Tobacco and roadside pollution more dangerous than bird flu | South China Morning Post
  • Wed
  • Mar 4, 2015
  • Updated: 3:20pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 July, 2013, 12:25pm

Tobacco and roadside pollution more dangerous than bird flu

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

Given the rising concern over bird flu, it is worth recalling that there are other bigger killers in Hong Kong. In the past two weeks in which nine deaths have been recorded, Hong Kong's dirty air has led to 123 avoidable deaths. This is using the Hedley Environmental Index, which calculates there were an average 3,200 avoidable deaths a year in the past five years on account of roadside emissions.

Smoking is an even bigger killer. The University of Hong Kong estimates 7,000 people a year die due to smoking, or an average of 269 every two weeks.

These two sources alone do far more damage than bird flu yet seem to raise far less alarm in the minds of legislators and government. This is why it is particularly galling that there was no increase in the tax on tobacco in this year's budget. A packet of Marlboro Light costs HK$50 in Hong Kong, HK$76 in Singapore and HK$139 in Brisbane. Increasing tax is considered to be one of the biggest deterrents to smoking among young people, even by the tobacco industry.

 

Weichai and the 'China dream'

The announcement by Weichai Power that it has become a sponsor of the Ferrari Formula One team has caused considerable excitement among mainland netizens.

This is what President Xi Jinping's "China dream" is all about, a number of them enthused on Weibo. Xi's "dream" projects a vision of a vastly enhanced profile for China on the world stage. So what better place to project this new modern image than on the bonnet of a bright red F1 racing car?

Weichai is a leading automotive and equipment manufacturer with operations in Russia, France, Italy and Germany. It recently acquired a 75 per cent stake in the Ferretti Group, the largest luxury yacht maker in the world.

The four-year deal makes Weichai the first mainland industrial brand to sponsor the Ferrari team.

Meanwhile, back in the real world - in the internet - netizens were speculating how long it would be before an F1 car was powered by an engine made on the mainland. Now, that's a "China dream".

 

Man's best friend

We all know the expression "A dog is man's best friend". However, some people are taking this too far as you can see of our faintly disturbing picture. There are many pictures of dogs in black tights doing the rounds on the mainland's social networks. It was apparently started by a Weibo user on April 2. According to the website Knowyourmeme.com by April 5, the initial posting had received about 16,000 comments. Black pantyhose may look okay on women, possibly on some men, but definitely not on dogs.

Having a whale of a time

Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of JP Morgan, has changed his tune somewhat from when he dismissed the London Whale as a "tempest in a teapot". With losses of US$6.2 billion, that was some understatement. But in his recent letter to shareholders, he adopted a rather different tone.

"The London Whale was the stupidest and most embarrassing situation I have ever been a part of … I also want our shareholders to know that I take personal responsibility for what happened," he said. "I deeply apologise to you, our shareholders, and to others, including our regulators, who were affected by this mistake.

"Let me be perfectly clear: These problems were our fault, and it is our job to fix them. In fact, I feel terrible that we let our regulators down.

"We want to be considered one of the best banks - across all measures - by our shareholders, our customers and our regulators."

From his frequent mention of "regulators" in his letter you get the feeling he went to great lengths to give them face. This marked change in tone must surely stem from the pasting the bank received from senate investigation into the whale.

The senate committee accused Dimon of withholding information from the regulators. The report also tells how it was "very common" for JP Morgan to resist recommendations by regulators, with one senior bank examiner recalling one incident where bank executives even yelled at the examiners and called them "stupid".

So this appears to be payback time for the regulators. It will be interesting to see if Dimon is able to fend off demands for the positions of chairman and chief executive to be split, at next month's shareholders meeting.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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