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SmokeFree Tasmania and Minister trade barbs

A war of words has erupted between the Health Minister Michael Ferguson and advocacy group, SmokeFree Tasmania, after it accused the government of bowing to the wishes of big tobacco companies.

http://www.examiner.com.au/story/4691300/government-slams-smoke-group-claims/

The stoush comes after Tasmania was named runner-up in the Australian Medical Association’s Dirty Ashtray Award – for governments that make the least effort to reduce smoking.

Responding to the second placing, Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the state would achieve better scores from the association as more policies aimed at reducing smoking rates were implemented.

But SmokeFree Tasmania north member Harley Stanton said the government had included suggestions from big tobacco companies to formulate its Healthy Tasmania Strategic Plan.

“Given that the Tasmanian government, in its healthy Tasmania policy, included advice from Imperial Tobacco it is not surprising that they have been nationally rebuked,” he said.

“This is both embarrassing internationally and bad conduct for any government.”

Fellow SmokeFree Tasmania adviser Kathryn Barnsley said the government needed to distance itself from tobacco companies.

She said the benefit of the government’s crusade on the illicit tobacco market benefited tobacco companies, like Imperial Tobacco.

“The tobacco industry wants the government to crack down on illicit tobacco, but the illicit market is not a health problem,” she said.

But Mr Ferguson slammed the comments as “complete and utter rubbish”.

“I also point out for the record that last year, the government proposed as part of the five-year plan raising the smoking age to 21, and SmokeFree Tasmania aggressively campaigned against it which is inexplicable,” he said.

Dr Barnsley said the government had also failed to provide more money for mass-media campaigns to reduce smoking rates.

Dr Stanton criticised the government’s health expenditure announced in last week’s budget.

“Prevention is better than a cure and reducing the number of people smoking will take pressure off our hospitals,” he said.

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.

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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.

What’s keeping Indonesia, China addicted to smoking?

A World Trade Organisation ruling backing Australia’s hard line on cigarette packaging highlights a gulf between Asia and much of the rest of the world

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2094162/whats-keeping-indonesia-china-addicted-smoking

It was during a trip to Egypt in 1995 when Edison Siahaan first felt that something wasn’t quite right with his throat. Four decades had gone by since he started smoking at the age of 15. His voice had been raspy for years. Maybe this was just the dry air tickling the back of his throat.

But it wasn’t dry air and it wasn’t a tickle. It was cancer. Doctors excised a portion of his trachea leaving a hole the size of a nickel at the base of the throat. He lost his bank job because for a year following the surgery he couldn’t speak. Even now, what passes for speech makes him sound like the emperor from Star Wars only with more hissing. Now 79, Siahaan, a kindly old gent with a full head of hair, is tough to look at. “I see kids smoking all the time here,” he says, gesturing back and forth along the length of the street from his front room. “It makes me sick to think they are going to ruin their life. I point at this hole in my throat and say to them: do you want to look like this?”

Asian men already account for the lion’s share of the world’s tobacco related illnesses, yet a World Trade Organisation ruling this week that upheld tough anti-smoking rules introduced in Australia in 2012, showed that if anything, the gap in attitudes between Asia and the rest of the world may be widening.

“Tobacco in China is absolutely devastating,” says Dr Angela Pratt who helps handle external relations at the World Health Organisation’s office for the Western Pacific in Manila.

In China, roughly 300 million people smoke, according to the WHO. Most of these are men. More than half of Chinese adults are smokers and two-thirds of young Chinese men start smoking. While smoking rates are steady, the absolute number of smokers is rising in line with population growth. Chinese smokers account for 44 per cent of all the cigarettes puffed in the world. At current rates 200 million Chinese will die this century from tobacco-related illnesses, Pratt says. “That’s a huge burden. The people afflicted are often the sole income earners,” she says.

This week, the WTO ruled that Australia’s plain packaging rules, which ban branding and distinctive colouring from packs of cigarettes, were a legitimate public health measure. The ruling knocked back a complaint from Indonesia, Cuba, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, who said the rule amounted to an illegal trade barrier. As the former chief of staff to the Australian health minister who introduced the plain packaging measures, Nicola Roxon, Pratt helped develop the policy, bulletproofing it from court challenges from tobacco companies and governments.

“We were proud to be taking on plain packaging,” Pratt recalls. “But we wanted to be sure to be able to defend it.”

Together with graphic warnings and taxes that will push cigarettes up to A$40 (HK$230) per pack by 2020, the measure is credited with accelerating the fall in Australia’s smoking rate. The most recent figures show about 13 per cent of Australian adults smoke and less than five per cent of school children. A dozen countries, from Canada to Chile and Britain to Uruguay are either introducing similar rules or seriously considering them.

At the other extreme is Indonesia. The most recent figures, which date back to 2013, show 240,000 Indonesians die every year from tobacco related illnesses. Two-thirds of Indonesian men and boys, over the age of 15, smoke, according to the Ministry of Health.

Most troubling are the numbers of new young smokers throughout the archipelago, says Dr Widyastuti Soerojo, chair of the tobacco control unit at the Indonesian Public Health Association. She says some 16 million Indonesian youngsters between the ages of 10 and 19 experiment with smoking every year – a rate of about 44,000 every day.

Indonesia is among the few countries that are not signatories to the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which among other things aims to curb the appeal of smoking for children.

Indonesia television and billboards feature handsome intrepid men jumping out of planes or into business meetings. Roadside kiosks individually sell clove cigarettes, known as kretek, for as little as 10 US cents each.

Governments in Jakarta and local governments in vote-rich provinces, such as Central Java and East Java, fend off calls for more curbs on smoking saying they provide badly needed jobs to rural families.

But mechanisation and growing taste for machine-made cancer sticks rather than hand-rolled types, belie that argument. Tobacco accounts for about half of one per cent of all jobs in Indonesia, according to the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. Campaigners are quick to point out the country’s richest families have tobacco to thank.

The Hartonos, Indonesia’s richest family and worth US$17 billion, own kretek maker Djarum.

Indonesian cigarette sales totaled US$16 billion in 2015. Sampoerna, which is more than 90 per cent owned by Philip Morris, is Indonesia’s most valuable company.

“The government treats tobacco like it’s a normal industry but really this is neocolonialism by tobacco companies,” Dr Soerojo says.

In China, the culprit for health advocates is the China National Tobacco Corporation, which controls more than 98 per cent of the local market. Implementation of the UN tobacco convention falls to the Ministry of Industry, which is also home to the body that owns China Tobacco. “A parallel would be, back when I was with the health ministry, meetings were chaired by a representative of Philip Morris,” Pratt said. “There’s plenty of room for conflict of interest.”

Still, there’s progress. Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, with a combined population of more than 60 million, have banned smoking in public areas. China hiked taxes on cigarettes in 2015. The move resulted in a 20 per cent jump in the retail prices of the cheapest brands. Owing to its massive market, that move alone resulted in a more than 2 per cent drop in world tobacco consumption in 2016.

In Indonesia, smoking is banned in most public spaces but enforcement peters out the further one travels from the centre of Jakarta. Indonesia introduced graphic warnings on packaging in 2012 and hiked excise taxes on cigarettes by 15 per cent in 2016. Even so, additional hikes for this year were scotched. Glimmers of light are on the horizon, says WHO’s Pratt, but plain packaging is still “a long way off”.

For Siahaan, his government’s halting go-slow approach is proof that cigarettes are insidious, and for him, more ruinous than narcotics. “At least with drugs you can get help,” he gasps. “For cigarettes, you see them everywhere.”

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.”

British American Tobacco nabs 40 per cent market share in Bulgaria with its purchase of Bulgartabac brands

British American Tobacco (BAT) has agreed to buy some of Bulgarian cigarette maker Bulgartabac’s top brands in a deal worth more than €100m (£84.8m).

http://www.cityam.com/262852/british-american-tobacco-nabs-40-per-cent-market-share

The move to buy Victory, Eva Slim and GD brands will bring BAT’s market share in the country to 40 per cent from just 12 per cent previously. The deal will include retail and distribution assets in the country and the wider Adriatic region.

BAT, which has operated in Bulgaria for 25 years, said it is proud to be making the biggest investment in the country this year.

“We are committed to the Bulgarian market and are very excited about this investment in a country which is increasingly demonstrating that it has a very bright future. This significant investment demonstrates our confidence both in Bulgaria and our future growth here,” said Richard Widmann, general manager of BAT’s central European cluster.

Subject to regulatory approval, the deal will be complete by mid-2017, BAT said.

A spokesperson for BAT added the transaction aligns financially and strategically with the business objectives for the central European region. The group will grow its business in Bulgaria and further enhance its position in the Balkans, following its acquisition of TDR in 2015.

What the new tobacco and cigarette packaging laws mean

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

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

New laws that standardise the appearance of tobacco packets and limit the range of products on offer come into force next month after a bid to halt the legislation was thrown out by the Supreme Court.

What was the Supreme Court ruling about?

Four tobacco giants took legal action in a last-ditch attempt to stop the introduction of mandatory plain packaging on cigarettes sold in the UK.

They argued the law would infringe their human and intellectual property rights by making their products indistinguishable. In addition, they also questioned evidence that plain packaging would deter smokers.

However, Judge Nicholas Green, who heard the original application for a judicial review of the 2015 legislation, ruled the regulations “were lawful when they were promulgated by parliament and they are lawful now in the light of the most up-to-date evidence”.

What happens on 21 May?

All cigarette packets will come in a single shade of “opaque couche” – a muddy green which The Sun describes as “the world’s ugliest colour”.

Brand names will be written in a standard font, size and location on the pack, while health warnings will cover at least 65 per cent of the box or packet. They can also no longer carry words such as “lite”, “natural” or “organic” and menthol cigarettes will be phased out completely by 2020.

Smokers will additionally not be able to buy smaller packs of cigarettes or rolling tobacco. Packets of ten are being axed, as are 10g (a third of an ounce) and 20g packs (0.7oz) of rolling tobacco.

Amanda Sanford, spokeswoman for Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), told the Liverpool Echo that banning smaller packers was intended to deter younger smokers who are more likely to buy them because they are cheaper.

Technically, the law came into force on 20 May 2016, but tobacco companies were given a 12-month period to standardise packaging and dispose of old stock. From 21 May this year, anyone breaking the new rules faces strict penalties.

Is this a good move?

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said standardised packaging “will cut smoking rates and reduce suffering, disease and avoidable deaths”, while government chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies says she was “thrilled” the tobacco industry was not allowed to appeal.

However, smokers rights group Forest said the new rules “treat adults like children and teenagers like idiots”.

Is the UK the first country to do this?

No. Australia led the way with a law that meant tobacco products on sale after 1 December 2012 had to carry plain packaging and French packaging legislation came into effect at the start of 2017. Similar laws in Ireland, Hungary and New Zealand have not yet been rolled out.

How tobacco firms flout UK law on plain packaging

Brands use competitive price labels to avoid restrictions on marketing

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/09/tobacco-companies-flout-law-plain-packaging

An insider in the tobacco industry has revealed some of the unscrupulous tactics it is using to avoid new restrictions governing the marketing of cigarettes that come into force next month.

One strategy – sticking competitive pricing labels on packets, a move designed to attract cost-conscious poorer smokers who make up the majority of the market – is already in breach of the regulations, according to legal advice obtained by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash).

The whistleblower, until recently employed by Imperial Tobacco, one of the UK’s largest companies, told the Observer that all four of the industry’s main players were employing a range of branding initiatives involving pack design to differentiate their products before the new regulations come into force on 20 May. From this date, cigarettes must be sold in dark green packs of 20 that carry health warnings covering at least 65% of the box.

Plain packaging was first introduced in May last year. “Any branded stock you see out there now will have been produced before 20 May last year,” said the whistleblower who used the pseudonym, Martin Sempah. “So the cigarette companies have been on a massive stock building exercise to make sure they have their branded packs in the market for as long as possible, to leverage the brand benefit.” But, under the new regulations, any packs manufactured after 20 May last year must be devoid of eye-catching price labels, something that severely limits the tobacco companies’ ability to market them aggressively.

“Price with cigarettes is massive,” Sempah said. “It’s what drives growth in market share. You get your price mark wrong and you can lose market share and millions. The issue for Imperial was that from 20 May 2016 until 20 May 2017 they’d have branded packs out there but no way of controlling the price on them.”

The solution was to employ a separate agency to add promotional price stickers to the packets’ cellophane wrappers, a practice known in the trade as “stickering”, that, according to Sempah, involved “millions and millions” of packs and which the tobacco firms insist is not in breach of the regulations because it is not part of the manufacturing process.

Imperial employed an agency called Clipper to add the stickers, Sempah said. Ash has written to the other three major tobacco companies –JTI, BAT and PMI – saying it is aware that they have been employing a similar strategy.

The health organisation has received a legal opinion from Peter Oliver, a barrister at Monckton Chambers, that suggests the strategy breaches the regulations which state that cigarette packets must be wrapped in cellophane that is “clear and transparent” and must not be “coloured or marked”.

“Once again, the tobacco companies seem to be stretching the law to snapping point,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash. “They have already wasted thousands of legal hours and millions of pounds in fees trying to get the standardised packaging rules scrapped and failed miserably. Now it seems they are trying to get round the rules, by adding stickers to cigarette packs after the 20 May 2016 and claiming that this is not part of the production process. But, as our legal opinion confirms, such claims are false and the behaviour unlawful. We would like to see appropriate enforcement action taken against any tobacco manufacturer engaged in this practice without delay.”

Stickering is only one weapon in the industry’s arsenal, Sempah suggested. “When the regulations came out they started to look for loopholes. They said: how can we use particular varnishes and finishes on our plain packs to make them more tactile in a person’s hands, to make them more attractive? Do we use a different type of foil? If you look at a pack of Marlboro Gold it has got a trademark type of foil – it’s resealable. There are methods they are using to get round the regulations to increase the brand equity in their packs.”

Another strategy is to use key words to signify different “strengths” of cigarette – something that is banned. The word “real” is being used to suggest “full flavour” while “bright” denotes cigarettes that were once labelled ‘light’.

Two, separately wrapped, packs of 10 cigarettes inserted inside a 20-size pack have been developed to appeal to smokers who prefer smaller packs.“They’re going to be investing a lot more in festivals and nightclubs,” Sempah said. “You can’t say ‘sponsored by’ but you can create a fantastic experience which kind of looks like a cigarette brand.

“For example, last year Golden Virginia did stuff at the Latitude festival. They had a bar and a smoking area – all green furniture and green T-shirts for staff. It was a slightly different green from Golden Virginia and it was called Roll and Rock rather than Golden Virginia but at the bar you could only buy Golden Virginia.”

In their written responses to Ash all four tobacco companies and Clipper insisted that they complied with all the regulations. Sempah said most in the tobacco industry doubted the marketing strategies would have much of an impact in the long run. “Nobody really expects this to work, but there’s so many big salaries tied up in marketing in the tobacco companies they have to try to make it work.”

Justice Ministry says iQOS product will be treated as ordinary tobacco

Previously, the company asked the US Food and Drug Administration to recognize iQOS as “modified-risk product.”

http://www.jpost.com/Business-and-Innovation/Health-and-Science/Justice-Ministry-says-iQOS-product-will-be-treated-as-ordinary-tobacco-485912

The world’s largest tobacco company, Philip Morris International, faced an obstacle in Israel that has apparently influenced its position toward its heated-tobacco product iQOS.

Previously, the company asked the US Food and Drug Administration to recognize iQOS as “modified-risk product.”

Last week, Israel’s Justice Ministry notified the company that it accepted the position of three voluntary organizations in Israel that the product is actually a “tobacco product,” and all the restrictions that apply to tobacco products should apply to iQOS.

In parallel, Philip Morris reversed its previous position towards the FDA and now wants iQOS to first be recognized as a “tobacco product.”

The small Society for Progressive Democracy thus “made history,” as the new position will set the definition of the product for deliberations by the FDA.

The Israel Medical Association, the Israel Cancer Association and the small Society for Progressive Democracy thus “made history,” as the new position will set the definition of the product for deliberations by the FDA.

While the Israel Cancer Association and the Israel Medical Association sent letters to the authorities to protest against Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman for preventing restrictions on the sale and marketing of iQOS in Israel, the Society for Progressive Democracy headed by lawyer Shabi Gatenio actually applied to the High Court of Justice and asked for an Injunction againt him.

“It is a story of the little David toppling Goliath, Philip Morris,” commented lawyer Amos Hausner, the chairman of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking.

The limitations that now apply to all tobacco products will include iQOS, such as prohibiting its sale to minors, prohibiting smoking it in all public places where conventional cigarettes may not be smoked, excluding it from advertising in the electronic media and media for children and teens, and other restrictions for which violators are fined.

Under the rules of administrative law, the position of Justice Ministry professionals is binding upon all governmental agencies in Israel, and their position supersedes the one expressed by any political figure – in this case, the health minister.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has yet to decide on a petition by Avir Naki, a voluntary organization that aims to fight smoking, to prohibit Litzman from having any involvement in decisions on tobacco matters.

Dubek, the Israel tobacco producer and importer, has also filed an application in the High Court against Litzman, arguing that he was giving Philip Morris benefits that Dubek did not enjoy.

Hausner said that Philip Morris “officially changed its position here while its application was pending in the FDA, as a negative consequence in Israel might have negatively influenced the company’s position in its deliberations with the US over iQOS. We clearly learn from this case that politicians cannot determine policy on major public health issues like this; they must leave it to ministry professionals to set policy.

It turned out that Litzman was more protective of Philip Morris than the company itself demanded. As to Philip Morris, Hausner said that their products should meet the requirements of professionals and not only of the politicians.”

Commenting on the Justice Ministry decision, Philip Morris Ltd.’s spokesman in Israel said that it would “continue to market iQOS in Israel in a responsible way according to law so that adult smokers would have better alternatives than continuing to smoke cigarettes.”

The ministry said in a statement after the court decision was announced that “while waiting for the FDA’s position, we plan at this stage to place on the product all restrictions on tobacco products regarding marketing, advertising and smoking in public places.”