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November 11th, 2011:

Clarifying position in cancer fund

well their 2010 annual report shows differently


2009/2010 annual report


Mrs. Sally Lo, MBE Co-Chairman

Sir David Tang, KBE Co-Chairman

Mr. Robert Lo

Dr. Wesley Shiu


Dr. Andrew Yuen


I would like to clarify the position of David Tang and his involvement with the Hong Kong Cancer Fund as mentioned in the Lai See column (“Peering through the smoke at cancer fund’s Cuban connection”, November 11).

David, Sally Lo (CEO) and I founded the fund back in August 1987.

In the early years of our existence, David contributed to the organisation because he wanted to help those who are touched by cancer.

Recognising the conflict of interest between the cigar business he started in 1992 and the work of the fund, he stepped down ahead of our becoming a company limited by guarantee.

However, in recognition of his earlier contributions, he remains an honorary president of the fund.

As Hong Kong’s largest and most respected cancer support organisation, we are clear in our position that smoking is harmful to health and a direct cause of cancer.

Moreover, we advocate this message through anti-smoking campaigns as well as lobbying the SAR government for stricter tobacco control.

Robert Lo Kai-leung, co-chairman, Hong Kong Cancer Fund

Tobacco lobby threatens EU over plain packaging

EU Health Commissioner John Dalli will face legal action if he tries to reproduce Australia’s plain-packaging proposals for cigarettes in Europe, a tobacco industry representative warned this week.

The Australian rules would force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in buff packaging free of trademarks and logos but carrying dominant pictorial health warnings.

Australian senators approved the legislation today (10 November), but amendments must still be approved by the lower house before becoming law in December 2012.

Dalli is preparing an impact assessment of policy options in advance of the European Commission’s own review of its 2001 Tobacco Products Directive. The review is scheduled for early next year.

Various ideas, including plain packaging, are being considered within this process and the tobacco industry, retailers and distributors, are nervous that the Maltese Commissioner will be tempted to follow the Australian example – the first of its kind.

A spokeswoman for Dalli, himself a reformed smoker, said that the Commission has not yet made up its mind on plain packaging, but added that it was following the Australian development “carefully and with interest”.

Warnings from retailers

A working group organised by the federation of tobacco retailers (CEDT) meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (8 November) blasted plain packaging and claimed that the Commission’s health officials were not listening to industry or retailers on the issue.

CEDT President Giovanni Risso said that if measures such as display bans, plain packaging, oversized health warnings and bans on ingredients were introduced, these could result in a loss of up to €20 billion in European tax revenue.

Meeting representatives also said that smugglers and counterfeit manufacturers would increase their already burgeoning activity as a result of plain packaging.

One retailing representative told the meeting: “Dalli has no authority to introduce harmonisation of retail in this way using the Single Market Act, since there have been no complaints about distortions in the market. There is no competence here.”

The question of legal authority was later stressed by another source close to the tobacco industry, who told EurActiv: “We will take him to court if he tries to introduce it (plain packaging) and we are confident we would have a good case.”

In Australia, British American Tobacco (BAT) said it would initiate legal action in the nation’s top court in a bid to repeal the upcoming plain packaging law, claiming it is unconstitutional.

Industry getting jittery in advance of proposals

Plain packaging is one of the key areas of concern of industry, distributors and retailers as the Commission’s impact assessment takes place. EurActiv understands that a number of meetings have been arranged in Brussels for later this month in which tobacco industry representatives will discuss proposals and strategy with MEPs and consultants.

One likely focus of attack is intellectual property rights, since plain packaging has a smothering effect on companies’ logos and trademarks.

A Commission spokeswoman said Brussels was in direct dialogue with the Australian government in respect of intellectual property ramifications of any plain-packaging proposal.

“The EU also asked Australia for more information on how its commitments under other WTO agreements, such as the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, had been taken into account,” she said.

Australian anti-smoking law bans brand labels

Friday 11 November 2011

Laws banning brand labels on cigarette packages passed their last major legislative hurdle in the Australian Senate yesterday and immediately faced the threat of court action from tobacco firms.

From December next year cigarettes must be sold in plain olive packets, with no brand logos, and show graphic images of the harm smoking can cause. The legislation now returns to the lower house for a vote seen as a formality.

Australia poised to fight big tobacco in courts

Fri, 11 Nov 2011 1:24p.m.

By Rod McGuirk

The Australian government says it is ready to fight big tobacco companies in court to enact the world’s toughest laws on cigarette promotion – rules that will ban logos and other advertising on cigarette packs.

The Senate has passed in an amended form legislation that will prohibit tobacco companies from displaying their distinctive colours, brand designs and logos on cigarette packs in a bid to make smoking less attractive to the young. The legislation is expected to become law with the House of Representatives accepting the amendment later this month.

Cigarettes would be sold in drab, olive green packs, with brand names dwarfed by health warnings and graphic images of smoking’s consequences.

The government said that the laws will come into force in December 2012.

Tobacco giants argue that the move illegally diminishes the value of their trademarks. They have threatened a court battle for billions of dollars in compensation.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said her government was “determined to take away the last method of advertising” cigarettes in Australia.

“We’re not going to be bullied into not taking this action just because tobacco companies say they might fight us in the courts,” she told reporters. “We’re ready for that if they do take legal action.”

British American Tobacco Australia Ltd., the Australian market leader, has warned it will soon challenge the law in the Australian High Court, and claimed the government was on “shaky legal ground”.

“No other country in the world has implemented plain packaging and there are many good reasons for that,” spokesman Scott McIntyre said in a statement.

Australia is a relatively small tobacco market, where the rate of smokers is 17 percent and falling, compared with around 20 percent of American adults. But tobacco companies fear that if Australia’s law stands, countries with more lucrative and growing markets could adopt the same strategy.

The warnings and often gruesome, full-colour images of the consequences of smoking, such as mouth cancer and gangrenous toes, will cover 75 percent of the packs’ front. Graphic health warnings currently cover only 30 percent.

Offenders will face fines of up to AU$1.1 million for a company and AU$220,000 for an individual. Australia already bans advertising at the point of sale.

Hong Kong-based Philip Morris Asia Limited, which owns the Australian affiliate Philip Morris Limited, filed a notice of claim against the government in an Australian court in June arguing that the legislation violates a bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong.

Philip Morris says the treaty protects companies’ property, including intellectual property such as trademarks. It says plain packaging severely diminishes the value of the company’s trademark.

Read more:

Australia Cigarette Plain Packaging Law Passed, Tobacco Companies Vow to Fight

Australia became the first country to ban all colorful logos and other branding on the outside of cigarette packages Thursday. New legislation states that all cigarettes must be sold in plain packaging starting in December of next year.

(Photo: Reuters/Ho New)<br>Australia became the first country to ban all colorful logos and other branding on the outside of cigarette packages Thursday. New legislation states that all cigarettes must be sold in plain packaging starting in December of next year.

Australia became the first country to ban all colorful logos and other branding on the outside of cigarette packages Thursday. New legislation states that all cigarettes must be sold in plain packaging starting in December of next year.

According to the bill, the retail packaging of cigarette cartons will now have a matt finish and be a drab dark brown. The packaging will list health warnings and may display graphic images, but the brand of the company will be printed in plain white typeface. No trademarks may appear on the product.

The measures were passed Thursday in an effort to make cigarettes less enticing for children and young adults.Australian legislators hope the new regulations will decrease the likelihood that younger citizens will start smoking, thereby diminishing the number of smokers in Australia and the costly side effects that create major health problems.

Tobacco companies, on the other hand, are worried that plain packaging will impact their sales and have threated court action to question the legality of the new law. British American Tobacco, Britain’s Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris seek billions in compensation, claiming that the regulations restrict their intellectual property rights, reported Reuters.

“Big tobacco has been fuming since day one that this is a law that they don’t want introduced. They want to keep selling their deadly products, and we want to reduce their market. So we are destined to disagree,” Health Minister Nicola Roxon told Reuters.

The law has been closely watched by legislators and lobby groups in other countries, including Europe, Canada and New Zealand in particular. Bhutan has already banned the sale of tobacco since June 2010. Other countries are trying to determine how tightly they can restrict tobacco sales without violating trademark and intellectual property laws.

“British American Tobacco Australia has always said that it wanted to avoid having to go to court but, if pushed to do so, it will take all appropriate legal measures to defend its intellectual property, valuable brands and right to compete as a legitimate business selling a legal product,” British American Tobacco Australia said in a statement to Reuters.

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Legislation Passed: Australia Leads World in Plain Packaging of Tobacco


On 10 November, the Gillard Government’s tobacco plain packaging legislation was passed. This means from 1 December 2012 all tobacco products sold in Australia will be in brand-free, olive-brown casing.

Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, proudly announced, “Today, the Australian Senate passed one of the most significant public health measures in its history – legislation requiring the plain packaging of tobacco products,” “Plain packaging means that the glamour is gone from smoking and cigarettes are now exposed for what they are: killer products that destroy thousands of Australian families.”

In essence, the laws hope to expose how harmful tobacco can be to national health both short and long term, and ultimately hope to prevent youth from picking up the habit. The question remains, however, how successful are the laws going to be in terms of how they affect those already hooked?

Packaging remains one of the last powerful marketing tools for tobacco companies to sell their products – so what now for those ruling the smoking empire? British American Tobacco Australia is clearly unimpressed and ready for the fight. The company alleges they will start legal proceedings once plain packaging becomes law. According to British American Tobacco, it is illegitimate to strip bare packaging of trademark’s and colour branding under the premise of intellectual property infringement.

Despite legal threats by bitter tobacco companies, Ms Roxon stands her ground. “Let there be no mistake, big tobacco is fighting against the Government for one very simple reason – because it knows, as we do, that plain packaging will work. While it is fighting to protect its profits, we are fighting to protect lives,” she said, “The World Health organization has recognized Australia’s lead in tobacco control, singling out our plain packaging legislation as an example for the world to follow.”

Photo courtesy: Somandjinn

Peering through the smoke at cancer fund’s Cuban connection

South China Morning Post – 11 Nov. 2011

We are a big fan of the Hong Kong Cancer Fund for the work it does promoting awareness and support for cancer sufferers. But we are somewhat puzzled by David Tang Wing-cheung’s involvement with the fund, given his links to the tobacco industry. He assisted founder, chief executive and fellow co-honorary president Sally Lo in setting up the fund in 1987.

But surprisingly, given the links between cancer and tobacco, Tang, who has a knighthood, established Pacific Cigar in 1992, “as the exclusive distributor of all Cuban cigars in Asia Pacific”, according to the company’s website.

The links between cancer and tobacco smoking have been known for some time. According to the website of the US National Cancer Institute “cigar smoke, like cigarette smoke, contains toxic and cancer-causing chemicals that are harmful to both smokers and non-smokers. Cigar smoke is possibly more toxic than cigarette smoke in that during the fermentation process for cigar tobacco, high concentrations of cancer-causing nitrosamines are produced”.

Further, “for every gram of tobacco smoked, there is more cancer-causing tar in cigars than in cigarettes”. The site adds that “cigar smoking causes cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, oesophagus and lung. It may also cause cancer of the pancreas. Moreover, daily cigar smokers, particularly those who inhale, are at increased risk for developing heart disease and other types of lung disease”.

For those that think not inhaling lets them off, the institute says while “cigar smokers have lower rates of lung cancer, coronary heart disease, and lung disease than cigarette smokers, they have higher rates of these diseases than those who do not smoke cigars”.

There’s more. “All cigar and cigarette smokers, whether or not they inhale, directly expose their lips, mouth, tongue, throat, and larynx to smoke and its toxic and cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, when saliva containing the chemicals in tobacco smoke is swallowed, the oesophagus is exposed to carcinogens. These exposures probably account for the similar oral and oesophageal cancer risks seen among cigar smokers and cigarette smokers.”

In view of all this, we can’t help feeling there is, shall we say, a certain asymmetry in Tang’s position with the Hong Kong Cancer Fund and his cigar company.

A spokesman for the fund said: “I know that people make the connection but he really wants to help people with cancer,” adding that Tang played no part in the operations of the fund these days.