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Cigarette vending machines banned in England

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LONDON — Cigarette vending machines were banned in England on Saturday, a move the government hopes will cut the numbers of children smoking.

Anyone caught selling cigarettes from the machines, usually found in pubs and clubs, could face a fine of £2,500 ($3,900, 2,900 euros). Pubs will still be able to sell cigarretes from behind the bar.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Smoking is one of the biggest and most stubborn challenges in public health. Over eight million people (around 15 percent) in England still smoke and it causes more than 80,000 deaths each year.

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“Cigarette vending machines are often unsupervised, making it easy for children to purchase cigarettes from them.

“The ban on cigarette sales from vending machines will protect children by making cigarettes less accessible to them — we want to do everything we can to encourage young people not to start smoking in the first place.”

The British Heart Foundation charity said that around 200,000 youngsters start smoking regularly in England each year, with around 11 percent of regular smokers aged 11 to 15 getting their cigarettes from vending machines.

It is illegal to sell tobacco in Britain to anyone under the age of 18.

Elsewhere in the United Kingdom, cigarrete vending machines are to be banned in Northern Ireland in February, while Scotland and Wales are committed to introducing a ban.

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Meanwhile, in April 2012, all large retailers in England and Scotland will have to take all tobacco off display, with small shops having until April 2015 to comply.

The government is due to launch a public consultation on whether cigarettes should be sold in plain packaging with no logos or branding.

Smoking in enclosed public places was banned in England in July 2007.

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K-pop megastars BTS cancel Seoul concerts as South Korea coronavirus cases pass 2,000

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K-pop megastars BTS on Friday cancelled four Seoul concerts due in April as the number of novel coronavirus cases in South Korea passed 2,000.

The seven-piece boyband -- currently one of the biggest acts in the world -- had scheduled four gigs at the capital's Olympic Stadium to promote their new album, "Map of the Soul: 7".

More than 200,000 fans were expected to attend, their agency Big Hit Entertainment said in a statement, with "a number of global production companies and a large group of expert international crew" also involved.

It was "impossible at this time to predict the scale of the outbreak", it said, creating so much uncertainty it was "unavoidable" the shows were cancelled "without further delay".

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Trump congratulated the ‘great’ Mike Pence: America is ‘way ahead in our battle with the coronavirus’

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President Donald Trump continued to spin the coronavirus outbreak for political advantage on Thursday evening.

"Do Nothing Democrats were busy wasting their time on the Impeachment Hoax, & anything they could do to make the Republican Party look bad, while I was busy calling early boarder (sic) & flight closings, putting us way ahead in our battle with the Coronavirus," Trump tweeted.

"Dems called it very wrong!" he concluded.

He singled out Vice President Mike Pence for praise.

"Congratulations and thank you to our great Vice President & all of the many professionals doing such a fine job at CDC & all other agencies on the Coronavirus situation. Only a very small number in U.S., & China numbers look to be going down. All countries working well together!" he added.

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World Health Organization warns coronavirus at ‘decisive point’ as governments race to react

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The World Health Organization declared Thursday that the new coronavirus epidemic was at a "decisive point" as countries across the globe battled to contain the deadly outbreak.

Saudi Arabia banned pilgrims from visiting Islam's holiest sites as the number of deaths jumped in neighbouring Iran, while Japan and Iraq ordered the closure of schools.

Alarm is growing as China is no longer the only breeding ground for COVID-19, with other countries including South Korea and Italy becoming hotbeds of infection, raising fears of a pandemic.

"We're at a decisive point," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva. "If you act aggressively now, you can contain this virus, you can prevent people getting sick, you can save lives."

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