• Thu
  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 9:42pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 8:37am

Asia pays heavy price on front line of 'smoking epidemic'

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.
 

Hong Kong-based anti-smoking lobbyist Judith Mackay has been writing in The Lancet about efforts to control smoking in the region. "Asia is at the front line of the tobacco epidemic," she says.

It has the highest number of tobacco users in the world, and more than half of the world's tobacco is consumed in Asia, making it "the prime target of transnational tobacco companies".

The region is paying a high price for its involvement with tobacco. On the mainland, between 2003 and 2008, some 3.2 per cent of total health-care expenditure went on treating tobacco-related illnesses. The Asian Development Bank last year estimated that without taxation smoking would eventually kill 267 million current and future cigarette smokers who are currently alive in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.

Tobacco control measures employed in the region since 1980 have seen the rate of smoking in men halved in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore.

The World Health Organisation estimates that in Southeast Asia some 1.3 million people die every year from tobacco-related disease, whereas in the western Pacific region two people die every minute, "placing a huge burden on health-care systems".

Interestingly, Mackay observes that one of the obstacles to tobacco control include "governments' preoccupation with other events or diseases that cause far fewer deaths than tobacco, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, avian influenza, or financial crises".

 

StanChart insiders slim down

What are we to make of the decision by two of Standard Chartered's executives to reduce their personal stock holdings in the bank? A few days after StanChart announced a 17 per cent decline in profits as a result of a US$1 billion write-down for its South Korean operations, the bank's regional CEO Jaspal Bindra, who is based in Hong Kong, sold almost 25,400 shares for HK$4.8 million. His boss, group CEO Peter Sands, also thought it was an opportune moment to sell 25,400 shares for HK$4.7 million. The bank is not expecting "a quick fix" for its South Korean business. The stock is down 5 per cent over the past six months, though it is up 14 per cent from its recent low in June.

 

Chungking Mansions sets record

The most valuable retail space in Hong Kong has shifted from Causeway Bay to Tsim Sha Tsui, according to Ming Pao. A tiny money changer's stall measuring 30 square feet has been rented out for HK$3,677 per square foot, surpassing the previous record which was for a money changer in Causeway Bay. The location of the new record holder is Chungking Mansions. The high price we assume is for the access this gives to people flowing through its rather less than salubrious surroundings.

 

Sayonara Morgan Stanley

There's been a parting of the ways after only three months between Morgan Stanley and the bank's only stocks strategist in Japan, Hajime Kitano, Bloomberg reports. His exit leaves nobody in the equity strategy role in Tokyo while Japanese stocks have seen the biggest gains this year among developed markets. Previously, Kitano had been with JP Morgan for seven years. Institutional Investor this year ranked Kitano Japan's top equity strategist - for the third time since 2007.

 

Pass the beluga

The big summer event for foodies opens today at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai - The Hong Kong Trade Development Council's Food Expo 2013. One of the more exotic attractions will be the first appearance in Hong Kong of the world's rarest and finest, and most expensive, category 1 beluga caviar. It sells for HK$86,800 per kilogram. Going down-market slightly, we're also looking forward to sampling Kirin Frozen beer, which uses a special dispenser and its premium Kirin Ichiban beer to produce a frozen head which, we're told, will keep it cold for an estimated 30 minutes longer than normal.

 

A whale of a time at JP Morgan

The former JP Morgan trader known as the "London Whale" will not be prosecuted for the US$6 billion losses he was involved with, according to CNBC. Bruno Iksil has apparently come to a non-prosecution deal with the US Department of Justice.

 

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

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@madams
With government coffers overflowing, I think it is a great time to just outlaw cigarettes in HK. Cigarette smoking is the ultimate tax on stupidity, except the tax is paid by all residents. In a nationalized health system like HK, we will all pay for the inevitable health problems of smokers. Give people 18 months to quit, subsidize the use of nicotine patches and counseling, and have the police enforce the laws stringently for a year. Voila, we can finally breathe a little easier when we exit the MTR, mall, or office building.

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