Combine tobacco tax hike with effort to get rid of low-cost cigarettes

Missouri hospital executives who lost a long-simmering lawsuit against tobacco companies last month shouldn’t fret over the potential loss of more than $455 million in civil damages.
A better method exists to collect that revenue, and if the hospitals are smart about it, they’ll make the tobacco companies their partners, not their enemies.
It is time for the state of Missouri to get serious about raising its lowest-in-the-nation tobacco tax. The path to victory will require a partnership that might make both sides uncomfortable.
As the legislative session winds down this week, there are two proposals unlikely to pass that should be combined into a ballot initiative in the near future to raise needed revenue for the state while cutting down on tobacco use and improving the health of Missourians.
Both results would be good for the hospitals stinging from their losses in City of St. Louis v. American Tobacco, which took 13 years to litigate before verdicts came down April 29 favoring the tobacco companies.
Tobacco taxes should have been raised long ago, but the Legislature won’t consider the idea, even though the state desperately needs revenue and even though Missouri’s 17-cents-per-pack tax is shamefully below the national average of $1.45 per pack.
Tobacco tax increases have failed on the statewide ballot twice in the past decade. They were close votes, but in one case, proponents sealed their fate by earmarking the funds — a process voters don’t trust. In the other case, proponents tried to place the increased tax in the state constitution, where it doesn’t belong.
For a tobacco tax hike to escape heavy opposition from tobacco companies and their supporters, it should be combined with a provision that would end Missouri’s status as the nation’s dumping ground for low-cost cigarettes.
In 1998, when most states in the nation entered into an agreement with the major tobacco companies to settle lawsuits over misleading marketing, the settlement left a loophole that allowed small tobacco companies that weren’t parties to the agreement to flood the market with lower-cost products.
Except for Missouri, every state that is part of that agreement has fixed that loophole. The result is that Missouri has the fifth-highest smoking rate in the nation, which results from its low tax and low prices.
This two-pronged approach to raising the tobacco tax while ridding the state of its lowest-cost cigarettes would accomplish three positive goals:

  • Tripling Missouri’s tax would raise an additional $190 million per year and still keep the tax below every border state. Going higher is tempting, but it would invite opposition.
  • Increasing the costs of cigarettes lowers smoking rates. Various studies have shown a direct correlation between raising the price of tobacco products and reducing their use. This would make a long-term dent in the more than $2 billion spent on health care in Missouri each year as a result of the devastating effects of smoking.
  • Finally, by helping Big Tobacco to solve its unfair market competition problem, the health care groups that have been yearning for a tobacco tax increase for more than a decade can keep the major tobacco companies on the sideline in a statewide initiative campaign.

Missouri’s health-conscious voters should be given a chance to do what the anti-tax Legislature won’t even consider: Raise tobacco taxes to a reasonable level, get rid of Missouri’s status as a cigarette dumping ground and improve the chances that our next generation can grow up healthy.

Statewide smoking ban possible in '11 session

Most people agree crafting a budget will be the biggest hurdle for lawmakers as they return to the Capitol this week, but they also will have several other issues, including immigration reform and a statewide smoking ban, that could heat up the 2011 session.
For the first time, some form of a statewide smoking ban actually may have a chance – thanks in part to a multimillion-dollar initiative that’s gaining support across the state.
State Rep. John Mayo, D-Clarksdale, has filed a version of a smoking ban bill for several years to no avail, but he said he’s seen the added boost for this year.
“I think if there’s any year we might be able to get something on the floor, this is the year,” Mayo said.
The Smokefree Air Mississippi initiative is being funded by a $2.9 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the first organized push for such a ban here.
House Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Steve Holland said he will consider bringing the bill up in committee. Holland, D-Plantersville, previously had blocked similar bills from making it to the House floor.
“If Steve allows it out of his committee, it has a really good chance of passing,” Mayo said.
The push likely will face some opposition, but the biggest struggle could be the Legislature’s efforts to draw new districts.
“It’s very difficult,” Gov. Haley Barbour said of the reapportionment process.
He said he supports efforts to make districts more compact “rather than strung out.”
“It won’t surprise me if the courts end up drawing the districts,” he said.
In discussing the reapportionment plans, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant often has said he doesn’t intend to settle with House plans, as has been done in the past.
“That is going to be a huge issue from day one, and I think it will set the tone for the rest of the session,” Mayo said.
Bryant has defended his resistance to rubber-stamping plans drafted by each chamber.
“We need to do away with this gentleman’s agreement,” he said. “It essentially amounts to trading votes, and it should have never been done.”
Bryant also plans to push for an immigration-enforcement law similar to Arizona’s, allowing police officers to check the status of people they think might be in the country illegally as a secondary offense.
“If someone is stopped for speeding or DUI, I think our law enforcement officers should determine the residency status,” Bryant said.
The efforts have been decried by immigrants’ rights groups, which have held protests at the Capitol and participated in hearings on the proposal in the fall.
Mayo said he thinks immigration enforcement is up to the federal government.
“I think what the state has to decide is what type of services do we provide and deny illegal immigrants,” Mayo said. “Rounding them up and holding them – I just don’t think it’s our responsibility.”
At least two bills that failed last session may be resurrected.
For years, animal rights advocates have pushed for stricter state laws against the torture and maiming of dogs and cats, but farming proponents have blocked efforts to strengthen the animal abuse laws.
According to media reports, outgoing Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation President David Waide told members in December that the animal welfare legislation would be the biggest hurdle the group faces in the coming year.
“I know there’s not a person in this room that doesn’t agree that we need to protect animals, but I also believe there’s not a person in this room that believes that animals should have rights,” Waide said during the group’s annual meeting in Jackson.
The animal welfare bills typically have been directed to the House Agriculture Committee, where they have died.
Mayo said he would like those bills to go to the Judiciary B Committee because they would have a better chance of passing. The Judiciary B Committee typically deals with issues of criminal punishments.
Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, is expected to again propose tougher school bus safety rules.
Dubbed “Nathan’s Law” after 5-year-old Nathan Key, who was killed in December 2009 when a driver went around a stopped school bus and hit Key, the bill passed the Senate last session, but died in a House committee.
House Banking and Financial Services Committee Chairman George Flaggs plans to introduce a bill in the first few days of the session to extend the life of Mississippi’s payday lending industry.
The payday lending law is scheduled to sunset July 1, 2012.
Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, has said he plans to hold hearings early in the session at the request of the industry and its critics.
House Speaker Billy McCoy said he would like to see a significant bond bill for road construction. “That’s so important,” said McCoy, a Democrat from Rienzi.
Mississippi received nearly $350 million in federal stimulus funding for highways and bridges, but leaders say additional funding is needed for repairs and maintenance.
According to TRIP, a nonprofit Washington-based transportation research group, Mississippi needs $12.5 billion in transportation funding through 2019 to make necessary road and bridge improvements to relieve traffic congestion.
At current funding levels, less than $7 billion will be available over that period.
The needed projects span the state, and Mississippi has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the nation.
By Elizabeth Crisp: elizabeth.crisp@clarionledger.com

A loophole in Oregon law contributes to an increase in the popularity of tobacco use

Oregon law prohibits smoking in most public places and workplaces as well as within 10 feet of their entrances, exits, open windows and air intake vents. That ban, along with public education about the dangers of tobacco use, appears to have been effective in reducing the number of people in the state who smoke to well below the national average.
Now, however, the state Public Health Division is worried about a new trend: Increasing numbers of Oregon teenagers and young adults are trying out water pipes with flavored tobaccos called shisha and socializing in hookah lounges where smoking is the main activity.
So far, the statewide hookah bar scene is concentrated heavily in the Portland area. There’s one in Springfield — R&J Hookah Lounge at 720 South A St. — and Shady and Lara Yasin, owners of Al Narah Hookah Lounge in southeast Portland, plan to open another with the same name at 1530 Willamette St. in Eugene. Ratatouille, a vegetarian restaurant, previously occupied the building before moving recently to Crescent Village in Eugene’s northeast corner.
Contacted by telephone Thursday, Shady Yasin said the retail side of the new business could open as soon as this week, but it may be the end of January before the lounge area begins operating. But some nearby neighbors of the proposed hookah lounge would rather it didn’t happen.
Its location within a block of two children’s dance academies concerns Riley Grannan, managing director of Eugene Ballet, which runs one of the schools.
“It’s only about 50 feet away from us,” Grannan said. “I don’t think it’s the healthiest thing, especially in an area most frequented by young people. It’s interesting because Eugene has worked so hard to eliminate smoking in work places — and going from a vegetarian restaurant to a hookah lounge is a bit of a change.”
Stephanie Young-Peterson, tobacco prevention coordinator for Lane County, says the proliferation of hookah bars and lounges happens because of a loophole in Oregon’s smoke-free workplace law. “These places are using the ‘smoke shop exemption’ in order to become certified to allow smoking on their premises,” Young-Peterson said. “The exemption says that if 75 percent of the gross revenue of the business comes from the sale of tobacco products and smoking instruments, smoking inside the building can be allowed.”
For example, at this point R&J Hookah Lounge can allow smoking only outside — and more than 10 feet away from entrances, exits, windows and air vents as required by law — because it hasn’t received certification from the state yet on the gross revenue provision, she said.
Other requirements imposed on smoke shops by state law include prohibiting entry to people younger than 18, posting signs at every entrance and exit stating that smoking occurs somewhere on the premises, not allowing lottery or other social games or betting, not selling alcoholic beverages and being a stand-alone business not attached to any other buildings.
That’s an issue with the planned Al Narah Hookah Lounge “because its wall bumps up to the wall of the next building, and the two share roof flashing, but officially they’re separate,” Young-Peterson said. “And even though their exhaust dumps right by the other building’s intake vent, the law says it has to be ‘active smoke’ entering the vent.”
That’s potentially a serious problem, because the adjacent building houses several health-related practices such as massage therapy, naturopathy, acupuncture and chiropractics, she said.
The original smoke shop exemption was intended to accommodate old-fashioned cigar and tobacco shops “where someone occasionally might want to try a sample” but not linger there specifically to smoke, Young-Peterson said. “But these new businesses understand the exemption and know how to get around it. They’re creating a bar or club atmosphere that targets 18- to 25-year-olds — and even younger kids because research shows they’re not really enforcing the age limits — and that’s what creates so much concern.”
From 2008 to 2009, cigarette use had dropped by about 1 percent among 11th-graders in Oregon, according to a clean air compliance study by the Oregon Tobacco Prevention and Education Program of the state Public Health Division. During the same period, hookah use jumped by 3 percent.
As part of the study, the Environmental Protection Agency sent people with monitoring equipment into 10 hookah lounges to take air samples; peak fine particle air pollution levels ranged from unhealthy to very unhealthy and, in one case, hazardous.
Besides the health consequences of frequenting establishments with so much smoke — hookahs use coals, often charcoal, to heat rather than burn tobacco directly — many younger users don’t understand the dangers of becoming addicted because the practice is so different from smoking cigarettes, Young-Peterson said.
The shisha used in hookahs comes in dozens of flavors, which mask the taste of the tobacco and makes it seem less like smoking, she said.
“But there is a high risk of becoming addicted and then turning to cigarettes, because they are more convenient and accessible. There’s a real misunderstanding, especially among young people, about the dangers of this activity.”
The come-on to the younger crowd is unmistakable, based on many lounges’ online presentations. Al Narah’s website opens to a golden orange page with a picture of a long-haired woman, seen from the back, arms raised above her head and hands pressed together. A series of messages flash past ending with, “We invite you to enter a place filled with exotic and seductive aroma.”
R&J Hookah Lounge takes a more direct approach. “We are looking to bring you the greatest experience from a hookah lounge and be your best place to go out and have fun. We will be having various nights of dancing and theme nights, along with having a place to come chill and smoke some shisha,” its website says. “We have Wi-Fi access for those of you that want to come relax and smoke hookah, but also focus on your studies. Tired of not being able to go out and dance or hang with your friends since most places won’t let you in because you’re not 21 and up? Well head over to our lounge and smoke some shisha!!!”
The fact that hookah lounges target young people is especially disturbing, Young-Peterson said. “From a public health standpoint, we’re not too keen on it; it’s not good.”
By Randi Bjornstad
The Register-Guard

The Jubilee House For A Museum; What Are We Smoking?

Voice Of Reason:Obama today
The Jubilee House For A Museum; What Are We Smoking?
Are we serious?
I’m not happy. And you shouldn’t be either.
What has me incensed is the fact that two former ministers are talking about wrong issues.
Oh lordy, our vision- impaired and ideas- deficit politicians never cease to surprise me with their diatribes and time- consuming insinuations.
It’s beyond astonishing to me that two former ministers devoted their time to stir-up a debate –which doesn’t give the country any dividend—instead of tackling some of our everyday issues . They’re yakking while the plastic bags have choked up our sewage system, schools are mis-educating our children and unemployment is stealing our youth’s desires and aspirations.
By now everyone knows the story of the Jubilee House brouhaha. Oh, how I wish our former politicians retire graciously and invest their skills and energies in writing good readable books—to pass on their ideas and visions to the next generation! But is not the case in Ghana. Controversies abound when it comes to our politicians.
Consider what Ghana would be like to have former politicians who are fully engaged in productive national debates, to improve the conditions of the poor. Or loan their skills and talents to the younger generation.
Well, I had just wiped away the last tears after reading about the surcharge the government just imposed on inbound international phone calls to Ghana .This is costing us an arm and leg, just to make calls to our loved ones we left behind—a surcharge which should go into providing an internet connectivity for every district capital and secondary schools. But, that will never happen! It used to be 10cents/min to call Ghana (to cell phone) from U.S .Thanks to the new surcharge; we now pay 21cents /min. I hope they’re happy now.
As if that was not enough. My eyes have just caught on an article on the net, captioned: “Turn Jubilee House into a museum—former ministers advocate”. Yak. I almost threw up.!
Traffic congestion, security and public discomfort are some of their assertions for advocating; turning a 70 million Palace into a museum .If you believe that I have a bridge for sale in my village. By the way ,the White House is in the middle of Washington D.C, and the last time I checked there were more cars in DC than Accra. Security! What security? Oh, Puh-le-ze!
Well, the statement has ignited quite a bit of debate on the internet and on the blogosphere.
This is a hard one but let me see if I can dissect it delicately and prudently. I believe these two gentlemen were former ministers in the NDC government.
They were probably part of the turn- a- seventy- million- dollar- Palace –into- animal husbandry crowd, two years ago. Unfortunately, would they rather see President Mills living in a century old – slave Castle than a modern well- constructed palace which was paid for by Ghanaians? I’m confused!
Question: Which one of these two buildings really deserves to be turned into a museum, with its historical factors? So these two gentlemen never thought that the Castle can be turned into money generating machinery by being an international destination for tourists? If these men are all we have to rule Ghana then we’re in for a long haul .No wonder, we’re not making any head way.
Why stop there?
There are so many buildings and infrastructure we can easily turn into museums, apartment buildings for accommodation and playgrounds for our kids who roam around aimlessly with no sense of direction. We can surely turn some of the government’s buildings into other things just for the sake of politics.
Let’s turn the Akosombo Dam into a national Aquarium for Dolphins .The Parliament House can be turned into a learning center to teach tolerance and brainstorming techniques— since our universities are not meeting our everyday needs anymore maybe we should turn them into centers to test all our politicians and policy makers to measure their empathy, competency ,patriotism and ability to have a vision for the nation.
As to the Motor Way, I’m thinking of turning it into a skating ring. The nation can surely use that to get rid of the obesity epidemic that will permeate our population in the near future. Let’s get rid of the toll booths because they don’t contribute anything to the national development.
Oh, I almost forgot the Nsawam Prison. Why don’t we open the door widely and let the prisoners out and use it as a museum of the hard core corrupt politicians?
As for the Presidential jet I was against it adamantly from day one. I didn’t see the need then, and I don’t see the need now—-‘It is ahead of its time’. Buying two Presidential jets when an entire generation’s future is at stake wasn’t a smart move .However, I’m figuring out what we’re going to do with it.
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Oh I got it!! Let’s loan it to ZOOMLION. The list is long, but I’m constrained by lack of space. So go ahead and add your own to the list.
By the way, I’m not writing as an NPP sympathizer and I don’t have any party affiliation. All I need is anything that will make Ghana prosper —this is for those who care to know.
Did these two former ministers really mean what they say about turning the newly-minted Palace into a museum? Or are there more explanations for this bizarre, and out – of- touch statement ? .I can only hope that the statement was not a cheap publicity stunt intended to polish a battered and an elusive political image ahead of the next campaign .
One of the things people (especially, those in power) should know is that when there is a slow news day, making an insinuating comment about a national Pride (like a Presidential Palace )for a cheap political point is guaranteed to get the media’s attention; which is not always favorable to the news maker. Such is the case with the two nice gentlemen. Yes, their hearts might be in a right place but their heads were somewhere else.
I am tempted to think all what these gentlemen were doing was to pollute the airwaves and choke the media outlets with their comments. Or did they just manipulate the media to gain maximum political exposure? I don’t know! But, I have more prosaic reasons to be disappointed by their statements.
However, that is not to say that they do not believe in what they say or their objective was not authentic, else it won’t get that coverage in the media. All I’m saying is that a statement like that doesn’t make either economic or political sense to an average Ghanaian, who wants to see the country moving forward and worries about his children’s school fees and food on the table.
Instead of turning the Palace into a museum, why don’t we move the Presidential seat from the Castle into the Jubilee House and turn the Castle into a museum for the tourists’ attraction? We can use the proceeds to finance our bright and needy students to be trained in new skills or study how to manage our emerging preventable diseases or take care of our elderly population.
What do you want: A former slave Castle or a newly –minted Palace? Unfortunately, politics has become an indoor non- contact sport with no rules and regulations.
I’m not a politician. I have no professional experience to speak to the current debate on the benefits of using the Jubilee House as our Presidential seat. What I do know is that using the newly-minted Presidential Palace will not only make us gain international respect in the diplomatic circle but, it will definitely increase the nation’s self-esteem.
It’s about putting the national interest above party politics. It’s about getting dividend out of the painful history of colonialism and slavery. It’s about making the right decisions. It’s about national pride.
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So Ghanaians are going to stand by and let few selfish individuals turn their seventy –million- dollar national pride into a museum—so as to keep their Presidents in a slave castle? By the way, the international communities are watching and calibrating our actions, inactions and reactions to this debate.
Right now Ghana needs leaders and policy makers, who have the vision to take us from the socio-economic doldrums. We surely need people with ideas (tons of them) to solve our everyday emerging problems, and create jobs for the able bodied citizens (particularly the youth).
We need leaders who think of the kids’ welfare and provide playgrounds and after school activity centers for our youth–instead of engaging in alcoholic consumption and other vices to numb their pains and frustrations. Our youth need real leaders to give them the reasons to dream.
We surely need people who can revitalize our archaic educational system and make our students more competitive in the international arena.
The nation is hungry for leaders and people whose statements will inspire progress and economic momentum. Look, we live in a country that doesn’t produce anything. We even import natural salt and toothpicks, but we worry about turning a Presidential Palace into a museum? What is the economic purpose?
Sadly we live in a country that doesn’t even own a viable research and development facility or our own ‘Silicon Valley’ yet we’re hooked on turning everything into museums. Any plans? I want to know!
The petroleum industry is taking off in two months but we don’t even have the basic petroleum technology to be thought in our school system. Our school curriculum should address the intricacies of petroleum management in order to prepare our students for this once –in- a- life-time, God-sent blessing.
I have a headache and heartache for shouting out loud. Where is the media when we need it most? Is there any soul in Ghana who is not devoid of humility, humanity and agility to stand up and be counted for decency, prudence and not to put politics above everything else? Come on people, raise up your hand now. We’ll no longer be at ease when things fall apart, and the burning bush consumes our lady (mother Ghana) in her prime.
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
NJ, USA

Tobacco additives issue set to take world stage

Lexington, KY – The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Switzerland headquarters is a far distance from the tobacco fields of tobacco plantKentucky, but the agency is casting a long shadow over those fields as it prepares to pass guidelines that could affect cigarette content and interrupt a centuries-old industry.
The organization is the “directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system … responsible for providing leadership on global health matters,” according to information found on its website. One of its many priorities has been to stop the spread of disease thought to be caused by the use of tobacco.
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is a treaty adopted by the World Health Assembly on May 21, 2003, and “entered into force” on February 27, 2005. It has been ratified by approximately 168 countries to date. Tarik Jasarevic, convention secretariat, said in an e-mail response that a “Conference of the Parties (COP) establishes a number of working groups to elaborate guidelines and recommendations for implementation of different Articles of the WHO FCTC.”
One of these working groups, Jasarevic said, works on Articles 9 and 10: “regulation of the contents of tobacco products” and “regulation of tobacco product disclosures.” The group has been asked to submit a first set of draft guidelines to the Conference of the Parties for consideration at its fourth session.
That session is scheduled for Nov. 15-20 in Uruguay. It is the language contained in Articles 9 and 10, among others, that have producers and state officials concerned. One of those guidelines would ban ingredients other than tobacco in cigarette production. If that happens, it could mean trouble for burley tobacco producers.
During the curing process, burley becomes harsh tasting, so manufacturers add ingredients and sometimes blend different types of tobacco to make cigarettes made with burley more pleasant to smokers.
The thinking behind the WHO guideline is that nothing should be done to make the product more alluring to potential smokers.
Most of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, along with Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, have voiced their opposition to proposed cigarette regulations, fearing a global ban on such additives would, in effect, eliminate the market for Kentucky-grown burley, according to Farmer.
“We’ve made great strides to diversify Kentucky agriculture in recent years,” Farmer said. “Yet still today, thousands of Kentucky farmers rely upon burley to provide the income that feeds their children and pays their bills. If the current proposal is adopted as is, many Kentuckians could lose their farms, and many more could lose their jobs.”
Since the federal tobacco quota buyout passed Congress in 2004, the number of tobacco farms in the state has fallen from more than 40,000 to around 8,000. Still, Kentucky is the largest burley-producing state in the nation. The Kentucky office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service reports that more than 161 million pounds were grown here in 2009.
Last year’s crop was valued at more than $274 million, but most of the burley produced in the state — 85 percent to be exact — is marked for export, so the WHO regulation becomes even more of a concern.
Roger Quarles is a tobacco farmer in Scott County and serves as the current president of the International Tobacco Growers Association, as well as president of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association. Having been involved in the international tobacco scene, Quarles said he feels there is no scientific basis for the WHO regulation and that it is an effort by the organization to end tobacco use of any kind.
“Their objective is to eradicate tobacco. Fifty-four percent of all the cigarettes sold in the world are considered to be ‘American blend,’ which means they contain burley tobacco, regardless of where it was grown,” he said. “Immediately, if this thing comes to pass, it would be illegal to sell American-blend cigarettes that have any ingredient other than tobacco. That is what we are fearful of.”
One thing the industry has tried to point out, in the event these guidelines are passed, is the potential for an increase in the sale of illegal cigarettes.
“If people wish to find something they desire to consume, they are going to find it,” said Quarles. “This would force more people to go to a smuggled, illicit cigarette, which would deprive all these governments of tax revenue.”
While such a ban would not be enforced in the United States because this country did not ratify the treaty, Quarles said he believes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would “apparently” try to duplicate this same ban. The FDA took over tobacco regulation last year after a landmark bill passed Congress, giving the agency regulatory power over the industry.
“There is no study that we are aware of where it says that an American-blend cigarette is any more or less harmful than any other type of cigarette,” said Quarles.
Aside from the lack of evidence to substantiate a ban, the task of enforcing such a regulation is another matter.
“These are guidelines, and that’s all they are. It doesn’t mean that this would carry the force of law. It would be up to individual countries to decide what degree of enforcement to put into this,” Quarles added.
He also said that there is some question as to whether a ban would even be legal, since it would be a “Technical Barrier to Trade,” or TBT.
The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade tries to ensure that regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles, according to the World Trade Organization. In essence, there has to be a logical scientific reason for an action; otherwise existing trade treaties may be broken.
With so many questions yet to be answered, the likelihood that farmers will feel the effects of a ban, should it be passed, is small for now, but it is one more obstacle to consider as they prepare to harvest the 2010 crop.
By Tim Thornberry

The World's Richest Man's New Mansion

If you stand on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and look across the street, you’ll have a small chance of glimpsing the world’s richest person.
On Thursday Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim Helu, who is worth $53.5 billion, bought the Duke-Semans mansion, a beaux-arts townhouse directly across from the Met, for $44 million, public records show. That record-breaking price is the most paid for any New York home in nearly two years.
The mansion’s seller, Tamir Sapir, famously ascended from taxi driver to billionaire by trading in oil and then investing in real estate. He bought the property from the descendants of its original owner, tobacco mogul Benjamin N. Duke, in 2006, paying $40 million. That leaves him with a 10% profit–healthy, in a sluggish market.
Here’s what’s important to know about the sale, the home and how this transaction will change luxury real estate.

The Duke-Semans is one of a kind.

Location is critical in ultra-high end Manhattan real estate, and the Duke-Semans has a great one: The corner of Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, on New York’s vaunted “Museum Mile.” But staking a claim to the right street (Fifth Avenue is the Holy Grail) isn’t enough to qualify for greatness. Buyers measure prestige in feet–as in, how many of them a building occupies on a coveted block.
The Duke-Semans has everything going for it: It stretches up 82nd street for 100 feet (a luxurious distance, in this part of Manhattan), then turns the corner, occupying 27 feet on Fifth Avenue. The combination of its unusual length, Fifth Avenue visibility, and corner location can’t be found in any other building. That uniqueness is what allowed Broker Paula Del Nunzio, of the firm Brown Harris Stevens, to originally price the home at $50 million.

But it might be a fixer-upper.

Samir reportedly intended to renovate the 19,500-square-foot house in the four years he owned it, but never did. Although the exterior is breathtaking, the house needs some work on the inside–a fact that helps explain Helu’s 12% discount off the asking price.
There’s more evidence to suggest the mansion boasts a less-than-sparkling interior: Brown Harris Stevens only provided press and prospective buyers with detail shots of ornate moldings and period elegance, not the sweeping shots of ballrooms, stairways and terraces that are typical for these kinds of sales. The home may be in need of major work.

It was snapped up quickly.

Brown Harris Stevens put the Duke-Semans on the market in January. If it were a normal home, stagnating on the market for nearly seven months would bode very poorly for a sale. But in the rarified world of luxury real estate, where homes fetch $10 million or more, it’s expected that properties may languish on the market for two or three years. Only a few thousand people in the world can afford homes like this, so sellers expect to wait. The fact that the turnaround was comparatively quick indicates wise pricing, and perhaps growing demand in the luxury market.

The broker may not have gotten a cut.

After all her hard work representing the home, Del Nunzio may not have reaped the reward of a handsome commission. It has been reported that Helu and Sapir agreed to the deal privately. Del Nunzio told Forbes she could not discuss the details of the sale.
Even if she was sidelined, Del Nunzio’s carefully calibrated pricing strategy may have been crucial to the home selling so quickly. Del Nunzio is known for reading the market extremely well, and pricing homes as close as possible to what buyers are willing to pay. As a result, she has logged $620 million in sales of 40 townhouses since 2007, and her homes fetch an average 97% of the asking price. That’s impressive in an era where unrealistically priced luxury homes have become notorious for slashing their prices as much as 40%.
In March she discussed her strategy for pricing homes with Forbes: “The right price is a matter of the temperature of the times, also the recent comp sales,” she said. “Each one is a separate instance at a separate time. We price them to the highest level that we can, given the conditions of the market.” (Click here for more from that interview.)
This is a sign that the high-end home market is stabilizing.
In the second quarter of 2010 the median sales price of a Manhattan luxury home (defined as homes above $3 million) rose 12% from the previous year. Demand for these pricey abodes has ramped up, and inventory has tightened, according to a recent report by Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
But even outside of New York, the super-high-end home market comprises so few properties that just one sale can change the tide of the market. Aside from the Duke-Semans, two recent sales give luxury brokers hope for the future:
In late April billionaire Kelcy Warren bought the 3,000-acre Bootjack Ranch in Colorado for $42 million, setting a price record for the year; just two months later, the Bel Air mansion Le Belvedere was sold for even more, to an unnamed European family.
“We see a stabilizing trend in the ultra-luxury segment, as high-net-worth buyers pursue the very best properties at opportunistic price points,” says Bill Fandel of Peaks Real Estate Sotheby’s ( BID – news – people ) International Realty, who handled the sale of the Bootjack Ranch, via an e-mail.
Del Nunzio agrees, calling the sale “a signal that for the property possessing the unique features a buyer wants, the buyer in today’s market conditions will not only pay as much as yesterday’s buyer, but even more.”
What does that mean for the rest of us? Unfortunately, not too much. Trends in luxury real estate rarely correspond to the housing market at large, where foreclosure and price statistics remain discouraging. But even if you’ll never be able to afford a treasure like the Duke-Semans mansion, take comfort that the museum across the street allows access to the trappings of great wealth and beauty–for as little as a penny.

A Look at Japanese Folk Tobacciana

When Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy sailed into Uraga harbor, near present-day Tokyo, in 1853, he was ald japan tobaccodetermined to force Japan to open its ports and begin trading with the U.S., whether it wanted to or not. Fearful of foreign influences but more fearful of American firepower, the Tokugawa Shogunate reluctantly signed a treaty in 1854, and Japan resumed its love-hate affair with the West. But there was one gift from the West that Japan had already happily embraced. Japan adored tobacco. Japan loved to smoke. And when Japan takes to something, whether it is cars, cameras, or tobacco, it makes it wholly its own.
Tobacciana Japanese style is varied, interesting, and collectible. Some of the most captivating objects are tonkotsu, the portable smoking sets that were indispensable to the Japanese for several hundred years.
The country had not always been closed to the West. From 1543, the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch had all established trading relations. It was a time of political upheaval and civil war, with various samurai clans seeking to centralize power. Yet during this period, foreigners were allowed to travel in the country, and as early as 1549, the Jesuit Francis Xavier was even allowed to proselytize.
A sizable number of Japanese adopted Christianity. In 1582 Japan sent a delegation of young men to the Vatican. All this came to a halt by 1639. The fiercely nationalistic Tokugawa clan had achieved domination. They slammed the door to the West, citing its corrupting influence on Japanese society. Only the decidedly secular Dutch were permitted to remain, under strictly controlled conditions. Their ships were allowed to land and trade on Dejima Island in Nagasaki harbor.
The West bought luxury goods such as porcelain and textiles. In return, sometime during the mid-16th century, Iberian traders brought to Japan a new product from their American colonies—tobacco. This herb, as it was referred to in the literature of the time, enchanted all strata of Japanese society. Because it was an entirely new thing, brought to Japan by the Namban-sen (southern barbarians), it had no assigned place in Japan’s hierarchical society. It was one of the few pleasures that all classes and both sexes could enjoy.
With tobacco seeds brought by the traders, Japan began growing its own tobacco, possibly as early as 1600. Initially the government worried ald japan tobaccothat valuable farm land needed to grow food would be given over to this new herb and futilely sought to prohibit and then to control its cultivation. By the 17th century tobacco was firmly established as a popular consumer luxury.
In an essay written in 1609, Imperial Prince Toshihito commented that “whether gentle or simple, cleric or lay, man or woman, there is no one who does not like this herb…Persons who know nothing of one another, who come from different worlds and walks of life, can nonetheless find mutual ground and links of friendship in their common liking for the herb, and those with a taste for poetry can find in it matters to inspire them. Wherever one may walk, there is no quarter of the city unscented by its fragrant smoke…”
And smoke they did. At first, Japanese pipes and tobacco pouches imitated the Western model. Pipes were made of clay and were long and thin with small bowls. Meanwhile Western pipes were evolving to have somewhat shorter stems and larger bowls. Westerners carried shredded tobacco in pouches that could be conveniently stowed in their pockets. The Japanese, however, retained slender pipes with small bowls. And they developed their own way of preparing tobacco for smoking. It was cured, dried, and shredded so fine that it was almost a powder. This was a luxury product, albeit a modest one, so a little had to go a long way.
A new pastime required new accessories. For the home, a set of utensils called a tobako-bon was developed. Basically, it consisted of a serving tray, a pot containing charcoal from which to light one’s pipe, and an ashtray. Other items could be added. These could be simple or elaborate, made from plain wood or exquisite lacquer, depending on what one could afford.
Traditional Japanese clothing has no pockets, but people always need to carry things. This was done by using sagemono (“things that hang down”), containers hung from the waist. The upper classes carried lacquer inro, small rectangular boxes divided into compartments for medicines. When the need arose to carry tobacco, the inro model was simplified to a single compartment. And since everyone was allowed to smoke, these new containers, called tonkotsu, were made in a variety of materials to suit all budgets.
The fabrication of tonkotsu was not without controversy. Japan had strict sumptuary laws—people were supposed to know their place and not get above themselves. In 1704 government edicts prohibited the use of gold and silver in any wares except those used for official gifts. The edict specifically mentioned tobacco pouches and containers. For the ordinary working stiff, this didn’t mean much. But there was also a striving merchant class. Although often viewed contemptuously by the ruling samurai, the merchants often had more money than the samurai had. The merchants had to tread very carefully—samurai were entitled to carry two swords and kill at will, so one wouldn’t want to give offense.
Still, folks liked to show off-they just had to find a discreet way to do it. The basic tobacco set had four parts: the tonkotsu, or tobacco container; ald tobaccothe kiseru, or pipe; the kiseru-zu-tsu, the pipe sheath; and the ojime, a pierced bead that served as a toggle to anchor the sheath to the container. Using these basic forms, artisans fashioned sets from every sort of material. The wealthy could buy sets made of silk, ivory, glazed leather, or lacquer. They were products of elegant design and were small enough to be inconspicuous.
The tonkotsu of the middle class were more fun. They embody what the West calls folk art and what the early 20th-century aesthetician Yanagi Soetsu defined in a word he coined as mingei, literally “people art.” Yanagi wrote that mingei should be “unself-consciously handmade and unsigned for the people by the people, cheaply and in quantity…[with] no obtruding personality in them.” Tonkotsu fairly meets the description, except possibly for the personality part, because the maker’s sense of humor does shine through.
Like folk artists everywhere, the tonkotsu artisans used ordinary materials—straw, paulownia wood, tree roots, bamboo, white metal, small bits of mother-of-pearl, and glass. The containers are only 4″ high, but the small scope did not hinder creativity. Japan has always had a genius for miniaturization. Often the figures the artisans carved were drawn from folk religion.
A good example is the popularity of Daruma as a tobacco container. Daruma (also known as Bodhidharma) is the legendary monk who is said to have brought Zen Buddhism from India to China from where it made its way to Japan. Daruma dolls have come to be seen as good luck symbols. Daruma is often shown satirically or humorously—his story does lend itself to comic interpretation.
It is said that to achieve enlightenment, Daruma meditated while seated in a cave for nine years. His legs atrophied. Once during this rather strict regimen, he fell asleep. When he woke up, he was so disgusted with himself that he tore off his eyelids. A tea plant—the world’s first—sprang up from his eyelids. He ultimately decided that tea was OK; sipping it aided meditation.
It’s not clear how Daruma became associated with smoking, although in woodblock prints he is often shown with a pipe. This might seem to show that he was attached to worldly pleasures. Not so—Daruma’s smoking is a good example of Zen antilogic. If you are truly detached, you can smoke because you don’t have to smoke.
Daruma’s typical oval shape lends itself very nicely to a small container. His face serves as the lid. The face is usually carved from a hard fine-grained wood for better detail. To achieve a glaring wide-eyed stare, the artist inserts bits of mother-of-pearl. There are other good-luck and religious symbols incorporated into his robe: a spider for industry and a butterfly representing the soul.
Daruma serves a dual purpose—it carries your tobacco, and it is an engi, a luck-bringer. A Westerner might have a rabbit’s foot dangling from a key chain, but when you’re carrying Daruma, you have some serious juice. Daruma is not always portrayed with a fierce expression. He is also depicted as the yawning Daruma, his mouth open in what looks like a grin, and his arms raised in a stretch. The artist may even give him crossed legs. The upraised arms work nicely with the design. From the back of the face, cords run through the top of the tonkotsu and then through Daruma’s hands and are attached to the pipe sheath.
In making a tonkotsu, the artisan’s imagination wasn’t limited to Daruma. One artist used bone-chip inlay in a rectangular wooden box and attached to it, as a pipe sheath, a hollowed piece of antler covered in script. Another artist took a tree root and shaped it into what appears to be a mound of rocks with a small flower blooming on top. A modest but artful box is made from straw woven in three patterns and painted.
While tonkotsu are the main attraction, the other pieces of a tobacco set are also worthy of attention. Pipe sheaths are often nicely carved, also with good-luck figures. Spiders were very popular with the striving merchant class. To accompany a yawning Daruma, a pipe sheath echoes the tonkotsu’s design with Daruma having a good long stretch. The pipes themselves, and the beads on mingei tobacco sets, tend to be simple. Inscribed silver pipe fittings and elaborate netsuke are usually reserved for the more expensive varieties.
As popular as pipe smoking was, exposure to Western ways would change pipe-smoking culture, though the love of tobacco would continue unabated. Travelers from the West would witness this sea change as it was happening. While Japan was developing rapidly around them, visitors wanted to absorb as much of quaint old Japan as they could. One famous visitor who arrived in 1871 and stayed for two years was Charles Longfellow, son of America’s leading poet. Along with getting tattooed, which was a favorite souvenir, Longfellow had himself photographed in traditional carpenter’s dress. Prominently displayed with him is a tobako-bon.
The formidable Victorian traveler Isabella Bird frequently described Japanese smoking habits in her epistolary travel journal. She visited Japan in 1878 and journeyed through regions that had never seen a foreigner, let alone a foreign woman. She wrote that her kuruma (another name for rickshaw) runners, clad in blue cotton drawers, shirts open at the front, and tattoos, had a waist girdle with a tiny pipe and pouch attached. When they took a break, out came the pipe, to be filled with a minute amount of tobacco. Three puffs per pipeful, and they were good to go.
Women, Bird observed, were just as devoted to their pipes. At temple fairs, girls working in the popular archery galleries served tea and sweetmeats and smoked their tiny pipes. When Bird stopped at a tea house, “one smiling girl brought me the tabako-bon, a square wood or lacquer tray, with a china or bamboo charcoal-holder and an ash-pot upon it.” So ingrained was smoking as an act of hospitality that when Bird declined, “they were much surprised at my not smoking and supposed me to be under a vow!”
A profound change Bird frequently commented on was the popularity of Western dress. When one had pockets and purses, tonkotsu were no longer needed. Cigarettes, introduced in the 1870’s, were also rapidly gaining popularity. Cigarettes meant a whole new group of accessories—cigarette and match cases and, for the home, cigarette boxes rather than the tobako-bon.
Tonkotsu became a thing of the past. The only place where they are now seen in active use is the kabuki theater. They are included as part of the actors’ costumes and are invaluable for “stage business”—there are often scenes of conferring and smoking.
For tobacciana buffs, tonkotsu of the folk and the fine variety survive. At a recent Pier show in New York City, the tonkotsu on offer ranged in price from $400 for a nicely carved tree root to $5500 for one made of ivory. They were not necessarily being sold by dealers specializing in Japanese antiques.
The tonkotsu pictured in this article were found in antiques/flea markets in locations as diverse as New York City, Brimfield, and Tokyo. Their prices ranged from a modest $60 (the straw tonkotsu) to $350 (the double Daruma). A recent visit to the Trocadero Web site turned up eight tonkotsu on offer, with prices from $110 to $3975.
Many tonkotsu doubtless came to the United States with American GIs. The U.S. occupied Japan for seven years, and tobacco items are typical “mantiques.” These little objects made great souvenirs: small, portable, and durable. They may have lost their utility but not their charm and humor. And for fans of Daruma, there’s that luck thing—who couldn’t use a bit of that?

Is the ban on smoking in public still in place?

Between May 1st 2008 and June 1st of the same year, the federal capital territory authority embarked on what some termed an energetic mass oriented campaign, aimed at educating the residents on the ills of smoking and its attendant effects on the society. It was to serve as a precursor to the eventual ban on smoking in public places, a move which expectedly heralded its own unique brand of controversy. While many Abuja residents welcomed the move as timely, not a few others viewed it as a direct attack on their rights and privileges as residents of the capital city.
To show the seriousness of the development in the sight of the powers that be in Abuja, a high powered committee was set up by the incumbent minister, to muster the necessary political will to give the much needed bite to the campaign against smoking in public. The panel was made up of eminent officials such as the Director-General, Satellite Towns Development Agency, Engineer Abdullahi Buhari Dikko, the Secretary, Health and Human Services Secretariat, Dr. Abubakar Ali-Gombe, the Secretary of Education, Alhaji Hussaini Halilu Pai, FCT Solicitor–General, Mrs. Helen Oloja, Senior Special Assistant to the FCT Minister on Communications, Mr. Diran Onifade, Director of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, Engineer Kenneth Okafor, the Regional Editor of Daily Sun, Mr. Eric Osagie and a representative of Coalition for Anti-Tobacco. It was chaired by the erstwhile Secretary of FCT Social Development Secretariat, Mrs. Felicita Banehita-Olajide.
The Tobacco Control Act of 1990 which was enacted by the Federal Government during the tenure of Professor Ransome Kuti as the Minister of Health, served as the foundation utilized by the panel to steamroll the attempts to nail defaulters of the ban. The FCT Administration also effectively used the “Public Health Act” to prosecute offenders in an attempt to elicit the support of residents in making the city a world class and inclusive city, as envisaged by successive administrations. However, two years down the line, the tempo appears to have thawed considerably, as it appears that smokers are now back fully in public glare, even as the authorities seem at a loss on what to do to enforce the ban.
Manager of Aneio hotels and gardens, Utako, Monday Nwabuene ascribes the lull in enforcement to lack of proper orientation by the authorities. He says that the government is equally not sincere about enforcing the ban, going by its ill preparedness to marshal the necessary resources to give credence to the ban, via public education and punitive measures for defaulters. On the other hand however, he adds that smoking cannot be totally eradicated in places like bars and gardens, where smoking is akin to patronage. “Smoking cannot be banned in places like bars. If it is enforced, then patronage may be affected. As you well know smoking and drinking go hand in hand, you cannot stop people from smoking even if you do not sell. You stand to lose customers, and they are the live wire of business, ask any manager of places like bars, gardens and parks. Furthermore, the government has not spelt out clearly for the purpose of mass enlightenment, what it specifies as ‘public places.’ Many people do not know that in the first place,” he notes.
According to Wikipedia Online, “a public space refers to an area or place that is open and accessible to all citizens, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level. One of the earliest examples of public spaces are commons. In places like that no fees or paid tickets are required for entry, nor are the entrants discriminated against based on background. Most streets, including the pavement are considered public space, as are town squares or parks. Government buildings, such as public libraries and many other similar buildings are also public space. Public space is commonly shared and created for open usage throughout the community, where as private space is individually or corporately owned. ‘‘
Steve Agiende, supervisor of Sylvia’s Place, a blossoming garden in Jikwoyi, believes that majority of people who patronize places like bars and gardens, are actually people who do not mind smoking , even though they do not smoke. He sees no harm in allowing smokers into such places, as long as people do not mind. He enthuses: “sincerely, enforcing the ban will be difficult. How do you tell a customer to put out the lights of his or her cigarette? It is like telling him to leave the premises. And you know what that is capable of doing to business. Of course, in restaurants you will not see anybody smoking, but in a bar or garden that is impossible. And as long as people do not complain, I do not see the reason for the ban.”
A respondent, Nelly Ogbonnaya, however says that the fact that people do not complain in the presence of a smoker, does not mean that such persons are not appalled by the act. She says the need to be sociable and conformist in nature, accounts for why most people do not openly complain. “For someone like me, I do not hesitate to tell anyone smoking beside me to put out the lights of the cigarette, or at least turn it away from me. Why should I suffer the fate of a smoker, when I do not smoke? The ban is in order, and more needs to be done to ensure that it is enforced. Secondhand smokers suffer more than the hardened smokers,” she says.
She may be right on the mark. Serial research statistics on cumulative effects of smoking, show that secondhand smokers face tougher health challenges, than actual smokers. It also reveals some startling facts. Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of toxic chemicals including arsenic ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, benzene, and vinyl chloride. It is known to cause cancer, coronary heart disease, and respiratory problems. There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the end of a burning cigarette, pipe or cigar, and exhaled from the lungs of smokers. This is also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Environmental tobacco smoke hangs around in the air for hours after the cigarette has been extinguished, and cause many health complications. It can cause premature death in children and adults who do not smoke, and is believed to cause about 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 heart deaths in adult nonsmokers in the United States each year. Other nations record equally huge casualties. Just over one in five children is exposed to secondhand smoke at home, where workplace bans don’t reach. Those children are at increased risk of SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, lung infections such as pneumonia, ear infections, and more severe asthma.
Worldwide, a total of 3 million people die each year, on account of cigarette smoking. In many countries, smoking in public places is banned. People are not allowed to smoke even in cafes, pubs, and restaurants. In Norway, for instance, tobacco advertising has been banned for nearly thirty years. Despite this, one in every three people is prone to tobacco related deaths. In Canada there are graphic images, on cigarette packets, that show the damage it has to the internal organs on account of smoking. These images warn smokers about the ill effects of smoking. In Ireland, strict anti-smoking legislation has been introduced, to discourage smoking. Other countries have used different methods to ban smoking in public places. In many of such nations, health boards and state authorities, are having running battles trying to enforce such public bans. It is an uphill task for many.
Manager of Jimson Hotels and Gardens, Godwin Osayon says that the task would be much easier when those in authority stop playing lip service to the issue. “How many of our leaders crying wolf over cigarette smoking, are not actually chain smokers themselves. Go to the national assembly, go to the government boards, even those in the security outfits, you will find smokers. On the streets you will find uniformed men openly smoking. And these are the people enforcing the laws. That is hypocrisy of the highest order. If they want to enforce the ban, let them start from the top and move downwards. Or is the law meant just for the masses alone?” he queries.
Despite the controversy the anti smoking campaign continues to generate, Secretary, FCT Social Development Board, Mrs Blessing Onuh , says that the ban remains in force. In a phone interview she stated that even though there appears to be a lull, it does not mean that the FCT authority was sheathing its sword in the battle to make the thorny issue of smoking in public, a thing of the past. “At present we are in the process of fine-tuning the law banning smoking in public. A bill is presently before the national assembly aimed at making the law to conform to modern realities. The punitive measures against defaulters which is put at a ludicrous N200, needs to be overhauled thoroughly, so that it can serve as a tougher deterrent for defaulters. How can you fine people who flout the law N200, and expect them to take you serious? Once the law is reworked by the law makers, to make it more stringent, we will move out.
once more to restrain erring persons who are found flouting the ban. That we are not doing that now actively does not mean that the ban on smoking in public has been lifted. It remains very much in place, “she states.
By Tosin Omoniyi
Dailytrust, 23 June 2010

Oil Hearings Nothing Compared to Tobacco Hearings on the Hill

Today’s congressional hearings, when the major oil company executives will face the public’s wrath about the BP oil spill, are being compared by some to the hearings on April 14, 1994 when the executives of the seven major cigarette makers testified before Congress about their policies. But the problem under scrutiny today is just a drop in the bucket compared to that caused by smoking, suggests Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), America’s first antismoking organization.
Smoking, then as now, kills almost half a million Americans a year in the U.S. and millions more worldwide, yet the human toll from the BP oil disaster is closer to a dozen, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf, Executive Director of ASH.
Many in Congress are pressing BP to set up a $20 billion escrow fund to help insure that the company and its stockholders will pay for the damages they are causing to the many innocent victims. But smoking costs the American public almost $200 billion a year — 10 times the BP estimate — most of which is paid by innocent nonsmokers in the form of higher taxes to pay for excess medical care under Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs, bloated health insurance premiums to cover the costs of diseases caused or exacerbated by smoking, excess disability and time lost from work, cigarette fires, and many other causes. In short, smoking annually costs about 10 times as much as the BP disaster, and it reimposes this cost year after year after year.
At the heart of the congressional hearings featuring the tobacco executives (sometime dubbed “the seven dwarfs”) was a conspiracy (later proven in court in a major RICO case) going back decades between all of the major tobacco companies to deceive the public and lie to Congress and the rest of the government about smoking and its causes and effects. In sharp contrast, the BP matter appears to be a single isolated incident, with no evidence of an industry-wide conspiracy.
Using a variety of legal strategies later found to be deceptive as well as ruthless, cigarette makers were able to avoid all liability for any of the death, disability, and other economic losses its industry causes for many decades before the first tobacco law suits were successful. In contrast, BP has conceded financial responsibility for all of the reasonable costs of its tragedy, and has begun to pay for some — although perhaps not as fast or as completely as many would hope.
It appears that the cause of the BP explosion and oil spill was negligence — perhaps even gross negligence — brought on by a desire to save both time and money by engaging in a variety of shortcuts which substantially increased the risk of the very catastrophic harm which ultimately occurred. But no one has seriously suggested that BP’s fault and culpability goes beyond negligence.
In sharp contrast, it has been established in numerous court proceedings, where the cigarette makers have been found liable for billions of dollars, that their harmful activities went far beyond mere negligence, and instead involved fraud, deceit, racketeering activities, and other intentional wrongs. Indeed, it has been shown that they knowingly and deliberately caused death and disability by using chemicals to alter the pH of the smoke (to increase its addictiveness) and to keep cigarettes burning far longer (the direct cause of most cigarette fires and fire deaths), that they willingly sought to addict pre-teens and other young children, etc.
Even if everything BP and its CEO Tony Hayward have been accused of doing turns out to be true, their culpability pales in comparison that of the tobacco industry, argues Banzhaf, suggesting that a fair comparison would be between a person whose dog poops on private property and Bernard Madoff.
“The irony of the dramatic tobacco executive hearings was that the only major result was a law more than a decade later which even its strongest proponents admit is weak, riddled with loopholes, and apparently yet to save a single life or prevent a single addiction. Let’s hope that today’s hearings into the oil industry are somewhat more productive and successful,” says Banzhaf.
PROFESSOR JOHN F. BANZHAF III
Professor of Public Interest Law at GWU,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
FELLOW, World Technology Network, and
Executive Director and Chief Counsel
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
America’s First Antismoking Organization
2013 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006, USA
(202) 659-4310 // (703) 527-8418

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15 June, 2010

Smoking and Age

PRINCETON, NJ – Older Americans are generally less likely than those who are younger to report that they smoke, but the age/smoking relationship is not uniform. Smoking is higher among younger baby boomers between the ages of 44 and 54 than it is among those in their 30s and those 55 and older.
smoking age
These statistics are based on responses to the question “Do you smoke?” asked of more than 350,000 Americans, aged 18 and older, in 2009 as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. This large aggregate sample size provides a more detailed portrait of the relationship between smoking and age than is usually available from the government or from other sources.
The general conclusion that smoking is less prevalent among older Americans has been well-established. Gallup data, however, demonstrate that this drop in smoking is not uniformly lower as age increases, but it is a pattern that has specific variations across the age spectrum.
Of particular interest is the finding that baby boomers between the ages of 44 and 54 report higher levels of smoking than either those immediately younger or those who are older.
After peaking in the high 20% range for Americans in their 20s, smoking rates drop to 21% at age 40. After that point, instead of continuing to drop, smoking prevalence rises, climbing back to 27% among Americans age 51. Smoking then decreases again, eventually reaching 20% among those age 59, and typically well below that for those age 60 and older.
It is not clear why smoking bumps up among 44- to 54-year-old Americans. These individuals, for the most part born between 1956 and 1966, are at the tail end of the baby boom (usually classified by demographers as those born between 1946 and 1964). They would have moved through their teenage years — when most smokers begin their habit — in the 1970s and early 1980s. It is not clear what happened during this time period that might have resulted in a higher rate of taking up the smoking habit. Or, it may be that something more general about life for Americans within the 44-to-54-year age range, such as children growing up and leaving the home, is more conducive to smoking.

Men More Likely Than Women to Smoke at Almost Every Age

Men are more likely to report smoking than women at almost every age point, although both genders follow the same upward and downward smoking patterns across the age spectrum. The gender gap is particularly large for Americans who are now in their 20s and 30s.
smoking gender
The increased rate of smoking among young baby boomers is evident among women. The highest rate of smoking among women — 26% — occurs not only in their 20s, but also among women at age 48.
The highest rate of smoking among men occurs at age 23, when about a third report smoking. Unlike women, the rate of smoking among men never again breaks the 30% barrier even among those in their 40s and early 50s, though it is higher for men in this age range than for men in their 30s.
Across Age Spectrum, Smoking More Prevalent Among Black Americans
Black Americans are more likely than whites or Hispanics to smoke at most age points, with the largest gap among those in their 50s. Hispanics are less likely to smoke than whites or blacks at all age points up until about age 70.
smoking by rase
Smoking is particularly prevalent among black men, reaching 40% among those aged 25 to 29, and stays at or above the 30% level up until age 60.
Implications
The average level of adult smoking in 2009 across the 353,849 interviews conducted in Gallup Healthways’ daily interviewing was 21%.
This average represents substantial differences in smoking across age groups. Smoking is significantly below average among Americans currently in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, while above average at most age points between 18 and 59.
The drop-off in smoking rates among older Americans no doubt has multiple causes. One unfortunate epidemiological truth arises from the fact that older Americans who persist in the habit are more likely than those who don’t smoke to have died, leaving nonsmokers as an increasingly higher percentage of the older population. It may also be that older Americans stop smoking as its associated health problems become more manifest, and/or that older Americans have become more health conscious and thus more likely to take heed of warnings about the deleterious effects of smoking.
That smoking rates are lower among Americans in their 30s and early 40s than those currently in the 44-to-54-year age range provides an interesting causal puzzle. There may be cohort explanations focusing on the specific social or political environment those born in the late 1950s and early 1960s encountered as they grew up. Or it could be that something about the life circumstances of those in their late 40s and early 50s is more conducive to smoking. The Gallup and Healthways Daily tracking project began in January 2008, so there are no comparable historical data to use to analyze smoking patterns across individual ages from decades ago, which could have helped to determine if this is a recurring pattern.
Of interest will be the fate of these 44- to 54-year-old smokers as they continue to age. Will this smoking “bulge” continue to move through the age pipeline in the years ahead? Will this age cohort begin to smoke less frequently as they age? Will Americans now in their 30s begin to increase in smoking incidence as they move into the 44-to-54-year age range?

Survey Methods

For Gallup Daily tracking, Gallup interviews approximately 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, each day. The Gallup smoking results are based on the aggregated sample of 353,849 national adults, aged 18 and older, interviewed in 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
By Frank Newport, Gallup