Oct. 30, 2009

Halifax County Schools seeing red in fight against drug and tobacco use

HALIFAX — Students, teachers and administrators came together during this week to say “Drugs are not authorized in My Space” in the Halifax County School District. They did this by wearing red ribbons and Doris Thompson, Southeast Halifax High School’s program coordinator, was excited about her school’s activities. “We (the district) combined Tobacco Reality Unfiltered (TRU) with the Red Ribbon activities and called them our TRU/Red Ribbon Week,” she said.
Thompson said Southeast kicked off activities Monday with the Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) members releasing 25 red balloons in the senior courtyard.
She said other activities include renewals of pledges to remain tobacco and drug free, “Because tobacco is a drug, too,” she said. Students also received red wrist bands, Wednesday. Later this week they receive “Smarties” candy to remind them to “Be Smarties. Don’t use tobacco and drugs.”
While all schools in the district participated on some level, the high schools seemed most involved in the activities. Students at Northwest wore red ribbons or dressed in red Wednesday to celebrate being drug and tobacco free. They hung red ribbons in the halls and on doors, and participated in other activities.
Ebony Hamiel a senior at Northwest Halifax High School said being drug and tobacco free gives her feelings of self respect and self worth. “Being drug free helps me think better,” she said. She said she believes people can get further in life and have a better outlook on life if they stay drug free.
Raven Lee agreed. “Drugs aren’t good for you. I plan to go far in life, so I plan to stay drug free. Also, I’m part of TATU.
MATCH administrative assistant and coordinator of many of the districts events, Regina Lewis said there are lots of good reasons for schools to celebrate and encourage students to be drug and tobacco free. She also said there’s a history involved in the nationwide observance.
In a news release, Lewis noted the observance stemmed from the March 1985 slaying of federal narcotics agent Enrique Camarena in California. “A letter was circulated across the country calling for Americans to unite in their commitment to work to reduce the demand for illegal drugs in their communities. The red ribbon would be a symbol of their commitment,” she said.
This year Oct. 26-30 is Red Ribbon Week across America. “Americans are asked to come to a greater understanding of the threat to their society in terms of lost potential, more violence, and the impact on our quality of life,” said Lewis.
Lewis said watching the destructiveness of drugs is disheartening. “Although in the years since 1985, much has been done to increase awareness, to educate our young people, and to reduce the demand for drugs ... We must remind ourselves that there is such justice in our cause that it can be embraced and supported by millions. We should continue to be uplifted by every red ribbon we see, united in our purpose.”

Oct. 28, 2009

Contraband cigarettes are a menace to our kids

The unchecked proliferation of contraband cigarettes in Canada is undermining government efforts to curb smoking, especially among youngsters.
A study made public this month said contraband cigarettes are gaining rapidly in popularity, at the expense of regular taxed cigarettes, among high-school students.
No wonder. The illicit ones are cheaper, and there's no pesky enforcement of age limits.
This study was, it's true, financed by two groups that are losing money to contraband: big tobacco firms and store owners. But that doesn't disprove the findings, such as that almost half of butts found on or near school grounds come from contraband smokes.
This black and grey market urgently needs to be brought under control, and not only because of the problem of sales to kids. Lost tax revenue, to Ottawa and to the provinces is another reason to clamp down. There's also the problem of systematic disrespect for the law.
But the most urgent problem, we think, involves young people. Research says that the younger a person is when he or she starts smoking, the more likely tobacco addiction becomes, with everything that implies about long-term health concerns.
Tobacco-related illness costs Canada more than $4 billion a year. We don't need a new generation of smokers to add to an already grim toll of disease and early, preventable death.
In recent years, governments have worked to make it as difficult as possible for minors to get their hands on cigarettes. Store-owners are liable to hefty fines if they are found selling tobacco to anyone under 18.
Ratcheting up the price through taxes is another weapon governments have used to stop youngsters from smoking. It's a tactic that worked like a charm -- until contraband tobacco flooded the market.
In the brief, halcyon period when Canada cracked down hard on illicit cigarettes, between 1982 and 1992, smoking among minors plunged by an impressive 60 per cent. It took a 500-per-cent jump in taxes to put cigarettes out of kids' financial reach. But in 1994, Canada dropped tobacco taxes in an effort to stop the illicit tobacco trade. Consumption went right back up, and the damage to a generation rose with it.
High taxes do not automatically lead to a jump in contraband tobacco use, according to Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. The western provinces had the highest provincial tobacco taxes in 2008, and the lowest percentage of contraband cigarettes. That's because Western Canada has less access than Ontario and Quebec do to sources of cheap contraband smokes. Quebec and Ontario tobacco taxes were far lower, but contraband took up a far bigger slice of the pie.
The solution is the same as it has always been: enforcement. All that's missing is political will.

Oct. 26, 2009

Display ban on tobacco 'benefiting criminals'

A BAN on displaying tobacco products in stores is putting money from tills straight into the pockets of criminals, shopkeepers claimed yesterday.
Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) said cigarettes sales had fallen dramatically in recent months, with the black market fuelling job losses and costing the industry hundreds of millions of euro.
It maintained cigarette sales can be as high as 40 per cent of a retailer’s annual turnover.
William Hanley, RAS spokesman, said the Office of Tobacco Control’s (OTC) point-of-sale ban had practically wiped out the legal tobacco trade.
“Criminals are costing our industry hundreds of millions every year and we are staring down the barrel of thousands of job losses throughout the country,” said Mr Hanley. “Sales have fallen dramatically since 1st July.”
The point-of-sale display ban came into force in July, with shop-owners caught flouting the law facing a fine of €3,000 or six months in prison.
The OTC, which maintained it was a pioneering move to prevent underage smoking, recently revealed 97 per cent of shops were complying with the law.
Revenue’s Customs Service recently revealed it has seized cigarettes with a retail value of about €30.5 million so far this year.

Oct. 22, 2009

Clerk cited in underaged tobacco sale

GENEVA – A gas station clerk was charged with selling tobacco to a person under age 18 as part of a compliance check of tobacco venders, police said.
Hina J. Patel, 38, of the 800 block of Bode Road, Elgin, was charged, Wednesday, Oct. 14, with making the sale at Geneva Shell, 1491 E. State St., police said. The compliance check occurred Oct. 7.
Police Cmdr. Julie Nash said the undercover compliance check was done at 12 establishments in the city that sell tobacco. Police rely on an underaged person whose ID shows he or she is underage to purchase tobacco. In Illinois, the legal age to buy tobacco is 18. 
All but the clerk at Geneva Shell refused to sell, Nash said.
"We do this for the very obvious reasons of the dangers of smoking," Nash said. "And it's our attempt to help those who don't always make the best decisions for themselves, to keep them safe. And to make sure businesses are only selling tobacco to those old enough to make the appropriate decisions. It's about looking out for the kids."
The undercover compliance checks are similar to those done at liquor establishments to see if an underaged person will be served or sold to. But what is different is, the charge goes to the person who sold, not to the owner of the establishment. In the case of a liquor violation, the seller can be charged as well as the person who holds the liquor license.
"We are only citing the person who sold he cigarettes," Nash said. "We have never actually cited businesses before. I don't know why that is, but it definitely should be looked into."
According to police reports, the teen working with police asked to buy a pack of Newport cigarettes. Patel asked to see identification, examined it and then sold the pack of Newports for $7.02, to the undercover teen, according to the report.
Patel told police she miscalculated the birthday on the identification, according to the police report. 
A spokesman for the gas station said Patel no longer works there. A message left for a manager was not returned Wednesday. Patel has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment. She is to appear in court Nov. 17.

Oct. 19, 2009

Lawmakers question tobacco firms over ban on flavored cigarettes

Two members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to two tobacco distributors regarding reports the companies were attempting to circumvent the Food and Drug Administration ban on the sale of certain flavored cigarettes.
Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D, Calif.) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D, Mich.) wrote Kretek International in Moorpark, Calif., and Cheyenne International in Grover, N.C., and addressed concerns that both companies had repackaged their flavored cigarettes as filtered or "little" cigars.
On Sept. 22, the FDA, under authority of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, banned sales of most flavored cigarettes.

Oct. 13, 2009

Stop-Smoking Vaccine in the Works

MONDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- The National Institute on Drug Abuse has given a $10 million grant to a Maryland company to help it in the final phases of research regarding a possible anti-nicotine vaccine.
Nabi Biopharmaceuticals of Rockville will launch a phase III study of a potential vaccine called NicVAX. The study, which could be the last step of research if the vaccine works, represents the most advanced investigation of a smoking-cessation vaccine.
The vaccine is designed to help people quit smoking and not relapse. According to a statement by institute director Dr. Nora D. Volkow, the vaccine has received "fast track" designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has survived a successful "proof-of-concept" study.
There's no guarantee that the study will prove that the vaccine works, nor is it clear whether it will get federal approval if it does. But researchers are hopeful.
The vaccine works by making the immune system kick into action when it detects nicotine. The idea is that antibodies will bond to nicotine molecules and prevent them from entering the brain, where they give smokers the high that they crave.
Study results are preliminary so far, but they suggest that smokers who develop high levels of the antibodies in their bodies are most likely to quit for good. Researchers reported few side effects. 
They expect that the vaccine will be effective for six to 12 months after it is given. 
In the United States, tobacco use is linked to 400,000 deaths a year, according to background information.

Oct. 9, 2009

3 Held After Break-In

Three Warsaw men are in custody after allegedly burglarizing the Murphy Oil Co. station near Walmart early this morning.
According a report from the Warsaw Police Department, the Murphy Oil Co., 2500 Walton Boulevard, Warsaw, was burglarized around 2 a.m. today.
A truck driver, who was delivering fuel to the station, which was closed at the time of the incident, reportedly saw the men break a window at the business and take several items from the store, including cigarettes, lottery tickets and cash. 
Warsaw Police Officer Brandon Zartman stopped a vehicle near the intersection of Airport Road and CR 350N, and found three men who reportedly had items from the store in their vehicle. 
Christopher D. Spangle, 24, Dale William Stamper, 21, and Nicholas Daniel Hall, 18, were arrested and booked into the Kosciusko County jail on charges of burglary to a business, theft from a business, aiding and abetting or inducing a burglary. Hall also was charged with possession/consumption of alcohol by a minor. All three men are being held on $5,000 bond.
Two of the three men reportedly have confessed to the crime; however, police have not said which two admitted to the burglary. 
The incident remains under investigation by the Warsaw Police Department.

Oct. 7, 2009

Tobacco Disappears From Health Law

A section regulating tobacco as an addictive substance in the newly passed Health Law has been removed despite approvals from the legislative and executive branch, a former lawmaker has revealed on Wednesday.
Hakim Sorimuda Pohan, a former member of the drafting committee of the health law who was no longer elected for the 2009-2014 term said on Wednesday during a discussion on “Corruption on Health Law” in Jakarta, that Section 2 of Article 113 could not be found in the final document at the House of Representatives.
The missing section was written as follow: ”Addictive substance as referred in section (1) includes tobacco; solid, liquid, and gas products that contain tobacco which are addictive and could harm its users and or their immediate surroundings.”
Hakim said the change could come from the legislative or the executive branch and said the Health Department have denied any knowledge about the change. Hakim said exclusion of the section is a criminal offense, and should be thoroughly investigated to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice.
Kartono Muhammad a health expert which was also a member of the drafting team said punishment should remain to be imposed to the perpetrators although the section could be automatically re-incorporated into the article.
Chairman of the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (Yayasan lembaga Konsumen Indonesia) Tulus Abadi said this is the first time such crime was uncovered. While a researcher from the Political Corruption Division of the Indonesia Corruption Watch, Abdullah Dahlan said the section cold automatically be restored into the Law, as it has been passed during the house plenary session.

Oct. 5, 2009

SSB men torture Nepali man to death

BIRGUNJ, Oct 4: A man in Rautahat died on Saturday night allegedly due to physical torture by Indian Seema Surakshya Bal (SSB) personnel across the border. 
SSB personnel from Sitamadhi Base Camp at Jamuniya arrested and tortured Mukul Raya Yadav, 35, of Surmajuwa VDC-8 in Rautahat district when he was on way to bordering Indian town of Ghodasan to sell tobacco.
Yadav died a few hours after he arrived home following torture by the Indian border security personnel on Saturday night, according to family members. Yadav arrived home late night in critical condition after the SSB men set him free. 
Yadav, before breathing his last, had told family members that SSB men detained him for four hours and beaten up severely for no apparent reason.
Locals closed bordering Bankul Bazar on Sunday protesting the death of Yadav. They also chanted strong slogans against the SSB and demanded compensation to the victim´s family and punishment for the guilty. 
Late Yadav is survived by four sons and two daughters.
Meanwhile, local administration in Rautahat has taken up the issue with local Indian authority, according to Chief District Officer of Rautahat Kamalesh Kumar Sinha. "They have told us that they would investigate the incident," Sinha.
The body has been taken to the district headquarters Gaur for post mortem. 
Locals in bordering villages have alleged that the SSB personnel have stepped up their excesses in recent months. They complain that SSB men often beat up and manhandle locals living in bordering areas of Bara, Parsa and Rautahat.

Oct. 1, 2009

Ontario Government Launches $50B Tobacco Lawsuit

TORONTO – The Ontario government announced earlier this week that it is suing tobacco companies for $50 billion “for past and ongoing health-care costs linked to tobacco-related illness,” CBC News reports.
Ontario's action follows the lead of at least two other Canadian provinces.
"Ontario is taking the next step towards recovering taxpayer dollars spent fighting tobacco-related illnesses,” said Ontario's Attorney General Chris Bentley. “We are joining British Columbia and New Brunswick in initiating a lawsuit to recover health-care costs from tobacco companies.”
Ontario said that the $50 billion figure represents the cost that it has paid providing health care for smokers since 1955.
Earlier this year, Ontario passed a law, The Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, that allows it to sue to recover past, present and ongoing tobacco-related damages.
The New York Times writes that the defendants in the case include the Altria Group and some of its Philip Morris subsidiaries, British American Tobacco of London and its Canadian unit Imperial Tobacco as well as R. J. Reynolds and JTI-Macdonald, a Japan Tobacco unit that is in bankruptcy proceedings.
Eric Gagnon, a spokesman for Imperial Tobacco, called the Ontario government “hypocritical” for filing a lawsuit, adding, “What’s happening is double dipping…You’re taking a billion dollars of taxation out of the industry every year, then you turn around and sue the industry.”