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How Trump Ally Myron Ebell Spread Misinformation for Big Tobacco and Big Oil

The former head of President Trump’s EPA transition team played a central role in the corporate-led attack on public perceptions about tobacco and climate change.

http://www.alternet.org/environment/how-trump-ally-myron-ebell-spread-misinformation-big-tobacco-and-big-oil

“Frontiers will [change] the debate from one about teenage smoking and industry practices to one about massive tax increases, bigger government and loss of individual freedom.” — Frontiers of Freedom funding proposal to Philip Morris

When Phillip Morris didn’t like new FDA regulations that targeted cigarette sales to children and teens, Myron Ebell—who recently served as the head of President Trump’s EPA transition team—was there to “change the debate” to fit the tobacco giant’s agenda.

The FDA’s proposed regulations included prohibiting outdoor advertising of any tobacco products near schools or playgrounds, strictly regulating labeling and prohibiting tobacco company sponsorships of public events. To fight the new restrictions, tobacco-industry-funded Frontiers for Freedom started a campaign to cast doubt on the validity of the new regulations.

Frontiers, a conservative “educational foundation,” hired Ebell as policy director to help run the campaign, even using his name to raise money for the project. In a fundraising letter to Philip Morris in 1998, Frontiers highlighted Ebell as an example of why more funding was needed to run an organized push to make regulating the tobacco industry “politically unpalatable.”

The Frontiers campaign was pure spin. The tobacco companies’ First Amendment rights were being trampled on, it claimed—more Big Government overreach. From pushing the dubious claim that rules infringed on smokers’ and tobacco companies’ rights to blaming smokers themselves, Ebell oversaw Frontier’s tobacco-industry-funded drive to fight regulation. It took a fourteen-year battle for Congress to pass the regulations and make them stick. In the end, the tobacco advertising regulations made significant progress in curbing teen smoking. No thanks to Ebell and Frontiers for Freedom.

In April of 1998, Ebell and a handful of other marketing experts sat around a table with some of the largest U.S. fossil fuel companies to discuss a plan for a similar attack on climate science. Representatives from Exxon, Chevron, utility giant Southern Company and the American Petroleum Institute worked with operatives from established conservative think tanks and public relations wonks to draft a program designed to attack public and political perceptions about climate change. They dubbed it “The Global Climate Science Communications Plan.”

The plan’s strategy was similar to Frontier’s anti-regulation tobacco campaign. This time the goal was to make climate-change-related regulation politically unpalatable.

The foundation of the plan was to sow doubt about the scientific validity of action on climate change, even though in 1998 the science was already solid. Of the ninety-six papers published on global warming that year, just one disagreed about man’s activities driving warming. That truth about the state of the science was replaced with a push to convince “a majority of the American public” that “significant uncertainties exist in climate science.”

The seven-page directive boldly stated that “victory will be achieved when” the uncertainties about climate science are part of “common knowledge,” when media recognizes and covers those uncertainties and when those promoting action on climate science appear out of touch.

Strategies and tactics of the plan included:

• Recruit and train a team of scientists for media outreach
• Produce a steady stream of op-eds written by these scientists
• Organize and teach conservative grassroots groups
• Become a one-stop-shop for members of Congress, state leaders and teachers looking for information about climate change
• Distribute materials directly to schools and convince a national TV journalist to produce a TV program outlining the supposed uncertainties

It worked.

In 2007, television journalist John Stossel did a bang-up job promoting climate confusion with his special, “Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity,” for a special edition of “20/20.” By 2016, a Pew poll found only 9 percent of conservative Republicans believed that climate research reflects the best available evidence, while 57 percent of that same group felt that climate research is influenced not by valid science, but by scientists’ desire to advance their careers.

In 1999, Ebell moved to Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank funded by many of the same oil companies he’d sat around the table with the year before to hatch the plan to misinform the American public. From 1998 to 2005, ExxonMobil provided CEI with over $2 million dollars of funding. As director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, Ebell put the plan to work.

Impacting the voice of elected officials was another key aspect of “victory” named in the 1998 disinformation plan. By that measure success was swift in coming. Just two years after the plan was hatched, CEI joined with conservative Senator James Inhofe as co-plaintiff in a lawsuit over the National Assessment, a federal report on climate change’s impacts on the United State.

The lawsuit was designed to suppress publication and distribution of recent climate science findings. In 2003, CEI sued the U.S. government directly, demanding the National Assessment not be disseminated. In 2005, Senator Inhofe joined with Ebell and other climate science deniers on a speaker’s panel for a CEI panel to discuss the Future of International and U.S. Climate Policy. By 2012, Ebell was bragging on his blog about Inhofe’s legislation to block EPA regulations. It was a victory: Climate-change-related regulation had become politically unpalatable.

Opposition to the validity of climate science skyrocketed among conservative politicians after 1998. Fighting all government action on global warming is now a bullet point on the GOP’s purity test. Over that same period, oil industry financial support for political campaigns and lobbying efforts have overwhelmingly gone to Republicans.

The election of Donald Trump was icing on the climate science denial cake. Ebell was tapped to head Trump’s EPA transition team. Eighteen years of work deceiving the public finally paid off for Ebell. His dream of drastically reducing the power of the EPA is being realized. Ebell headed Trump’s EPA transition team. He oversaw the writing of a policy paper—not available to the public—that will steer fellow climate science denier and EPA antagonist-turned-EPA head Scott Pruitt. Under Pruitt’s leadership, climate-change-related regulations will be rolled back and the EPA’s budget will be cut by 24percent.

Ebell has no background in science. He studied philosophy and has a master’s degree in political theory. His understanding of modern climate science sounds like this:

The models say that much of the warming will occur in the upper latitudes and in the winter. At the risk of further ridicule in kooky blogs in England, where global warming alarmism is now a religion, that sounds pretty good to me. Fewer people will die from the cold.

Fossil fuel industries got what they wanted. Conservative politicians got what they wanted. CEI got what it wanted. Ebell got what he wanted. All at the expense of the environment, public health and the stability of future generations.

Hope Forpeace is a short film producer with AK Productions. She spoke before the EPA’s Scientific Advisory in 2015 and coordinated the effort to have EPA’s fracking study include known cases of water contamination. She has traveled across the country for several years investigating cases of fracking-related pollution.

Dutch cancer assoc. files lawsuit against tobacco producers

Dutch cancer fighting association KWF is suing four major tobacco companies for aggravated assault resulting in death and forgery. According to the association, the tobacco companies deliberately incorrectly inform smokers about the damage smoking actually causes, AD reports.

http://nltimes.nl/2017/03/24/dutch-cancer-assoc-files-lawsuit-tobacco-producers

KWF is filing charges against the largest tobacco manufacturers in the world – Imperial Tobacco Benelux, British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International.

The association is charging the tobacco companies with forgery because KWF believes they intentionally manipulate the mandatory tests that measure the emission of harmful and addictive substances in cigarettes. In this the KWF points to what they call the “sjoemel cigarette” [tampered cigarette]. These cigarettes have little holes that tests show make smokers inhale less harmful substances. But according to the KWF, this is wrong – smokers partly cover the holes with their fingers, thereby inhaling more harmful substances in practice than the tests indicate.

KWF is suing the tobacco companies with two smoking victims Anne Marie van Veen and Lia Breed and the Youth Smoking Prevention foundation.

Court upholds NT$5 million fine on British tobacco company

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/asoc/201702020020.aspx

The Taipei High Administrative Court on Thursday upheld a NT$5 million (US$160,800) fine imposed by Taipei City government on a U.K.-based tobacco company.

Imperial Tobacco received the fine in 2015 for violating the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act, after the company was found to have invited consumers to try out one of its cigarette products, as part of a marketing survey.

Imperial Tobacco filed a case with the Taipei High Administrative Court challenging the fine.

The court on Thursday ruled in favor of Taipei City government, after determining that Imperial Tobacco did indeed violate the provisions of the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act.

The case can be appealed.

(By Liu Shih-yi and Y.F. Low)
ENDITEM/AW

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Anti-Tobacco Groups Worried About Trump, Congress

Lawmakers considering efforts to weaken FDA’s regulatory power

http://www.medpagetoday.com/pulmonology/smoking/62788

The federal government and most states continued to receive mostly failing grades from the American Lung Association (ALA) for efforts to reduce tobacco use among adults and teens during 2016, despite the enactment of the long-awaited “deeming” rule giving FDA regulatory authority over all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars.

The failure to require graphic warning labels on cigarette packaging and to move toward banning menthol cigarettes earned federal administrators and lawmakers an “F” grade from the ALA for tobacco regulation, according to the group’s annual State of Tobacco Control report, released late this week.

But despite these shortcomings, anti-tobacco advocates who spoke to MedPage Today say there is no question that regulatory and other actions taken at the state and federal level during the Obama administration’s 8-year tenure helped spur the record decline in tobacco use among adults and teens.

And they expressed concern that many of these hard-fought gains will be rolled back by the new administration and Congress.

“There is no question that what government does makes a big difference,” Matthew L. Myers of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids told MedPage Today.

“During the last eight years we have seen tobacco advertising restricted through the FDA, there have been sustained (anti-tobacco) mass media campaigns, tobacco taxes have increased and internet sales have been curtailed. All of these things contributed to the dramatic decline in tobacco consumption,” Myers asserted.

Speaking with a group of corporate leaders on Monday, President Trump vowed to do away with 75% or more of government regulations and he repeated his campaign promise of massive tax cuts.

Myers said Trump’s views on specific tobacco regulations and taxes are not known.

“President Trump has not spoken about this, so it is still unclear what position he will personally take,” Myers said. “To date, the physical manifestation of our concern comes from the cigarette and e-cigarette industries urging Congress to curtail funding for successful mass media campaigns and critical regulatory measures.”

The ALA’s Erika Seward said two specific attempts now before Congress to weaken FDA’s regulatory authority over tobacco are of particular concern.

On Jan. 13, Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) reintroduced a bill in the House to exempt premium cigars from FDA regulation. The agency’s deeming rule announced last May extended its authority to cigars, e-cigarettes, pipe tobacco, and hookah. Posey first introduced the legislation in 2015, but it failed to pass under the previous Congress.

Congress is also considering legislation to grandfather flavored e-cigarettes and other non-traditional cigarette tobacco products, which would allow them to stay on the market.

“This is especially troubling because the Surgeon General has found that these flavors are particularly attractive to kids,” Seward said, noting that flavorings are believed to be a major driver of the more than 10-fold increase in e-cigarette use among high school-age kids between 2011 and 2015.

She added that there is “real concern about what lies ahead for reducing tobacco use and, specifically, whether the FDA’s existing authority will be weakened.”

While President Trump has not yet named a new FDA director, past actions by his pick for Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary have not lessened this fear.

Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-Ga.), was one of the few members of Congress to vote against giving FDA authority over tobacco, and he also voted against continuation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is largely funded by tobacco taxes.

As head of HHS, Price would have authority over the FDA, the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, and other major health agencies.

Myers said lobbyists from the e-cigarette industry are working to convince lawmakers to effectively prevent the FDA from regulating the products, as are groups that oppose government regulation on ideological grounds.

On Jan. 17, a coalition of a dozen free-market and anti-tax activist groups opposed to e-cigarette regulation, including FreedomWorks and Campaign for Liberty, sent a letter to Congress urging that all products on the market before the regulations went into effect last August be exempt from key provisions of FDA oversight, arguing that regulation “is depriving smokers of a demonstrably safer alternative (to traditional cigarettes).”

“While everyone’s focus seems to be on the White House, the tobacco industry has made it clear that it intends to urge Congress to dramatically curtail what has been working to reduce tobacco use,” Myers said.”It may feel like we’ve been back this year for a really long time, but it’s still early.”

COSH urges the Government to take full account of public opinions Enact Enlargement of Pictorial Health Warnings Promptly

http://smokefree.hk/en/content/web.do?page=news20170116

Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (“COSH”) urges the Government and Legislative Council to enact the enlargement of pictorial health warnings promptly in order to reduce the attractiveness of tobacco, motivate more smokers to quit and deter youth from trying the first cigarette. Mr Antonio KWONG, COSH Chairman remarked, “Results from survey conducted by COSH and two rounds of public consultations organized by the Legislative Council showed that majority of citizens and organizations supported the enlargement of pictorial health warnings to 85%. The Government and Legislative Council should take full account of public opinions and enact the proposed tobacco control measure as soon as possible.”

The Government briefed the legislative proposals to strengthen tobacco control on 18 May 2015, including enlarging the size of pictorial health warnings to at least 85% of the two largest surfaces of the packet, increasing the number of forms of health warning from six to twelve and adding the quitline 1833 183. The date of enactment is yet to be scheduled after more than one and a half years.

The Legislative Council collected views of the public and held special meetings on the enlargement of pictorial health warnings twice. Among the hundred submissions received in July 2015 regarding the increase in the size of pictorial health warnings, more than 80% supported. Besides, over 100 submissions were received for the special meeting of Legislative Council Panel on Health Services to be held tomorrow (17 January 2017), in which around 70% agreed the proposed measure.

The School of Public Health of The University of Hong Kong was commissioned by COSH to carry out the Tobacco Control Policy-related Survey 2016. It was found that public support on enhancing the pictorial health warnings was overwhelming, 79.5% of all respondents agreed to display more threatening messages about the health risks of smoking. About 72.5% of all respondents supported to increase the coverage of the health warnings to 85% while about half of the current smokers also supported. Majority of respondents opted for plain packaging* of cigarettes as well. In addition, COSH has collected over 26,500 signatures from citizens and organizations through street counters and online platform supporting the enlargement of pictorial health warnings since May 2015.

In recent years, many countries have successfully introduced more stringent measures to regulate tobacco packaging. Prof Judith MACKAY, Director of Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control and Senior Policy Advisor of World Health Organization claimed, “Hong Kong ranked the 72nd in the world regarding the implementation of pictorial health warning and behind many developing countries like Laos, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Hong Kong should enlarge and strengthen the pictorial warnings promptly in order to reduce the use of tobacco.” World Health Organization called for more countries to enlarge pictorial warnings covering more than 85% and implement plain packaging. “Get ready for plain packaging” was designated as the theme of World No Tobacco Day 2016.

Recently, some organizations opposed the proposed enlargement of warnings in the pretext that it would lead to a surge in cigarette smuggling activities. A recent study also claimed that illicit cigarettes composed for around 30% of cigarette consumption in Hong Kong. Prof LAM Tai-hing, Chair Professor of Community Medicine cum Sir Robert Kotewall Professor in Public Health, School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong said, “the public should express reservation on the results of this tobacco industry-funded study. The data collection methods and calculations of the study were unclear using dubious methods.” The tobacco industry and its allies always express strong opposition against tobacco control measures proposed by the Government under the pretext that it will lead to a surge in cigarette smuggling activities. As recommended by the World Health Organization, the most effective measure against smuggling is tight control and aggressive enforcement.

With the Government’s multi-pronged tobacco control policies over the years, the smoking prevalence in Hong Kong has gradually reduced from 23% in early 80s to 10.5% in 2015. In view of the tobacco epidemic in Hong Kong and the international tobacco control trend, we urge the Government and Legislative Councilors to take account of public opinions and implement the enlargement of pictorial health warnings as soon as possible to safeguard public health. The Government should also actively consider adopting plain packaging within 2 to 3 years and develop long-term and comprehensive tobacco control policies including regulating the emerging tobacco products and e-cigarettes, raising tobacco tax substantially, expanding no-smoking areas, increasing resources on education, publicity, smoking cessation services and enforcement to further reduce the smoking prevalence in Hong Kong and protect people from the harms of smoking and secondhand smoke.

*Remarks: Plain packaging standardizes and simplifies the packaging of tobacco products. The pictorial health warnings on the main sides of cigarette pack are expanded. All forms of tobacco branding should be labeled according to the government prescriptions and with simple and plain format. This means that trademarks, graphics and logos are not allowed on cigarette packs, except for the brand name that is displayed in a standard font size, colour and location on the package. The packaging should not contain other colours and should include only the content and consumer information, such as toxic constituents and health warnings required by law. The quitline number should also be displayed at a prominent position. Australia was the first country to introduce plain packaging in 2012. The measure was also implemented in the United Kingdom, France and Hungary in 2016 and will be implemented in Ireland in 2017.

Tobacco stats for Hong Kong years 2013-2016

Clear the Air herewith provides our readers with Tobacco stats for Hong Kong years 2013-2016

sticks

The figures tell us that the Hong Kong Government preventative health measures are blatantly NOT WORKING.

The sales of duty paid cigarettes continue to spiral instead of decreasing.

The Government takes over $6 billion in tobacco excise taxes then throws only crumbs to tobacco control and prevention resources – the $6bn remainder goes to pouring white elephant concrete.

The excise tax is manifestly insufficient for a 1st world country with such a high cost of living. Hong Kong needs to match Australia, New Zealand, UK , Ireland excise tax levels to have a preventative effect.

Hence tobacco remains affordable to youth here whilst Government apathy and lack of political will to act reign supreme. A form of misconduct in public office for their failure of duty of care to the people.

Meanwhile there is no apparent political will to force a legislative change to place the onus on landlords to prevent smoking in their licensed premises (whereas on the Mainland they have such laws).

As long as people can go out and smoke in places of entertainment with negligible chances of being caught, they will continue to do so.

Abysmal state of affairs. The highly paid incumbents would have been fired long ago in a business enterprise.

Imperial stubs out plans for Supreme Court battle on tobacco packaging rules

Big Tobacco’s battle against the Government’s crackdown on cigarette packaging has taken a blow after a second company stubbed out plans to take its case to the Supreme Court.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/12/17/imperial-stubs-plans-supreme-court-battle-tobacco-packaging/

The decision by Imperial, the ­maker of Gauloises and Lambert & Butler cigarettes, leaves just two of the big four tobacco companies still considering whether to take the Government to the Supreme Court over the rules, which came into force in May.

Since then, cigarette firms have been required to manufacture products in standardised “plain” khaki packaging sporting prominent health warnings. All tobacco products sold in the UK from next May must comply with the rules.

Imperial joins Philip Morris International in reluctantly accepting the tobacco branding crackdown after a failed court challenge in May lead to an unsuccessful legal appeal last month.

A spokesman for Imperial told the Sunday Telegraph: “We maintain our firmly held view that plain packaging is not an effective tobacco control policy but we have chosen not to seek permission to escalate our legal challenge in the UK to the Supreme Court.”

British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) will reveal “any day now” whether they will continue to fight the rules which came into effect in April, an industry source said.

But Imperial’s decision to walk away from the fight despite relying on the UK for around 15pc of its total earnings raises questions over the commitment of BAT which earns less than 1pc of its takings from Britain.

JTI also has a 15pc exposure to the market and has been the most outspoken against the legislation which its UK boss Daniel Sciamma has branded “commercial vandalism” which “sets a dangerous precedent for other targeted industries”.

Imperial said it plans to focus on maintaining its market share in the face of rising legislation and will invest more heavily in its specialist brands such e-cigarettes and non-tobacco vaping products.

UK court rejects tobacco companies’ appeal on plain packaging

http://in.reuters.com/article/us-tobacco-court-appeal-idINKBN13P1ED

A UK court has dismissed an appeal brought by some of Britain’s largest tobacco companies over the government’s new plain packaging rules.

In its decision handed down on Wednesday, the court dismissed all appeals brought by British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, Imperial Brands and several paper manufacturers.

The companies argued that the law, which went into effect in May, unlawfully deprives them of their intellectual property by banning the use of all marketing on packages, including logos, colors and special fonts.

“This is a victory for public health and another crushing defeat for the tobacco industry,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health.

“This ruling should also encourage other countries to press ahead with standardized packaging, now that the industry’s arguments have yet again been shown to be without foundation.”

BAT, the world’s second-biggest tobacco company, called the decision “disappointing” and said it was considering its options carefully.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller in London; Editing by Louise Heavens, Greg Mahlich)

Big Tobacco threatens Supreme Court fight after losing plain packaging appeal

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/11/30/big-tobacco-threatens-supreme-court-fight-losing-packaging-appeal/

The world’s largest tobacco companies have threatened to take their battle against the Government’s plain packaging policy to the UK’s highest courts after losing their latest appeal against the branding crackdown.

The court of appeal today upheld legislation that forces all tobacco products to use uniform packaging in a ruling described by anti-smoking groups as a “crushing defeat” for the tobacco industry.

The latest blow to cigarette-makers British American Tobacco, Imperial, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris International follows their failed court challenge in May this year, one month after the new anti-tobacco legislation came into effect.

Under the new rules all tobacco packaging must be olive green and include large images showing the negative health consequences of smoking as a visual deterrent.

Tobacco companies have repeatedly branded the move unlawful and say it will be ineffective at reducing smoking rates. They will continue to oppose the regulation despite a second legal defeat. The exception to the industry-wide defiance is PMI, which said in May that it would focus on developing its smoke-free products rather than fight the case.

Daniel Sciamma, the UK managing director of Japan Tobacco, said that the company was already considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

“This commercial vandalism sets a dangerous precedent for other targeted industries, who must be concerned that their brands will now be under threat. We obviously disagree with the court’s decision as it endorses the confiscation of our brands,” Mr Sciamma said.

Meanwhile BAT warned that the court decision “does not necessarily mark the end of the challenge” and a spokesman for Imperial said that it was reviewing the judgement before considering its legal position.

Jefferies analyst Owen Bennett said the impact of plain packaging would weigh most heavily on Imperial and Winston and Camel maker Japan Tobacco, which both rely on the UK for around 15pc of their overall earnings

For Marlboro maker PMI and BAT, the UK market makes up less than 1pc of their business.

Despite the minority exposure to the UK market the tobacco companies still have a strong incentive to fight the clampdown, which could spur similar legislation in other markets.

“Seeing results such as this may actually encourage other markets to follow suit,” said Mr Bennett, adding that should other countries wish to implement plain packaging in the years ahead then the outcome of any challenges would most likely be the same.