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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.

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.

Charges laid against Philip Morris

The Ministry of Health has laid charges against tobacco company Philip Morris New Zealand relating to a new type of non-burning tobacco product.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/92735158/charges-laid-against-philip-morris

The product, Iqos, was launched at the end of last year. It was promoted through an invitation-only website and used a battery-powered holder to heats tobacco sticks known as heets to give off vapour rather than smoke.

Heets are heated rather than burned like a traditional cigarette, to give smokers a nicotine hit.

The ministry said it considered heets were tobacco products designed for oral use other than for smoking and were prohibited under the Smoke-Free Environments Act.

The charges have been laid at the Wellington District Court and the case has been set down for first hearing on June 2.

The Ministry said in February that the device was legal but the sticks were not.

Philip Morris said the Ministry’s move demonstrated the need for comprehensive reform so that smokers could switch from cigarettes to smoke-free alternatives.

General manager of Philip Morris New Zealand Jason Erickson said the company believed it was helping to advance the Government’s goal of making the country smokefree when it introduced Iqos to New Zealand.

​Erickson said the company was confident that the sale of Iqos and heets fully complied with the Smokefree Environments Act (1990) and other relevant legislation in New Zealand.

“The section of the law referenced by the Ministry in its action against Philip Morris was originally put in place in the 1990s to address American-style chewing tobacco,” Erickson said.

“We stand behind Iqos and heets,” Mr Erickson said. “But it’s clear that old 20th century laws are not sufficient to address new 21st century technologies that New Zealand smokers are embracing as they move away from combustible cigarettes.”

The New Zealand Government announced in March that it would legalise the sale and supply of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquid, and establish a pathway to enable emerging tobacco and nicotine-delivery products to be sold lawfully as consumer products.

Iqos is available in in more than 20 countries around the world, including the UK, Japan, Italy and Switzerland. Globally more than two million smokers have switched to IQOS and the company had plans to expand to key cities in 30 countries by the end of 2017, Erickson said.

Anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said Philip Morris had been working in opposition to the Government’s goal of the country becoming smokefree by 2025.

“Philip Morris have enough lawyers, have enough researchers and have enough intelligence to ensure they adhere to this country’s laws,” said spokesman Boyd Broughton.

“The fact they have knowingly broken the law is another example of their absolute contempt towards the laws of New Zealand. Is this product harmful? We don’t know. But this discussion is now about this product, it’s about the law. What we must remember is that Philip Morris remains responsible for selling and profiting off the sale of smoked tobacco, which is responsible for the preventable and premature deaths of over 5000 New Zealanders per year.”

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.

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.