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September 7th, 2011:

Why the tobacco industry fears plain packaging

DOWNLOAD PDF : MJA-2011-plain-packs

Smoke and mirrors: how the tobacco industry hides behind lobbyists

The tobacco industry is covertly using third-party companies to lobby against smoking restrictions and to gain access to health documents held by public organisations.

Public relations companies and law firms are working on behalf of anonymous multinational tobacco companies without declaring who their clients are, according to an investigation by The Independent.

The third parties have refused to confirm they are working on behalf of tobacco firms when they make freedom of information requests from universities and other public bodies, even though the third parties are demanding more openness from their targets.

The public relations company Bell Pottinger and the London law firm Clifford Chance have both requested information from public organisations without making it clear they are working on behalf of tobacco firms.

The Irish PR company Hume Brophy has also carried out a lobbying campaign against the Government’s ban on cigarette displays in shops on behalf of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents without stating that the campaign was being funded by the tobacco industry.

The Independent has established that Alex Deane, a former chief-of-staff to David Cameron, played a key role in attempts to use the freedom of information law against one public organisation involved in promoting awareness against the health dangers of roll-up tobacco. Mr Deane is a director of Bell Pottinger which earlier this year requested documents from a health-awareness organisation funded by the NHS, the Bristol-based Smoke Free South West, following a campaign it ran against roll-up tobacco, which is popular in that part of the country.

Soon after this informal request, Smoke Free South West received a formal freedom of information request for the same documentation from Big Brother Watch, a right-of-centre libertarian group founded by Mr Deane.

Neither Bell Pottinger nor Big Brother Watch declared to Smoke Free South West that they had held discussions with one another or with Bristol-based Imperial Tobacco, which is listed as one of Bell Pottinger’s clients in the PR firm’s website, and makes Golden Virginia rolling tobacco and Rizla cigarette papers.

Mr Deane was not available for comment yesterday; Bell Pottinger said he was on holiday. David Petrie, the Bell Pottinger executive who sent the email requests to Smoke Free South West, did not return calls. Daniel Hamilton, a director of Big Brother Watch, refused to confirm or deny that his organisation had been in contact with Bell Pottinger or Imperial Tobacco over the FOI request to Smoke Free South West. “We don’t work on behalf of other groups. We only work on behalf of ourselves… We’ve got no formal links with anyone in the tobacco industry,” Mr Hamilton said.

This week, The Independent revealed that tobacco companies had demanded access to confidential university research papers on teenagers’ attitudes to smoking, as well as meetings within the Department of Health between government officials and experts on smoking and health.

Stirling University, which carries out research on behalf of the Health Department and Cancer Research UK, said Philip Morris, the makers of Marlboro cigarettes, was attempting to access thousands of confidential interviews with British teenagers.

The FOI request was initially made in 2009 through the London law firm Clifford Chance, which tried to keep the identify of its client confidential. However, under the Scottish Freedom of Information Act, which is slightly different to the English Act, a third party must name the client it is working for – in this case Philip Morris.

A spokeswoman for Clifford Chance said she could not comment on whether the law firm was carrying out any further freedom of information requests on behalf of tobacco companies. Under the English FOI Act, third parties can work on behalf of anonymous clients.

Hume Brophy, the Irish public relations company, admitted it was a mistake to conduct a parliamentary lobbying campaign against cigarette displays in shops without making it clear it was paid for by the tobacco industry. In a letter to Stephen Williams MP, John Hume, a partner in the company, said that it will not happen again.

Martin Dockrell of the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health said that the tobacco industry’s use of “front” organisations was nothing new.

“Big Tobacco’s dirty little secret is how they get others to do their dirty work,” Mr Dockrell said. “Some front groups are pretty much wholly owned subsidiaries; some appear to be independent but tobacco companies pay the bills and pull the strings.”

Former Cameron crony leading the fight for the smoking lobby


Alex Deane served as David Cameron’s chief of staff when Cameron was shadow education secretary from 2004-2005. A Tory activist since 1995, Mr Deane is now a director of Bell Pottinger, the public relations firm set up by Lord Bell, the Tory peer. He was a founding director of Big Brother Watch, a right-of-centre libertarian pressure group that opposes state-controlled surveillance and what it sees as intrusions into civil liberties. He has opposed CCTV cameras, DNA databases, council surveillance and data chips in dustbins. Big Brother Watch also stoutly defends the rights of smokers to smoke in public places.

Tobacco industry’s smokescreen in packaging debate

Tobacco manufacturers generally have a hard time trying to seize the moral high ground. But that is what is happening in Australia, where the Senate, the upper house of parliament, will decide in the next couple of weeks whether to approve the world’s toughest anti-smoking legislation.

Under the Labor government’s proposals, all tobacco products would have to be sold in identical plain green packaging, without logos or design variations. Brand and product names would be in identical type, making it very hard to target specific market segments such as women or young adults.

This draconian plan, already approved by parliament’s lower house, has triggered a furious assault from British American Tobacco, the market leader with 46 per cent of sales, and the smaller players Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco, which share most of the rest of the market. BAT says it will challenge the law immediately in Australia’s High Court if it passes in the upper house. This is a serious threat: only last week the court struck down a key plank of Australia’s foreign policy because it conflicted with elements of Australian and international law.

Superficially, the fuss is surprising. From the perspective of the big international tobacco companies, Australia is a tiny market, its $7.9bn of sales accounting for just 1.8 per cent of the global total in 2010, according to a study by Deloittepublished in February.

But Big Tobacco has a broader view. Australia is not the only advanced economy thinking about plain packaging. Many have looked at it, and it is being actively considered in Canada, the UK and the European Union. Australian backing might give the idea fresh traction across the developed world.

The legislation has substantial support. The plain packaging bill was supported unanimously in the lower house, though the conservative opposition unsuccessfully opposed a separate, but linked, trademark bill. An opinion poll for The Australian in August showed 48 per cent public support for plain packaging.

Bowing to science, the tobacco companies no longer claim that their product is harmless. In evidence to a parliamentary inquiry in June, BAT Australia said there was “no question that smoking tobacco can cause serious and fatal disease”, adding that the only way to avoid the risks was not to smoke.

Yet the industry is not bereft of arguments. One is that the government’s proposal is not based on evidence. It cannot be, since no other country has tried such an approach. But there is some evidence that graphic warnings on packs have had little or no impact on people’s propensity to smoke.

A second is that the legislation is unnecessary. Australia has a range of measures limiting the marketing and sale of tobacco, and the incidence of smoking is already falling steadily. The government’s Institute of Health and Welfarereported in July that only 15.1 per cent of Australians over 14 smoked daily in 2010, down from 25 per cent in 1993.

The tobacco lobby says this trend could reverse because prices will fall as the constraints on marketing make it hard to charge more for premium brands – one of the main drivers of profit.

Customers may also be more attracted to illegal unbranded cigarettes. BAT also says the legislation would conflict with various bilateral trade agreements, Australian law on trademark ownership and World Trade Organisation rules.

The most powerful argument, though, is that parliament is usurping the rights of adults to choose between competing legal products – deciding, in effect, that nanny knows best – while simultaneously breaching the tobacco companies’ constitutional rights by prohibiting the use of their intellectual property.

These are not empty arguments. But they are not conclusive either. Restricting choice may be illiberal but parliament is entitled to prioritise public health. If the policy is not well-founded, or fails to achieve its objective, the voters have the remedy. None of the peripheral legal challenges to plain packaging is insoluble, though some might require further changes to the law if challenges are upheld.

That leaves the constitutional issue, which is presented as a matter of principle but is really a matter of cost. Like most other advanced countries, Australia allows appropriation of property assets but requires “just terms”. That means there may have to be negotiations about compensation, which BAT suggests might be in the vicinity of A$3bn. But blocking the use of tobacco companies’ intellectual property is no different in principle from the acquisition of farming land for highways.

From the point of view of their shareholders, the tobacco companies are right to fight. If the Australian proposals are implemented, similar laws will emerge elsewhere, with damaging effects on profits. But that is an argument located in the wallet, not on the moral high ground. It is not a reason for the Senate to vote No.

Kevin Brown is the FT’s Asia Regional Correspondent

Turkey Working on Cigarette Branding Ban Law, Milliyet Says – Bloomberg

The Domino increases – Black Box packaging

Turkey Working on Cigarette Branding Ban Law, Milliyet Says
By Benjamin Harvey – Sep 7, 2011 4:45 PM GMT+0800 .
Turkey is working on new regulations that would ban brand names, logos and
designs on cigarette packaging and replace them with numbered black boxes,
Milliyet reported, without saying where it got the information.
The regulations would ban any imagery or text other than health warnings and
aims to reduce cigarette usage, the Istanbul-based newspaper said. Smokers
would be required to order cigarettes by number, it said.
Health Minister Recep Akdag has asked officials from the World Health
Organization and Turkey’s Tobacco and Alcohol Markets Regulation Board, or
TAPDK, to coordinate on beginning technical studies toward implementing the
new regulations, Milliyet said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Benjamin Harvey in Istanbul at

Dr Judith Mackay: Stubbing it out

Hong Kong needs to take 10 steps to become a smoke-free city, according to World Lung Foundation senior advisor and anti-smoking crusader Judith Mackay.

Dr Judith Mackay: Stubbing it out

The lesson of the fight to control tobacco, she said, is that smoking is an epidemic that will be solved not in hospitals and clinics but in the corridors of political power.

“We have to have taxation, we have to draw on international treaties and agreements, we have to address crime such as smuggling and we have to address big business and the way it behaves,” said Dr Mackay.

Here are her 10 recommendations for the final push to make Hong Kong the world’s first no-smoking city.

Bring in rolling tax rises: At HK$50 for a packet of 20, cigarettes in Hong Kong are still some 28 percent cheaper than they are in Singapore. Despite two significant tax rises in the past three years, tax on cigarettes in Hong Kong is 69 percent of the retail price, short of the WHO recommendation of 75 percent.

Stamp out illegal duty-free supplies: Too many “duty free” cigarettes with lower prices are finding their way into the market place. Between 60 and 65 percent are genuine products. Manufacturers, who benefit from the demand the illegal trade creates, must be compelled to control their supply chains.

Stop the smugglers: Tougher action needs to be taken against smuggling of cigarettes, treating it as a serious crime under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance that is causing addiction and death among young people.

Make all public areas smoke-free: Extend smoke-free areas to outdoor areas of all restaurants and bars. The onus should also be switched from smokers to licensees to enforce the ban.

Beef up the anti-smoking squad: Hong Kong’s Tobacco Control Office is understaffed compared to Macao. Macao has 70 officers for a population of 514,000 while Hong Kong has only 99 for a population of 7.1 million. Officers should patrol areas as a preventative measure than just respond to written or telephone complaints.

Update warnings: The pictorial warnings on packets should be changed every one to two years. Smokers fail to notice them after they have been used for too long and Hong Kong is overdue a change in its warnings.

Bring in plain packaging: Hong Kong should follow Australia’s lead and introduce mandatory plain packaging for cigarettes within the next three years.

Licence cigarette sales: Shops or newsstands which sell cigarettes should be licensed and retailers caught selling cigarettes to underage children should be stripped of their licences. Shops should be banned from displaying cigarettes and made to move all tobacco products into a shuttered cabinet or under the counter.

Better quit-smoking services: Smoking cessation services should be free and convenient for anyone who wants to quit.

Root out secret lobbyists: Investigations should be launched into any connections between tobacco companies and political parties, which are currently not required to divulge funding sources, and libertarian front organizations with charitable status that have sprung up recently in Hong Kong. If such organizations are found to benefit the tobacco industry rather than the Hong Kong public, they should be stripped of their charitable status.

China Daily

Cuba has launched the world`s first therapeutic drug against lung cancer

The drug CimaVax-EGF comes following a 25-year research into tobacco smoking related diseases by scientists at the Centre of Molecular Immunology in Havana, Xinhua reported.

The active ingredient in the drug is based on “a protein we all have when cancer is uncontrolled,” said lead researcher Gisela Gonzalez.

“The drug could turn the cancer into a manageable, chronic disease by generating antibodies against the proteins which triggered the uncontrolled cell proliferation,” she said.

The immunogenic drug is appropriate to patients with advanced lung cancer in stages of three and four who show no positive response to other kinds of treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the expert said.

“It is not possible to prevent the disease but this `vaccine` improves significantly the status of the critically ill patients,” she added.

Gonzalez said CimaVax-EGF has gone through clinical trials in over 1,000 patients across Cuba and is currently distributed free of charge in hospitals in the country.

Gonzalez said researchers at the centre planned to use the same principle of CimaVax-EGF in treating other cancerous tumors such as prostate, uterus and breast cancers.

Lung cancer is regarded as one of the world`s most common cancers and is most frequently found among tobacco smokers.

According to the World Health Organisation, the disease kills five million people annually, and the figure is expected to rise to eight million by 2030 unless smoking habits are changed.

About 20,000 people die of lung cancer yearly in Cuba. Lung cancer is a leading cause of death in the country.