As smokers turned to electronic cigarettes to reduce the health risks of smoking, big tobacco companies started buying e-cigarette makers and producing and selling their own. Now those companies are lobbying Congress to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from regulating electronic cigarettes and cigars, as it does conventional cigarettes. If they succeed, they will be able to sell and market addictive nicotine products to young people with few restrictions.
While promoters of e-cigarettes and e-cigars, which provide nicotine in vapor form, say they can help people quit conventional tobacco products containing harmful tar, there is not a lot of evidence for that claim. In addition, the devices are dangerous to young people because the nicotine they provide “can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain,” according to a 2016 report by the surgeon general, Vivek Murthy. Health experts also say that the vapor those devices produce can contain carcinogens and metal particles.
Another government report found that 16 percent of high-school students said they had used e-cigarettes in 2015, up from just 1.5 percent in 2011. The industry sells these products in a broad array of flavors, like gummy bear and cotton candy, designed to appeal to young people when they are more susceptible to becoming dependent or addicted to nicotine.
After years of deliberation, the F.D.A. said last May that it would begin regulating the manufacturing, sale, packaging and advertising of e-cigarettes, and all tobacco products, under a 2009 federal law that authorized it to do so. Specifically, the agency said it would begin reviewing the health risks of e-cigarettes introduced since early 2007, and potentially ban specific flavors and products that it deemed harmful. The tobacco lobby wants Republicans to amend a vital appropriations bill to exempt products that were introduced before May 2016 from F.D.A. review.
The push to undermine the F.D.A.’s authority began even before the agency had finished its rule. One Republican lawmaker, Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, introduced a bill in 2015 that was identical to a draft circulated by the Altria Group, the country’s biggest tobacco company and a marketer of vaping products. In addition to its legislative effort, the industry has also filed several lawsuits in federal courts challenging the rule.
Tobacco companies complain that the F.D.A.’s rule amounts to “retroactive” regulation because many of the e-cigarettes and e-cigars it will regulate have been on the market for years. But the industry has known for years that government officials were developing this rule. Large bipartisan majorities in Congress voted in 2009 to hand the agency the authority to evaluate and approve new tobacco products introduced on or after Feb. 15, 2007. The F.D.A. is simply doing its job by protecting public health.
Bringing Hong Kong’s smoking rate down to single digits from one of the world’s lowest will be a slow and difficult drive, with the government considering a two-pronged strategy.
Undersecretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said this in an interview with The Standard, as the government is set to gazette an amended law enlarging the size of scare-tactics health warnings to at least 85 percent of the cigarette packets before the current term ends on June 30.
Chan said the government will study new strategies to encourage about 600,000 hard-core smokers to quit and prevent young people from taking up the habit.
Hong Kong’s smoking rate is 10.5 percent – down from 28 percent in the 1980s – but Chan said the long-term goal is to bring down the prevalence rate to single digits, although no deadline has been set for achieving that for several reasons.
“We know that as smoking prevalence decreases to such a low extent – 10.5 is actually one of the lowest rates in the world – the rate of further lowering would be slower than before because many people who are motivated or are prepared to quit have probably already quit,” she said.
But it would be very difficult to get the hardcore smokers to quit.
“But it doesn’t mean we are not doing anything. We just need a different strategy to deal with this group of more hard-core people,” said Chan.
“We need to study the remaining population of smokers more carefully to ascertain how hardcore they are and what strategy we need to deal with the different stages of readiness to quit.”
Chan also said it was very important to prevent young people from picking up the habit.
“That’s why it is also important for us to regulate for example, e-cigarettes which are like a gateway to smoking.”
The Food and Health Bureau is studying the legislative framework to carry that out, she said, but it would not be ready anytime soon.
The Department of Health will study whether the expanded health warnings would have any effect on bringing down the smoking rate once the enhanced warnings were put in place.
“We have international evidence that it would reduce smoking prevalence,” she said.
It would be the first time for pictorial health warnings to be expanded since the warning covering 50 percent of packets was introduced in 2007.
The government will allow the tobacco industry 12 months from the enactment of the law to sell off existing stock and prepare for the expanded warnings that will also include 12 pictures, up from the current six, to be used on a rotation basis.
But she said this did not mean the government had made any concessions to the trade, saying: “Even the last time, we gave 12 months when we first introduced the pictorial warning in 2007.”
She insisted that the plan was “to gazette as soon as practicable before June 30.”
While Chan said plain packaging would not happen in Hong Kong anytime soon, she defended the government’s move to go for 85 percent instead of 100 percent health warnings.
The World Health Organization recommends 50 percent or above, she noted.
But there are legal considerations as seen in countries that have mandated plain packaging being sued by the tobacco giants.
The enhanced warnings also include the Department of Health quit line and a message from the government to quit smoking.
The economic dividends from China’s tobacco industry are a false economy, which is at odds with government’s vision for China’s future, the World Health Organization (WHO) claimed on Friday.
“The total economic cost of tobacco use in China in 2014 amounted to a staggering 350 billion yuan ($57 billion), a tenfold increase since 2000,” Bernhard Schwartlander, the WHO representative in China, told a press conference in Beijing.
The increase is a result of more people diagnosed with tobacco-related illness and increasing healthcare expenditure, according to a report jointly released by the WHO and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) at the conference.
“The direct cost of treating tobacco-related diseases in China was about 53 billion yuan and the indirect cost was expected to be 297 billion yuan,” in which the productivity loss from premature deaths was a major concern, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the report said that tobacco represents an economy of the past as China’s tobacco companies do not fit the vision of an innovative, value-added future economy.
“Projected increases in these costs will lead to negative spillovers effects across many sectors, placing increasing challenges to Chinese economy and businesses, in addition to the social welfare and health system,” it said.
Wu Yiqun, deputy director of the Beijing-based Research Center for Health Development, a think tank, told the Global Times earlier that China has huge public support for a nationwide smoking ban, but the timetable to adopt a law has been on the back burner.
“The proposed law has been mainly stymied by tobacco industry officials due to the huge economic interests involved,” Wu said.
The sector handed over 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion) to the State in 2015, up 20.2 percent from the previous year, the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration said in 2016.
The revenue from the tobacco industry derives from corporations whose business model is to create dependence on a lethal substance.
China in 2016 adopted the “Healthy China 2030″ blueprint, which says China aims to reduce smoking rates among adults from 28 percent to 20 percent by 2030.
More than 1 million people die of tobacco-related diseases every year in China, and the number is expected to reach 3 million by 2050 if no action to reduce smoking rates is taken. About 44 percent of the world’s cigarettes were consumed in China in 2014, nearly 26 percent higher than that in India, the report said.
China’s Ministry of Finance announced in May 2015 to raise cigarette taxation from the previous 5 percent to 11 percent, which “led to a reduction in cigarette sales for the first time in 20 years,” according to the report.
However, “cigarettes are increasingly affordable as the increase in cigarette prices has been much lower than the average increase in salaries.”
The country is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco.
Habitual smoking in China is set to kill more than 200 million people this century, a new report from the World Health Organization and United Nations Development Program said.
The deaths will come from primarily poor areas of the country, “unless critical steps are taken to reduce China’s dependency on tobacco,” the report, released Friday, said.
Those steps could be difficult in a country that is also the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco, according to WHO. Forty-four percent of the world’s cigarettes are smoked in China, and the profits show. In 2015, the smoking industry in China recorded $160 billion in revenue, according to Agence France-Presse.
Dr. Bernhard Schwartländer, China’s WHO representative, said there needs to be more smoke-free policies across the country.
“If nothing is done to reduce these numbers and introduce more progressive policies, the consequences could be devastating not just for the health of people across the country, but also for China’s economy as a whole,” Schwartländer said.
Cigarettes have become increasingly more affordable, according to the report. A 50 percent tax increase on cigarettes could see 47 million fewer male smokers and 20 million fewer premature deaths over 50 years.
“Raising tobacco taxes is one of the most cost-effective measures to reduce tobacco consumption, while also generating substantial revenue for health and other essential programs – investments that ultimately benefit the entire population,” said Bert Hofman, World Bank Country Director for China, Mongolia and Korea, in the WHO press release.
The men and women serving in the military have stressful jobs, and they all need to find ways to decompress. But if you’re a member of the Navy it looks like one of your recreational activities is off-limits, at least temporarily.
Bad news smokers: the Navy has banned vaping. Vaping on United States military ships and equipment has been problematic enough for concerns to make their way to the top of the naval totem pole. As of May 14, sailors will be banned from vaping on ships, subs, planes, boats, and all other official naval equipment.
The commanders of the U.S. Fleet Forces and U.S. Pacific Fleet provided a statement detailing the justification for the decision, saying, “The Fleet commanders implemented this policy to protect the safety and welfare of Sailors and to protect the ships, submarines, aircraft and equipment.”
If you’re immersed in Navy culture, this has been a topic of great debate for some time. The Naval Safety Center called e-cigarettes a “significant and unacceptable risk” in 2016, following a series of accidents involving the devices, and a memo from the Navy revealed at least 15 incidents —referred to officially as “mishaps”— in a span of eight months. In comparison to other lithium-ion devices, the Naval Safety Center pegged e-cigarettes in a class of their own because of their propensity to explode when dropped.
Some of the incidents are almost too crazy to be believed. In one issue of the Naval magazine Sea Compass, a story was shared of an incident with an e-cigarette that caused the total destruction of a car and first-degree burns on one of the passengers. It concluded with this passage:
This dramatically increases the risk of an explosion and a fire with disastrous consequences. All it takes is for one careless Sailor to mishandle a lithium ion battery, or to buy a cheap battery for their vape, and a statistically rare event can become a reality.
The higher-ups in the Navy looked at incidents like these and decided it was time to take the decision out of the hands of their sailors. They claim the ban will “remain in effect until a final determination can be made following a thorough analysis.”
Sailors will still be allowed to smoke real cigarettes in the designated smoke deck area, so smoking hasn’t been totally eliminated. But if vaping is near and dear to your heart, don’t enlist in the Navy any time soon.
The United States Navy has placed an indefinite ban on the use of electronic cigarettes aboard its ships, submarines and aircraft after multiple sailors suffered serious injuries from the device batteries exploding and catching fire.
In a statement Friday, the U.S. Fleet Forces Public Affairs said that the policy had been implemented “to protect the safety and welfare of sailors and to protect the ships, submarines, aircraft and equipment.”
The ban, which will go into effect May 14 and “remain in effect until a final determination can be made following a thorough analysis,” will apply to the use of e-cigarettes by any personnel on Navy craft or equipment.
“This new policy is in response to continued reports of explosions of ENDS [Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems] due to the overheating of lithium-ion batteries,” the statement continued. “Multiple Sailors have suffered serious injuries from these devices, to include first- and second-degree burns and facial disfigurement. In these cases, injuries resulted from battery explosions during ENDS use, charging, replacement, or inadvertent contact with a metal object while transporting.”
A memo from the Navy last September outlined the growing problem of vaping onboard Navy vessels and aircraft. The document stated that there had been 15 “mishaps” between October 2015 and June 2016, resulting in injuries to navy personnel or material damage to equipment.
Of the recent incidents, two required firefighting equipment to be used, with one resulting in an aircraft having to return to base due to smoke in the cargo section of the aircraft. Another ten occurred while the e-cigarette was in the pocket of a Navy sailor, which typically led to their clothing catching fire and first and second-degree burns on their legs and torso. Two further battery explosions happened when the e-cigarette was in the individual’s mouth, leading to facial and dental injuries.
After May 15, sailors will only be allowed to vape on shore in designated smoking areas.
The Navy is far from alone in experiencing problems with e-cigarettes. A man who suffered similar burns when an e-cigarette battery caught fire in his pocket at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal filed a lawsuit this week against the manufacturers of the device.
From 2009 to January 2016, the Food and Drug Administration recorded 134 incidents in the U.S. of e-cigarette batteries catching fire, exploding or overheating. The FDA will host a public workshop on safety concerns surrounding the devices next week.
The UK supreme court has made a final decision, denying tobacco firms permission to appeal against plain packaging.
The decision means that all cigarettes sold in the UK after 20 May must come in the standardised packaging that’s been increasingly appearing in shops during the trial period over the last year.
There will also no longer be packs of 10 cigarettes available in a move designed to deter young people from taking up smoking. For the same reason menthol cigarettes are being phased out but more gradually. They will disappear from shelves by May 2020.
Last November, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Philip Morris International went to the supreme court after the court of appeal claiming that the plain pack law would infringe their human and intellectual property rights but he appeal was rejected.
Any hopes the companies might have had that there was still a slim chance a challenge could be mounted will have been dashed by the final ruling.
The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, welcomed the supreme court’s decision, saying: “Standardised packaging will cut smoking rates and reduce suffering, disease and avoidable deaths.”
The new rules have been made under new European Union law called the Tobacco Products Directive.
Technically, the law came into force on 20 May last year, but companies were given a 12-month grace period to sell their old packs and bring in standardised packaging.
From next month, all tobacco must be packaged in drab, dark brown packs with no graphic branding.
The new packs are the same shape, size and colour, with two thirds of the front and back surfaces covered by pictorial health warnings, and written warnings on the sides.
From 21 May this year, anyone caught selling non-plain packs will face severe penalties.
Smokers will also no longer be able to buy smaller packs of cigarettes and rolling tobacco while menthols will be phased out completely by May 2020.
At the moment, rolling tobacco comes in 10g and 20g packets – but soon 30g will be the smallest size.
The ban includes some flavoured tobacco and cigarettes – including fruit, spice, herbs, alcohol, candy and vanilla.
There are also internal packaging requirements as well as rules for individual cigarette sticks. All other trademarks, logos, colour schemes and promotional images are prohibited.
Cost of cigarettes
A pack of cigarettes is now at least £8.81, which campaigners say is a key factor in making people quit smoking.
Action on Smoking and Health believe that removing the packet of ten cigarettes this means people will have to find that extra money for a packet.
“It will hit poorer and younger smokers harder who are more likely to buy smaller packs,” a spokesperson said.
Smokers’ rights group Forest said the new rules “treat adults like children and teenagers like idiots”.
New vaping laws will also come into force next month restricting sale of e-liquids and e-cigarettes.
Among the rules are: refillable tanks must have a capacity of no more than 2ml, e-liquids can not be sold in quantities greater than 10ml and e-liquid packaging must be child-resistant and tamper evident.
British American Tobacco nabs 40 per cent market share in Bulgaria with its purchase of Bulgartabac brands
British American Tobacco (BAT) has agreed to buy some of Bulgarian cigarette maker Bulgartabac’s top brands in a deal worth more than €100m (£84.8m).
The move to buy Victory, Eva Slim and GD brands will bring BAT’s market share in the country to 40 per cent from just 12 per cent previously. The deal will include retail and distribution assets in the country and the wider Adriatic region.
BAT, which has operated in Bulgaria for 25 years, said it is proud to be making the biggest investment in the country this year.
“We are committed to the Bulgarian market and are very excited about this investment in a country which is increasingly demonstrating that it has a very bright future. This significant investment demonstrates our confidence both in Bulgaria and our future growth here,” said Richard Widmann, general manager of BAT’s central European cluster.
Subject to regulatory approval, the deal will be complete by mid-2017, BAT said.
A spokesperson for BAT added the transaction aligns financially and strategically with the business objectives for the central European region. The group will grow its business in Bulgaria and further enhance its position in the Balkans, following its acquisition of TDR in 2015.
Ten packs and smaller tobacco bags are out, while standard plain covers are in
New laws that standardise the appearance of tobacco packets and limit the range of products on offer come into force next month after a bid to halt the legislation was thrown out by the Supreme Court.
What was the Supreme Court ruling about?
Four tobacco giants took legal action in a last-ditch attempt to stop the introduction of mandatory plain packaging on cigarettes sold in the UK.
They argued the law would infringe their human and intellectual property rights by making their products indistinguishable. In addition, they also questioned evidence that plain packaging would deter smokers.
However, Judge Nicholas Green, who heard the original application for a judicial review of the 2015 legislation, ruled the regulations “were lawful when they were promulgated by parliament and they are lawful now in the light of the most up-to-date evidence”.
What happens on 21 May?
All cigarette packets will come in a single shade of “opaque couche” – a muddy green which The Sun describes as “the world’s ugliest colour”.
Brand names will be written in a standard font, size and location on the pack, while health warnings will cover at least 65 per cent of the box or packet. They can also no longer carry words such as “lite”, “natural” or “organic” and menthol cigarettes will be phased out completely by 2020.
Smokers will additionally not be able to buy smaller packs of cigarettes or rolling tobacco. Packets of ten are being axed, as are 10g (a third of an ounce) and 20g packs (0.7oz) of rolling tobacco.
Amanda Sanford, spokeswoman for Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), told the Liverpool Echo that banning smaller packers was intended to deter younger smokers who are more likely to buy them because they are cheaper.
Technically, the law came into force on 20 May 2016, but tobacco companies were given a 12-month period to standardise packaging and dispose of old stock. From 21 May this year, anyone breaking the new rules faces strict penalties.
Is this a good move?
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said standardised packaging “will cut smoking rates and reduce suffering, disease and avoidable deaths”, while government chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies says she was “thrilled” the tobacco industry was not allowed to appeal.
However, smokers rights group Forest said the new rules “treat adults like children and teenagers like idiots”.
Is the UK the first country to do this?
No. Australia led the way with a law that meant tobacco products on sale after 1 December 2012 had to carry plain packaging and French packaging legislation came into effect at the start of 2017. Similar laws in Ireland, Hungary and New Zealand have not yet been rolled out.