The World Health Organisation did not mince words about the perils of smoking on No Tobacco Day yesterday. But it has every reason for tough talk. One death from smoking-related diseases every eight seconds is a terrifying statistic, but that is only part of the story. Most victims endure years of disabling disease before they finally succumb. Western markets are declining for tobacco companies, due to civil actions by cancer victims or their families, plus restrictive legislation. Yet the trade is far too lucrative for firms to close shop, although many have diversified into less harmful product lines. But Asia still promises great profit. The mainland alone consumes 1,800 billion cigarettes a year; even a small slice of that market can make a huge difference to companies whose Western profit margins have been decimated by anti-smoking measures. For the record, Chinese authorities also worry about the increase of cancer cases, strokes and heart attacks. But they have done little to warn of the health hazards. In Hong Kong, cigarette advertising is outlawed and smoking is banned in shopping malls and public places. But this is widely ignored because few managements erect prominent 'no smoking' notices, while many restaurants are too small to set aside smoke-free areas. Thus secondary smoke remains a problem although a start has been made. However, tobacco firms get around advertising bans by paying TV and film companies to place packs of cigarettes in their films, or have actors smoke on screen, all to encourage young people into thinking smoking is 'cool'. Some governments respond aggressively. They are suing tobacco firms to recover costs of treating smoking-related diseases; in Hong Kong that amounted to $2.7 billion in the past five years. It is a move well worth exploring.