and slavery, according to the U.N.’s Group of Experts.
Rujugiro owns Mastermind Tobacco Company, which produces Yes cigarettes, and Congo Tobacco Company, which produces Supermatch cigarettes, according to company filings. Rujugiro has cigarette factories across central and eastern Africa, as well as tobacco fields in many sub-Saharan countries. He also has factories and transport companies in Dubai, and has stakes in banking, oil, real estate, and construction companies across Africa. Rujugiro is also an adviser to Rwandan president Paul Kagame, according to the U.N. findings.
The Group of Experts has uncovered a series of e-mails and individuals who claim that Rujugiro has been supporting the CNDP through cash payments and supplies, and that he pays the CNDP to allow the traffic of his untaxed cigarettes. Rujugiro has denied the allegations of smuggling and CNDP ties in a post on his website and in a letter to a Rwandan newspaper.
Port authorities seized 97 million contraband Supermatch cigarettes in Ghana earlier this year, investigators say. The cigarettes were manufactured in the United Arab Emirates, stamped with fake “Sale in Ivory Coast” stamps, and destined for Mali, where they are not licensed for sale. Supermatch, meanwhile, has become the most smuggled brand into Uganda.
Rujugiro’s South Africa operation was shuttered in 2006, when the South African Revenue Service froze the company’s assets and filed fraud charges against him and his son. Rujugiro left the country and was arrested at Heathrow airport in London last fall. He settled the case this month before being extradited, agreeing to pay a $7 million fine and to comply with tax laws in future.

Stanching the Flow

At the core of the problem, say scholars, are the high profits of tobacco smuggling, which rival those of narcotics, and the relative cheapness of conducting a terrorist operation. In many cigarette smuggling cases, millions of dollars are at stake. A shipping container containing 10 million cigarettes costs as little as $100,000 to produce in China, but can bring as much as $2 million in the United States. Cigarette smuggling bolstered the entire economy of Montenegro during the 1990s.
Contrast that with the small amounts it takes to conduct a terrorist attack. “Part of the problem is that it takes so little to finance an operation,” says Gary LaFree, director of the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. British authorities, for example, estimated the 2005 London subway bombing that killed 52 people succeeded on a budget of less than $15,000. Al-Qaeda’s entire 9/11 operation cost between $400,000 and $500,000, according to the final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
To end the flow of criminal money to terrorist groups and insurgencies, experts say, will mean cutting off the flow of contraband — whether narcotics or tobacco. Terrorism and criminal finance investigator Larry Johnson, with BERG Associates, notes that it’s much easier to crack down on the flow of legal products like tobacco. “You need to ensure that the products are being sold through legitimate channels through legitimate distributors — that they’re not committing willful blindness,” he says. “The contraband is fairly easy to deal with because it’s in the power of the distributors and producers to control the process. This is actually one of those few problems that is fixable.”
© Copyright: Thecuttingedgenews

Turkey will successfully implement smoking ban, experts believe

July 19 of this year will be listed as one of the turning points in Turkey’s history since it will mark the beginning of “100 percent smoke-free air” in the country.

Despite some question marks raised by the public about the implementation of the ban as of July 19, the smoking ban, which went partially into effect on May 19, 2008 is due to be expanded to include restaurants, coffeehouses, cafeterias and bars, and as the day draws nearer, experts say the public will successfully adjust to the ban in a short time if everyone plays their part.
“Turkey will be the best example for the world with its two-year journey to enact and implement the law,” said Sylviane Ratte, a tobacco control expert at the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. She explained France’s 17-year journey to implement the law during a press conference held on Thursday by the National Cigarette and Health Committee (SSUK) in İstanbul. Stating that the first legislation was passed in 1991 in France to ban smoking in closed areas, she said Turkey has moved more quickly. “We lost large amounts of money, and the health of many people suffered in France up until the enforcement of the law; we are looking forward to its implementation in Turkey,” she said. Speaking at the same conference organized to inform the Turkish public of countries that have succeeded in having a smoke-free environment, Stephen Hamill, online communications and marketing manager of the World Lung Foundation, said he has traveled to Turkey five times since March 2008 and has seen many positive trends necessary for the smoking ban to succeed. “First of all there is a great political will to impose the ban. There is also a high level of public support from smokers and non-smokers, and there is the necessary mechanism in place for enforcing the law,” said Hamill.
‘There will certainly be opposition, yet majority favors the ban’
Sharing the French experience of the smoking ban, Ratte said France encountered many obstacles, mainly from the tobacco industry. “The tobacco industry tried to stop the process by arguing that this was legislation against the right to smoke, turning the ban into a human rights issue. This is a habit that kills and has nothing to do with human rights,” Ratte said. Noting that another argument of anti-ban groups was that all cafes, tea houses and restaurants will go out of business, she said they had conducted many surveys and found that the smoking ban has no effect on businesses. “We have seen that businesses negatively affected by the ban were those which did not prepare for it and tried to stop it,” she added. Hamill, who shared New York’s experiences of the ban, said there was similar opposition in New York, where a smoking ban in all enclosed areas has been in force since 2001. It had been a source of concern for some in New York whether the ban would negatively affect tourism, the key industry there; however, there had been an increase in the number of tourists New York receives, and some bars and restaurants even generated more money. “I believe that İstanbul and Turkey will be no different to other smoke-free cities — Paris, Dublin, Milan and New York. I congratulate you [Turkey] for taking such a big step,” he said.
Answering questions from the press about possible repercussions of the ban in Turkey, SSUK Chairwoman Elif Dağlı said it should not be forgotten that while Turkey generates $20 billion a year from tourism, it spends $20 billion a year on smoking. “If we can manage to decrease cigarette consumption by 30 percent, we will save $7 billion in tourism revenue. So it is groundless to argue that the smoking ban will negatively affect Turkey’s tourism potential. Furthermore, since the smoking ban has expanded in the world, the smoking rate is lower than Turkey in many countries from where tourists come,” she added.
‘The ban will be violated’ rumors
Both Ratte and Hamill said that one of the toughest obstacles they faced was countering the rumors that make people believe the law will be violated.
Hamill said that some claimed it was impossible to enforce the ban with Americans who love to smoke since “Marlboro man would never go out to smoke.” “However, all this opposition turned out to be wrong in the end, and New York is 100 percent smoke free just like Italy and Ireland. There is a health rationale behind this ban, and everybody understands this,” he said. Ratte also said that in France some people thought that to enforce the law a policeman would have to stand behind everyone since the French are law breakers and would not obey it. “Yet, everybody obeyed the law because it makes sense. The government stood firmly behind the law. There was only one café in France that opposed the ban and broke it, and then it was closed,” she added.
Dağlı also said although there are nearly 22 million smokers in Turkey, there are also around 50 million non-smokers, 10 million of whom suffer from lung and cardiovascular disease. Noting that there is sufficient public support to enforce the law, she said if everyone plays their part in adjusting to the law, Turkey will implement it successfully.

Parents' income, education, race, religion affect whether a teen lights up

Whether your child becomes a smoker may be determined in part by the neighbourhood he or she grows up in, according to a new report by a Montreal-based research centre.
“We wanted to develop a better understanding of how neighbourhoods affect health,” said Christiane Montpetit, who wrote the report for the Centre Léa-Roback, a research institute that focuses on the impact of social inequality on health.
Researchers at the centre analyzed about 20 different smoking related studies produced over the last decade and tried to draw conclusions about environmental factors that encourage or discourage tobacco use among youth.
Overall, adult Quebecers are smoking less, partly because of smoking bans in restaurants, bars and other public places. But 31 per cent of young people (age 20 to 24) in Quebec still smoke, and most start in their teens.
As with adult smoking, socio-economic status plays a role, in that a greater percentage of poor kids smoke. But an even stronger link seems to be the level of education of parents, the report notes. The more educated the parents, the less likely the kids smoke. Attitudes toward school (whether a young person values academic performance, feels a sense of belonging to their school, etc.) have an impact on smoking, and those attitudes are often influenced heavily by parents.
Peer group pressure is also a major factor in whether a teenager will choose to smoke. The weight of this influence varies according to gender (girls are more easily influenced), ethnic group, and intensity of parental guidance.
Several U.S. studies show that smoking rates are higher among white teenagers than African-American teens, or those of South American or Asian origin. While it is difficult to isolate ethnicity from other factors, some studies have shown that parents in certain ethnic groups send more vigorous anti-smoking messages than others.
Ethnic concentration in a neighbourhood can have a positive effect on youth smoking rates, the report says. “Adolescents who reside in a neighbourhood where a strong proportion of residents are African-American are less at risk to start smoking than those who live in neighbourhoods where there are few black people,” the report says.
Montpetit said these findings related to ethnicity don’t necessarily apply in Montreal, but studies here have shown smoking rates are higher among francophones than anglophones or allophones.
The researchers also found that in neighbourhoods where violence is common and a feeling of insecurity dominates, the likelihood that kids will start smoking at a very young age is high.
Neighbourhoods where young people have opportunities to get involved in community events tend to have lower youth smoking rates.
And young people who regularly attend religious services are far less likely to smoke than their peers who do not, the report says.
Montpetit acknowledged the report raises more questions than it answers, but it shows that strategies that target only the individual might not be an effective way to reduce smoking among teens.
“We all know that in certain neighbourhoods, often wealthier ones, it is considered shameful to be seen smoking. People actually hide when they smoke. …Whereas if you live in a place where everyone smokes, it becomes a social activity,” she said.