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Threats, bullying, lawsuits: tobacco industry’s dirty war for the African market

Revealed: In pursuit of growth in Africa, British American Tobacco and others use intimidatory tactics to attempt to suppress health warnings and regulation

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/12/big-tobacco-dirty-war-africa-market

British American Tobacco (BAT) and other multinational tobacco firms have threatened governments in at least eight countries in Africa demanding they axe or dilute the kind of protections that have saved millions of lives in the west, a Guardian investigation has found.

BAT, one of the world’s leading cigarette manufacturers, is fighting through the courts to try to block the Kenyan and Ugandan governments’ attempts to bring in regulations to limit the harm caused by smoking. The giant tobacco firms hope to boost their markets in Africa, which has a fast-growing young and increasingly prosperous population.

In one undisclosed court document in Kenya, seen by the Guardian, BAT’s lawyers demand the country’s high court “quash in its entirety” a package of anti-smoking regulations and rails against what it calls a “capricious” tax plan. The case is now before the supreme court after BAT Kenya lost in the high court and the appeal court. A ruling is expected as early as next month.

BAT in Uganda asserts in another document that the government’s Tobacco Control Act is “inconsistent with and in contravention of the constitution”.

The Guardian has also seen letters, including three by BAT, sent to the governments of Uganda, Namibia, Togo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso revealing the intimidatory tactics that tobacco companies are using, accusing governments of breaching their own laws and international trade agreements and warning of damage to the economy.

Extract – court document

“The Regulations are unlawful in their entirety as a result of procedural impropriety … The warning requirements [on cigarette packets] constitute an unjustifiable barrier to international trade.”

A petition by British American Tobacco Kenya to the country’s high court against aspects of the Kenyan government’s proposed tobacco regulations, 16 April 2015

BAT denies it is opposed to all tobacco regulation, but says it reserves the right to ask the courts to intervene where it believes regulations may not comply with the law.

Later this month, BAT is expected to become the world’s biggest listed tobacco firm as it completes its acquisition of the large US tobacco company Reynolds in a $49bn deal, and there are fears over the extent to which big tobacco can financially outmuscle health ministries in poorer nations. A vote on the deal by shareholders of both firms is due to take place next Wednesday, simultaneously in London at BAT and North Carolina at Reynolds.

Professor Peter Odhiambo, a former heart surgeon who is head of the government’s Tobacco Control Board in Kenya, told the Guardian: “BAT has done as much as they can to block us.”

Experts say Africa and southern Asia are urgent new battlegrounds in the global fight against smoking because of demographics and rising prosperity. Despite declining smoking and more controls in some richer countries, it still kills more than seven million people globally every year, according to the WHO, and there are fears the tactics of big tobacco will effectively succeed in “exporting the death and harm” to poorer nations.

There are an estimated 77 million smokers in Africa and those numbers are predicted to rise by nearly 40% from 2010 levels by 2030, which is the largest projected such increase in the world.

In Kenya, BAT has succeeded in delaying regulations to restrict the promotion and sale of cigarettes for 15 years, fighting through every level of the legal system. In February it launched a case in the supreme court that has already halted the imposition of tobacco controls until probably after the country’s general election in August, which are being contested by parliamentarians who have been linked to payments by the multinational company.

Extract – court document

“[A proposal for a new 2% tax on the industry in Kenya] … is arbitrary, capricious and inaccessible … it will have a significant effect on cigarette manufacturers and importers putting at risk further investment and direct and indirect employment opportunities in Kenya.”

A petition by British American Tobacco Kenya to the country’s high court against aspects of the Kenyan government’s proposed tobacco regulations, April 16th 2015

In Uganda, BAT launched legal action against the government in November, arguing that the Tobacco Control Act, which became law in 2015, contravenes the constitution. It is fighting restrictions that are now commonplace in richer countries, including the expansion of health warnings on packets and point-of-sale displays, arguing that they unfairly restrict its trade.

The court actions are brought by BAT’s local affiliates, BAT Kenya and BAT Uganda, but approved at Globe House, the London headquarters of the multinational, which receives most of the profits from the African trade. In its 2016 annual report, BAT outlined the “risk” that “unreasonable litigation” would be brought in to control tobacco around the world. Its response was an “engagement and litigation strategy coordinated and aligned across the Group”.

‘Focus on emerging markets’

At its annual meeting in March, chairman Richard Burrows toasted a “vintage year” for BAT, as profits rose 4% to £5.2bn after investors took their cut – their dividend had increased by 10%. When asked about the legal actions in Africa, he said tobacco was an industry that “should be regulated … but we want to see that regulation is serving the correct interests of the health mission and human mission which should lie behind it”.

Extract – court document

“Your Petitioner alleges and shall demonstrate that the Tobacco Control Act, read as a whole, has the effect of unjustifiably singling out the tobacco industry for discriminative treatment.”

A petition of British American Tobacco Uganda in the constitutional court against the Ugandan government’s Tobacco Control Act

So, “from time to time it’s necessary for us to take legal action to challenge new regulation” which he said was led by “the local board”.

BAT says it is “simply not true that we oppose all tobacco regulation, particularly in developing countries”. Tobacco should be appropriately regulated as a product that has risks to health, it said, but “where there are different interpretations of whether regulations comply with the law, we think it is entirely reasonable to ask the courts to assist in resolving it”. It was opposed to only a handful of the issues in Kenya’s regulations, not the entirety, it said in a statement.

Although most countries in Africa have signed the World Health Organisation (WHO) treaty on tobacco control, none has yet fully implemented the smoking restrictions it endorses.

The WHO predicts that by 2025, smoking rates will go up in 17 of the 30 Africa-region countries from their 2010 level. In some countries a massive hike is expected – in Congo-Brazzaville, from 13.9% to nearly half the population (47.1%) and in Cameroon from 13.7% to 42.7%. In Sierra Leone it will be 41.2% (74% among men) and in Lesotho 36.9%.

In contrast, research showed last year that just 16.9% of adults smoke in the UK; and last month new figures showed UK heart disease deaths had fallen 20% since that country’s indoor smoking ban.

“The tobacco industry is now turning its focus toward emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to exploit the continent’s patchwork tobacco control regulations and limited resources to combat industry marketing advances,” said Dr Emmanuela Gakidou and colleagues at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, publishing an analysis of smoking prevalence around the world in the Lancet in April.

Extract – letter

Uganda’s economy has “benefitted… significantly” from BAT’s tobacco business, employing 200 Ugandans and 1500 extra in the tobacco buying season. “This has helped to alleviate poverty and improve welfare in urban and rural areas …”

Extracts of a letter from Jonathan D’Souza, managing director of BAT Uganda to the chairperson of the Uganda Parliamentary committee on health, 14 April 2014

Africa’s growing numbers of children and young people, and its increasing wealth, represent a huge future market for the tobacco industry. The companies deny targeting children and cannot sell packs smaller than 10, but a new study carried out in Nairobi by the Johns Hopkins school of public health in the US and the Kenya-based Consumer Information Network found vendors selling cigarettes along the routes children take to walk to primary schools.

WHO-congo-smoke

Stalls sell single Dunhill, Embassy, Safari and other BAT cigarette sticks, costing around 4p (5 cents) each, alongside sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks. The vendors split the packets of 20 manufactured by BAT. “They are targeting children,” said Samuel Ochieng, chief executive of the Consumer Information Network. “They mix cigarettes with candies and sell along the school paths.”

BAT said that its products were for adult smokers only and that it would much prefer that stalls sold whole packets rather than single sticks, “given our investment in the brands and the fact there are clear health warnings on the packs.

“Across the world, we have very strict rules regarding not selling our products to retailers located near schools. BAT Kenya provides support to many of these independent vendors, including providing stalls painted in non-corporate colours, and providing youth smoking prevention and health warnings messages. We also educate vendors to ensure they do not sell tobacco products near schools.”

Links with politicians

The Kenya case, expected to be heard after the elections on 8 August, is seen as critical for the continent. If the government loses, other countries will have less appetite for the long and expensive fight against the wealthy tobacco industry.

BAT has around 70% of the Kenyan market; its Kenyan competitor, Mastermind, has joined in the legal action against the government.

Extract – letter

“If these measures are brought into effect, the economic and social impact will be extremely negative. They could even threaten the continuation of our factory which has operated in Bobo Dioulasso for more than fifty years with more than 210 salaried employees.”

Excerpt from letter from Imperial Tobacco to the prime minister of Burkina Faso, 25 January 2016, concerning new regulations on plain cigarette packaging and large graphic health warnings.

Concerns have been raised about links between politicians and the tobacco companies. “There are allegations of some of them having been bribed in the past,” said Joel Gitali, chief executive of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance.

BAT whistleblower Paul Hopkins, who worked in Africa for BAT for 13 years, told a British newspaper he paid bribes on the company’s behalf to the Kenya Revenue Authority for access to information BAT could use against its Kenyan competitor, Mastermind. Hopkins has also alleged links between certain prominent opposition Kenyan politicians and two tobacco companies, BAT Kenya and Mastermind. Hopkins, who says he alerted BAT to the documents before the company made him redundant, claimed BAT Kenya paid bribes to government officials in Burundi, Rwanda and the Comoros Islands to undermine tobacco control regulations. Gitali is concerned about the outcome of the election: “If the opposition takes over government we shall be deeply in the hands of the tobacco companies.”

BAT denies any wrongdoing. A spokesperson said: “We will not tolerate improper conduct in our business anywhere in the world and take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously. We are investigating, through external legal advisors, allegations of misconduct and are liaising with the Serious Fraud Office and other relevant authorities.”

Extract – letter

“Once the decision to smoke is taken by an adult smoker, the pack provides adult consumers with pertinent information”

British American Tobacco letter to the prime minister of Gabon, 1 January 2012

‘We grow up dreaming we can be one of them’

Tih Ntiabang, regional coordinator for Africa of the Framework Convention Alliance – NGOs that support the WHO treaty – said the tobacco companies had become bolder. “In the past it used to be invisible interference, but today it is so shameful that it is so visible and they are openly opposing public health treaties like the case in Kenya at the moment … Today they boldly go to court to oppose public health policy. Every single government is highly interested in economic growth. They [the tobacco companies] know they have this economic power. The budget of tobacco companies like BAT could be as much as the whole budget of the Africa region.

“Our health systems are not really well organised. Our policy makers can’t see clearly what are the health costs of inaction on tobacco control because our health system is not very good. It puts the tobacco industry at an advantage on public health.”

The sale across the whole of Africa of single cigarette sticks was a serious problem because it enabled children to buy them. “They are extremely affordable. Young teenagers are able to purchase a cigarette. You don’t need £1 for a pack of 20,” he said.

WHO-africa-deaths

BAT has a reputation in Africa as an employer offering steady and well-paid jobs, said Ntiabang, based in Cameroon. “When I was about 10, I was always dreaming I could work for BAT. They have always painted themselves as a responsible company – a dream company to work for. All the staff are well-off. The young people think ‘I want to work for BAT’. They promote a lot of events and make their name appear to young people. We grow up dreaming we can be one of them.”

In Uganda in 2014, BAT managing director, Jonathan D’Souza, sent a 13-page detailed attack on the tobacco control bill, then going through parliament, to the chair of the government’s health committee.

BAT was contracting with 18,000 farmers and paid them 61bn Ugandan shillings for 16.8m kg of tobacco in 2013, said the letter. The economy has “benefited significantly” from BAT Uganda’s investments, it said. “This has helped to alleviate poverty and improve welfare in urban and rural areas,” it says.

Extract – letter

“The draft regulations which you have published deal with a wide range of issues which will have a massive impact not only on the tobacco industry but also on a wider scale on the Namibian economy at large.”

Excerpt from a letter from the general manager of BAT in Namibia to the minister of health and social services, 17 November 2011

BAT Uganda (BATU) agreed tobacco should be regulated while “respecting the informed choices and rights of adults who choose to smoke and the legal rights of a legal industry”. But it cited 11 “areas of concern”, claiming there is no evidence to support a ban on tobacco displays in shops, that large graphic health warnings on packs are ineffective, that proposals on bans on smoking in public places were too broad and that prohibiting smoking under the age of 21 was unreasonable, since at 18 young people are adults and can make up their own mind.

Documents made public by the University of Bath show that BATU had another concern: the ban on the sale of cheap single cigarettes. Adults should be “free to purchase what they can afford”, says an internal leaked paper. BATU also took action against the MP who sponsored the bill. A letter informed him that the company would no longer be contracting with the 709 tobacco farmers in his region. There is evidence that the company also lobbied other MPs with tobacco farmers in their constituencies.

The Tobacco Control Act became law in 2015, and in November last year, BAT sued. Many people choose to smoke, said an affidavit to the court from managing director Dadson Mwaura and it was important to ensure regulation did not lead to “unintended consequences that risk an untaxed and unrestrained illegitimate trade in tobacco products”. BATU’s legal product contributed to the Ugandan economy “in many dimensions”.

The Guardian has seen letters showing that at least six other African governments have faced challenges from the multinational tobacco companies over their attempts to control smoking.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Letter to the president sent in April 2017 by the Fédération des Entreprises du Congo (chamber of commerce) on behalf of the tobacco industry, listing 29 concerns with the proposed tobacco control regulations, which they claim violate the constitution, international agreements and domestic law.

Burkina Faso: Letter sent in January 2016 to the minister of health from Imperial Tobacco, warning that restrictions on labeling and packaging cigarettes risks economic and social damage to the country. Previous letter sent to the prime minister from the US Chambers of Commerce in December 2013 warning that large health warnings and plain packaging could put Burkina Faso in breach of its obligations to the World Trade Organisation.

Ethiopia: Letter sent in February 2015 to the ministers of health and science and technology by Philip Morris International, claiming that the government’s tobacco directive banning trademarks, brands and added ingredients to tobacco breached existing laws and would penalise all consumer retailers.

Togo: Letter to the minister of commerce in June 2012 from Philip Morris International opposing plain packaging, which “risks having damaging consequences on Togo’s economy and business environment”.

Gabon: Letter from BAT arguing that there is no evidence that plain packaging reduces smoking, citing the Deloitte report of 2011, alleging its introduction would put Gabon in breach of trade agreements and promote smuggling.

Namibia: Letter to the minister of health from BAT, warning that planned tobacco controls will have “a massive impact … on the Namibian economy at large”.

Extract – memo

“As a country whose economy heavily relies on exports, Togo can ill afford to anger its international partners by introducing plain packaging.”

Excerpt from memo on plain packaging from chief executive of Philip Morris West Africa to the minister of commerce of Togo, to reiterate its concerns following a meeting, 21 June 2013

Bintou Camara, director of Africa programs at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said: “British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International and other multinational tobacco companies have set their sights on Africa as a ‘growth market’ for their deadly products”. Throughout Africa, tobacco companies have tried to intimidate countries from taking effective action to reduce tobacco use, the world’s leading cause of preventable death, he added.

“Governments in Africa should know that they can and should move forward with measures aimed at preventing and reducing tobacco use – and that they do so with the support of the many governments and leaders around the world that have taken strong action to protect public health.”

Cloe Franko, senior international organizer at Corporate Accountability International, said: “In Kenya, as in other parts of the world, the industry has resorted to frivolous litigation, aggressive interference … to thwart, block, and delay lifesaving policies. BAT’s actions are emblematic of a desperate industry grasping to maintain its hold over countries and continue to peddle its deadly product.”

Philip Morris said it is regularly engaged in discussions with governments. “We are approached by or approach public authorities to discuss a range of issues that are important for them and for us, such as taxation, international trade, and tobacco control policies. Participating in discussions and sharing points of view is a basic principle of public policy making and does not stop governments from taking decisions and enacting the laws they deem best.” It said that it supports effective regulation, “including laws banning sales to minors, mandatory health warnings, and advertising restrictions”.

Imperial Tobacco said it sold its brands “where there’s a legitimate and existing demand for tobacco and take the same responsible approach in Africa as we do in any Western territory”. A spokesman said it supported “reasonable, proportionate and evidence-based regulation of tobacco”, including “health warnings that are consistent with global public health messages”. But, it said, Imperial would “continue to make our views known on excessive, unnecessary and often counter-productive regulatory proposals”.

Philip Morris to pay millions to Australia on failed plain packaging case

Big tobacco battle: Final costs figure kept secret but reported as being up to €33.36m

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/philip-morris-to-pay-millions-to-australia-on-failed-plain-packaging-case-1.3149956

Tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris will be forced to pay millions of dollars in legal fees to Australia after its failed case against plain packaging laws.

Big tobacco companies have fought vigorously against the Australian government’s plain packaging laws since they were introduced in 2011.

By banning logos and distinctive-coloured cigarette packaging, Australia’s laws went further than the advertising bans and graphic health warnings introduced in many other countries.

Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco quickly attempted to have the laws overturned through a constitutional challenge in the high court, which they lost in 2012.

Philip Morris Asia then took a case to the permanent court of arbitration in 2012. It tried to use the conditions of a 1993 trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong to argue a ban on trademarks breached foreign investment provisions.

Corporate giant

The corporate giant not only lost but was criticised by the court, which found the case to be “an abuse of rights”.

The court published a decision on the payment of costs at the weekend, which it made in March. The decision, which brought five years of proceedings to a close, found Philip Morris Asia liable to pay Australia’s multimillion-dollar claim for legal costs.

The final costs figure was kept secret but Fairfax Media reported it as being up to AUS $50 million (€33.36 million).

Australia successfully argued Philip Morris must pay its court fees and expenses, the cost of expert witnesses, travel, and solicitors and counsel. It also claimed interest.

Australia had told the court its claim was modest and was a small proportion of what the tobacco giant had sought in damages.

Critical importance

It said Philip Morris had sought to challenge a public health measure of critical importance to Australia, making it important to “mount a robust and comprehensive response to all aspects of the claim”.

Philip Morris had tried to argue the government’s costs were unreasonable for a “legal team that consisted primarily of public servants”.

The company argued that two similar countries, Canada and the US, had never claimed more than US$4.5m and US$3m respectively in costs and fees. Australia’s claim was much more than that.

“The claimant emphasises that, even excluding the fees of four outside counsel, the respondent’s government lawyers claim over [REDACTED]in fees, even though Australia itself pays them ‘very modest government salaries’,” the court’s decision read.

But the court found Australia’s claim was reasonable, rejecting Philip Morris’s arguments.

“Taking into account the complexity of issues of domestic and international law relevant in this procedure, particularly for a government team usually not engaged in such disputes, the Tribunal does not consider that any of these costs claimed by the Respondent were unreasonable and should not have been incurred,” it found.

“In making this assessment, the Tribunal also takes into consideration the significant stakes involved in this dispute in respect of Australia’s economic, legal and political framework, and in particular the relevance of the outcome in respect of Australia’s policies in matters of public health.”

Earlier this year big tobacco failed in a separate bid to have the laws overturned by the World Trade Organisation. The decision was widely seen as a green light for more countries to follow Australia’s lead.

Tobacco firms denied plain pack appeal

The UK supreme court has made a final decision, denying tobacco firms permission to appeal against plain packaging.

http://www.packagingnews.co.uk/news/markets/tobacco/tobacco-firms-denied-plain-pack-appeal-12-04-2017

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.”

What the new tobacco and cigarette packaging laws mean

Ten packs and smaller tobacco bags are out, while standard plain covers are in

http://www.theweek.co.uk/83551/what-the-new-tobacco-and-cigarette-packaging-laws-mean

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.

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.