Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

Organizations

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.

Cigarette Filter Ventilation and its Relationship to Increasing Rates of Lung Adenocarcinoma

https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article-abstract/109/12/djx075/3836090/Cigarette-Filter-Ventilation-and-its-Relationship?redirectedFrom=fulltext

The 2014 Surgeon General’s Report on smoking and health concluded that changing cigarette designs have caused an increase in lung adenocarcinomas, implicating cigarette filter ventilation that lowers smoking machine tar yields. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now has the authority to regulate cigarette design if doing so would improve public health. To support a potential regulatory action, two weight-of-evidence reviews were applied for causally relating filter ventilation to lung adenocarcinoma. Published scientific literature (3284 citations) and internal tobacco company documents contributed to causation analysis evidence blocks and the identification of research gaps. Filter ventilation was adopted in the mid-1960s and was initially equated with making a cigarette safer. Since then, lung adenocarcinoma rates paradoxically increased relative to other lung cancer subtypes. Filter ventilation 1) alters tobacco combustion, increasing smoke toxicants; 2) allows for elasticity of use so that smokers inhale more smoke to maintain their nicotine intake; and 3) causes a false perception of lower health risk from “lighter” smoke. Seemingly not supportive of a causal relationship is that human exposure biomarker studies indicate no reduction in exposure, but these do not measure exposure in the lung or utilize known biomarkers of harm. Altered puffing and inhalation may make smoke available to lung cells prone to adenocarcinomas. The analysis strongly suggests that filter ventilation has contributed to the rise in lung adenocarcinomas among smokers. Thus, the FDA should consider regulating its use, up to and including a ban. Herein, we propose a research agenda to support such an effort.

What’s keeping Indonesia, China addicted to smoking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-smoking group seeks to raise legal smoking age to 20

Around one billion people will die from tobacco-related causes by the end of the 21st century if current smoking patterns continue…

http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3159764

Taiwan’s anti-smoking group held a press conference on Wednesday calling for higher legal smoking age and completely smoke-free workplaces and indoor public places.

The group has called on the Legislature to revise the nation’s Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act comprehensively to correspond to the requirements of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

WHO FCTC is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization that was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Chen Man-Li (陳曼麗) and Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Ko Chih-En (柯志恩) both showed up to the press conference today in support of the group.

Taiwan Heart Foundation’s Chairman Lue Hung-chi (呂鴻基) said today that around one billion people will die from tobacco-related causes by the end of the 21st century if current smoking patterns continue.

Major changes that the group has called for include bans on smoking in all workplaces and indoor public places, increase the size of warnings on tobacco packs to 85% of the surface area and with mandatory plain packaging, bans on sponsorship from tobacco companies, bans on the sale of flavored cigarettes, extend all the smoking-related bans to include e-cigarettes, and raise the legal age for smoking from 18 to 20.

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.

Smoking costs China $57 billion in 2014: WHO calls for national ban

The economic dividends from China’s tobacco industry are a false economy, which is at odds with government’s vision for China’s future, the World Health Organization (WHO) claimed on Friday.

http://www.ecns.cn/2017/04-16/253586.shtml

“The total economic cost of tobacco use in China in 2014 amounted to a staggering 350 billion yuan ($57 billion), a tenfold increase since 2000,” Bernhard Schwartlander, the WHO representative in China, told a press conference in Beijing.

The increase is a result of more people diagnosed with tobacco-related illness and increasing healthcare expenditure, according to a report jointly released by the WHO and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) at the conference.

“The direct cost of treating tobacco-related diseases in China was about 53 billion yuan and the indirect cost was expected to be 297 billion yuan,” in which the productivity loss from premature deaths was a major concern, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the report said that tobacco represents an economy of the past as China’s tobacco companies do not fit the vision of an innovative, value-added future economy.

“Projected increases in these costs will lead to negative spillovers effects across many sectors, placing increasing challenges to Chinese economy and businesses, in addition to the social welfare and health system,” it said.

Wu Yiqun, deputy director of the Beijing-based Research Center for Health Development, a think tank, told the Global Times earlier that China has huge public support for a nationwide smoking ban, but the timetable to adopt a law has been on the back burner.

“The proposed law has been mainly stymied by tobacco industry officials due to the huge economic interests involved,” Wu said.

The sector handed over 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion) to the State in 2015, up 20.2 percent from the previous year, the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration said in 2016.

The revenue from the tobacco industry derives from corporations whose business model is to create dependence on a lethal substance.

China in 2016 adopted the “Healthy China 2030″ blueprint, which says China aims to reduce smoking rates among adults from 28 percent to 20 percent by 2030.

More than 1 million people die of tobacco-related diseases every year in China, and the number is expected to reach 3 million by 2050 if no action to reduce smoking rates is taken. About 44 percent of the world’s cigarettes were consumed in China in 2014, nearly 26 percent higher than that in India, the report said.

China’s Ministry of Finance announced in May 2015 to raise cigarette taxation from the previous 5 percent to 11 percent, which “led to a reduction in cigarette sales for the first time in 20 years,” according to the report.

However, “cigarettes are increasingly affordable as the increase in cigarette prices has been much lower than the average increase in salaries.”

Justice Ministry says iQOS product will be treated as ordinary tobacco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Progress against ‘global tobacco epidemic’ made but not enough

Tobacco treaty has helped cut smoking rates, yet more work is needed

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20170325/health-fitness/Progress-against-global-tobacco-epidemic-made-but-not-enough.643389

The WHO warns against tobacco use which kills about six million people a year globally and imposes a huge burden on the world economy.

A global tobacco treaty put in place in 2005 has helped reduce smoking rates by 2.5 per cent worldwide in 10 years, researchers said, but use of deadly tobacco products could be cut even further with more work on anti-smoking policies.

In a study published in the Lancet Public Health journal, researchers from Canada’s University of Waterloo and the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that while progress against what they called the “global tobacco epidemic” has been substantial, it has still fallen short of the pace called for by the treaty.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which came into effect in 2005, obliges the 180 countries signed up to have high tobacco taxes, smoke-free public spaces, warning labels, comprehensive advertising bans and support for stop-smoking services.

Smoking causes lung cancer and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular illnesses such as heart disease and strokes, which kill more people than any other diseases.

The WHO says tobacco kills about six million people a year globally and imposes a huge burden on the world economy. Annual healthcare and lost productivity costs for those made ill from smoking are estimated at around $1 trillion.

The study analysed WHO data from 126 countries – 116 of which are signatories to the FCTC – and tracked and compared the implementation of the five key measures from 2007 to 2014 to look at links between strong policies and smoking rates.

It found that, on average, smoking rates dropped to 22.2 per cent in 2015 from 24.7 a decade earlier. But the trends varied, with rates falling in 90 countries, rising in 24 and remaining steady in 12.

Countries that fully implemented more FCTC measures saw significantly greater reductions in smoking rates, the study found. Overall, each additional measure was linked with a drop in smoking rates of 1.57 percentage points – corresponding to 7.1 per cent fewer smokers in 2015 compared with in 2005.

The study was not a full global analysis, since only 65 per cent of countries had the data needed, but it did include countries from all income levels and regions. The researchers also noted that the lower smoking rates could be influenced by factors other than FCTC policy recommendations.

“The data did not allow a detailed analysis of the impact of individual policies,” said Geoffrey Fong of Waterloo University, who co-led the work.

He called for more studies that are specifically designed to evaluate the impact of all FCTC policies and would “help provide guidance to countries about what policies may offer the greatest benefits”.

FCTC cut smoking 2.5 per cent over 10 years; study

A decade of tobacco control efforts by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has reduced the global smoking rate by 2.5 per cent, according to an evaluation by the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project.

http://www.tobaccojournal.com/FCTC_cut_smoking_2_5_per_cent_over_10_years_study.54157.0.html

Although the international treaty, an adjunct of the World Health Organisation, has made substantial progress in combatting use of tobacco products, implementation of FCTC measures has fallen short of its objectives, according to the study. “While the progress of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has been remarkable, there are still far too many countries where domestication of the treaty and its implementation has fallen short,” said Dr Geoffrey Fong, a study author from the University of Waterloo, Canada. “One important cause of this is the tobacco industry’s influence, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.”

Conducted with assistance from WHO, the study analysed data from 126 countries and determined the smoking rate in those countries declined on average from 24.7 per cent in 2005 to 22 per cent in 2015. FCTC obligates 180 signatory countries to raise tax on tobacco products, create smoke-free public spaces, implement warning labels on packaging, ban advertising and support stop-smoking services.

FDA delays ‘other use’ rule for tobacco-derived products

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pushed back by one year a rule to clarify when products derived from tobacco face regulation as drugs or combination products.

http://www.tobaccojournal.com/FDA_delays_other_use_rule_for_tobacco-derived_products.54153.0.html

Initially set to take effect in February, the FDA first delayed implementation by one month and now intends for it to take effect on 19 March 2018. An additional comment period will expire on 19 May 2017. Additional information is available at: https://goo.gl/BrQooq