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Big tobacco bullies the global south. Trade deals are their biggest weapon

The industry has a long history of using trade to force their products into new markets. This has led to at least a 5% increase in cigarette deaths

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/17/big-tobacco-trade-deals-new-markets-bat

Cigarette packets often carry the warning to “protect children: don’t make them breathe your smoke”. In 2014, the Kenyan government attempted to do just that – banning the sale of single cigarettes, banning smoking in vehicles with a child and keeping the tobacco industry out of initiatives aimed at children and young people.

But as the Guardian reported last week, British American Tobacco, in an effort to keep Kenyans breathing their smoke, fought the regulations on the grounds that they “constitute an unjustifiable barrier to international trade”.

In fact, big tobacco has a long history of using trade and investment rules to force their products on markets in the global south and attack laws and threaten lawmakers that attempt to control tobacco use.

Back in the 1980s, as cigarette consumption fell off in North America and western Europe, US trade officials worked aggressively to grant American companies access to markets in Asia, demanding not only the right to sell their products, but also the right to advertise, sponsor sports events and run free promotions. Smoking rates surged.

In the 1990s, World Trade Organisation agreements led to a liberalisation of the international tobacco trade, with countries reducing import tariffs on tobacco products. The impact, according to a joint study of the World Health Organisation and the World Bank, was a 5% increase in global cigarette consumption and accompanying mortality rates.

Big tobacco’s lawyers were quick to discover the value of “next generation” trade agreements. In the 1990s, Canada dropped a plain packaging initiative after US manufacturers threatened a suit using the first next-gen trade deal, the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). A few years later, Philip Morris threatened Canada again after it prohibited terms such as “light” and “mild” cigarettes. Philip Morris argued it would be owed millions in compensation for damage to its brand identity.

Philip Morris was able to credibly wield this threat because of the extraordinary powers that Nafta grants international corporations: the right to sue governments in private tribunals over regulations that affect their profits.

A toxic combination of far-reaching and poorly defined “rights” for investors, eye-watering legal costs, and tribunals composed of corporate lawyers with the power to set limitless awards against governments makes investment arbitration and the modern “trade” agreement a formidable weapon to intimidate regulators.

And what big tobacco learned in the global north it has been replicating in the global south, where threats carry greater force against poorer countries that may lack the resources to see down a legal challenge.

In 2010, Philip Morris launched a $25m claim against Uruguay after it introduced graphic warnings on cigarette packs. Though Uruguay successfully defended the measure, it still faced millions in legal costs. And Philip Morris effectively won, as Costa Rica and Paraguay held off introducing similar measures.

Such are the fears around big tobacco’s aggressive use of trade and investment rules that the US-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal featured a carve-out excluding big tobacco from investment protections – an explicit admission of the problem.

But this does not go far enough. The important thing to realise is that the problem goes beyond big tobacco. Big oil, big pharma and big mining follow the same playbook, launching investment arbitration cases to defend their business models from governments that would regulate to protect public health, the local environment or the climate.

Rather than target individual companies or sectors, we must push our governments to reform trade and investment rules that grant such extraordinary powers to corporations. That means removing special investor rights and investment courts from trade agreements. It means removing limits on the freedom of governments to protect public health, labour and human rights and the environment.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative, served as deputy in a Reagan administration that pressured countries to open their tobacco markets to US exporters in the 1980s.

Vice-President Mike Pence’s record includes opposing smoking regulation, taking huge campaign donations from big tobacco, and denying the causal link between smoking and lung cancer. The EU commission, meanwhile, has been criticized for its meetings with big tobacco while it was negotiating EU-US trade talks.

The good news is that from Brazil to India to Ecuador, countries are stepping away from outdated trade and investment rules. In the UK, the Labour party manifesto opposes parallel courts for multinationals and proposes to review the UK’s investment treaties.

But until we scrap the powers that we grant big tobacco and others to frustrate and bypass our laws, efforts around the world to protect public health will continue to go up in smoke.

Tobacco Industry Makes Strides in Trump’s Washington

President Trump may have promised to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists in Washington, but six months into his administration it seems the swamp is winning.

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/tobacco_companies_trump_administration_20170713

A new report published in The Guardian exposes how tobacco companies are gaining significant political victories under Trump, due to lobbying efforts and the fact that tobacco business insiders have been appointed to top positions in the president’s administration. Jessica Glenza explains:

America’s largest cigarette manufacturers, Reynolds American and Altria Group, donated $1.5m to help the new president celebrate his inauguration. The donations allowed executives to dine and mingle with top administration officials and their families.

Not long after Trump promised to transfer power from Washington to the American people, a wave of spending in pursuit of influence was unleashed. In the first quarter of 2017, tobacco companies and trade associations spent $4.7m lobbying federal officials. Altria, the company behind Marlboro, hired 17 lobbying firms. Reynolds, makers of the Camel brand, hired 13, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Since then, tobacco companies have been putting points on the scoreboard. Politicians and officials with deep ties to the tobacco industry now head the US health department, the top attorney’s office and the Senate, even as tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death.

Agencies in charge of reviewing large mergers let a window slip by in which they might have requested information about a $49bn merger between Reynolds and British American Tobacco (BAT). That merger, expected to be voted through by shareholders next week, will make BAT the biggest listed tobacco company in the world, and puts proceeds from eight out of 10 cigarettes sold in the US into the pockets of two companies: Altria and BAT. …

The Food and Drug Administration has twice delayed legal briefs to defend regulations of e-cigarettes, products cigarette makers say are the future. Summer deadlines for cigar and e-cigarette makers to file applications with the FDA, which regulates the products, have all been delayed by the Trump administration.

And the high-profile attorney Noel Francisco, who once argued for Reynolds that including a quit-line phone number on cigarette packs amounted to government advocacy against smoking, has been nominated for the post of solicitor general, the government’s top attorney.

The companies now securing regulatory wins are also partly responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. “For Trump’s inaugural celebration, Reynolds American gave $1m. Altria Group gave $500,000,” Glenza reports. “The US Chamber of Commerce, which has been fiercely pro-tobacco in recent years, gave $25,000.”

Prior to becoming president, Trump profited from tobacco companies, Glenza says. His past financial disclosures “show he earned up to $2.1m from tobacco holdings in diversified portfolios,” although he has since claimed (without offering any proof) to have sold his stocks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and members of Trump’s administration including Vice President Mike Pence have deep ties to the tobacco industry. Glenza shows the links between tobacco company donations and pro-tobacco policymaking.

“Tobacco industry influence in Washington is pervasive, in many different ways,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a longtime opponent of smoking, tells The Guardian. “As in so many areas, the promise to drain the swamp has been an extraordinary hypocrisy.”

Big tobacco still sees big business in America’s poor

The US is pegged as an ‘exciting’ market, but this growth disproportionately affects the poor – including the industry’s growers and laborers

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/13/tobacco-industry-america-poor-west-virginia-north-carolina

Wheeling his oxygen tank in behind him, Leslie E Adams shuffled into the lung doctor’s exam room and let out a long string of rattling coughs. He tried to catch his breath, and coughed some more. He is 63, but looks a decade older.

“I got stage three black lung. There ain’t no stage four. I’m on my way out,” said Adams. “Now, I am slowly going down the mountain.”

The American smoking rate has plummeted since the mid-20th century. Yet somehow the US remains a growth market. That is partly because the proportion of smokers has fallen, but the overall population is rising.

Add a nation bedeviled by inequality and those public health gains, while significant, have simply not reached every corner of the country.

With low taxes on cigarettes, intermittent regulations and tobacco-friendly politicians, many US states still mirror conditions around the developing world where tobacco companies see potential.

West Virginia arguably has the highest smoking rate in the nation. In places such as Logan County, where Adams, a retired coal miner, is from, the smoking rate was 37% in 2015. The last time the national average matched that was 1974.

“I smoked Winston, I smoked Viceroy. I don’t know what I was smoking last, I couldn’t tell you,” said Adams, about brands that once belonged to the tobacco giants Reynolds and British American Tobacco (BAT). “I just smoked anything. If it blowed smoke, I smoked it.” Adams is disabled with stage three pneumoconiosis, better known as black lung.

Adams will tell you he quit, but the truth is, after seven days in the hospital on a ventilator, he still tried to smoke three times. “I smoked about a half a one, and it just – I mean your lungs – it just takes all the oxygen out of them.”

Despite smoking bans, hundred-billion-dollar settlements and a smaller proportion of the American public smoking, Reynolds’ longtime ally BAT sees the US as “an exciting opportunity for long-term growth”.

Through the years, as the population rose, the proportion of Americans who smoke shrank, but their raw numbers stayed the same, at around 45 million smokers. Further, since the 1990s, the threat of tobacco litigation diminished and regulations proved less costly than feared, leaving tobacco companies room to increase the price of a pack. In America, where cigarettes are still relatively cheap, BAT only needs to sell two packs of cigarettes to make the same profit as it would selling six in other markets.

America is “highly attractive” and the “world’s largest tobacco profit pool” outside of China, BAT’s chief executive, Nicandro Durante, said, as he described a $49bn deal to buy Reynolds American in January. The deal will make BAT the largest listed tobacco company in the world.

It also means revenue from eight out of 10 cigarettes sold in the US will be pocketed by BAT and a rival group of companies – Altria Group, a US Philip Morris company. Not since Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency has tobacco been so consolidated.

Mergers and acquisitions have allowed tobacco companies to squeeze profits from customers and the supply chain. Companies charge more for cigarettes, while union organizers say “poverty wages” keep families on the ropes. Both are trends seen worldwide.

At the same time, the typical profile of smokers has changed radically. In 50 years, smoking moved from glamorous to commonplace. Wealthy Americans have the lowest smoking rates, and the middle class has increasingly quit; instead, smoking has become a burden of the poor, less educated and marginalized.

The $49bn merger between BAT and Reynolds, expected within weeks, is the most recent act of faith by tobacco companies that selling cigarettes to Americans will remain profitable long into the future, even if the Americans who buy them can’t afford it.

***

As a young man, Adams worked in mines so tight he lay on his belly to dig. He dug his own hole for urination. When he learned mine owners handed out dust masks that didn’t work, he sued.

Adams lives in the Appalachian mountains, in a valley between two green hills affectionately called a “holler”. He and his wife had two daughters and a son, and those children had eight of their own.

He started smoking at eight, sneaking beside the creek to puff corn silk. He smoked cigarettes for 40 years. Now, after one son died of a drug overdose, unable to chase after his grandkids and still craving cigarettes, Adams questions whether cigarettes should be legal at all.

“They got so many drugs in there you couldn’t quit if you wanted to. I still crave them. If I had one right now, and I’d go to sleep, you’d hold it, I’d smoke it in my sleep,” he said. “That’s how bad you crave them.”

Dr Tom Takubo sees more than 30 patients like Adams each day at his clinic in Charleston. His is the largest pulmonology office in West Virginia. Set in the capital of a rural state in a rural region, Takubo sees patients from as far away as northern Kentucky and southern Ohio.

“Even if smoking dropped off today, I would probably be going for the rest of my career,” said Takubo.

No one is allowed to smoke in his office, but even so, the air smells faintly of cigarettes. Takubo’s patients carry the scent of the smokes they prefer. Former miners, shop owners and factory workers waiting for their appointments named L&Ms (by Altria) or Salems (by Reynolds) as their go-to brands. One woman said she smoked whatever cigarettes were cheapest, and called them “floor sweepings”.

Takubo estimates 80% of his patients see him for smoking-related diseases. “Cancer, acute bronchitis, flare-ups of their asthma,” he said, naming a few.

The national adult smoking rate dropped from 42.4% in 1965 to 16.8% in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But in West Virginia, the smoking rate in 2014 was still 26%, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. One researcher with RWJF called the rate “extraordinarily high”.

When he is not seeing patients, Takubo has another role. He is also a Republican state senator in West Virginia, putting him in the unique position of treating the same people whose cigarette taxes he hopes to raise. He is occasionally told by a patient: “Now, doc, don’t raise the price of my cigarettes.”

“It’s really hard for me, because you hear people argue for financial reasons, for freedom of choice,” Takubo said about his fellow legislators, shaking his head. This year, inspired by a patient, Takubo introduced a bill that would have fined adults for smoking in the car with a child.

“I have a patient that’s lost about half of her lung function. She’s never smoked a day in her life,” he said. Instead, her father smoked in the car. “If she complained about it, he would roll the window up to teach her a lesson. She remembers even getting in the floorboard of the car because she couldn’t breath.”

But the bill was not successful. Takubo’s fellow Republicans voted it down.

West Virginia is also the epicenter of America’s drug overdose epidemic, but lung and throat cancer have proven far deadlier than opioids.

Drug overdoses killed 41 people for every 100,000 in West Virginia in 2015. The same year, lung and throat cancer killed tripled that number in south-western counties, such as Calhoun. There, those two diseases alone killed 123 people for every 100,000, according to the state’s health department.

The same year, 46% of adults in Calhoun smoked, RWJF found. The West Virginia department of health estimates that one in five deaths of people over 35 are due to smoking.

West Virginia scores badly on every imaginable indicator of poverty and inequality. Takubo has also argued increased tobacco taxes could bring the state significant financial relief. A $1 tax would have generated $100m in revenue for a state that had a $380m shortfall in 2016, and which spends $277m annually on smoking-related diseases. That too failed, although Takubo did help get a 65-cent tobacco tax passed.

Now, fearing Republicans in Washington will pass a healthcare reform bill that could severely cut Medicaid, a public health program for the poor, Takubo said simply: “That would kill us.”

State of the nation
In Washington DC, things have also changed in the halls of Congress. People who still smoke stand out, and perhaps for a good reason – Congress is mostly well educated and wealthy. Every single US senator has a college degree, and just 5% of the House of Representatives lack one. Most members of Congress are millionaires.

Today, someone with a high school equivalency diploma is nine times more likely to smoke (34.1%) than someone with a graduate degree (3.6%). A poll found Americans who earn between $6,000 and $11,999 are more than twice as likely to smoke as someone who earns more than $90,000.

Even 10 years ago, the “offensive and very strong” odor of a cigar prompted an aide in the Democratic representative Keith Ellison’s office to call the Capitol police on a congressman. Last year, the Republican House speaker, Paul Ryan, took pains to “detoxify” his predecessor’s office, a suite held by former speaker John Boehner. Boehner is a Camel smoker. He now sits on Reynolds’ board.

Tobacco companies don’t spend as much money lobbying Congress as they once did. They spent $72m trying to persuade lawmakers to see their perspective in 1998, compared to $19m in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But they have not abandoned political spending. They have shifted strategies.

Last year, Altria and RJ Reynolds spent $71.3m in California trying beat back a cigarette tax hike referendum. They failed there, but succeeded elsewhere. In North Dakota, tobacco companies spent more than $5 for every man, woman and child in the state, $4m altogether, and convinced voters to reject the tax. They also succeeded in Colorado, where they spent $7m.

States were awarded billions in damages from tobacco companies in recognition of the public health consequences. Yet they largely fail to spend the money they were awarded to prevent smoking. States collected $26.6bn from tobacco settlements in 2016, but spent only 1.8% on smoking prevention, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Tobacco companies, by comparison, spend $9.1bn a year on marketing, or $1m an hour, according to an analysis of Federal Trade Commission data.

North Carolina, America’s dominant tobacco-producing state, receives $139m annually from such tobacco settlements. Initially, the state set up three trust funds to spend that money: one to prevent smoking, one to help rural communities hit by a decline in smoking and one to help tobacco farmers.

The fund to prevent smoking was dismantled in 2011; all of that money was sucked into the state’s general fund. However, lawmakers allowed the settlement to continue to fund tobacco growing efforts.

Between 2000 and 2004, another $41m of North Carolina’s tobacco settlement went to retrofit tobacco curing barns, a move that researchers called “arguably counter-productive to tobacco control”, and which some farmers believed was at the behest of tobacco manufacturers.

“From our very first day, there was a constant struggle with the legislature,” said Vandana Shah, the first policy director of the tobacco use prevention fund in North Carolina. She now works for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “I’d be doing the rounds of begging and pleading that they don’t take our money away, and explaining the value of the program.”

Winston-Salem, AKA ‘Camel City’
Reynolds American’s hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has developed a relatively strict tobacco policy. An after-dinner cigarette in “Camel City” must be smoked outside, and finding a hotel room to smoke in is a significant task.

The regulations are reflective of how cities have handled smoking in recent years. Even Reynolds employees who smoke must use smoking lounges away from their colleagues.

Tobacco companies, said Gayle Anderson, the head of the Winston-Salem chamber of commerce, “really didn’t fight these laws at all … There just didn’t seem to be that kind of pushback.” She worked for Reynolds from 1976 to 1987.

Once North Carolina’s largest city, Winston-Salem enjoyed a golden era on Reynolds’ wealth. “The moneyed families that ran the factories and mills shared their wealth with the community, endowing it with high schools, auditoriums, hospitals, stadiums, parks and recreational facilities bearing their names,” the local history From Tobacco to Technology said about the 1930s. “Their executives chaired the charities and the capital campaigns to raise money needed to achieve the community’s objections, be it a new terminal at the airport, an arts council for the city or assistance in relocating a college to the city.”

Reynolds still employs about 5,000 people in Winston-Salem, according to Anderson. For many years the notion was: “If you could get in at Reynolds, you were set for life,” she said.

Reynolds recently donated a 70,000 sq ft, immaculately maintained research facility to the town for redevelopment. Reynolds, Anderson said, “is still probably the single largest philanthropic company”.

“I can’t imagine how many hundreds of millions of dollars that’s worth,” said Anderson. “They’re benevolent and care a lot about the community, but it’s more like a partnership.” If Reynolds were to ever leave, “it would be a real blow to our ego, for sure”.

‘We’re down here getting sick, going hungry’

If the company is seen by some as benevolent, that does not necessarily translate to automatic financial security for farmers and their workers. One twentysomething farmer stood by a running tractor as he described the start of each tobacco season in eastern North Carolina. It begins, he said, “with a loan from the bank that you don’t know if you’re gonna pay back”.

He started cutting tobacco in a friend’s field when he was about eight years old, the farmer said. As he smoked a Camel menthol, he acknowledged: “I shouldn’t, as much shit as I spray on it.”

For farmers, the tobacco system has changed considerably since the 1990s. Auctions are obsolete. Now, farmers contract directly with cigarette manufacturers or leaf buyers. This farmer’s entire crop is contracted to Alliance One, one of two major leaf companies.

Labor disputes are common here. Farmers can face cash shortfalls mid-season, making it difficult to pay workers on time. Farm laborers have no collective bargaining rights in the US, and child labor is legal on farms. Children as young as 12 can start working unlimited hours outside of school, and children of any age can work on a family-owned tobacco farm.

With only a handful of companies left to sell to – Philip Morris International, Altria, BAT, Japan Tobacco International and two leaf buyers who serve the same companies – farmers feel at the behest of tobacco companies, those interviewed by the Guardian said. This year, some tobacco buyers didn’t offer farmers formal contracts until spring, when tobacco was already growing in greenhouses.

Nevertheless, after a long fight with the Mount Olive Pickle Company, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (Floc) secured a collective bargaining agreement with farmers in the North Carolina Growers Association. Several tobacco companies used farmers in the association, thus some tobacco workers were also covered. Last year alone, Floc handled around 500 total labor complaints, often for wage violations. But their influence is small: the union represents just 7% of North Carolina’s 100,000 workers.

The group has asked BAT to recognize a right to organize for all farm workers worldwide, and blames low pay for frequent disputes.

“I think they should pay more,” said Sintia Castillo, a labor organizer for Floc, whose accent reflects her heritage. Some words come out North Carolina country, others with a snap of second-generation Spanish. “You’re rolling in money at the top, and we’re down here getting sick, going hungry.”

Castillo has six brothers and sisters, and started working in the fields with her family at age seven. She moved to tobacco around 13 and into packing houses at 18. Now she’s 24, a woman whose work has acquainted her with the paradox of organizing people without rights.

“There’s been times I fire people up, and then they get fired,” she said.

She tells a story about Brent Jackson, a state senator and tobacco farmer. Jackson was forced to repay several thousand dollars in back wages after he was sued in federal court by migrant workers. The union then alleged he “blacklisted” the seven farmworkers. Jackson pulled out of the growers association.

Last week, he sponsored a bill to make it illegal for farmers to deduct union dues from paychecks, or for growers to end a dispute with farmworkers by signing a union contract. The bill is currently on the governor’s desk. Campaign finance records show Jackson received $9,400 in donations from tobacco companies.

“Child labor exists because of poverty wages. There’s no way that a family can live off of $7.25 per hour,” said Catherine Crowe, an organizer with Floc. Forcing children not to work without increasing wages, the union contends, would only leave struggling families worse off.

Philip Morris International and Alliance One have said they do not buy tobacco from farms that employ children under 18 for most tasks and, in general, tobacco companies have said growers are “not our employees”. Nevertheless, tobacco company audits have identified many instances of child labor in the supply chain.

In the past, Crowe and Castillo said, BAT has shown more willingness to work with the organizing committee, promising to encourage Reynolds to listen to union demands. As for how the unified company will act in the future: “That,” said Crowe, “is the question.”

This article was amended on 13 July 2017 to clarify Vandana Shah’s position with the North Carolina tobacco use prevention fund.

Tobacco companies tighten hold on Washington under Trump

Top White House figures – including the vice-president and health secretary – have deep ties to an industry whose donations began pouring in on day one

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/13/tobacco-industry-trump-administration-ties

Tobacco companies have moved swiftly to strengthen their grip on Washington politics, ramping up lobbying efforts and securing significant regulatory wins in the first six months of the Trump era.

Day one of Donald Trump’s presidency started with tobacco donations, senior figures have been put in place within the Trump administration who have deep ties to tobacco, and lobbying activity has increased significantly.

“As in so many areas, the promise to drain the swamp has been an extraordinary hypocrisy,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, who supported anti-tobacco legislation and was one of the US attorneys general to broker a hundred-billion-dollar settlement with tobacco companies in the 1990s. “Many of his appointees have deep commitments to the tobacco industry,” he said.

“Tobacco industry influence in Washington is pervasive, in many different ways,” Blumenthal said. “They have an active presence on the Hill, they meet frequently with administrative agencies, on hugely significant issues such as regulation of e-cigarettes, tobacco packaging and warnings.”

America’s largest cigarette manufacturers, Reynolds American and Altria Group, donated $1.5m to help the new president celebrate his inauguration. The donations allowed executives to dine and mingle with top administration officials and their families.

Not long after Trump promised to transfer power from Washington to the American people, a wave of spending in pursuit of influence was unleashed. In the first quarter of 2017, tobacco companies and trade associations spent $4.7m lobbying federal officials. Altria, the company behind Marlboro, hired 17 lobbying firms. Reynolds, makers of the Camel brand, hired 13, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Since then, tobacco companies have been putting points on the scoreboard. Politicians and officials with deep ties to the tobacco industry now head the US health department, the top attorney’s office and the Senate, even as tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death.

Agencies in charge of reviewing large mergers let a window slip by in which they might have requested information about a $49bn merger between Reynolds and British American Tobacco (BAT). That merger, expected to be voted through by shareholders next week, will make BAT the biggest listed tobacco company in the world, and puts proceeds from eight out of 10 cigarettes sold in the US into the pockets of two companies: Altria and BAT.

Advocates and opposition politicians fear public health wins in curbing smoking could be vulnerable to a more emboldened industry.

There are also concerns that most at risk are poorer and more vulnerable citizens whose health insurance coverage could be weakened by Republican reforms.

“With the new Trump administration and Congress trying to roll back health and safety regulations, generally the tobacco industry is seizing the opportunity to mount its own assault on the programs and policies that have reduced smoking in this country,” said Vince Willmore, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The Food and Drug Administration has twice delayed legal briefs to defend regulations of e-cigarettes, products cigarette makers say are the future. Summer deadlines for cigar and e-cigarette makers to file applications with the FDA, which regulates the products, have all been delayed by the Trump administration.

And the high-profile attorney Noel Francisco, who once argued for Reynolds that including a quit-line phone number on cigarette packs amounted to government advocacy against smoking, has been nominated for the post of solicitor general, the government’s top attorney.

In the past two decades, the tobacco industry has increasingly steered donations to Republicans. The past two election cycles, 2014 and 2016, were the most partisan ever. Tobacco companies made 84% of their donations each cycle to Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Since 1990, $57m has been donated exclusively to Republicans, 74% of the industry’s total donations.

Proposals from Republican lawmakers for health reform, which the president has attempted to broker, have threatened to cut $126m that the Centers for Disease Control uses to educate Americans about the harms of tobacco use. Cuts Republicans proposed to Medicaid, a public health program for the poor, could imperil smoking cessation coverage for people already far more likely to smoke than middle- and upper-class Americans.

Trump himself, notoriously secretive about his personal wealth, has revealed that he had investments in tobacco companies, including Philip Morris International, its American spinoff Altria Group, and Reynolds American Inc.

In the past three years, Trump’s financial disclosures show he earned up to $2.1m from tobacco holdings in diversified portfolios. Trump said he sold his stocks this spring (although he did not provide proof).

For Trump’s inaugural celebration, Reynolds American gave $1m. Altria Group gave $500,000. The US Chamber of Commerce, which has been fiercely pro-tobacco in recent years, gave $25,000.

Vice-President Mike Pence was already well acquainted with the tobacco lobby. In 2001, Pence argued that “smoking doesn’t kill”. Two months later, Pence met with tobacco lobbyists who steered donations his way.

Tobacco lobbyists discussed donating to Mike Pence in a 2001 email. Photograph: University of California San Francisco Truth Tobacco Industry Documents

Tobacco lobbyists discussed donating to Mike Pence in a 2001 email. Photograph: University of California San Francisco Truth Tobacco Industry Documents

Over his career, Pence received $39,000 in donations from RJ Reynolds, a Reynolds American subsidiary, and more than $60,000 from the tobacco company-aligned National Association of Convenience Stores, both among his top donors. Pence owned up to $250,000 in stock in a family business, a chain of 210 convenience stores doing business as Tobacco Road. The company later went bankrupt.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has had a high-profile role in developing health reform proposals, has long cast votes that favor tobacco interests. McConnell once threatened to derail negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in support of tobacco. McConnell is from Kentucky, one of the top tobacco-growing states in the country. In January, his former chief of staff was hired by Altria.

Trump’s health appointments also have deep links to tobacco companies. The health secretary, Tom Price, in 2009 voted against a 62-cent cigarette tax hike that would have helped pay for public health insurance for poor children. He called the law a blow to “hard-working Americans” meant “to feed [Obama’s] reckless agenda”. Until 2012, Price owned at least $37,000 in shares in Philip Morris International and Altria, Mother Jones reported, and during his career as a state legislator and Georgia congressman he received more than $37,000 in donations from tobacco companies and related political action committees. In March, Price’s former deputy chief of staff was hired as a lobbyist for Reynolds.

In addition to his vote against the cigarette tax, Price also voted against allowing the FDA to regulate tobacco, a vote that would have a large impact on e-cigarettes. Price now leads the department in charge of enforcing those regulations.

Reporting to Price, as the head of the FDA, is Scott Gottlieb. Before he headed the FDA, Gottlieb worked primarily for the investment bank Winston & Company, which helped raise $4.7m for the e-cigarette company Kure in 2016, according to Bloomberg News.

Gottlieb then became a director at Kure the same year. Writing about the FDA, he argued in Forbes that anti-tobacco “activists have managed to infiltrate the middle ranks of the agency’s center”, and suggested e-cigarettes could be an alternative for smokers.

Attorneys appointed to defend the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco products have, in some cases, come directly from the law firm that once fought them – Jones Day. The firm’s attorneys represented Trump during the campaign as well as RJ Reynolds in suits against the US government. Now, 11 lawyers from the firm have been appointed to various government agencies, American Lawyer reported.

Until Francisco’s nomination for solicitor general, he represented both RJ Reynolds and its parent company, Reynolds American Inc. The companies were two of just 16 sources of income, including his law firm Jones Day, from whom Francisco reported earning more than $5,000 a year.

Francisco has had “a profoundly important involvement with the tobacco industry”, said Blumenthal.

Francisco argued on behalf of Reynolds in a continuing case. In one instance, he successfully argued against a graphic warning design on cigarette packs, which are common in other developed nations, because the warnings included a phone number where people could seek help to quit.

Francisco argued the message veered into advocacy because it told people to “live a certain way”, according to the Seattle Times.

“The government is trying to send a powerful message: quit smoking now,” Francisco reportedly said.

Even the dark “American carnage” speech Trump gave at his inauguration was written by a one-time tobacco advocate: his speechwriter Stephen Miller argued against a cigarette sales ban while he attended Duke University in 2007.

“Smoking, while risky and potentially lethal, is not nearly as dangerous as special interest groups and their cohorts in government have made it out to be,” Miller wrote. “The real risks are the fascistic tendencies that prohibit smoking in even private establishments.”

San Francisco Menthol Ban Puts Millions in Tobacco Sales in Jeopardy

New law may cut tobacco category by 35%, city research says

http://www.cspdailynews.com/category-news/tobacco/articles/san-francisco-menthol-ban-puts-millions-tobacco-sales-jeopardy

Although California may be known for earthquakes, San Francisco could rock the c-store channel to its core, with its board of supervisors banning the sale of menthol cigarettes—a move that could slash the tobacco category in the city as much as 35% when the law goes into effect next year, according to one state estimate.

Through a press contact at the board of supervisors, CSP Daily News confirmed that the board’s unanimous approval of the menthol ban June 20 has led to its passage into law, with an implementation date set for April 2018.

The measure’s passing comes soon after Ted Egan, chief economist for San Francisco’s controller’s office, issued a report detailing the ban’s potential economic effects. In the report dated June 13, Egan said the ban—which affects all tobacco flavors, including menthol—could cost the city $50.5 million in annual sales, with an average smoker consuming 212 packs annually at a cost of $8.50 per pack.

While the ban’s goal of reducing tobacco use may be the result, the report also suggests that smokers may simply switch to other types of tobacco or buy flavored products in other cities or online.

Based on city records, the ban would affect 726 retailers.

“Most of these retailers are small convenience stores or gasoline stations that sell fewer than 20 packs of cigarettes per day,” the report said. “We have no information on how many sell flavored cigarettes that would be subject to the ban.”

The report, however, cited the California Department of Public Health as estimating 35% of cigarettes sold are menthol-flavored.

The legislation itself amends San Francisco health codes to prohibit local tobacco retailers from selling flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored chewing tobacco and flavored liquids containing nicotine designed to be used with electronic cigarettes. It does not criminalize the possession or use of flavored tobacco, only its sale by retailers within the city.

In its original form, the law was supposed to take effect in January 2018, but according to the San Francisco Examiner, Supervisor Malia Cohen, who introduced the bill, pushed enforcement back by four months to April 2018 to address business concerns. According to the Examiner, Cohen said she would support increases in funding for small stores so they could transition their business models to reflect the city’s Healthy Food Retail program.

Since the measure’s initial proposal in April, San Francisco-area retailers and tobacco association representatives have expressed vigorous opposition to the measure, saying it would endanger the viability of their businesses.

Here’s a quick update on California counties and cities that have banned or are considering bans on menthol as part of a larger pushback on flavored-tobacco products:

  • Menthol Bans. Municipalities with some form of flavor ban that includes menthol cigarettes: Yolo and Santa Clara counties in California, and Los Gatos, Calif., according to the Antioch Herald. San Francisco’s flavor ban, which includes menthol-flavored tobacco products, will take effect in April 2018.
  • Flavor Bans. Several cities have some form of flavored-tobacco ban involving menthol. For instance, the city of El Cerrito, Calif., banned the sale of flavored tobacco to youth under 21, according to the Antioch Herald. Other cities with various types of restrictions of menthol include Berkley, Hayward and Sonoma, Calif., said the East Bay Times.
  • Considering Flavor Bans. Contra Costa County in California will consider outlawing the sale of flavored tobacco to youth at either its July 11 or July 18 meeting, according to the Antioch Herald. Meanwhile, the city of San Leandro postponed a decision until September on a more encompassing tobacco ordinance that included a flavor ban, the East Bay Times said.

At a public rally in April, Orlando lawmakers stood in solidarity with legislators in San Francisco to ban menthol cigarettes, but according to the San Francisco Examiner, Orlando is still considering its own proposal on the matter.

One of the latest cities to consider an ordinance is Minneapolis, with councilmen introducing legislation June 16 that would include menthol in its current tobacco-flavor ban.

Is Vaping As Harmful As Smoking Cigarettes? Here’s What You Need To Know

Vaping seems to have taken the mantle of becoming the healthier alternative to smoking, along with the fact that they were designed with the motive to help smokers eventually quit.

http://www.indiatimes.com/health/healthyliving/is-vaping-as-harmful-as-smoking-cigarettes-here-s-what-you-need-to-know-324703.html

In fact, the trend has caught on so rampantly that it’s set to outsell traditional cigarettes by the end of 2023!

With the FDA regulating these products since 2016, it comes as no surprise that vaping is due to become the norm, surpassing traditional smoking in time to come.

In a report on the use of e-cigarettes in Canada, a report previously stated that “Among those whose primary reason for use is to help to quit tobacco, a similar proportion no longer smoke (24%), and this may be considered the success rate for this method of smoking cessation.”

How is vaping different from smoking?

To differentiate itself from tobacco products, vaping is the process of smoking nicotine without inhaling the other harmful substances in tobacco—out of which there 70 known carcinogens. Some products contain little to no nicotine in them. Canada for instance still does not approve of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes.

These battery-powered devices heat the liquid that contains nicotine and/or other flavours, which in turn is inhaled as the vapour.

There is no smoke without fire, however

Since the key objective of switching to e-cigarettes is to cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke, researchers have been assessing the ‘relative harm’ vaping can cause to your tissues.

A study conducted by Jessica Wang-Rodriguez, a head and neck cancer specialist at the University of California at San Diego and her team found that cells lining human organs sustained up to twice the DNA damage seen in unexposed cells. They were also five to 10 times more likely to wither and die than unexposed cells even if the vapour contained no nicotine, the addictive ingredient in conventional and most electronic cigarettes, as reported in New Scientist.

“Without the nicotine, the damage is slightly less, but still statistically significant compared with control cells,” says Wang-Rodriguez, who led the research.

The toxins from the flavouring are another cause of concern

“E-cigarette vapour is known to contain a range of toxins which include impurities in the e-cigarette liquids and toxins generated when solutions are heated to generate vapour,” says John Britton, a toxicologist at the University of Nottingham, UK. “Some are carcinogenic, so it’s likely some long-term users of e-cigarettes will experience adverse effects on their health, and the authors fo the study conducted by Rodriguez and company are correct to point out that these products should not be considered risk-free,” he says. But if smokers can’t give up completely, e-cigarettes are safer than smoking, he says, as reported in New Scientist.

They caused considerable damage to your key blood vessels; similar to normal cigarettes

A study conducted by researchers at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Rome states that vaping has an impact similar to the what normal cigarettes have on the stiffening of you heart’s aorta, as reported the Independent, UK.

The lead researcher, Professor Charalambos Viachopoulos of the University of Athens said, “We measured aortic stiffness. If the aorta is stiff you multiply your risk of dying, either from heart diseases or from other causes. “There could be long-term heart dangers. They are far more dangerous than people realise.”

The problem lies with the rising number of teens taking to smoking E-cigarettes

A 2014 high school survey conducted in the US found that 17 percent of 12th graders reported the use of e-cigarettes compared to 14 percent who smoked traditional cigarettes. The lower price points at which they are promoted, their perception of being safer than traditional cigarettes, the various flavours they come in and the fact they’re in trend make it a very attractive option for the youth.

Adolescents and young adults who try e-cigarettes are more than three times as likely to take up smoking traditional cigarettes as their peers who haven’t tried the devices, states a recent research review published in Reuters Health.

E-cigarette use, or vaping, was as least as strong a risk factor for smoking traditional cigarettes as having a parent or sibling who smokes or having a risk-taking and thrill-seeking personality, the researchers found.

“E-cigarette use among teens and young adults could increase the future burden of tobacco by creating a new generation of adult smokers who might have otherwise not begun smoking,” said lead study author Samir Soneji of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in New Hampshire.

“To the extent that e-cigarette use mimics the behaviour of smoking a cigarette—handling the e-cigarette, the action of puffing, and the inhalation of smoke—it sets the adolescent up for easily transitioning to smoking,” added Soneji. “Like transitioning from driving a Tesla to driving a Chevy.”

Dr Brian Primack, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh stated that “Young people report that there is a lot of pressure among e-cigarette only users to smoke a ‘real’ cigarette,” Primack said by email. “It may be somewhat analogous to the fact that teens who use flavoured alcohol are often pressured socially to step up their game to harder forms of alcohol.”

Although e-cigarettes claim to be less harmful than conventional cigarettes it could make sense to pay heed to the lack of conclusive long-term evidence

Cigarette smokers are well aware of the perils of smoking normal cigarettes. The New England Journal of Medicine states that smoking tobacco reduces your life span by at least 10 years. But studies on smoking e-cigarettes remain largely inconclusive.

A review of studies published in the journal Tobacco Control reveals that the long-term effects of the vaporised form are not known yet. For instance, it is not known if the chemical propylene glycol, which is mixed with the other chemicals in e-cigarettes known to irritate the respiratory tract, could result in lung problems after decades of vaping, says Dr Michael Siegel, a tobacco researcher and professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health in Live Science.

Besides, “because e-cigarettes have been on the market for only about 10 years, there have been no long-term studies of people who have used them for 30 to 40 years. Therefore, the full extent of e-cigs’ effects on heart and lung health, as well as their cancer-causing potential, over time is not known,” says Stanton Glantz a professor of medicine and the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco to Live Science.

 

How e-cigarette ads might sway teens to try tobacco products

When non-smoking teens see ads for e-cigarettes, and are curious about the products advertised, perhaps even identifying with a favorite brand, they might also be more susceptible to taking up cigarettes, a new study finds.

http://www.businessinsider.com/r-how-e-cigarette-ads-might-sway-teens-to-try-tobacco-products-2017-5?IR=T

For the study, researchers showed a nationally representative sample of 10,751 U.S. teens advertisements for a wide variety of tobacco products including traditional cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes. Overall, the teens were more receptive to ads for e-cigarettes than other products and television ads were most likely to prompt brand recall.

“The imagery used by tobacco companies focuses on the aspirations of young people including having fun, being independent, sophisticated, socially accepted, popular, etc.,” said lead study author John Pierce of the University of California, San Diego.

“Those who have an emotive response to these aspirational images are more likely to see use of the product as a way to achieve their aspirations,” Pierce said by email. “It is hypothesized that in adolescents who are committed never smokers, recall of tobacco product advertising will be associated with first movement toward product use within a one-year time frame.”

Big U.S. tobacco companies are all developing e-cigarettes, battery-powered gadgets with a heating element that turns liquid nicotine and flavorings into a cloud of vapor that users inhale.

For the past decade, public health experts have debated whether the devices might help with smoking cessation or at least be a safer alternative to smoking traditional combustible cigarettes, or whether they might lure a new generation into nicotine addiction.

Fewer teens smoke today than a generation ago, but declines in traditional cigarette use have stalled and e-cigarettes have become increasingly popular in recent years. As of 2015, an estimated 16 percent of U.S. high school students used e-cigarettes, compared with about 9 percent for traditional cigarettes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While television ads for traditional cigarettes have been illegal in the U.S. for decades, e-cigarette ads are currently allowed on TV, researchers note in Pediatrics.

In the study, Pierce and his colleagues examined how receptive or curious non-smoking teens were about different tobacco products and whether they had a favorite image or advertisement. They also looked at how susceptible the adolescents might be to trying tobacco products based on their ability to recall specific brands they saw in the ads.

The researchers showed each study participant a random selection of five ads each for cigarettes, e-cigarettes smokeless tobacco and cigars based on 959 different promotions that had recently been used to advertise these products.

Overall, 41 percent of the younger teens in the study and half of older adolescents were receptive to at least one tobacco advertisement, the study found.

Across each age group, teens were most receptive to ads for e-cigarettes, followed by traditional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

E-cigarette ads shown on television had the highest recall.

Compared to teens in the study who were not at all receptive to the ads, youth who had the highest level of engagement with the promotions were more than six times more likely to be susceptible to trying tobacco products, the study found.

The study isn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how ads may directly influence tobacco use.

Another limitation is that researchers didn’t have data to show whether or not teens actually used tobacco products after viewing these ads, the authors note.

Even so, the findings suggest that non-cigarette ads for tobacco-related products may be damaging for adolescent health, Rebecca Collins of Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, writes in an accompanying editorial.

“This study provides some very provocative data suggesting that the marketing of e-cigarettes, which is not regulated, might be leading to cigarette smoking among teens,” Collins said by email.

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.

Effect of message congruency on attention and recall in pictorial health warning labels

Abstract

Objective

The nine pictorial health warning labels (PWLs) proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration vary in format and feature of visual and textual information. Congruency is the degree to which visual and textual features reflect a common theme. This characteristic can affect attention and recall of label content. This study investigates the effect of congruency in PWLs on smoker’s attention and recall of label content.

http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2017/05/16/tobaccocontrol-2016-053615

Methods

120 daily smokers were randomly assigned to view either congruent or incongruent PWLs, while having their eye movements recorded. Participants were asked to recall label content immediately after exposure and 5 days later.

Results

Overall, the image was viewed more and recalled better than the text. Smokers in the incongruent condition spent more time focusing on the text than smokers in the congruent condition (p=0.03), but dwell time of the image did not differ. Despite lower dwell time on the text, smokers in the congruent condition were more likely to correctly recall it on day 1 (p=0.02) and the risk message of the PWLs on both day 1 (p=0.01) and day 5 (p=0.006) than smokers in the incongruent condition.

Conclusions

This study identifies an important design feature of PWLs and demonstrates objective differences in how smokers process PWLs. Our results suggest that message congruency between visual and textual information is beneficial to recall of label content. Moreover, images captured and held smokers’ attention better than the text.

Big Tobacco Attacks Sensible F.D.A. Rules on Vaping

As smokers turned to electronic cigarettes to reduce the health risks of smoking, big tobacco companies started buying e-cigarette makers and producing and selling their own. Now those companies are lobbying Congress to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from regulating electronic cigarettes and cigars, as it does conventional cigarettes. If they succeed, they will be able to sell and market addictive nicotine products to young people with few restrictions.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/opinion/big-tobacco-attacks-sensible-fda-rules-on-vaping.html?_r=1

While promoters of e-cigarettes and e-cigars, which provide nicotine in vapor form, say they can help people quit conventional tobacco products containing harmful tar, there is not a lot of evidence for that claim. In addition, the devices are dangerous to young people because the nicotine they provide “can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain,” according to a 2016 report by the surgeon general, Vivek Murthy. Health experts also say that the vapor those devices produce can contain carcinogens and metal particles.

Another government report found that 16 percent of high-school students said they had used e-cigarettes in 2015, up from just 1.5 percent in 2011. The industry sells these products in a broad array of flavors, like gummy bear and cotton candy, designed to appeal to young people when they are more susceptible to becoming dependent or addicted to nicotine.

After years of deliberation, the F.D.A. said last May that it would begin regulating the manufacturing, sale, packaging and advertising of e-cigarettes, and all tobacco products, under a 2009 federal law that authorized it to do so. Specifically, the agency said it would begin reviewing the health risks of e-cigarettes introduced since early 2007, and potentially ban specific flavors and products that it deemed harmful. The tobacco lobby wants Republicans to amend a vital appropriations bill to exempt products that were introduced before May 2016 from F.D.A. review.

The push to undermine the F.D.A.’s authority began even before the agency had finished its rule. One Republican lawmaker, Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, introduced a bill in 2015 that was identical to a draft circulated by the Altria Group, the country’s biggest tobacco company and a marketer of vaping products. In addition to its legislative effort, the industry has also filed several lawsuits in federal courts challenging the rule.

Tobacco companies complain that the F.D.A.’s rule amounts to “retroactive” regulation because many of the e-cigarettes and e-cigars it will regulate have been on the market for years. But the industry has known for years that government officials were developing this rule. Large bipartisan majorities in Congress voted in 2009 to hand the agency the authority to evaluate and approve new tobacco products introduced on or after Feb. 15, 2007. The F.D.A. is simply doing its job by protecting public health.