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House panel detains 6 Ilocos employees, orders Imee Marcos to appear in P66-M tobacco fund misuse probe

For refusing to answer questions during a congressional hearing on the alleged misuse of Ilocos Norte tobacco funds, six employees of the province’s Treasurer’s Office were cited in contempt and ordered detained at the House of Representatives on Monday, May 29.

http://www.interaksyon.com/house-panel-detains-6-ilocos-norte-employees-orders-imee-marcos-to-appear-in-p66-m-tobacco-fund-misuse-probe/

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, who is being accused by Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of allegedly diverting P66.45 million in tobacco funds to buy motor vehicles, was also subpoenaed by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chaired by Surigao Del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel to appear in the next hearing after skipping two previous hearings.

Pedro Agacaoili, chairman of the office’s Bids and Awards Committee and head of the provincial and planning development office; Josephine Calajate, provincial treasurer; Edna Battulayan, accountant; provincial budget officer Evangeline Tabulog; and two other employees, Genedine Jambaro and Encarnacion Gaor, were brought to the House Sergeant-at-Arms’ office where they would be temporarily held.

During the inquiry on Monday, the six employees repeatedly told the House panel that they could not recall receiving millions in cash advances or authorizing the release of funds for the purchase of various vehicles.

Fariñas grilled the employees on the allegedly anomalous purchase of minicabs, buses, and trucks in 2011 and 2012 using the share of the province from tobacco funds.

The lawmaker chastised the employees for their allegedly “dismissive” answers and also warned that cases against them would pile up if they continue trying to get off the hook.

“Magpapalusot kayo, dadami lalo ang kaso n’yo,” said Fariñas.

According to Fariñas, the vehicles were purchased through cash advances from the province’s share from excise taxes derived from locally produced cigarettes or the special support fund under Republic Act No.7171 or the Act to Promote the Development of the Farmer in the Virgina Tobacco-Producing Provinces.

The lawmaker claimed the purchase of the vehicles had violated provisions of R.A. 7171 because the law mandates Virginia tobacco-producing provinces to use 15 percent of their share of excise taxes from locally produced cigarettes for projects that will help advance tobacco farmers’ self reliance through the establishment of cooperatives and livelihood, agro-industrial, and infrastructure projects.

Also, Fariñas claimed there was no public bidding in the purchase of the vehicles in violation of Republic Act 9814 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Marcos’ camp on Monday said the governor was on “medical sick leave.”

Fariñas and Marcos used to be allies under what was being pushed as the One Ilocos Norte bloc, but in 2015, they cut ties due to political differences.

Imee’s mother, Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, the former first lady and wife of the late president Ferdinand Marcos, represents the second district of Ilocos Norte. Fariñas represents the First District. Both officials are in their last terms in the House and will serve only until 2019.

SmokeFree Tasmania and Minister trade barbs

A war of words has erupted between the Health Minister Michael Ferguson and advocacy group, SmokeFree Tasmania, after it accused the government of bowing to the wishes of big tobacco companies.

http://www.examiner.com.au/story/4691300/government-slams-smoke-group-claims/

The stoush comes after Tasmania was named runner-up in the Australian Medical Association’s Dirty Ashtray Award – for governments that make the least effort to reduce smoking.

Responding to the second placing, Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the state would achieve better scores from the association as more policies aimed at reducing smoking rates were implemented.

But SmokeFree Tasmania north member Harley Stanton said the government had included suggestions from big tobacco companies to formulate its Healthy Tasmania Strategic Plan.

“Given that the Tasmanian government, in its healthy Tasmania policy, included advice from Imperial Tobacco it is not surprising that they have been nationally rebuked,” he said.

“This is both embarrassing internationally and bad conduct for any government.”

Fellow SmokeFree Tasmania adviser Kathryn Barnsley said the government needed to distance itself from tobacco companies.

She said the benefit of the government’s crusade on the illicit tobacco market benefited tobacco companies, like Imperial Tobacco.

“The tobacco industry wants the government to crack down on illicit tobacco, but the illicit market is not a health problem,” she said.

But Mr Ferguson slammed the comments as “complete and utter rubbish”.

“I also point out for the record that last year, the government proposed as part of the five-year plan raising the smoking age to 21, and SmokeFree Tasmania aggressively campaigned against it which is inexplicable,” he said.

Dr Barnsley said the government had also failed to provide more money for mass-media campaigns to reduce smoking rates.

Dr Stanton criticised the government’s health expenditure announced in last week’s budget.

“Prevention is better than a cure and reducing the number of people smoking will take pressure off our hospitals,” he said.

Smokers Undeterred as Bills Keep Rising

Since the beginning of the past fiscal year (ended in March) the taxes collected on tobacco products are paid to the Health Ministry (50%), Education Ministry (25%) and Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs (25%) for anti-smoking campaigns

https://financialtribune.com/articles/people/65335/smokers-undeterred-as-bills-keep-rising

Iranians spend $1-1.5 million (40 to 50 billion rials) on tobacco products each day and the cost of treating tobacco-related disease is almost three times more than the amount spent on tobacco consumption.

During the past five years, the rate of tobacco consumption has only slightly decreased, studies conducted by the Health Ministry indicate. The rate is still high among adolescents and young people (the peak age for first trying of smoking has decreased from 13 to 10). The figure has also increased dramatically compared to the past decade, the Persian language weekly ‘Salamat’ reported.

“In 2006, Iranians smoked 50 billion cigarettes (worth $33.3 million). The figure reached 60-70 billion cigarettes in 2016,” said Dr Mohammadreza Madani, head of the Iranian Anti-Tobacco Association (IATA).

Another concern is the high prevalence of hookah (water pipe) for smoking flavored tobacco among young people. One hour of smoking hookah exposes a smoker 100-fold to the amount of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette. Even those people around a hookah smoker inhale smoke equal to 10 cigarettes.

Every year on May 31, the WHO marks World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2017 is ‘Tobacco – a threat to development.’

But irrespective of the programs to create awareness on the harmful effects of smoking, statistics show that 14-15% of Iranians from the 80 million population are regular cigarette smokers (more than 3% are women, and 20% men).

“Though most of the cigarette smokers are men, hookah smoking doesn’t vary by gender; 21.3% of women and 21.7% of men are hookah smokers,” Madani said.

Dodging Taxes

Iran is one of the nations that has signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), by which a country is committed to reduce the rate of tobacco consumption every year (by implementation of both price and tax measures as well as non-price measures to reduce demand for tobacco).

Pointing to Article 8 of the National Comprehensive Law on Tobacco Control, Madani said, “According to the law passed in 2006, every year taxes on cigarettes should be increased by 10%.”

“However, there have been always obstacles in its implementation. For example, in 2010 the figure decreased to 5% due to ‘manipulative tactics’ by the powerful tobacco lobby. Tobacco producers said that high taxes on cigarettes would lead to an increase in cigarette smuggling, and thus managed to reduce the tax.”

However, in January this year, lawmakers passed cigarette and tobacco tax slabs to be implemented under the sixth five-year economic development plan (2017-22).

Based on the new law, the tax slab on locally-produced tobacco and cigarettes is 10%; for local brands jointly produced by domestic and foreign manufacturers, it is 20%; for domestically produced cigarettes with foreign brand names the slab is 25%; and for imported cigarettes and tobacco, it is 40%.

Lawmakers also mandated the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade to announce the retail prices of cigarettes and all tobacco products to the relevant authorities for taxation purposes and for printing the tax rates on cigarette packs.

“Since the beginning of the past fiscal year (ended in March) the taxes collected on tobacco products are paid to the Health Ministry (50%), Education Ministry (25%) and Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs (25%). The Education Ministry is required to spend the money on increasing students’ awareness of harms associated with tobacco smoking,” Madani said.

Earlier, the tax money was given to the ministries of health and sports and youth affairs.

Facts About Tobacco

There are more than 7 million deaths from tobacco use every year, a figure that is predicted to cross 8 million by 2030 without effective and intensified action. Tobacco consumption is a threat to any person, regardless of gender, age, race, cultural or educational background. It brings suffering, disease, and death, impoverishing families and national economies.

Tobacco use costs national economies enormously through increased healthcare costs and decreased productivity. Some 80% of premature deaths from tobacco occur in low- or middle-income countries, which face increased challenges to achieving their development goals, the WHO website reports.

Tobacco growing requires large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, which can be toxic and pollute water supplies. Each year, tobacco growing uses 4.3 million hectares of land, resulting in global deforestation between 2% and 4%. Tobacco manufacturing also produces over 2 million tons of solid waste.

By increasing cigarette taxes worldwide by $1, an extra $190 billion could be raised for development. High tobacco taxes contribute to revenue generation for governments, reduce demand for tobacco, and offer an important revenue stream to finance development activities.

Reduction in tobacco taxes to be a disaster: PIMA

Doctors resent government’s plan to make smoking ‘easier’

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/206442-Reduction-in-tobacco-taxes-to-be-a-disaster-PIMA

Reacting to a statement made by the Special Assistant to the PM on Revenue, who has expressed that high taxes on cigarettes encourage smuggling which, in turn, costs billions to the exchequer, the president of Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMS) Wednesday suggested that if such a cause and effect relationship is logical, then the government should bring heroin, hashish and other menaces in the open market as a commercial commodity as well, and earn huge income through taxes.

“The government should be ashamed for increasing the prices of basic commodities like bread, fruits, milk, petrol, electricity, etc. and reducing the prices of dangerous items like tobacco,” the PIMA chief stated. He pointed out that Pakistan has one of the largest populations of tobacco users in the world, with over 22 million adults smoking cigarettes, ‘huqqa’ or ‘biri’ and millions more using smokeless tobacco products, including ‘gutka,’ ‘naswar,’ and ‘paan.’ Over 100,000 deaths are attributed to tobacco use each year from lung and oral cancers, strokes, heart and respiratory diseases.

Research has shown that increase in tobacco prices leads to a decrease in the number of smokers in a given community, one of the most effective of many strategies to curb tobacco use. “Here, our government is going to do exactly the opposite: make it easier to buy cigarette. While it may not matter for the richer strata of the society, even a small price increase matters a lot for the poor and lower middle class. It is this group unfortunately that is farthest away from any sort of health education, health care and economic benefits when it comes to illness that inevitably stems from tobacco use,” the PIMA president pointed out.

A research study on tobacco taxation in Pakistan, conducted jointly by FBR, World Bank, University of Toronto, Johns Hopkins University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Beaconhouse National University, concluded that a uniform specific excise tax of Rs31.2 per pack of 20 cigarettes, could reduce overall cigarette consumption by 7.5 per cent, increase tax revenues by Rs27.2 billion, leading to over half a million users quitting and reducing premature deaths among current adult smokers by over 180,000, while also preventing 725,000 youth from taking up smoking.

Only a week ago, the Minister of State for Health Saira Afzal had recommended an increase in the Federal Excise Duty on lower slab of all brands of cigarettes from the current Rs32.98 to Rs44 per pack of 20 cigarettes.

Indonesian teachers group declares anti-tobacco stance

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day on May 31, Indonesia’s largest teachers group signed on Wednesday a declaration to underline the role of educators in supporting measures for tobacco control.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/24/indonesian-teachers-group-declares-anti-tobacco-stance.html

Created by the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI), the declaration consists of six points, which include teachers’ commitment to “protect students from the dangers of smoking” and “oppose CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] campaigns from the tobacco industry.”

Teachers also called on the government to create a comprehensive tobacco control regulations to curb cigarette consumption.

“Teachers have to be role models for their pupils by not smoking […] Exemplary acts by teachers are very strategic in the [anti-tobacco] campaign,” PGRI chairwoman Unifah Rosyidi said at the declaration’s signing event in Kuningan, South Jakarta, on Wednesday.

The event was organized by the National Commission on Tobacco Control (Komnas PT), a coalition of organizations that has been staunchly campaigning for tobacco related issues in Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest tobacco consumers.

Komnas PT chairman Prijo Sidipratomo welcomed the declaration, saying that it was in line with one of PGRI’s missions to support the country’s development.

“Some 25 percent of students’ daily time is spent at school, which highlights the role of teachers in shaping their way of life,” Prijo said. (rin)

Cuba Updates its Regulations Related to Tobacco Consumption

Updating the existing regulations to control smoking in public places is part of Cuba”s campaign to celebrate World No Tobacco Day, to be held on May 31.

http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=13257&SEO=cuba-updates-its-regulations-related-to-tobacco-consumption

The head of the Department of School Health at the Ministry of Education (Mined), Yanira Gomez, reminded at a press conference held in this capital that since 1974 there is a regulation that prohibits smoking in institutions and state entities, including schools.

The regulations are designed to be effective, taking into account the particularities of each educational system; and despite the existing literature, it is also necessary to promote initiatives that contribute, from the methodology to the stipulated in the legal framework already established, said Gómez.

World No Tobacco Day was established by the World Health Organization and its partners in order to highlight the health risks associated with smoking and to advocate for effective policies to reduce its consumption.

This year’s campaign aims to mobilize the main social actors, as well as adolescent and young children, in the fight against exposure to tobacco smoke and in terms of sustainable development.

Finnish biotech firm claims breakthrough in smoking intervention

Biohit reveals that it received hundreds of enquiries following the publication of the results of a medical trial confirming that its Acetium lozenge is an effective, non-addictive means to quit smoking.

The Helsinki-based biotechnology firm also saw its share price jump by 7.4 per cent on the Helsinki Stock Exchange on Monday.

http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/business/14775-finnish-biotech-firm-claims-breakthrough-in-smoking-intervention.html

“We’ve received an astonishing number of contacts and enquiries – not only from Finland but in fact more from outside Finland,” Semi Korpela, the chief executive of the biotechnology firm, says to Uusi Suomi.

He believes the high interest in the results can be attributed primarily to two factors: first, because the active substance was shown to cause no side-effects and, second, because the active substance is neither addictive nor a a nicotine replacement.

“The efficacy is comparable to nicotine replacement therapy,” he said in a press release on Monday.

Kari Syrjänen, the chief medical director at Biohit, described the results of the second smoking intervention study as “a breakthrough in the development of smoking intervention methods”.

The intervention study confirmed that the lozenge is an effective tool in assisting the cessation of smoking due to its capability to absorb acetaldehyde derived from cigarette smoke in saliva, thus potentially reducing the effects of acetaldehyde in maintaining smoking addiction. Acetaldehyde has been labelled as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study was adequately powered to confirm the results of the first intervention study and their statistical significance, according to the press release from Biohit.

Korpela reveals that the biotechnology firm will now begin re-branding and re-packaging the Acetium lozenge. The product, he adds, has already been available in web-shops but has yet been marketed as a smoking cessation aid due to lack of proof of its efficacy.

After the re-packaging and other preparations have been completed, the lozenge will be made available both domestically and globally, he says. “There are still plenty of smokers in the world. There are large smoking countries in Asia, as well as in Europe and the Middle East. There’s quite a few of them. Why should we rule out anything?” says Korpela.

CIGARETTE FILTERS MAY INCREASE LUNG CANCER RISK

A study’s authors argue that tiny ventilation holes in virtually all cigarettes sold today are creating a new health risk.

http://ewn.co.za/2017/05/23/cigarette-filters-may-increase-lung-cancer-risk

Cigarette filters, introduced decades ago to reduce the amount of tar smokers inhale, also alter other properties of smoke and smoking in a way that raises the risk of lung cancer, researchers say.

In a review of research on changes in lung cancer rates, and changes in the types of lung cancer that are most common, the study authors argue that tiny ventilation holes in virtually all cigarettes sold today are creating a new health risk.

“The design of cigarette filters that have ventilation can make the cigarettes even more dangerous, because those holes can change how the tobacco burns, allow smokers to inhale more smoke and to think that the smoke is safer because it is smoother,” senior author Dr. Peter D. Shields from The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus told Reuters Health by email.

“This applies to all cigarettes, because almost all the cigarettes on the market have the holes, not just the ones that used to be called lights and ultra-lights,” he noted.

Although rates of lung cancer in the population have fallen with declines in smoking overall, rates of lung cancer among smokers have risen significantly, the researchers point out. And the type of lung cancer associated with smoking has also shifted since the 1950s.

Rates of adenocarcinoma of the lung, the lung cancer most associated with smoking, have more than quadrupled in men and increased eight-fold in women along with changes in the design and composition of cigarettes since the 1950s, the researchers write.

Shields and his team review the evidence linking cigarette filter ventilation to these increased rates of lung cancer in a report online 22 May in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Filter ventilation reduces the amount of tar in the cigarette smoke when tested on smoking machines, but the increased ventilation and slower tobacco burn result in more puffs per cigarette and more toxic cancer-causing chemicals being inhaled by smokers, they write.

“The use of the ventilation holes yields lower tar only on a machine,” Shields said. “Machines have nothing to do with actual exposures in humans. The holes let them actually inhale more smoke with more cancer-causing agents.”

Because of the claims of lower tar content, though, smokers develop the false belief that a lower tar cigarette is a healthier cigarette, Shields’ team writes.

Increased filter ventilation also results in smaller particle size, allowing more smoke to reach vulnerable parts of the lung.

Moreover, even though machine-measured tar and nicotine levels have decreased over time, there has been no appreciable change in daily nicotine intake among smokers over the past 25 years, they write.

“The evidence shows that more modern cigarettes are more risky for lung cancer,” Shields said. “There are reasons in addition to the holes that also can contribute to the increasing risk, but one does not preclude the other.”

Cigarette designs could and should be regulated to address all the possible reasons, Shields said.

“The holes have no health benefits; they serve no health purpose,” he explained. “They do not lower tar delivery to people. So, if they have the potential harm, the FDA can act, even if the science is not perfect. The FDA can require cigarette manufacturers to make filters without the holes. This is easy and they are doing it for some brands already.”

Having filters may indeed be safer, Shields clarified. “This study is about the holes on the filters. We are not saying to remove filters, only to change their designs by removing the holes on the filters.”

“The FDA now has the authority to require the elimination of filter ventilation, as ventilation does not serve any public health purpose and instead provides a false promise of reduced risk,” the study team concludes.

“This single action for banning filter ventilation by the FDA is scientifically justified, and within its mandate to improve the public health,” they write.

There is some precedent for the ban Shields and colleagues propose, Jonathan M. Samet and Lilit Aladadyan, both from the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Institute for Global Health in Los Angeles, write in an accompanying editorial.

The evidence gathered by Shields’ team seems strong enough to support FDA action, and “given a lack of evidence for countervailing harms, ending filter ventilation could be a ‘no regrets’ action that would benefit public health,” they write.

PMI test marketing ‘flat coil’ e-liquid technology

Philip Morris International is test marketing a product employing new technology described by PMI as a mesh patch to heat e-liquids that eliminates manual assembly of wick-and-coil designs that are the industry standard.

http://www.tobaccojournal.com/PMI_test_marketing_%C3%82%E2%80%98flat_coil%C3%82%E2%80%99_e-liquid_technology.54255.0.html

PMI’s technology allows full automation in contrast to nearly all e-cigarette products that require wicks to be hand-threaded through heating coils, the company said in its latest Scientific Update for Smoke-free Products. A flat-coil product has been undergoing test marketing under the MESH brand in Birmingham, UK, since late last year, PMI said.

“The trick was to design a flat alternative to the original coil-and-wick technology that provided a comparable user experience to traditional e-cigarette products,” PMI said. “By designing a flat coil, a machine could place a flat wick on top of it, inject e-liquid into an adjacent cavity, and neatly seal it all in a self-contained cartridge.”

UAE imposes heavy taxes on tobacco and fizzy drinks

DUBAI: The UAE Ministry of Finance has announced a selective tax of 100 percent on tobacco and energy drinks and 50 percent on carbonated beverages on Tuesday.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/143063-uae-imposes-heavy-taxes-on-tobacco-and-fizzy-drinks

It was announced in a tweet of UAE Ministry of Finance after the meeting of the board directors of Federal Tax Authority (FTA) that was chaired by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.

It is also stated that new taxes will be applied in the fourth quarter of this year.

International transportation, commodities and exports, health and education services, gold imported for investment purposes are exempted from taxes.

Last year, UAE President Shaikh Khalifa had issued a decree setting up the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) which is responsible for setting up and maintaining records on taxpayers and taxes paid. The authority will also issue guidelines and clarifications to taxpayers on matters related to federal taxes and related fines.

The UAE would also implement tax over the next few years including a Gulf Cooperation Council -wide VAT tax, which will start in 2018.

The list of items that will come under new taxation system would be utility bills (water, electricity, internet), tobacco, soft and energy drinks, watches, electronics, entertainment, smartphones, jewelry and luxury cars.

The UAE expects revenue through only tobacco products alone to be Dh2 billion annually.