Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 November, 2011, 12:00am

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Peering through the smoke at cancer fund's Cuban connection

We are a big fan of the Hong Kong Cancer Fund for the work it does promoting awareness and support for cancer sufferers. But we are somewhat puzzled by David Tang Wing-cheung's involvement with the fund, given his links to the tobacco industry. He assisted founder, chief executive and fellow co-honorary president Sally Lo in setting up the fund in 1987.

But surprisingly, given the links between cancer and tobacco, Tang, who has a knighthood, established Pacific Cigar in 1992, 'as the exclusive distributor of all Cuban cigars in Asia Pacific', according to the company's website.

The links between cancer and tobacco smoking have been known for some time. According to the website of the US National Cancer Institute 'cigar smoke, like cigarette smoke, contains toxic and cancer-causing chemicals that are harmful to both smokers and non-smokers. Cigar smoke is possibly more toxic than cigarette smoke in that during the fermentation process for cigar tobacco, high concentrations of cancer-causing nitrosamines are produced'.

Further, 'for every gram of tobacco smoked, there is more cancer-causing tar in cigars than in cigarettes'. The site adds that 'cigar smoking causes cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, oesophagus and lung. It may also cause cancer of the pancreas. Moreover, daily cigar smokers, particularly those who inhale, are at increased risk for developing heart disease and other types of lung disease'.

For those that think not inhaling lets them off, the institute says while 'cigar smokers have lower rates of lung cancer, coronary heart disease, and lung disease than cigarette smokers, they have higher rates of these diseases than those who do not smoke cigars'.

There's more. 'All cigar and cigarette smokers, whether or not they inhale, directly expose their lips, mouth, tongue, throat, and larynx to smoke and its toxic and cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, when saliva containing the chemicals in tobacco smoke is swallowed, the oesophagus is exposed to carcinogens. These exposures probably account for the similar oral and oesophageal cancer risks seen among cigar smokers and cigarette smokers.'

In view of all this, we can't help feeling there is, shall we say, a certain asymmetry in Tang's position with the Hong Kong Cancer Fund and his cigar company.

A spokesman for the fund said: 'I know that people make the connection but he really wants to help people with cancer,' adding that Tang played no part in the operations of the fund these days.

Courting courts

We see Oleg Deripaska, chief executive of Hong Kong-listed Russian aluminium company Rusal is continuing his love-hate relationship with the courts in London.

Deripaska's company Russian Machines is wrangling with BNP Paribas over an US$87 million loan guarantee, according to the Moscow Times. BNP Paribas is calling for the guarantee to be honoured and is seeking a ruling that the dispute should be resolved by a British arbitrator. Deripaska's lawyers want the dispute handled in a Russian court.

But last year, when Deripaska was getting bent out of shape over his tussle with rival oligarch Vladimir Potanin for control of nickel producer Norilsk Nickel, he wanted the matter resolved in London.

Then there is the long-running legal dispute with Michael Cherney, who says he is a former business partner of Deripaska and has been trying to sue his fellow Russian in the London courts for a 13 per cent stake in Rusal he claims to be owed. Deripaska fought - unsuccessfully - to avoid the suit by arguing that the court has no jurisdiction over the case since the alleged events occurred in Russia.

London's courts seem to be good for Russians if they want to sue, but not so good if they are being sued.

Driving in style

The opening of Fiat's elegant outlet in Leighton Road is already causing a buzz, with passers-by eyeballing the retro Fiat 500 cars in the window. But it's clear that the Italian car giant knows little of the Hong Kong media's sartorial standards - or lack of them. Invitations to tonight's opening advise guests to dress with 'Italian chic'. Unless Giordano turns out to be a Milan fashion brand, the blokes from Fiat are in for a disappointment.

While we're on the subject, Fiat is proud of the way it has improved its build quality over the years, and is trebling the productivity of its Italian workforce, with some now working three hours a week. Just kidding.

Fiat has had trouble gaining traction in key markets such as the United States and Australia, where the old joke was that Fiat stood for 'fix it again, Tony'.