Archive for June, 2011

Twice the Death


It’s good to see Al Jazeera have covered the same story and made a two-minute news clip dedicated to it. The images on the clip, however, seem to follow the same unfortunate trend as that below. They start by showing some people enjoying smoking cigarettes.
Have a look and decide for yourself: which set of images make a stronger impression on you: the pictures of people smoking, or the pictures of people who have been hurt or died as a result of smoking?
After you have decided for yourself as to your impression, count the number of seconds of video time given to pictures of people shown enjoying smoking cigarettes. How many seconds of time can you count?
Now, compare that with the number of seconds spent showing images of people suffering from smoking-related illnesses.
How does the time ratio compare?

Or, for another fun-time analytical activity, try counting the number of people shown smoking in the first part of the clip, and then count the number of people included in pictures of people dealing with the consequences of smoking later? Are the numbers balanced? Why do you think so? Which set of images are given greater weight, or, more time? What might be another way we can compare the images for and against smoking?

Another completely different aspect good for comparison, or perhaps contrast, is the title given to the video story by Al Jazeera, ‘Australia bans logos on cigarette packs,’ and that given to the online news print story in New Zealand, ‘Tobacco giant takes aim at Australian government.’ The former focuses on Australia’s anti-smoking legislation, whereas the print news website article focuses on the actions of tobacco companies against the Australian government.
What do you think about these two different titles? Which one is better? How do you think these differences in wording affect readers’ perceptions of the good work of the Australian government? Will some people change their thinking or feelings about the Australian government or tobacco companies because of these titles?

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There are two points to be noticed about today’s press release in Aotearoa/ New Zealand, on smoking in Australia.

The first and most easily noticeable point is that this article seems to continue the trend of having news about the good work of the anti-tobacco legislation which features a photograph of someone smoking a cigarette. This seems counter-intuitive and simply plain wrong. Why not have a photo of someone with a smoking-related disease, like cancer, or emphysema, or chronic bronchitis?




Or, why not even a good graph or chart such as this one, showing the obvious link between numbers of cigarettes smoked, and numbers of smokers who have soon after died of smoking related diseases?

A second point brought up, again at the very end of this article, would also make for a great graph or chart. The article finishes with the lines:

“Smoking-related illnesses kill more than 15,000 Australians each year and cost the economy A$31.5 billion in health costs.  …

Australia’s tobacco market generated total revenues of A$9.98 billion ($NZ13 billion) in 2009, up from A$8.3 billion in 2008, … .”

In other words, the profit made by cigarette companies is less than 10 billion Australian dollars, but the cost to the local economy is well over 30 million Australian dollars. To put this more simply, the damage not to individual smokers, but to the whole wider Australian society and economy, is a lot more than three times the value of the benefit to the cigarette companies.

To look at this yet another way, Australian non-smokers are paying a lot of money for many smokers to die early and painfully, while a very few already wealthy company bosses get very ‘filthy rich’ indeed.

How do you feel about that?


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In the world of writing, Korean writing styles usually suggest that the main point is included right at the end of any piece. I think this different from most English language essays as taught in secondary schools and universities. It is, however, most similar to the English language cultural context of when we are telling a joke; the ‘punch-line,’ or the thing which ‘makes sense’ and due to the connecting of the various points of logic included in the story triggers an emotional response from the listener (or reader) is saved until, and presented at, right at the end of that story.

Well, today has seen the release of information about the cheery old topic of ‘the big C’ in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. Yes, rates of cancer, and how they are different around the country.

This is an exceptionally well written piece of journalistic writing because, even though it is fairly ‘dry’, or in other words it does not focus on any person or group of people, it does analyse much of the useful data presented and explain it all carefully, and further, it also points at the weaknesses of that information.

In a way similar to Korean essay writing techniques and English language joke-telling styles, perhaps the most interesting information, despite the lack of context or explanation, is included right at the end of this artcile:

“Cancer remained the leading cause of death in New Zealand, accounting for 29 percent of all deaths.

More people died of lung cancer than of any other cancer in 2008, followed by colorectal, breast and prostate cancer.”

We all know the main cause of lung cancer. My Korean friends may not know that smoking rates are declining in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This is partly due to the fact that the government is taking a very strong stand, such as constantly increasing the tax on cigarettes, thereby increasing the price every year or more, and, smoking is banned in all public places, including all bars.

So, in conclusion, I want to ask my Korean friends three questions.

1.) What is the proportion (or number, or percentage) of people who smoke in South Korea these days, and how does this rate or number compare with that of New Zealand?

2.) What is the leading cause of death in South Korea these days?

3.) What are the ‘contributing factors’ to that high rate of deaths?

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The Land of the Morning Stench

The old Japanese backed dynasty rulers went by the name of this university: ‘Chosun’. This word originally meant something like ‘The Land of the Morning Calm.’ It is a very sweetly poetic phrase, but, these days, it is not accurate. In these days of post-modernity and corporate-captured capitalist culture, the only reason the morning is calm is because of the soju-soaked daze and cigarette-induced haze settled over and throughout everything. The stench on the dawn-drawn streets is a glorious assault on the senses for any fool-hardy early riser or real late-night reveler.

Not that I’m often up and around at that time, however, partly for the sake of those who are, and for the potential that I may soon well be, I am fairly delighted to read a bit of genuinely positive news in the Korea Herald today:

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“Seoul City saw a rapid decrease in the number of fined cigarette droppers last year after starting a no-litter campaign in 2007, officials said Monday.

The city collected about 6.2 billion won ($5.7 million) in fines from 176,069 litterbugs in 2010, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

The figure was the smallest since 2007 when the city launched a campaign against flicking cigarette butts on the streets in all of its 25 districts.

Compared to 2009, the number of litterbugs declined 34.4 percent while the amount of fines was almost cut in half.

Gangnam-gu was the first district to impose fines on cigarette droppers in January 2007. Other district offices followed suit in the coming months. Fines vary by the district in the capital, ranging from 25,000 to 50,000 won.

In 2010, Gangnam-gu imposed the largest number of fines among Seoul districts, with 14,068 cases taking up almost half the total litterbugs. It was followed by Jongno-gu with 2,148, Songpa-gu with 2,102 and Jung-gu with 1,566.

Those throwing cigarettes from car windows also declined from 7,116 in 2009 to 6,089 last year, the city said.

In a bid to ensure clean streets, the city plans to add ashtrays alongside waste bins on the streets.

From this month, the city started to impose a fine of 100,000 won on those caught smoking in three downtown squares ― Seoul, Cheonggye Stream and Gwanghwamun.”

By Lee Ji-yoon (

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It is a good thing to see Seoul City office being so pr0-active in dissuading smokers from the belief that they have ‘the right’ to poison anyone else with their second-hand smoke. It is also great to see Seoul city dissabuse their people of any sense of entitlement to litter by dropping the used remains of a cagarette anywhere they please.

It is with fair sadness, then, that I share this picture.

This photo was taken through the window next to which I walk to work every morning throughout the week.  The whole area has been cleaned out perhaps twice or three times now, and yet returns to a similarly disgusting state within days.

I really hope students will get the message that they are NOT entitled to drop cigarette butts anywhere they want. I hope they hear this message coming from Chosun University. Perhaps the university could instigate a fine system, although I do not know who would get the happy job of enforcing such a new policy.

In fairness to the university, I have seen some public service-type announcements on some of the many television sets around the campus. On the other hand, there are notices in all the bathrooms I’ve been into, and yet at the same time those notes and notices are completely useless as they are ineffective at stopping smokers selfish enough to ‘light up’ in the shared toilet rooms.

In terms of the culture local to the city, my favourite bicycle mechanic told me recently that his girlfriend broke up with him not long before. She did not want to go out with a smoker and he could not give up. He has still not given up smoking yet, however, his story – sad for him – could perhaps be read as a happy indication that changes are happening on the personal front, and within the national scene.

Come on Coreans, let’s *REALLY* GET INTO being both environmenally friendly, and also aware of the real ‘well-being’ trend. ‘Cancer sticks’ are not healthy for the smoker, and they are not healthy for anyone else around, and especially inside, or in enclosed areas where the ‘second-hand smoke’ is not expelled from the local environment.

Surely, however, the easiest bad habit to drop, even before all those other considerations are given time, is the habit so many smokers seem to be in, of thinking they have ‘the right’ to drop their butts anywhere they like. It is very easy to find trash cans around this otherwise neat and beautiful city, and ‘our country’ called Corea!

A beautiful doorway, enhanced by colourful brickwork and trees, has all efforts at beautification spoiled by the laziness of a few selfish smokers who could not even be bothered to look for the trash can (or rubbish bin) on the other side of the doorway, nor even use the jar placed out specifically for them.

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