Home' Greymouth Star : August 30th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Saturday, August 30, 2014
Stephanie Nebehay and Ben Hirschler
he World Health
called for stiff regulation
of electronic cigarettes
as well as bans on indoor
use, advertising and sales
to minors, in the latest bid to control the
booming new market.
In a long-awaited report that will be
debated by member states at a meeting in
October in Moscow, the United Nations
health agency recently also voiced concern
about the concentration of the $3 billion
market in the hands of big tobacco
“In a nutshell, the WHO report shows
that e-cigarettes and similar devices pose
threats to public health,” Douglas Bettcher,
director of the agency ’s department on
non-communicable diseases, told a news
briefing in Geneva.
The uptake of e-cigarettes, which use
battery-powered cartridges to produce a
nicotine-laced vapour, has rocketed in the
past two years, but there is fierce debate
about the risks.
Because they are so new, there is a lack
of long-term scientific evidence to support
their safety, and some fear they could
lead to nicotine addiction and tobacco
“ We must emphasise that the onus
of responsibility for showing safety, for
answering many of these questions, must
be on the companies and the industries
owning them,” Bettcher said.
“The reports finds, at this point in time
anyway, that there is insufficient evidence
to conclude that e-cigarettes help users to
quit smoking or not. The jury is still out,”
The European Union has already agreed
to requirements around advertising and
packaging to ensure the safety and quality
of e-cigarettes. The United States Food
and Drug Administration has proposed
banning sales to anyone under 18 but no
curbs on advertising.
Activists welcomed the WHO
“As Big Tobacco corners the e-cigarette
market, it is using e-cigarettes as a global
PR scheme to gloss over its tarnished
image, positioning itself as a ‘solution’
to the problem it drives. In reality, the
e-cigarette industry is taking advantage
of the regulatory vacuum to employ the
Big Tobacco playbook to hook a new
generation on its products,” said John
Stewart of the US-based group Corporate
The WHO launched a public health
campaign against tobacco a decade ago.
The WHO Framework Convention on
Tobacco Control, which entered into force
in 2005, has been ratified by 179 states,
although not the United States.
There are 466 brands of e-cigarettes,
and the industry represents “an evolving
frontier filled with promise and threat for
tobacco control”, the WHO said in the
It urged a range of regulatory options
including banning vending machines in
most locations and preventing e-cigarette
makers from making health claims, such as
that they help people quit smoking, until
there is hard evidence.
Smokers should use a combination of
already approved treatments for kicking
the habit, it said.
While e-cigarettes are likely to be less
toxic than conventional ones, the WHO
dismissed the idea that e-cigarettes merely
produced “ water vapour”, arguing they
exposed bystanders and non-smokers to
nicotine and other toxic substances.
Dr. Armando Peruga, of the WHO’s
Tobacco Free Initiative, said the
contents of e-cigarettes vary but that the
aerosol expelled by their users contains
nicotine, which is known to alter brain
development, and other toxins.
“There are brands for example that
contain formaldehyde, which is a cancer-
causing element, at the same level as some
cigarettes,” Peruga told reporters.
“ Depending on the brand, some studies
have found that they contain heavy metals,
for example cadmium which is completely
a cancer-causing agent,” Peruga said.
Others have been found to contain
nickel or acrolein, a respiratory irritant,
Their use also posed a threat to
adolescents and the foetuses of pregnant
women, the WHO said.
One concern is that e-cigarettes may
tempt children, and the report called for a
ban on flavours until there was proof they
did not attract adolescents. E-cigarettes
can be customised with flavours ranging
from bacon to bubble gum.
Scientists are divided on the risks and
potential benefits of e-cigarettes.
One group of researchers warned the
WHO in May not to classify them as
tobacco products, arguing that doing
so would jeopardise an opportunity
to slash disease and deaths caused by
Opposing experts argued a month later
that the WHO should hold firm to its
plan for strict regulations.
Major tobacco companies including
Imperial Tobacco, Altria Group, Philip
Morris International and British
American Tobacco are increasingly
launching their own e-cigarette brands
as sales of conventional products stall in
Two major national producers, China
Tobacco and Indian Tobacco Company,
have recently become producers, Bettcher
A Wells Fargo analyst report in July
projected that US sales of e-cigarettes
would outpace conventional ones by 2020.
A BAT spokesman said overly restrictive
regulations could prevent smokers from
being aware of a less risky alternative to
smoking, and “this can only be bad thing
for public health”.
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
and - except for e-mails - your signature. Noms de
plume are not accepted.
Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
within 300 words. Letter writers will generally not
be published more often than weekly. The Editor
reserves the right to edit or not publish letters,
especially those that are offensive or too long.
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
email to email@example.com
uLetters to the editor
30 BC - Cleopatra of Egypt commits suicide
by letting an asp bite her.
1862 - In the second battle of Bull Run in
the US Civil War, Confederate forces under
General Stonewall Jackson defeat the Federal
1881 - Clement Ader patents the
first stereophonic sound system in
1901 - Hubert Booth patents the
1957 - Senator Strom Thurmond
of South Carolina sets a filibuster
record in the US Congress when
he speaks for more than 24 hours
against a civil rights bill. 1963 - “Hot line”
between the Kremlin and the White House,
designed to reduce the risk of accidental war, is
1973 - Kenya bans the hunting of elephants
and the trade in ivory.
1994 - Russia officially ends a half-century
of military presence in former East Germany
and the Baltics, the last European bastions for
former Red Army forces in the Cold War era.
2003 - The American coalminer-turned-
tough-guy-actor Charles Bronson, dies aged 81.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, English
author (1797-1851); Ernest Rutherford, New
Zealand scientist (1871-1937); Raymond
Massey, Canadian-born actor (1896-1983);
Fred MacMurray, US actor (1908-1991);
Nancy Wake, World War Two
ser vicewoman (1912-2011); Tex
Morton, New Zealand-born
Australian country singer (1916-
1983); John Peel, British radio DJ
(1939-2004); Jean-Claude Killy,
French skier (1943-); Timothy
Bottoms, US actor (1951-); Anna
Politkovskaya, Russian journalist (1958-2006);
Cameron Diaz, US actor (1972-); Andy
Roddick, American tennis player (1982-).
“ Whom the gods wish to destroy they first
call promising. ” — Cyril Connolly, British
“ By this shall all men know that ye are My
disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
— ( John 13:35).
Westland MP Mr
P Blanchfield has
no qualms about
names and events in Ireland and New Zealand.
He complained last week in the House that
Minister of Finance Mr Lake had said it was
a disaster when Michael Joseph Savage was
elected to the treasury benches in 1935.
Mr Lake: New Zealand’s never been the same
Mr Blanchfield: It was the greatest event since
St Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland.
In what was possibly its best game of the
season, West Coast defeated the touring
Waikato Rugby League team at Wingham Park
yesterday by 13 points to 10, to give the local
provincial team its second win of the season. The
style of play adopted by both teams was the fast,
throw-it-about mode, and this resulted in one of
Coast ’s best matches for the season.
West Coast well deser ved its win. It owed its
winning points to the fact it had possession, but
when the boot was on the other foot Waikato
scored points. West Coast took the scrums
but the visitors took the penalty honours. The
scrums went to Coast 28-21. Penalties went to
Greymouth boxer Bernard Bell captured a
New Zealand junior boxing title in Whanganui
on Saturday night. And in winning the title
Bell became the third member of his family to
win a national boxing title, while another has
represented New Zealand.
His father Frank and brother Len both took
New Zealand titles during their ring careers,
while another brother, Peter, represented New
Zealand in Australia last year.
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (office)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
The last time “Mare
“Our Sea”) was used
as a political slogan
in Italy, Mussolini’s
fascists were claiming
dominance over the
This time it is different.
It is the name of the
operation the Italian
navy is running to save asylum seekers
from drowning on the dangerous voyage
in open boats from North Africa to Italy.
In a seaworthy vessel with a working
engine and a reliable compass, it is a
10-hour crossing and not very dangerous
at all. In a leaky, massively overcrowded
wreck that was scavenged somewhere
along the North African coast by the
people smugglers and sent off to Italy
after a few rudimentary repairs, it can be
a death sentence. An estimated 20,000
people went down with their boats before
reaching Italy in the past 10 years.
The most recent victims, on August
23, barely made it 1km off the Libyan
coast before their boat sank, leaving 170
people in the water. The Italian navy does
not operate in Libyan territorial waters,
and the Libyan coastguard station near
Qarabouli, east of Tripoli, has no ships
of its own. The coastguards borrowed
a couple of fishing boats, but only 16
people were still alive by the time they
The boats usually founder in
international waters, however, and then it
is the Italian navy ’s job. Operation Mare
Nostrum began in October 2013, and
since then over 80,000 people have been
pulled from these sea-going death traps
(though most were not actually sinking at
the time) and safely landed in Italy.
This policy has saved many hundreds
of lives, and does honour to Italy’s
humanitarian traditions. But since all
the people who are saved claim political
asylum on coming ashore, setting in
motion a legal process that can last for
years, the Italian navy is actually helping
to swell Italy’s problem as the first port
of call for over half the undocumented
immigrants entering the European
Most of them have a good case for
claiming asylum. A large majority of
the people reaching Italy are refugees
from war and tyranny in Syria, Eritrea,
and Somalia, with smaller number from
various west African countries. Nor do
they really want to stay in Italy, which
is going through a prolonged economic
crisis and has very high unemployment.
They would rather move on to more
prosperous European Union countries
But international law says that refugees
must claim asylum in the first safe haven
they reach, and in the case of the EU
that is almost bound to be Italy, because
it is so near to Africa and because the
post-Gaddafi chaos in Libya means that
there is no control over boats leaving the
Italy is now getting more than half of
the EU’s entire refugee flow — probably
well over 100,000 this year — and all
of those people must stay in Italy. It is
expensive, it is politically poisonous, and
the country ’s facilities for looking after
these refugees are being over whelmed.
Yet Italy’s’s EU partners seem quite
content to leave Italy to bear the burden
all by itself.
With almost all of the Fertile Crescent
now in a state of war, and new flows
of refugees starting as a result of the
fighting in South Sudan and the Central
African Republic, the numbers are
going up fast. Five Italian warships are
dedicated full-time to Operation Mare
Nostrum, and on many occasions in the
past few months they have picked up
more than 1000 people in one day. This
situation cannot last.
Italy has made no threats to stop the
rescues and let the refugees drown. “ We
do not want a sea of death,” Rear-
Admiral Michele Saponaro, who runs
the operation from the naval command
centre, said. But Rome is losing patience
with its do-nothing EU “partners”, and
there is another way to address Italy’s
The Schengen Treaty does not include
Britain and Ireland, which opted out,
and four new EU members have not yet
complied with its terms — but 22 of the
EU’s 28 members allow free movement
across their borders for legal residents of
all the Schengen countries. This includes
Italy, of course. So in theory if Italy just
gives the asylum seekers an ID card and
a document saying they have permanent
residence, then they will leave for greener
“ We’ ll just let them go,” Interior
Minister Angelino Alfano said last May.
“ We want to clearly say to the EU that
they either patrol the Mediterranean
border with us or we will send all those
who ask for asylum in Italy where they
really want to go: that is, the rest of
Europe, because they don’t want to stay
A previous Italian government briefly
made the same threat back in 2011 and
then the rift was papered over, but Prime
Minister Matteo Renzi’s new government
seems to mean business. Italy not only
wants its partners to contribute money
and ships to Operation Mare Nostrum;
it also wants them to share the job of
looking after the refugees and not leave
them all in Italy.
The EU is famously bad at making hard
choices, but it is finally going to have to
face up to this one.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles on world affairs
are published in 45 countries.
Saving asylum seekers from drowning
Coffins containing bodies of migrants who died are carried off a navy ship at the Sicilian harbour of Augusta.
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
E-cigarette ban sought
Links Archive August 29th 2014 September 1st 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page