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Alex Calls Out Government on Another Tobacco Control Plan Delay

The Government are making no progress on creating and publishing the Tobacco Control Plan and every delay is putting more lives at risk, argued Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham today.

Last week Alex used the parliamentary tool of submitting a written question to the Secretary of State for Health regarding the long-awaited tobacco control plan, and today received a response from a Health Minister simply saying that the Government are “developing the Tobacco Control Plan which will be published shortly”.

The Member of Parliament for Stockton North argued that this is just another delay in a long succession regarding the plan, which was announced in December 2015 to be published the following year. Since 2016, a number of MPs have added their voices alongside Alex to continue probing the Government on when they will release the plan.

The Tobacco Control Plan, when eventually published, will set out what must be done to identify and develop new measures for reducing smoking and smoking harm.

Speaking on the matter, Alex said:

“I know that the previous Government wasn’t known for its efficiency, but a near 18-month delay on the publication of an extremely important plan is beyond inefficient now.

“There are a significant number of organisations, charities, health workers, and patients that are waiting for this plan. We can’t sit around and allow more people to die from cancer and other smoking-related diseases whilst the Government ponders around making dodgy DUP deals to stay in Downing Street, and key parts of our health strategy are being pushed to the sidelines.”

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.

 

Vaping teens more likely to take up regular cigarettes

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, a research review suggests.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-health-teens-vaping-idUKKBN19H292

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, 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.

Big tobacco companies, including Altria Group Inc, Lorillard Tobacco Co and Reynolds American Inc, are all developing e-cigarettes. The battery-powered devices feature a glowing tip and a heating element that turns liquid nicotine and other flavorings into a cloud of vapor that users inhale.

Soneji and colleagues analyzed data from nine smaller studies with a total of 17,389 participants ages 14 to 30.

They didn’t examine why many teens and young adults transitioned from vaping to smoking traditional cigarettes, but both options contain nicotine, an addictive drug, Soneji said by email.

The habit of vaping may also make the transition to smoking seem more natural, and teens in particular may gravitate toward friends who smoke once they try vaping, Soneji said.

“To the extent that e-cigarette use mimics the behavior 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,” Soneji said. “Like transitioning from driving a Tesla to driving a Chevy.”

Seven studies looked at smoking initiation among more than 8,000 youngsters who had never smoked before. Data pooled from these studies showed that roughly 30 percent of e-cigarette users became smokers, compared with only about 8 percent of people who hadn’t tried vaping. That translates into 3.6 times higher odds of smoking for people who have tried e-cigarettes, researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics.

One limitation of the study is that it included some results from earlier studies with a high drop-out rate, and it’s not clear whether people who left these studies were different from participants who remained in ways that would make them more or less likely to smoke, the authors note. Researchers also lacked data on the type of e-cigarettes used, and they only looked at U.S. studies.

Even so, by pooling data from several smaller studies, the results offer stronger evidence that vaping can encourage young people to progress to smoking, said William Shadel, a researcher at RAND Corporation in Pittsburgh who wasn’t involved in the current study.

“The results are particularly compelling because the studies took into account other variables that put kids at risk of cigarette smoking, like alcohol use and peer cigarette smoking,” Shadel said by email. “These results should help to strengthen arguments for regulatory action that limits young people’s access to e-cigarettes.”

Enticing flavors of liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes, like strawberry or chocolate, may make vaping appealing to some young people who might not like the taste of traditional cigarettes, said Dr. Brian Primack, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh who wasn’t involved in the study. Peer pressure may then encourage them to graduate to smoking.

“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 flavored alcohol are often pressured socially to step up their game to harder forms of alcohol.”

There’s one clear way for young people to avoid this.

“The biggest thing that people can do is never start using them in the first place,” Primack said.

More than 100 pets were poisoned by e-cigarettes in Britain last year

Vaping might be a lot better for pet owners than smoking cigarettes – but the gadgets pose a risk to pets, a new report found.

http://metro.co.uk/2017/06/26/more-than-100-pets-were-poisoned-by-e-cigarettes-in-britain-last-year-6734735/

Vets say that a ‘large increase’ in the number of pets being poisoned by e-cigarettes, according to figures from the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS).

Last year, 113 pets were poisoned by e-cigarettes in the UK.

The VPIS says, ‘A typical ‘natural’ cigarette could yield, at most, 30mg of nicotine (most have less).

‘E-cigarettes and their refills contain large doses of nicotine (up to 36mg per ml). How well absorbed or how ‘available’ this is for oral or mucosal absorption is not known, but it is reasonable to take any exposure seriously.

‘Ingestion of refill bottles/vials may present a particular hazard as the nicotine may leak over a period of time or may suddenly be released after a variable period in the gut.’

 

New Health Minister is under fire for voting against major smoking reforms

Tory Jackie Doyle-Price was accused of not even backing ‘basic public health measures’

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3878316/new-health-minister-is-under-fire-for-voting-against-major-smoking-reforms/

A NEW Health Minister was under fire last night for voting against major smoking reforms, it has emerged.

Tory Jackie Doyle-Price was last night accused of not even backing “basic public health measures” since was she was elected in 2010.

Her voting record shows she voted against a ban on smoking in private motors where there are kids present.

She also voted against a new law that requires private vehicles be smoke-free where a person under 18 is present.

Doyle-Price, who has been an MP since 2010, also voted to exempt pubs and private members’ clubs from the smoking ban where no grub is served.

Sharon Hodgson, Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, said: “Public health ought to be a number one priority for this government, particularly action to tackle smoking related illnesses.

“Jeremy Hunt needs to explain why he’s appointed a new health minister who doesn’t even support basic public health measures.”

Labour also urged the government to publish their Tobacco Control Plan which they claim is months late.

Deborah Arnott Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health last night said: “Before the election the Government had committed to publishing a new Tobacco Control Plan ‘shortly’.

“The best way for Jeremy Hunt to prove his continuing commitment to public health and tackling tobacco is to publish the Plan without further delay.”

Figures show smoking is the leading cause of preventable premature death killing 79,000 people in 2015

How to measure the black market for cigarettes

Popular methods include surveys, statistical analysis and rooting through rubbish

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/06/economist-explains-4

LAST month Britain joined a growing number of countries in which cigarettes can only be sold in plain packs. Tobacco companies claim that the move will boost the sales of contraband cigarettes by making them trickier to spot. There is one way to tell whether this actually happens: track how black-market sales change. But how can such sales be measured?

There are about a dozen ways to do it, of which three are the most commonly used, says Hana Ross of the University of Cape Town. The first is a comparison of the number of cigarettes sold legally (from records on cigarette taxes paid) with the number of cigarettes consumed (which is calculated from surveys asking people how much they smoke). The gap between the two figures is the estimated share of the black market. The second commonly used method is to ask smokers where they have bought cigarettes and how much they have paid; smokers might also be asked to show the most recent pack they have bought. A price lower than that of legally sold brands suggests a contraband sale; some smokers openly admit that they have bought contraband cigarettes, or show a telltale pack.

The third method is to look at discarded cigarette packs and count up each that looks like a black-market purchase, for instance by missing its tax sticker or displaying a brand that is not officially registered. Discarded packs can be collected from vendors who sell cigarettes by the stick, from litter in the streets, or by rummaging through rubbish bins or the hauls of refuse-collection trucks. (“We dress them as if they are going into space”, says Ms Ross about the recruits who rummage through the heaps.)

Each of these methods has its weakness. Smokers may, for example, be reluctant to mention purchases of cigarettes they know to be contraband. They may also claim to smoke less than they actually do (especially if researchers come round soon after a major anti-smoking campaign). Ideally, multiple methods should be applied to get a better estimate of the total black-market sales. And trends over time are best measured by applying the same method. Such studies are conducted in a growing number of countries. Just because a sale occurs in the shadows does not mean it is impossible to cast a smouldering light on it.

Three men jailed over illegal tobacco factory

Three men have been jailed for a total of 16 years for a £17m tax fraud after an illegal tobacco factory was discovered.

http://forecourttrader.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/13410/Three_men_jailed_over_illegal_tobacco_factory.html

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers found that a Poland-based criminal network used several sites in the North West and Essex to process raw tobacco into illegal tobacco products in an attempt to evade excise duty and VAT.

During the investigation, HMRC seized tobacco in Preston, Lancashire, in 2013 followed by arrests and more seizures of tobacco and manufacturing equipment the following year in Bury, Greater Manchester; Blackburn, Lancashire; and Halsted, Essex.

One of the men, Robert Zduniak, fled during the trial but was convicted and jailed for eight years in his absence at Manchester Crown Court on Friday. His co-conspirators, Hubert Jankowski, and Lukasz Pawelec, were each jailed for four years.

Pawelec had also tried to flee but was caught at Doncaster Airport and remanded for the remainder of the trial.

In April 2014, HMRC raided a farm in Essex, as well as four premises near Bury and another in Blackburn. They seized around three tonnes of raw tobacco that was in the process of being converted into counterfeit hand rolling tobacco (HRT), £15,000 in cash, chemicals, counterfeit packaging and tobacco packing machinery. The tobacco processing plant in Essex was dismantled immediately by HMRC.

HMRC linked the 2014 seizures and the jailed men to a further eight tonnes of tobacco valued around £1.8m in evaded duty and tax that was seized in Preston in 2013.

Further enquiries by HMRC established that the gang had imported more than 100 tonnes of raw tobacco mislabelled as ‘furniture’ into the UK, from the Czech Republic, over a 15-month period. If converted into counterfeit hand rolling tobacco this represents a potential tax loss of £17m.

Hampshire County Council slammed after £80 million pumped into British American Tobacco

CIVIC chiefs have been slammed after pumping £81 million into a tobacco company.

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/News/15323523.Council_slammed_after_funds_pumped_into_tobacco_firm/

Hampshire County Council’s pension fund has invested the money into one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world, British American Tobacco (BAT).

The council top the list of UK authorities who have investments in tobacco.

However, some of the world’s largest investment organisations have called for UK authorities to pull out of tobacco investments.

One big name to sell its tobacco shares is the French insurance giant Axa.

The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF), said it was ‘silly’ for one part of the council to be trying to promote health while the pension fund was, indirectly, promoting smoking.

Simon Howard, chief executive of UKSIF said: “Many local authorities now have responsibility for tobacco control and smoking cessation activities.

“If Hampshire is one of the local authorities which has responsibility for stopping smoking then it also seems silly for their pension fund to own tobacco shares. They are perfectly able to sell these shares.”

The county council currently manage a pension fund of £5,213 million on behalf of more than 300 employers and public bodies, and around 155,000 current and former staff.

Defending their actions, a spokesperson from the authority said: “Social, environmental and ethical considerations are taken into account when assessing the financial potential and suitability of investments.

“The independent pension fund has a fiduciary duty, by law, to invest fund monies to achieve the best possible financial return.”

Pension fund panel and board member, Councillor Bruce Tennent (pictured), said the council couldn’t be an organisation that puts ethics above financial return.

Cllr Tennent, who has been on the board for seven years, said: “Yes, ethical considerations are taken into account.

“There are break-downs in high and low-risk investments and ethical and non-ethical investments. We can’t be a board who puts ethics above monetary interests.”

BAT has its UK base in Southampton and employs 1,200 at its Millbrook site which is its global centre for research and development department and is also home to IT, finance, and distribution departments.

The firm has been in the city for more than a century but ceased cigarette manufacture here more than a decade ago. However, it employs more staff now than at any time ins recent history.

BAT declined to comment on the issue and referred the Daily Echo to The Tobacco Manufacturers Association, who said the industry was a sound investment.

Giles Roca, director general of the organisation, said: “Fund managers are free and indeed required to make the best financial decisions for their investors.

“Many commentators would point to the tobacco industry’s strong financial performance in recent years as a reason why its shares are considered an attractive buy for pension funds.”

While acknowledging the need for the county council to get the best deal for their pensioners, public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said that pension fund boards had to think seriously about balancing financial obligations with health promotions.

Director of policy, Hazel Cheeseman, said: “Increasingly fund managers around the world are seeing tobacco as neither acceptable nor sustainable.

“Over the long term we ask funds to think seriously about how they balance both their financial obligations and the obligations local councils have to promote health.”

This week the World Health Organization (WHO) called on governments to implement strong tobacco control measures as part of its

WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said: “By taking robust tobacco control measures, governments can safeguard their countries’ futures by protecting tobacco users and non-users from these deadly products, generating revenues to fund health services.”

When asked to comment, several local and national cancer charities declined to do so.

UK councils under pressure over £1bn of tobacco investments

Major investors set example to local authorities with commitment to selling shares in cigarette makers

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/31/uk-councils-under-pressure-over-1bn-of-tobacco-investments

Some of the world’s largest investment firms have thrown their weight behind efforts to combat smoking, sparking renewed calls for UK local authorities to divest all their shares in the tobacco industry from their pension fund investments.

More than 50 companies managing $3.8tn (£3tn) of money, including pension funds and insurers, declared support for “tobacco control measures being taken around the world” – even though some of them still own shares in tobacco businesses.

In a joint statement, released to coincide with World No Tobacco Day, they said: “We in the investment community are becoming increasingly aware of the important role we can play in helping to address the health and societal impacts of tobacco.”

The firms cited studies suggesting that smoking costs the global economy more than $1tn a year, outstripping global revenues from tobacco taxes.

Signatories of the statement include Axa – the French insurance firm that sold its entire €1.8bn (£1.6bn) tobacco portfolio last year – and Calpers, the giant US fund with nearly $300bn of assets under management. Calpers has also divested itself of all its tobacco investments.

While some large investors have sold tobacco holdings, funds managing the pension investments of UK local authority staff still own at least £1bn of tobacco stocks, according to analysis by the Guardian.

The share register of British American Tobacco (BAT), owner of Benson & Hedges and Lucky Strike, includes 28 local government schemes, which together own a combined £700m stake in the company.

The council with the largest investment in BAT is Hampshire county council, with about £81m of pensioners’ money invested in the firm. BAT has an office in Southampton, but ceased production of cigarettes at the site in 2007.

Nottinghamshire Local Government Pension Fund is second with about £62m worth of shares and is also among the largest investors in Imperial Brands, which makes Embassy and Superkings. Cigarettes were produced in Nottingham until May last year.

Imperial counts 19 local authorities among its shareholders, with their investments adding up to nearly £290m.

In total, share registers disclose that local authorities own close to £1bn of shares in the two companies. Their total tobacco investment is likely to be higher if they are invested in separate funds that also count cigarette companies among their portfolio of shares.

One of the obstacles to council pension funds selling tobacco stocks is a legal argument that trustees are obliged to prioritise the need to maximise investment returns over anything else.

But guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government said trustees did have some room for manoeuvre.

“Although schemes should make the pursuit of a financial return their predominant concern, they may also take purely non-financial considerations into account provided that doing so would not involve significant risk of financial detriment to the scheme and where they have good reason to think that scheme members would support their decision.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the health charity Ash (Action on Smoking and Health), said this left the door open for selling tobacco stocks.

“Historically, investment in tobacco was seen as safe, promising good returns, but increasingly fund managers are realising investing in tobacco is neither acceptable nor sustainable,” she said.

“Local authority pension funds have a legal duty to get the best deal for their pensioners, but if big investment funds like Axa can disinvest then surely local authorities, which have a legal duty to promote the health of local people, can do the same.”

Dr Bronwyn King, an oncologist who was instrumental in persuading Axa to drop its tobacco investments, said local governments should give serious thought to divesting, particularly given the cost to the public purse of smoking-related illness.

“We call on all government-related pension funds and sovereign wealth funds to look again at their policy,” she said.

“The health sector across the world is unified on tobacco but that alone won’t be enough. If the finance sector continues to invest in tobacco and strives to profit from it, we’re working against each other.”

The statement by investors calling for tighter tobacco control was issued at a conference in Paris to mark the annual no-tobacco day, started by the World Health Organization. WHO has estimated that tobacco claims more than 7 million lives each year.

Thomas Buberl, chief executive of Axa, was among the speakers at the event, a year on from the company’s decision to sell all its tobacco stakes.

“As the Axa group strives to be a partner in society, it is clear that action must be taken to combat the enormous human costs of tobacco,” said Buberl.

“I am convinced we must work together if we want to bring about change. Therefore, we are very proud to be working with other major financial actors and key stakeholders in support of governments to take action on tobacco control.”

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.