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Law Suits

Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest plotting ‘assault’ on the tobacco industry

Suing big tobacco for the costs of smoking-related illnesses is on the radar of an organisation set up by billionaire iron ore magnate and philanthropist Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-30/andrew-forrest-cancer-centre-to-take-on-tobacco-industry/9004204

The $75-million Eliminate Cancer Initiative (ECI), funded by Mr Forrest and wife Nicola, is seeking legal advice on the potential to mount a case seeking billions of dollars in compensation from tobacco companies.

ECI said the potential litigation would likely be based on a landmark Canadian lawsuit where three tobacco companies were ordered to pay more than $15.6 billion in damages to smokers in Quebec.

“What we do need to keep in mind is the impact and cost associated with those smokers who are now coming through the healthcare system,” ECI chief operating officer Bruce Mansfield said.

“We do need to recognise that there is a cost associated with tobacco and therefore an approach that needs to be considered very sensibly is for those industries to actually take some of the burden away from the community and of course the government.”

Mr Forrest said to tackle cancer, smoking must also be tackled because it was the single-greatest cause of preventable death.

“Cancer is the greatest cause of disease burden in Australia and, personally, it has caused the misery of every single generation of Forrests since the premature death of Lord John Forrest in 1918,” Mr Forrest said.

“One hundred million lives will be lost in the next decade — one in six deaths and with a rising incidence by 70 per cent in the next two decades.

“We must erupt change and bring this devastating disease to its knees.”

The potential litigation would be part of a multi-pronged “assault” on the tobacco industry that is also seeking to have major financial institutions cut tobacco companies from their investment portfolios, Mr Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation said.

The Australian Council on Smoking and Health has welcomed the move to put the burden of health costs back on the tobacco industry.

“The biggest impact of a successful legal action would be to hasten the demise of the tobacco industry in Australia,” president Maurice Swanson said.

“We all know that tobacco is expensive in Australia and that’s because we have relatively high taxes and they have been successful at reducing the number of smokers in Australia but those taxes are paid by individual smokers.

“The most compelling reason we’re calling for this sort of action is that taxpayers are the group that picks up the tab for the treatment of smoking caused diseases.

“The tobacco industry itself, the most lethal industry in the world, contributes nothing to compensate governments for the healthcare costs that are incurred by the consumption of their lethal product.”

‘We must hold them to account’

Cancer Council chief executive Sanchia Aranda also applauded the move and explained most governments do not have the finances to go head to head with big tobacco.

“Most countries haven’t gone down this way because the tobacco industry has very deep pockets,” Professor Aranda said.

“The tobacco industry has known for over 50 years that its product kills and yet they continue to manufacture and promote this product and market it to unsuspecting young people worldwide.”

Legal action poised to be announced within days

More than 15,000 Australians are diagnosed with preventable cancers caused by tobacco each year and 12.2 per cent of the population currently smoke.

Professor Aranda has commended the Federal Government for policy measures taken to decrease smoking rates, including tobacco taxes and the introduction of graphic warnings on packaging, but said they do not work for everybody.

“There’s certainly the belief that since graphic warnings and plain packaging that Australians should be well aware of the dangers of smoking but the problem is that tobacco smoke or the nicotine within that is highly addictive and it takes a very short time to become addicted to cigarettes,” Professor Aranda said.

“Even people who’ve given up some years ago in the older generations are facing tobacco-related illnesses — not only cancers but respiratory disease, vascular disease, heart disease — so we see this as the biggest burden of healthcare costs in Australia for the foreseeable future,” she said.

ECI said this concern was why part of their efforts would also look at lobbying for further policy changes such as raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco.

The organisation is expected to make an announcement regarding the potential challenge to the tobacco industry in the coming days.

One of Australia’s richest citizens is preparing to take on big tobacco

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Swedish snus company sues Norwegian state over neutral packaging

Snus producer Swedish Match is taking the Norwegian state to court as it seeks an injunction to delay neutral packaging.

https://www.thelocal.no/20170925/snus-company-sues-norwegian-state-over-packaging

A change in Norwegian law requiring all tobacco products to be given neutral packaging is set to be tested in court.

That includes snus, a moist powder tobacco product related to dry snuff that is popular in Norway and Sweden. The product is consumed by placing under the upper lip for extended periods.

The law, which came in to effect on July 1st this year, means that packaging of snus, as well as of cigarettes, must now be neutral.

All tobacco companies must introduce neutral packaging on their products by July 1st 2018, the final deadline for doing so after the new law was introduced.

But the Swedish company wants a temporary injunction to be taken out over snus products, reports news agency NTB.

Swedish Match will meet representatives from Norwegian authorities in court on Monday over the issue.

The company claims that the requirement set down by the Norwegian government is in breach of EEC free trade rules, and that the deadline for the new packaging must therefore be delayed until the EEC issue has been resolved by an as-yet undefined trial.

“Regulation that constitutes such a strong intervention as standardised packaging is not in proportion to the possible health risks associated with snus,” Swedish Match spokesperson Patrik Hildingsson told newspaper VG earlier this year.

Norways’s minister for health Bent Høie told the newspaper that he was not surprised by lawsuits from tobacco companies in the wake of the regulation introduced on July 1st.

“They did it in Australia, France and the United Kingdom, and lost everywhere,” Høie told VG.

The general secretary of the Norwegian Cancer Society (Kreftforeningen) said that she was, like Høie, unsurprised at the decision of tobacco companies to pursue legal options.

“This is a well-known tactic used to challenge a political initiative to ensure fewer young people start using snus,” Anne Lise Ryel said in a press statement.

The number of young people smoking has reduced significantly over the last ten years, while the used of snus has increased, according to NTB’s report.

One third of young men and just under a quarter of young women currently used the product, according to the report, while over 10,000 young people start using it each year.

Tobacco Consumption: Going Up in Smoke

In a reassuring move, the Delhi government has warned of legal action against tobacco companies if they violate laws and advertise at outlets selling their products

http://www.indialegallive.com/health-updates/tobacco-consumption-going-up-in-smoke-34241

We all know how tobacco companies sneak in surrogate advertising as they are not allowed to advertise their products. But Philip Morris International (PMI) Inc., the 160-year-old tobacco giant, pushed its top cigarette brands like Marlboro blatantly. It approached small shops and kiosks selling cigarettes and gave them free attractive boards with its advertisement to adorn the front of their shops and paid shopkeepers around Rs 500 as an incentive to break the law. The tobacco major roped in smart, young executives, mainly girls, to gift cigarette packs to youngsters in bars, discos and at parties.

However, after the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act of 2003, which allowed tobacco companies to advertise in shops, was amended, these ads were prohibited. And in mid-August, the Delhi government’s Directorate General of Health Services shot off a stern warning to Philips Morris threatening legal action if it did not remove advertisements from kiosks and other point of sale outlets. The letter asked the company why appropriate punitive action could not be initiated against it and its directors. The letter was sent when the health ministry realised that the tobacco company was violating India’s tobacco control law by advertising at outlets where it was selling its products. It also sent these notices to two other tobacco companies, Indian Tobacco Company Ltd., and Godfrey Philips.

But this was after a series of earlier warnings which were ignored by these tobacco companies. On March 24 this year, the government had told them to get the ads removed. This was largely ignored. Their stand was that the law only stipulated that the ads should not be outside the outlets and did not mention that these could not be carried within the establishments or shops. Last month, the government shot of another letter reiterating the same, but this too was ignored. An internal document of Philip Morris said that the India market had high potential.

Dr SK Arora, additional director, health, Delhi, and also the state tobacco control officer, told India Legal: “In the last three years, we have been constantly writing to tobacco companies like Philips Morris, Indian Tobacco Company and Godfrey Phillips that their ads on posters and billboards were not allowed as they were violating Section 5 of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA-2003). Our teams used to challan vendors who displayed these ads. But they would again put up the ads after we left as they were paid by the tobacco companies.”

Though the government told the companies that they would be held responsible and legal action could be initiated against them, it made no difference as they said it was not being done by them, but by distributors and vendors. When the Act was amended in 2005, it clearly said that there would be no such ads outside shops.

Though the government told the companies that they would be held responsible and legal action could be initiated against them, it made no difference as they said it was not being done by them, but by distributors and vendors. When the Act was amended in 2005, it clearly said that there would be no such ads outside shops.

Arora added: “So the tobacco companies removed the ads outside the shops, but started putting them inside, arguing that the Act did not mention that they should not be within shops or point of sale counters. Recently, the government clarified there should be no such ads both outside and inside. The tobacco companies are now pleading that they be allowed to advertise within the shop or on counters. We have no fight with these companies as long as cigarettes can be sold legally. But they have to sell them within the legal provisions.”

A source from the health ministry said that as far as Delhi was concerned, most of the ads had now been taken off and if they spotted any new ones, legal action would be initiated. Till the Delhi government carries out its threat of cracking down on violators, it is unlikely they will ever comply with the rules.

This is not the first controversy that PMI has faced. In 2010, the tobacco giant admitted to using child labour at its production facility in Kazakhstan. Human Rights Watch documented 72 cases of children used as forced labour.

India alone has some 100 million smokers. Government data says that tobacco use annually kills over 9,00,000 people. WHO estimates that tobacco-related diseases annually cost India $16 billion. Arora warned: “Tobacco is a leading cause of 40 percent of all cancers, 90 percent of oral cancer, 30 percent of tuberculosis, and 20 percent of diseases like heart attack, diabetes and hypertension apart from other respiratory diseases. While we are rapidly developing curative strategies like setting up huge cancer, diabetics and hypertension clinics, we are not doing enough to work on a preventive strategy to ensure that these diseases do not happen.”

The reach and marketing power of tobacco companies is huge. According to a 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health, the tobacco industry in the 1990s increasingly sponsored entertainment events in bars and nightclubs where it displayed cigarette brand paraphernalia and advertisements.

Globally, anti-tobacco campaigners have accused PMI of breaking an ethical code when it deliberately targeted new young smokers. Often, cigarettes were given free to those who had just entered the legal age to smoke. The company had earlier aggressively run an advertising campaign in about 50 countries, cleverly targeting the young. Internal documents of the company indicated that those between 18 and 24 years had to be zeroed in. Company executives were specifically told that they must never use the word “promotion or advertising” when they were interacting with sellers or potential users.

In 2013, Germany banned promotional images of Marlboro, saying it encouraged children as young as 14 to start smoking. But other countries did not do so despite the fact that seven anti-tobacco organisations in a report charged that Philip Morris was trying to get a new generation hooked to tobacco. The ads of PMI appealed to teenagers as they used attractive models partying, falling in love, travelling, exploring, being cool and even confused. PMI violated its own ethical code which stated that it would not use images and content that would appeal to minors.

India enacted the national tobacco control law in 2004 before being one of the first countries to ratify WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control treaty. It contains a raft of anti-smoking provisions, including tobacco taxes, warning labels on cigarette packs and advertising bans. India, thereafter, strengthened the law in line with the provisions of the treaty. It was ultimately signed by 181 countries.

A group of cigarette distributors challenged the law. But in 2013, the Supreme Court ordered that the law be implemented. It said advertisement of tobacco products would attract the younger generation and innocent minds who were not aware of the grave and adverse consequences of consuming it.

Delhi has acted strongly, but what about other states? The central government is supposed to monitor and supervise implementation of the Act all over India. Had it done that, all states would have cracked down on tobacco companies the way Delhi has done.

The Tobacco Control Programme has the infrastructure and manpower, but lacks commitment to crack down on the tobacco lobby. An anti-tobacco activist said these companies used to set aside a budget to ensure that monitoring officials were well-inclined towards them.

It is time to act before matters go up in smoke.

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.

House summons Imee Marcos to tobacco fund hearing

If she fails to attend the July 25 hearing, then the Ilocos Norte governor will be arrested by the House, where her accuser Rodolfo Fariñas is majority leader

http://www.rappler.com/nation/174196-house-subpoena-imee-marcos-ilocos-norte-tobacco-funds-probe

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives has issued a subpoena for Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos to appear at the July 25 hearing on the alleged misuse of P66.45 million worth of provincial tobacco funds.

The subpoena was signed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, House committee on good government and public accountability committee chairperson Johnny Pimentel, and House Secretary-General Cesar Pareja on Tuesday, June 27. A copy of the document was given to reporters on Wednesday, June 28.

Capture

Marcos is allowed to bring a lawyer to assist her in answering the lawmakers’ questions. Should she refuse to be assisted by a legal counsel, the governor must issue a waiver.

She must also give the House a copy of a written statement she plans to read as testimony two days ahead of the hearing. Marcos may also request for a conference with any member of the House good government and public accountability panel.

If Marcos fails to show up on July 25, the committee will cite her in contempt and move to detain her in the House. Her detention room is already being prepared.

The House is investigating the province’s tobacco funds after Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, the House Majority Leader and former Ilocos Norte governor, uncovered various documents indicating the money was used to purchase 40 mini-cabs, 5 secondhand buses, and 70 Foton mini trucks.

Under Republic Act Number 7171, 15% of tobacco excise taxes shall be allotted for a special support fund for tobacco farmers in the identified provinces, mostly in the Ilocos region. The money, however, should only be used for cooperative, livelihood, agro-industrial, and infrastructure projects.

Marcos has ignored previous invitations to appear in the hearings, only sending a letter to the committee maintaining the purchases were aboveboard and benefitted farmers.

Rappler, however, discovered documents showing Ilocos Norte’s tobacco funds go to Marcos’ pet projects.

The House is preparing her detention room after she said her brother, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, had advised her against testifying before lawmakers.

Six Ilocos Norte officials have been detained for giving “dismissive” answers during the hearings. The Court of Appeals had ordered their provisional release, but this was ignored by the House leadership.

This prompted the Ilocos Norte Provincial Board to declare Fariñas persona non grata. Fariñas, in turn, plans to sue the officials for voting in favor of the resolution against him. – Rappler.com

Philip Morris ‘tobacco sticks’ court prosecution postponed

The heat has come on tobacco company Philip Morris for importing and selling “tobacco sticks”.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/93268568/Philip-Morris-tobacco-sticks-court-prosecution-postponed

The company is facing two charges brought by the Ministry of Health over the sticks, called Heets.

The charges were to be called in the Wellington District Court on Friday but at the last minute they were adjourned by agreement until September 7.

That date was for a case review hearing, an indication that the company would plead not guilty although it appeared no pleas were entered.

The ministry said it considered Heets fell into a category of tobacco products for oral use, other than smoking, and so were banned under the Smoke-Free Environments Act.

Heets were described as tobacco sticks heated in an electronic device, rather than being burned like a normal cigarette.

Through a code-protected invitation-only website, the company was marketing its IQOS smokeless electronic devices, which heated the sticks to release the nicotine.

In March the company said it was confident the way it was doing business was legal.

General manager for Philip Morris New Zealand, Jason Erickson, said they complied with all sections of the Smoke-Free Environments Act.

“We are currently making our IQOS device and Heets available to registered adult smokers on a website. If requested, we will provide a demonstration on how to use the IQOS device, which as the Ministry of Health has acknowledged, is a consumer electronics product.”

The two charges the company faced had a maximum $10,000 penalty.

Big Tobacco is losing the fight to stop plain packaging of cigarettes

Dr Enrico Bonadio, a Senior Lecturer in the City Law School, says the tobacco industry’s bid to avoid plain packaging by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights, is being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2017/may/big-tobacco-is-losing-the-fight-to-stop-plain-packaging-of-cigarettes

You may already have seen the tobacco packs currently sold in the UK: a dark, murky green colour with large graphic health-warning images and scary messages aimed at informing current and potential smokers about the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption. They have no colourful logos, with the brand name just displayed in small characters in a standard font.

These packs are now required by new regulations which entered into force in May 2016. There has been a one-year transitional period for the sell-through of old stock – and from May 20 2017 all tobacco products on sale in the UK must comply with the new rules.

The legislative move has been recommended to all countries by the World Health Organisation to reduce the attractiveness of smoking and eventually reduce consumption. Australia was the first country to introduce such strict packaging requirements in December 2012. France and, of course, the UK have since followed suit.

It follows significant research that shows these new standardised cigarette packs are much less appealing to consumers – and young people especially.
The industry’s legal defeats

No wonder tobacco companies have challenged the measure in the courts. They have argued that it is useless, too harsh – and is an infringement of their fundamental and intellectual property rights, especially trademarks. Yet, their claims are based on weak arguments and have been rejected by both the High Court of England and Wales and the Court of Appeal.

The tobacco industry has faced numerous courtroom defeats of late. Last year Uruguay won a landmark case against the Swiss giant Philip Morris International. The company had sued the Latin American state after it introduced two measures affecting tobacco packaging and trademarks. These were mandatory graphic health warnings covering 80% of cigarette packets (a measure very close to plain packaging) and the obligation for tobacco companies to adopt a single presentation for their brands, dropping for example the “gold” and “blue” descriptors, that could lead smokers to believe one variant was safer than another.

The fact that the courts sided with Uruguay would have been encouraging to other countries aiming to introduce controls on tobacco packaging. And even greater encouragement came recently from a World Trade Organisation ruling which deemed that the plain packaging requirements introduced by Australia as compliant with international trade and intellectual property rules – and are therefore a legitimate public health measure.

The decision has not been officially announced, but a confidential draft of the interim ruling was leaked to the media and the final decision is expected later this year. The Australian measure had been challenged at the WTO tribunal by Cuba, Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Honduras, countries whose economies strongly rely on the tobacco industry.

A domino effect

This is a blow to the industry. The short-term consequences of the WTO ruling – Imperial Tobacco’s shares fell more than 2% after the decision was leaked – reflects the longer-term danger that this ruling poses. It will likely convince other states to introduce plain packaging legislation without fear of violating international trade and intellectual property laws. It basically gives them a green light by removing the regulatory chilling effect that such legal action has produced on countries that wanted to follow Australia’s example.

After all, more and more countries seem interested in adopting standardised packaging. As well as France and the UK, Ireland and Norway will introduce packaging restrictions later in 2017, and Hungary in 2018. Many other states are debating similar measures, including New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Slovenia, Belgium, Singapore and Thailand.

So, a legislative trend has started which aims to restrict the ability of tobacco manufacturers to make their products appealing to consumers by using eye-catching words, logos or ornamental features on the pack. And attempts by Big Tobacco to stop it by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights are being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

Ultimately, the industry needs to accept the fact that its ability to use fancy brands, especially on packaging, may be reduced by governments for public health reasons. Also that a company’s property rights are not absolute or untouchable. Not only does it not have enough legal basis – as has now been confirmed by several courts and tribunals – but it also disregards legitimate policies adopted by democratically elected governments.

Appeals Court Deals Blow To Tobacco Companies

More than a decade after the Florida Supreme Court opened the floodgates for lawsuits against tobacco companies, an Atlanta-based appeals court this week rejected arguments that could have helped shield cigarette makers in legal battles about smoking-related illnesses and deaths.

http://wlrn.org/post/appeals-court-deals-blow-tobacco-companies-0

The full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA, Inc., which contended that federal law trumps certain claims. The appeals court also rejected the companies’ arguments of due-process violations.

The case largely stems from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that established findings about a series of issues including the dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers. The ruling helped spawn thousands of lawsuits in state and federal courts, with plaintiffs able to use the findings against tobacco companies — lawsuits that have become known as “Engle progeny” cases.

The appeals-court decision Thursday came in an Engle progeny case tried in federal court in Jacksonville. The case was filed by the family of Faye Graham, who died after smoking for 41 years and developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, according to a brief in the case.

A jury ruled against R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris on issues of strict liability and negligence. It also found Graham partially at fault, with a judge ultimately deciding that R.J. Reynolds should pay $550,000 in damages and Philip Morris should pay $275,000.

In the appeal, the tobacco companies argued, in part, that federal laws regulate cigarettes and, as a result, should prevent claims of strict liability and negligence based on the Engle findings — a legal concept known as federal preemption.

“The strict-liability and negligence claims in this case do not rest on any alleged defect specific to the cigarettes smoked by Mrs. Graham. Instead … they rest on the inherent riskiness of all cigarettes,” attorneys for the tobacco companies argued in a 2014 brief. “The claims here thus seek to enforce a legal duty, grounded in Florida tort law, to refrain from selling ordinary cigarettes. Because such a duty squarely conflicts with federal law, the claims here are preempted.”

But Thursday’s majority ruling, written by appeals-court Judge William Pryor, rejected such contentions, writing that “federal tobacco laws do not preempt state tort claims based on the dangerousness of all the cigarettes manufactured by the tobacco companies.”

“Florida may employ its police power to regulate cigarette sales and to impose tort liability on cigarette manufacturers,” Pryor wrote in the 43-page opinion.

The majority also rejected to the tobacco companies’ arguments that due-process rights had been violated in using the Engle findings in the Graham case.

But appeals-court Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote an encyclopedic 226-page dissent on the preemption and due-process issues. As an example, in addressing the preemption issue, he wrote that judges “cannot give effect to the Florida Supreme Court’s decisions in a manner that operates as a ban on the sale of cigarettes without elevating state law over federal law.”

“I merely conclude that, having surveyed both federal and state law, it is clear that Congress would have intended to preempt Graham’s strict-liability and negligence claims, rooted as they are in a broadly applicable state law set forth by the Florida Supreme Court that deems all cigarettes defective, unreasonably dangerous, and negligently produced,” Tjoflat wrote.