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Tobacco giant warns of plain packet ‘black market’

New Zealand adopting plain packaging on cigarettes will fail to deter smokers, a global tobacco company has said.‘black-market’

A bill which will mean cigarettes can only be sold in bland brown or green packaging passed its final reading in Parliament this week.

The bill means mandatory health warnings will cover at least three quarters of the packet and tobacco company logos will be removed.

It’s taken three years for the legislation to pass after tobacco companies tried to sue the Australian government.

That legal battle failed last year, and even though the law was still facing challenges, such as by the World Trade Organisation, with other countries also introducing plain packing, legal action was less likely.

But British American Tobacco’s New Zealand spokesman Saul Derber said plain packaging in Australia had been a failure – and it would fail here too.

“Not only is the Australian tobacco plain packaging experiment failing to meet its objectives, the policy is having serious unintended consequences,” he said.

“The tobacco black market has grown by over 20 percent in Australia since the introduction of plain packs, costing the Australian government about $NZ1.5 billion in lost revenue in 2015, Mr Derber said.

He said with no graphic health warnings, no controls preventing sales to youth and no tax it was likely the introduction of plain packaging would grow the black market here as well.

Yadayadayadayada “Plain packaging is an attack on companies’ intellectual property rights and undermines the principles on which international trade is founded,” he said.

Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said yesterday the government was confident it could win any legal action taken by tobacco companies.

“We can’t determine what will happen in the courts, but we feel like we’ve seen the evidence from overseas, we’re pretty comfortable with that, and we’re going to move forward,” Mr Lotu-liga said.

Plain cigarette packaging is expected to hit New Zealand shelves from next year.

SF Raises Tobacco Age From 18 to 21

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to raise the legal age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21.

The ordinance, sponsored by Supervisor Scott Wiener, comes on the heels of similar laws in Berkeley and Healdsburg, Calif. and will apply to all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes.

It will have the same enforcement structure as the previous law, prohibiting tobacco purchase before age 18.

Wiener said at the Tuesday board meeting that the ordinance “will save lives.”

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths nationwide and costs the nation $170 billion a year in health care, Wiener said.

One third of U.S. high school students use tobacco, and one in four high school students in San Francisco use it, Wiener said.

He cited studies that show 95 percent of tobacco smokers start smoking before age 21, and that high school students who use tobacco are more likely to drop out of school and become pregnant in their teens.

“Tobacco use is more harmful to young people than it is to older people,” Wiener said.

He projected that the city ordinance should reduce tobacco use by San Francisco youth by 15 percent, and reduce it by 12 percent overall.

Wiener said San Francisco has already received “multiple letters” from the tobacco industry threatening to sue on the claim that the ordinance is preempted by California law.

Wiener denied it, saying the ordinance is “complementary” to state law.

“Our city has a history of taking on major industries in the name of public health, in the name of consumers, and winning,” he said.

Supervisors Eric Mar, Malia Cohen and Mark Farrell co-sponsored the ordinance.

The Board of Supervisors’ domain is the City and County of San Francisco.

Philip Morris Asia Limited Submission To The Legislative Proposals

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Ages 18 to 21 a critical time to stave off smoking habit

KUALA LUMPUR: If a person remains tobacco-free until they reach age 21, chances are that he or she will never succumb to the habit for the rest of their lives, says medical experts.

Hence, raising the age of buying tobacco to 21 will protect teenagers and youths from the dangers of nicotine addiction, thus, reducing the number of deaths and diseases caused by tobacco usage.

Malaysian Mental Health Association deputy president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj Chandrasekaran said people aged between 18 to 21 were most susceptible to the addictive effects of nicotine because their brains were developing.

“This is why most chronic smokers would have first experimented with cigarettes around this age and not later.

“Experimenting with cigarettes during this age allows the brain to ‘learn’ to be addicted compared with a more resistant ‘mature’ brain at an older age. When such an experiment is delayed, there is less likely for addiction to develop,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said the need to experiment with new things, seeking acceptance in a group or just being “cool” were some of the reasons why young people started smoking. He said some also felt that smoking was a form of social rebellion.

University Malaya Centre of Addiction Sciences addiction medicine specialist Associate Professor Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin said studies had found that raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes was effective in reducing the smoking rate and increasing the quality of life.

He said a study in the United States revealed that enforcing a higher smoking age would reduce the prevalence of smoking among adults in the long term, and might even be as effective as increasing cigarette taxes by 40 per cent.

“Malaysia’s Global Adult Tobacco Survey found the age of initiation to be 17 years. Studies showed that 80 per cent of smokers started smoking before age 20, and 90 per cent of those who purchased cigarettes were below age 21.

“By increasing the age of purchase, we are essentially ensuring that those under age 21 do not start selling cigarettes and tobacco products to their peers.

“In Malaysia, we are considered mature and able to determine the fate of the country by voting at age 21. So why do we allow those below 21 to have access to cigarettes?” said Dr Amer, who is also a Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control committee member and a smoking cessation specialist.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ashok Philip said tobacco was addictive because of the nicotine content that had powerful effects on receptors in the brain that cause increased alertness and a sense of well-being. However, he said prolonged exposure to nicotine would reduce the number of receptors on the nerve cells.

“If the smoker then cuts down or stops smoking, the nicotine stimulation will drop, and the subject feels irritable, fatigued and out of sorts.

“If he or she can tolerate the symptoms for a few weeks, the number of receptors will recover, and the withdrawal symptoms should be alleviated.

“However, the severity of symptoms vary widely, and in some people, it may be so severe that even nicotine replacement with chewing gum or skin patches cannot help them to quit.”

Malaysian Psychiatric Association honorary secretary Associate Professor Dr Muhammad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari said smoking cigarettes could be a gateway to other habits, such as smoking shisha or marijuana, vaping, and even the use of illicit drugs.

“In a recent finding published in Lancet Psychiatry, regular smokers were associated with a higher risk and earlier onset of developing psychosis, which is a mental illness.”

Gynaecologist and Asia Metropolitan University president and chief executive officer Professor Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan said teenage smoking was often an early warning sign of future problems.

For instance, teens who smoked were three times as likely as non-smokers to use alcohol, eight times as likely to use marijuana, and 22 times as likely to use cocaine.

“Studies have shown that the three-year gap (18 to 21 years) makes a ‘huge’ difference in combating smoking among the young.

“Moreover, most countries are gradually raising the age barrier. Thus, Malaysia may be joining an elite group of health conscious nations that are implementing proactive measures to curb the rising mortality and morbidity associated with smoking,” he said.

Australian teens leading charge in eschewing drinking and smoking

Young people are waiting until nearly 16 to try their first cigarette and delaying first drink by nearly a year compared with 1998 figures, study shows

It was not until Fairfax Media reported the lawyer had appealed against the decision to Victoria’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal, that the council became aware the lawyer was an employee of the tobacco giant, Harper said.

“We had no idea that British American Tobacco was behind the request,” he said. “All we knew was it was an individual from a law firm who wanted the data. I’m disappointed that the tobacco company wasn’t upfront about its involvement.”

Harper said the council was concerned that, once made public, the data could be used by tobacco and alcohol companies to gain insight into the buying and drug consumption habits of young people, as well as the types of brands that appealed to them.

The data is used by the Cancer Council to help it understand where and how to direct publishing health messaging, as well as for scientific studies. When parents consented to their children completing the survey, the did so believing the data would be used only in the interest of public health, Harper said.

Fairfax Media also revealed that the same lawyer used the Freedom of Information Act to get information from surveys of adult smokers in that state, which included questions about their attitudes toward smoking.

“The Cancer Institute NSW was compelled to provide tobacco survey data requested under the NSW Government Information [Public access] Act,” its chief cancer officer, David Currow, told Fairfax.

A spokeswoman for British American Tobacco told Guardian Australia the Victorian data request “wasn’t about children”.

“This is about plain packaging,” she said. “We did not seek any personal data or information in respect of children. We’ve asked for figures via a normal freedom of information request because we want to find out if plain packaging, a measure introduced without evidence and that directly affects our industry, is having the impact the Australian government claims it is.”

The assistant health minister, Fiona Nash, said the government would not back away from plain packaging regardless of tactics by tobacco companies to discredit it.

“If tobacco companies are obtaining research on young people through state FOI legislation to increase their sales to children, then I am appalled,” she said.

In a world first, Australia passed plain packaging legislation in 2011, requiring all cigarette packaging to be stripped of advertising and branding, apart from the company name and health warnings. All tobacco now comes in olive green cardboard containers with graphic health messages.

In a series of papers published by the Cancer Council in the BMJ journal Tobacco Control in March, plain packaging was associated with an increase in the number of people thinking about quitting and trying to quit. The research also found children aged between 12 and 17 found standardised packaging less appealing.

An appeal date for the freedom of information request is yet to be set.

State Senate panel approves package of six anti-tobacco bills

Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

A Senate panel on Wednesday approved a package of six anti-tobacco bills, including measures raising the smoking age to 21 and barring the use of electronic cigarettes in public places such as restaurants where smoking is banned.

Both the age increase and e-cigarette bills had stalled in the Legislature, but were revived for a special session on healthcare and approved by a new Senate Committee on Public Health and Developmental Services. Republicans did not vote for any of the bills in the package.

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) proposed the measure that would designate e-cigarettes or vaping devices as tobacco products subject to the same restrictions on public use as traditional, combustible cigarettes.

“The fastest growing market segment of this very quickly growing industry is made up of children of middle- and high-school ages,” Leno told the committee. “Students who have never smoked a traditional cigarette are using e-cigarettes.”

The bill also allows sting operations to catch retailers who sell vaping devices to minors and requires child-resistant packaging. “It will definitely protect the next generation,” he said.

The measure was opposed by the Smoke Free Alternative Trade Assn. as an attack on a product that it says has helped some smokers quite traditional cigarettes.

The bill would “stymie a growing industry,” said the association’s Michael Mullins.

The measure does not itself contain a tax, but Kari Hess, co-owner of Nor Cal Vape in Redding, said the legislation will lead to taxing the industry.

“This bill will make vapor products cost prohibitive and I may be forced to close my doors,” Hess told the panel.

The bill raising the age to legally buy cigarettes from 18 to 21 was introduced by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), who said it will significantly reduce the number of young people who take up smoking and result in significantly lower health costs.

“It should not be so easy for our children to get ahold of this deadly drug,” Hernandez told the panel.

Opponents, including Pete Conaty, a lobbyist for veterans groups, argued that if residents are old enough to join the military and fight in wars at 18, they ought to be able to decide whether to smoke.

Other bills approved by the committee and sent to a Senate finance panel for consideration would:

Require all schools, including a growing number of charter schools, to be designated as smoke free.

Close loopholes in smoke-free workplace laws, extending them to hotel lobbies, small businesses, break rooms and warehouses.

Allow county voters to tax tobacco distributors.

Will Trans-Pacific trade deal go up in smoke over anti-tobacco proposal?

The ire of McConnell and other tobacco-state lawmakers throws a wrench into the negotiations.

By Adam Behsudi

Big Tobacco is pushing back against a strict anti-smoking provision in the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and has enlisted the support of the most powerful Republican in the Senate to help quash it.

The ire of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other tobacco-state lawmakers could throw a wrench into the delicate negotiations to close the agreement and secure congressional approval. President Barack Obama sees the deal as essential to securing his economic legacy.

Until now, McConnell has been among the president’s staunchest allies on the pact, which includes the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan and eight other Pacific Rim nations and would cover 40 percent of the world’s economic output.

While the Kentucky Republican stopped short of pulling his support for the deal, he warned in a letter that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman should “not set a new precedent for future U.S. trade negotiations by negatively carving out a specific American agricultural commodity — in this case tobacco.” That provision would bar tobacco companies from the right to sue nations over laws they contend are damaging, such as anti-smoking measures.

Tobacco, McConnell wrote, is the second-highest agricultural export in Kentucky, which sold $300 million of the commodity in 2013 alone.

Despite the warnings from McConnell and other lawmakers, sources close to the talks say Froman pushed ahead with discussions on a tobacco exclusion with several countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, during last month’s talks in Hawaii.

“USTR was clear tobacco had to be treated differently, and there was general agreement on that,” an industry source said of the discussions in Maui.

Froman broached the tobacco exclusion discreetly in separate meetings with trade ministers. Although the issue wasn’t settled, observers say it helps that the other countries are taking the lead, allowing Washington to focus on other difficult-to-resolve areas, such as dairy market access and drug patent protections.

USTR spokesman Trevor Kincaid said neither Congress nor business groups should be blindsided by the inclusion of a tobacco provision in a final deal. “Over the past several years, the administration has consistently briefed Congress on the salience of tobacco issues for our TPP negotiating partners,” Kincaid said in a statement.

Obama acknowledged support for such language at an Export Council meeting last December, calling for striking a balance between public health and business interests.

“The big bugaboo that’s lifted up there is tobacco companies suing poorer countries to make sure that anti-smoking legislation is banned, or at least tying them up with so much litigation that ultimately smaller countries cave,” Obama said.

Anti-tobacco activists say the issue is critical for the tobacco industry, which sees some of its strongest growth potential in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific and other developing regions. The activists say the prospect of lawsuits by big tobacco has a chilling effect on national regulations, especially in smaller, poorer countries that may lack the financial means to argue a case or pay damages.

The tobacco discussions in Maui prompted lawmakers and business groups to send a flurry of letters and statements to Froman. Thirty-four House members wrote that barring the tobacco industry from participating in investor disputes would hurt farmers.

“We firmly believe that all agricultural exports and industries covered in the TPP should be afforded the same opportunities and protections,” the lawmakers said in the letter, which was spearheaded by North Carolina Rep. George Holding and signed by several Ways and Means Republicans.

Meanwhile, Sen. Thom Tillis, another North Carolina Republican, vowed to vote against the trade agreement although he supported legislation to allow Obama to fast-track passage of the deal in Congress.

“Once we allow an entire sector to be treated unfairly in trade agreements, the question is, who’s next?” Tillis said in a floor speech July 30.

U.S. business groups have echoed those views, saying they oppose attempts to single out a specific product for special treatment.

“The high standards that the TPP should put in place to protect property and innovation and promote the rule of law should be ones that are applied without discrimination,” the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Manufacturers and other groups wrote in a July 30 letter to Froman.

Added Phillip Morris International spokesman Corey Henry: “When governments embrace unequal treatment for one sector, they open a door to discrimination against all sectors.”

The tobacco giant has used international trade and investment rules to challenge Australia’s plain-packaging laws and other packaging and marketing laws in Uruguay. The company also filed a lawsuit with British American Tobacco against the British government in May over similar regulations. Britain could be among the first countries in the European Union to impose the standardized tobacco packaging rule, which the EU approved last year.

The anti-tobacco proposal discussed among trade partners makes reference solely to “manufactured tobacco products,” said a source closely following the talks, adding that any language will be carefully worded to exclude leaf tobacco.

Other sources who were in Maui for the trade talks say it’s unclear what is actually being discussed.

“I think it’s still an open question as to how it will be treated,” said National Foreign Trade Council Chairman Alan Wolff, whose group opposes any tobacco language. “Is it treated by name? Is it treated by health exclusion of some sort?” He added: “Our feeling here … is that it’s a pretty slippery slope if you name a product.”

Meanwhile, House Democrats opposed to tobacco urged Froman to sign a deal that “clearly protects legitimate public health measures relating to tobacco from unwarranted challenges.”

The letter, pushed by Michigan Rep. Sander Levin, was signed by Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, both of whom supported fast-track legislation, as well as a dozen other Democrats.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the discussions with the administration have focused on preventing the tobacco manufacturers from filing “abusive suits.”

“We and others have not focused on curtailing trade or anything that would impact tobacco growers,” Myers said.


To improve health and save lives for generations – Uganda passes comprehensive TC law

By Manjari Peiris

The government of Uganda by enacting a comprehensive tobacco control law has conveyed a strong message. The message convinces that public health should and will prevail over tobacco industry profits and intimidation.

It is now critical that the government effectively implement and enforce the law. Uganda’s law sets a powerful example for Africa, which has traditionally lower rates of tobacco use and has been targeted by the tobacco industry as a major growth market.

A key provision of the law requires 100 percent smoke-free indoor public places, workplaces and public transport and also prohibits smoking within 50 meters of all public places.

This provision and others faced strong opposition from British American Tobacco Uganda, which lobbied policymakers to provide for designated smoking areas.

The Global Tobacco Survey which is said to be the first ever in Uganda released in July 2014, reveals that 62 percent of adults who visited bars or nightclubs were reported to have exposed to secondhand smoke and 20 percent who worked indoors had been exposed to tobacco smoke at their work places. This new law will ensure everybody’s right to breathe clean air.

This new law will also necessitate graphic health warnings covering 65 percent of tobacco packets, ban all tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships, prohibit sale of cigarettes to under-aged below 21 years, prohibit cigarette sales within 50 meters of educational institutions, health facilities, cinemas, police stations, prisons and other places where children are called for.

– Asian Tribune

What is TTIP and why should we be angry about it?

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Toughest issues left in Trans-Pacific trade talks

WASHINGTON, July 27 — Trade ministers from 12 Pacific Rim nations head to Hawaii this week to tackle the tough decisions needed to finalise a trade deal that will free up global commerce and set common standards for nearly half of the world’s economy.

The trickiest issues, requiring high-level political buy-in and painful compromises, have been left until the end of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and range from market access to monopoly periods for medicines.

Canadian dairy

The United States, New Zealand and Australia are pushing hard for Canada to open up its protected dairy market and allow more imports, complaining that the country has not given its trade partners a sign it is ready to talk and even mulling a TPP without Canada.

With a national election scheduled for October, Canada’s Conservative government is wary of angering farmers by altering the supply management system, which keeps dairy and poultry prices artificially high by restricting supply. Canada’s dairy industry says it supports 215,000 jobs and contributes C$18.9 billion (RM55.2 billion) to the local economy.

Australian sugar

Australia, which exports more than 80 per cent of its sugar, is determined to win more access to the US sugar market, with the support of some US refiners and sugar users who say US protections for local canegrowers artificially inflate prices.

Sugar refiner Imperial Sugar Co, part of Louis Dreyfus Commodities , says Australia should be allowed to ship up to half the amount allocated to Mexico under a recent deal allowing the United States’ southern neighbour to make up the bulk of any US supply shortfall.

But US sugar growers are opposed, noting Australia already is America’s fifth largest foreign sugar supplier. Australia can ship 87,402 metric tons of raw sugar to the United States next fiscal year, eight per cent of total reduced-tariff imports.

Intellectual property

The United States wants TPP countries to agree to protect the data used to develop next-generation biologic drugs for 12 years, in a boon for companies like Pfizer Inc and Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.

Although such a move would push up the cost of state-subsidised medical programmes in Australia and New Zealand, the pharmaceutical industry argues it would accelerate the introduction of cheaper, generic drugs by giving developers more certainty.

The United States has said it will balance the needs of developing countries to access affordable medicines. Countries also have to agree on the length of copyright periods for published works.

State-owned enterprises

State-owned enterprises or controlled businesses play a significant role in the economies of Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, which are under pressure to cut back on their support for such firms and offer foreign competitors equal levels of access to secure government contracts, for example. The definition of a SOE, exceptions for specific industries or firms, and transition periods are not yet settled.


US textile firms such as synthetic yarn maker Unifi are insisting on strict rules to stop Vietnam from flooding the US market with cheap clothing made from Chinese fabric once tariffs are removed under the TPP.

A list of fabrics allowed to be sourced from outside the region is largely complete, according to one textile industry official, but there are still intense discussions over the timeline for cutting tariffs on sensitive clothing items.

US clothing companies and retailers want a minimum 50 per cent duty cut for sensitive products and for at least 75 per cent of garments to be duty-free immediately.

Malaysia’s government procurement

Malaysia offers preferential treatment in business, housing and education, including greater access to government contracts, to ethnic Malays and other indigenous people, known as bumiputra. The TPP would seek to put foreign suppliers on an equal footing in terms of government procurement.

The country also is under pressure over human trafficking, with some US lawmakers pressing to prevent the TPP from benefiting from a fast track through Congress if the country remains on the State Department’s black list in a report due out today.


A bilateral agreement between the United States and Japan on agricultural and auto trade, long a sticking point in the broader TPP talks, is largely complete.

But the partners still have to get buy-in from other countries on a formula for how to decide a vehicle has enough local content to qualify for duty-free access, which Japan wants to be on more liberal terms than the current North American standard, for example.

Investor-state dispute settlement

A draft text released by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks in March showed countries were seeking exceptions from proposed investment protection rules, which would allow companies to sue foreign governments. Australia, whose plain cigarette packaging law is being challenged by Marlboro maker Philip Morris’ Asian arm, was ready to opt out completely, the draft showed.

The United States has floated an exception to the rules for tobacco, sources briefed on the talks said.

More broadly, TPP countries have not yet determined how to address tobacco public health issues in the agreement. Malaysia and anti-smoking groups want to completely exclude tobacco from the deal and keep tariffs on US tobacco products.

— Reuters