Saturday, October 18, 2008

Croatia adopts tough anti-smoking law

AFP - Saturday, October 18

ZAGREB (AFP) - - Croatia's parliament Friday adopted a tough anti-tobacco law that bans smoking in all public institutions as well as work places, echoing standards of the European Union which it hopes to join by 2010.

"Three thousand lives of non-smokers can be saved yearly through limiting of the tobacco use. There is no other law that could save so many lives," said Andrija Hebrang, deputy of the ruling conservatives.

The legislation allows a six month transitory period for bars, restaurants and the tobacco industry to conform to it.

After that, smoking at bars will only be allowed on terraces, while restaurants can allocate a separate room for smokers -- but the establishments cannot serve food or drink in these areas.

A warning about health risks caused by smoking will have to cover 40 percent of the back of a cigarette pack, the legislation stipulates.

Fines of up to 2,100 euros (2,800 dollars) for individuals and up to 21,000 euros for entrepreneurs will be imposed on those violating the smoking ban.

The health ministry estimated that tobacco kills some 10,000 people every year while an additional 3,000 die from passive smoking in Croatia, where 32 percent of the country's 4.4 million population are smokers.

Health costs of treating the consequences of smoking are estimated at a significant 422 million euros (589 million dollars) annually.

Croatia already had laws banning smoking in health and education facilities, and marking out separate smoking areas in other public spaces. But the rules have often been ignored, notably in bars, restaurants and offices.

While hailed by non-smokers, the new legislation has already sparked controversy in the country whose economy heavily relies on the tourism industry.

Bar and restaurant owners, in particular have protested strongly, claiming it will seriously affect their business.

The Balkans are home to Europe's most inveterate smokers, with 30 to 40 percent of all adults hooked on a habit considered a major cause of premature death, according to the World Health Organisation.

Friday, August 1, 2008

erase the habit movement


we are, first and foremost, fans of Original Pilipino Music or OPM. in particular, we are very avid fans of the band, eraserheads. at the same time, we believe that cigarettes and other tobacco products are hazardous to people's health and the environment. for this reason, we strongly condemn and call for the cessation of any or all attempts by tobacco companies and/or the tobacco industry to make use of music, musical artists and/or events as propaganda tools for marketing or promoting their dangerous products to the general public, most specially the youth.

above all else, we want the tobacco company concerned to withdraw its sponsorship of the upcoming eraserheads reunion concert and allow other enterprises to replace it. it must also refrain from engaging in similar schemes in the future, regardless of the artist or event concerned. on the flipside, and this is specially if the tobacco company would not budge on its position, we are hoping the band would reconsider its role in this elaborate plan to coerce the people in to accepting tobacco promotions and ads just so they can watch their favorite band. we believe that there are other companies and/or businesses out there who would be more than willing to shoulder the expenses of this concert, given the publicity surrounding it. finally, we also hope that other eraserheads and OPM fans like us see through this evil ploy by the tobacco company. its product remains to be the only consumer product in existence today, which will kill you even when used according to the way it is intended. it must not be allowed to have its way. its right to engage in business must never suppress the general public's right to health and ultimately, life.

some time in the first few days of july 2008, rumors began spreading across cyberspace about a supposed reunion concert by the popular OPM band of the 90's, Eraserheads. these rumors were later on reinforced by scattered media pronouncements confirming the event. A columnist by the Philippine Star was the first to take a stab at the issue, followed by a news segment of major television network, GMA.

all these rumors included the suspicion that a major tobacco company was behind the affair and that all those interested to see it would have to sign up to an online list for adult smokers maintained by said tobacco company.

the first official confirmation of the event came from the band frontman, Ely Buendia. in another news segment aired by GMA on 23 July 2008, Ely made the announcement that the rumors were in fact true. there would be a concert on August 30, 2008. it would be free but tickets would be acquired online. it would be held at the CCP open grounds. curiously though, he also said that the event would not be open to minors.

there was no mention of the sponsor.

a considerable amount of time passed without any further details regarding the concert being divulged. during such time, a great number of eraserheads fans opted to sign up to the online list, even without any official confirmation that it was indeed the only way to get a concert ticket. a lot of those who did were admittedly not even smokers themselves.

when the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids organization got hold of this series of events, their President wrote the CEO of the tobacco company concerned and requested that the latter or his company formally confirm whether in fact they were the real sponsor behind the much-touted event.

the tobacco company CEO had this to say:
"...please be advised that the promotional event that you refer to is an invitation-only event, not open to the general public. It is restricted to our trade partners and to adult smokers who can obtain an invitation by registering on our adult-only access website, where they must provide proof of age through a government-issued ID. Invitations cannot be purchased and are non-transferable. Controls will be in place at all entry points to the event to ensure that only persons with invitations are allowed to enter and to verify that they are adults by double checking their government-issued ID."

there you have it.

how devious and misleading this elaborate scheme is we cannot begin to explain. nonetheless, we shall try.

starting July 1, 2008, tobacco companies are, by law, forever banned from sponsoring concerts where the advertisement and promotion of their products are involved. clearly, this concert, which is admittedly one sponsored by a tobacco company, constitutes a violation of that law.

in the same law, however, "promotion" is defined in such a way that it may include events like concerts as well. for that matter, the tobacco company concerned is sure to insist that this is not a case of a concert being sponsored by a tobacco company --- something which is prohibited. rather, it is a promotional activity by a tobacco company which is still allowed, provided it is directed to adults only.

that is, however, the company position. and understandably so, since it redounds to their benefit.

looking back at how the event has been promoted so far, though, it has clearly been depicted as a concert open to the public with age as being the only limitation. the rumors online as well as the news, on tv or in print, they all lead people to that conclusion and no other. no mention was made about it being a smokers-only affair. even the announcement made by Ely Buendia will now appear to be misleading, whether he intended it so or not.

that is how evil this scheme is. more so, the company which hatched it and is now implementing the same.

it clearly circumvents the law and makes use of the band, the media as well as the fans as its pawns in promoting its hazardous products.

that, so far, has been the story. one of deceit and misinformation. all in the name of business.

in spite of these seemingly successive victories on the part of the tobacco company in terms of it accomplishing its goals, we firmly believe that there is still time to turn the tide and make the tobacco company, and the industry as a whole, to pay for its evil ways.

we believe that in exposing the truth behind this event and all others like it, people will be more vigilant and actively resist any future attempts by the tobacco industry to mislead them in to accepting ads and promotions relating to tobacco products.

we also hope that the band will realize how they are being manipulated in to becoming unwilling participants to this despicable stunt by a tobacco company, which has no other end in mind except to further their monetary interests at the expense of the health and welfare of the general public. we would wish that they still push through with a concert but one that is free from tobacco sponsorship and/or involvement. we are, after all, as we've said early on, still eraserheads fans.

erase the habit goodies